Best Lakes in California, United States

Best Lakes in California, United States

Looking for the best lakes in California?? Here’s the list with all the travel information that you need to plan a family tour.

California or the Golden State is a geographically diverse state that features scenic beaches, lush mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and even deserts.

California is home to over 30,000 lakes and reservoirs, including the iconic Lake Tahoe, Lake Shasta, Mono Lake, Big Bear Lake, Lake Berryessa, and Lake Havasu. 

So, visitors can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in these lakes.

For example, swimming, boating, kayaking, picnicking in Lake Berryessa and Lake Almanor, fishing in Cachuma Lake, jet-skiing in Folsom Lake, hiking around Bass Lake, and more.

Now, let’s discover the complete list of the best lakes in California. Just check whether you have added them to your bucket list.

Lakes in California

1. Lakes in California: Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada

The iconic Lake Tahoe is the largest freshwater lake located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And only the five Great Lakes surpass Lake Tahoe in volume while its depth seconds only to Crater Lake in Oregon.

Lakes in California Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada
Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada

Stretching on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe considers the largest alpine lake in North America too.

Also, it is known for its turquoise, crystal clear waters, and gorgeous mountainous backdrop. Whenever you visit Lake Tahoe, it offers breathtakingly beautiful views. That’s why it became the all-time most famous lake in California.

There are plenty of fun things to do in Lake Tahoe with your family and friends. For example, go kayaking, cruising, stand-up paddleboarding, boating, parasailing, jet-skiing, swimming, scuba diving, fishing, camping, hiking, biking, and scenic driving.

Hikers can experience the scenic Tahoe Rim Trail that runs for 170-mile around the lake. And there are excellent campgrounds, cabins, and luxury resorts on the North and South shores of Lake Tahoe.

If you like to swim in these turquoise waters, head to Tahoe’s Sand Harbor Beach and Pope Beach.

Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada CA
Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada

On the other hand, many motorized and non-motorized boat rentals and cruise planners offer scenic family tours.

After that, you can visit Emerald Bay State Park to hike the Rubicon Trail, which connects Emerald Bay with the nearby D.L. Bliss State Park. It features fantastic campsites too.

Summer is the best time to visit Lake Tahoe in California. Therefore you can see thousands of visitors.

If you visit Lake Tahoe during winter, you can experience skiing, snowshoeing, and all the other winter activities at fantastic ski resorts.

Address: NV-28, Incline Village, NV 89451, United States  Phone: +1 775-831-0494

Lakes in California

2. Lakes in California: Lake Shasta, Shasta County

Shasta Lake, or Lake Shasta, is a reservoir located in the Shasta Cascade region of northeastern California. It is an additional result of building the United State’s ninth tallest dam, Shasta Dam.

Lakes in California Lake Shasta, Shasta County
Lake Shasta, Shasta County

Covering 121.4 km² of land, it considers the largest reservoir in California too.

Lake Shasta features a beautiful backdrop with snowcapped Mount Shasta. You can take a boat ride to enjoy these views with your family.

And, of course, you can experience plenty of fun water activities like swimming, fishing, wakeboarding, water skiing, jet-skiing, boating, and kayaking.

Do you like hiking? Then, there are miles of scenic trails around the lake. And you can view diverse wildlife and birds while hiking.

Lake Shasta, Shasta County CA
Lake Shasta, Shasta County

Aside from that, you can visit Shasta Dam and the fantastic Lake Shasta Caverns too.

Lake Shasta Caverns is an underground wonder that can only be accessible by boat across the water. The 10 min guided boat ride is scenic and takes you across the McCloud Arm to these amazing at least 200 million years of caverns.

Once you get there, you will see spectacular rock formations of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstone, and columns. So, ready to get surprised.

Address: 20359 Shasta Caverns Rd, Lakehead, CA 96051, United States  Phone: +1 800-795-2283

Lakes in California

3. Lakes in California: Mono Lake, Mono County

Mono Lake in Mono County is extremely different from other lakes as it is a saltwater lake. Formed around 760,000 years ago, it lacks an outlet. So, it has resulted in alkaline waters due to the accumulation of high levels of salts.

Lakes in California Mono Lake, Mono County
Mono Lake, Mono County

This ancient lake is located near Lee Vining and the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.

And it features distinctive; ancient calcium carbonate towers called tufa towers in the water near the shore. Therefore, it is undoubtedly one of the top attractions in Mono Lake. Just head towards the South Tufa Area to spot this exciting geo-history.

While visiting these tufa towers, you can spot plenty of diverse bird species, hike near the shore, swim, and boat in the lake.

Mono Lake Beach, California
Mono Lake Beach

Even the aquatic wildlife in this lake is unique due to its high alkaline levels. For example, brine shrimps are frequent here. Actually, it is the major reason to attract numerous migratory birds to Mono Lake. So, if you love bird watching, this place is perfect.

Also, since Mono Lake has picturesque surroundings, it attracts a lot of nature photographers from all over the world.

Address: Parking lot, Test Station Rd, Lee Vining, CA 93541, United States  Phone: +1 760-647-6331

Looking for more information about national parks in California?? Here’s the link. 

Lakes in California

4. June Lake, Mono County

June Lake is located in the Eastern Sierra, 12.5 miles south of Lee Vining and a few miles north of Mammoth Lakes. Offering beautiful views throughout the year, June lake is one of the most attractive lakes in California.

June Lake, Mono County
June Lake, Mono County

However, fall showcases the best views of it. So, many visitors draw during fall to drive the June Lake Loop, fish, boat, swim, walk on the shore, hike, and bike along scenic trails.

Especially when you drive on the June Lake Loop, you get the chance to see three other beautiful lakes apart from June Lake. And they are Grant Lake, Silver Lake, and Gull Lake.

June Lake Beach California
June Lake Beach

June lake is perfect for fishing. So, you may find several fishing spots. At the end of the June Lake Loop, you will find the fantastic June Lake Beach, where anyone can swim and boat.

This beach has a parking area as well.

Also, you can camp in Silver Lake Campground to explore all these lakes. So, plan it with your family for this weekend.

Address: June Lake, CA 93529, United States

Lakes in California

5. Convict Lake, Mono County

Convict Lake is a camping paradise for camp lovers.

Convict Lake, Mono County CA
Convict Lake, Mono County

Located in the Sherwin Range of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Mono County, Convict Lake is known for turquoise-blue water, dramatic mountainous views, and camping.

Being one of the most stunning lakes in California, Convict Lake attracts thousands of photographers to capture the sunrise through mountain peaks.

Actually, this place was a film location for many famous movies like Star Trek: Insurrection, How the West was Won, and Nature Valley granola bars advertisement.

And also, it is an excellent lake for swimming, fishing rainbow trout and suckerfish, and hiking. Especially, these hiking trails offer fantastic views during fall.

If you are looking for fishing, visit Convict Lake during summer.

So, plan for a camping weekend with your family at Convict Lake Campground to experience these views and outdoor activities.

Address: Convict, Lake Overlook, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, United States

Lakes in California

6. Tioga Lake, Mono County

Tioga Lake is another beautiful lake located in Yosemite National Park, California. (Only 2 miles north of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park)

Tioga Lake, Mono County CA
Tioga Lake, Mono County

Being a small glacial lake, this destination features beautiful mountainous views and a calm environment. So, if you are looking for an escape from the heavily crowded Yosemite Valley, Tioga Lake is a good option.

Tioga Lake is more famous among nature photographers, anglers, birdwatchers, and picnickers. There are many fishing and picnic spots around the lake.

If you are here for birdwatching, do not forget to bring your binoculars. And while hiking around Tioga Lake, you may spot diverse wildlife, including marmots and bobcats.

Address: 120 CA-120, Lee Vining, CA 93541, United States  

Lakes in California

7. Lakes in California: Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino National Forest

Big Bear Lake is a beautiful lake located in the San Bernadino National Forest, Southern California.

Lakes in California Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino National Forest
Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino National Forest

It is a famous summer day trip destination and a weekend getaway from Palm Springs, LA (100 miles), and San Diego. Therefore, you will find plenty of restaurants, resorts, lodges, and picnic areas around Big Bear Lake.

Of course, Big Bear Lake offers unlimited fun outdoor activities for you. For example, popular summer activities are jet-skiing, wakeboarding, pontoon boating, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, cruising, swimming, hiking, and camping.

Big Bear Lake Solar Observatory California
Big Bear Lake Solar Observatory

Especially, Big Bear Lake considers one of the best boating lakes in Southern California. Therefore, it features numerous boat rentals and marinas like Pleasure Point Marina. 

And also, swimmers can enjoy swimming on the fantastic beach in Boulder Bay Park, located on Big Bear Lake’s southwest shore.

On the other hand, hikers can experience hundreds of miles of hiking trails around the lake. For example, the Cougar Crest Trail. 

If you visit Big Bear Lake from late spring to early fall, you can experience lovely, cool temperatures.

Address: California 92314, United States

Lakes in California

8. Lake Berryessa, Napa County

Here’s the largest lake in Napa County, Lake Berryessa.

Lake Berryessa, Napa County
Lake Berryessa, Napa County

Lake Berryessa was formed due to the construction of the Monticello Dam by damming Putah Creek in the 1950s. And it covers around 84 km² of land.

And it is a famous day trip destination from San Francisco Bay Area as it offers unlimited tons of fun activities. (only two hours from San Francisco).

For example, you can enjoy capturing scenic views, non-motorized boating, jet skiing, fishing, swimming, and many other water sports. Therefore, Lake Berryessa attracts thousands of visitors during summer to beat the heat.

Also, the lake has numerous secluded coves and sandy beaches to have a relaxing time with your family.

Oak Shores Day Use Area and Smittle Creek Day Use Area feature several marinas, boat rentals, public beaches, family picnic areas, and fishing spots.

If you are looking for an excellent camping site, several campgrounds are available along the 165 miles of shoreline.

Lake Berryessa, California
Lake Berryessa, California

Another unique thing to see at Lake Berryessa is its Morning Glory Spillway. It is a unique water management system that spills high waters into a funnel rather than spilling over the dam.

Address: 5520 Knoxville Rd, Napa, CA 94558, United States  Phone: +1 707-966-2111

Lakes in California

9. Lake Havasu, San Bernardino County

Lake Havasu is a large reservoir located on the Colorado River behind Parker Dam between San Bernardino County in California and Arizona border.

Lake Havasu, San Bernardino County
Lake Havasu, San Bernardino County

Surrounded by desert landscapes, it is 72km long and features 724kms of shoreline. This area was home to a large community of Mojave Indians in the past.

Being a boating paradise, Lake Havasu attracts thousands of boaters annually from all over the United States.

Also, Lake Havasu is famous for fishing as there are abundant catfish, bass, carp, and sunfish-like diverse fish species. Therefore, this lake hosts various large fishing tournaments too.

Lake Havasu, California
Lake Havasu

Aside from that, Lake Havasu’s shore is perfect for swimming, even with kids. If you are looking for a weekend getaway, plan camping in Lake Havasu. There are numerous excellent campgrounds on both shorelines of Lake Havasu. Ex: Havasu Landing Campground.

On the other hand, Lake Havasu State Park sits along the eastern shore, while the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge is seated along the upper end of the lake. So, do not miss these places while camping.

Address: Havasu Landing Campground, 7 Main St, Havasu Lake, CA 92363, United States  Phone: +17608584592

Lakes in California

10. Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park

Tenaya Lake is a beautiful alpine lake located in Yosemite National Park between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows.

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park
Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park

Since it is located 48 miles away from Yosemite Valley, it does not attract many crowds. But, it is totally worth driving there to see the hidden beauty.

Tenaya Lake features a long lovely shore with crystal clear waters surrounded by tall granite cliffs. Although the water is a bit cold, it is perfect for swimming, boating, and kayaking.

The beach on the east side of Tenaya Lake is the best one.

Lakes in California

11. Lakes in California: Folsom Lake

Located on the American River in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Folsom Lake is a massive reservoir.

Lakes in California Folsom Lake
Folsom Lake

And it features the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area with scenic hiking trails, excellent campgrounds, and shoreline access points.

Since Folsom Lake is one of the best boating lakes in California, you can always see plenty of motorboats and Jet Skis here. Also, it hosts some big boating tournaments as well.

Are you ready to boat??

Address: 7755 Folsom-Auburn Rd, Folsom, CA 95630, United States  Phone: +1 916-988-0205 

Lakes in California

12. Clear Lake, Lake County

Clear Lake is a beautiful natural freshwater lake located in Lake County, California (north of Napa County and San Francisco).

Clear Lake, Lake County
Clear Lake, Lake County

Covering 180 km² of land, Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in California. Also, having a history of over 2.5 million years, it considers the oldest lake in North America.

Therefore, you must visit this lake on your California tour.

And this famous summertime destination features over 160kms of shoreline and more than ten free boat ramps. So, thousands of water sports enthusiasts visit to swim in quite warm waters, wakeboarding, sailing, and water skiing.

On the other hand, Clear Lake is a fantastic sport fishing destination too. And that’s why it calls “Bass Capital of the West.”

Lakes in California

13. Bass Lake, Madera County

Bass Lake is a famous lake among outdoor enthusiasts. Located in the Sierra National Forest, it is just 14 mi south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park.

Bass Lake, Madera County CA
Bass Lake, Madera County

Although Bass Lake is approximately four miles long and one-half mile wide, it perfect for all the water sports, including swimming, boating, paddling, and fishing. Millers Landing and Forks Resort-like places are always ready to offer boat rentals and comfortable places to stay.

Since the elevation of Bass Lake is low compared with other Sierra Nevada water bodies, visitors can enjoy warmer waters.

Aside from that, hikers can enjoy hundreds of miles of hiking trails near the lake through the forest. The U.S. Forest Service offers five campgrounds near the lake for both RV and tent campers if you like camping.

Address: 39900 Rd 222, Bass Lake, CA 93604, United States  Phone: +15596834636

Lakes in California

14. Lake Oroville, Butte County

Lake Oroville is the second-largest reservoir in California, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Featuring picturesque sceneries, it covers over 3,900 square miles.

Lake Oroville, Butte County CA
Lake Oroville, Butte County

Lake Oroville State Recreation Area is very popular among tourists for all water sports. For example, fishing, swimming, boating, and water-skiing are some frequent activities.

And also, its 269kms of scenic shoreline is perfect for camping, picnicking, and horseback riding with your friends and family.

When it comes to the history of Lake Oroville, this area was home to the Konkow Maidu tribe. But, everything changed when the Oroville Dam was constructed in 1935.

Address: 917 Kelly Ridge Rd, Oroville, CA 95966, United States  Phone: +15305382219

Lakes in California

15. Cachuma Lake, Santa Barbara County

Cachuma Lake is a fantastic camping destination in Santa Barbara County, California. Since it is just a 30-minute drive from Santa Barbara, it is a famous day-trip destination too.

Cachuma Lake, Santa Barbara County
Cachuma Lake, Santa Barbara County

Spreading for 3100 acres of land, Cachuma Lake was formed by damming the Santa Ynez River.

Cachuma Lake offers breathtaking mountainous views of San Rafael and Santa Ynez and lush oak forest views in the backdrop.

After capturing those beautiful views of Santa Ynez Valley, you can go kayaking, boating, cruising, trout fishing, hiking, birdwatching, camping, and picnicking with your family in Cachuma Lake Recreation Area.

A marina near the lake features boat rentals, gas, detailed fishing maps, and other supplies.

Since Cachuma Lake uses for a domestic water supply, it is named a no-body-contact lake. So, you are not allowed to swim, windsurf, dive, and water-ski.

Address: 1 Lakeview Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, United States  Phone: +18055682460

Lakes in California

16. Lakes in California: Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes is a famous resort town located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

Lakes in California Mammoth Lakes Basin
Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes attracts thousands of visitors annually as it is blessed with several beautiful lakes and famous ski areas (Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain).

Especially, Lake George, Lake Mary, Horseshoe Lake, Lake Mamie, and Twin Lakes are the main lakes included in Mammoth Lakes Basin.

Since all are located within easy driving range of the town, anyone can easily get there. Both Mary and Horseshoe lakes are accessible by vehicles, while other lakes are only accessible by hiking trails.

Also, Mammoth Lakes Basin offers you tons of fun activities swimming, boating, fishing, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing.

Horseshoe Lake features a kid-friendly beach for swimming, kayaking, non-motorized boating, and paddle boarding.

One of the best ways to experience Mammoth Lakes Basin is camping. And you can find several campgrounds with all the facilities to stay with your family.

Address: Inyo National Forest, Parking Lot, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, United States

Lakes in California

17. Lake Almanor, Plumas County

Lake Almanor is a large reservoir that features 52 miles of scenic shoreline. Being a hidden gem, it is located in Plumas County, northeastern California.

Lake Almanor, Plumas County CA
Lake Almanor, Plumas County

Sitting in the scenic Shasta Cascade region, Lake Almanor also features numerous camping, hiking, boating, and fishing opportunities for you.

Since the famous tourist-friendly city of Chester is near Lake Almanor, you can easily find RV campsites, tent campsites, and lodging options.

Also, you can easily cover both Lake Almanor and Lassen Volcanic National Park while camping in Chester. 

Lakes in California

18. Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino County

Silverwood Lake is a scenic, large reservoir located on the West Fork Mojave River in San Bernardino County, California.

Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino County
Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino County

Being one of the most popular lakes in Southern California, Silverwood Lake is 90 miles from Los Angeles.

Therefore, Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts for boating, fishing, swimming, camping, birdwatching, and hiking, especially during summer. (between April and October).

You can find excellent campgrounds like Silverwood Lake Campsites and Mesa Campground. And Mesa Campground features over 130 RV and tent campsites with scenic lake views.

Address: 14651 Cedar Cir, Hesperia, CA 92345, United States  Phone: +17603892281

Lakes in California

19. Lakes in California: Donner Lake, Nevada County

Donner Lake is a gorgeous lake located just a few miles from Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Lakes in California Donner Lake, Nevada County
Donner Lake, Nevada County

The Donner Memorial State Park spreads along the shores of Donner Lake. And it features scenic views of the lake and its backdrop. Also, it offers outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, boating, windsurfing, water-skiing, hiking, and mountain biking.

Address: 12593 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA 96161, United States  Phone: +1 530-582-7892

Lakes in California

20. Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Manzanita Lake is a beautiful lake located near the entrance of Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park

You can see the perfect reflection of Lessen peak on Manzanita Lake in the summer mornings. So, it makes a beautiful place for nature photographers.

Also, you can enjoy numerous scenic hiking trails near the lake while birdwatching and wildlife viewing. After that, you can go for stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, and kayaking too.

Address: Shingletown, CA 96088, United States

Lakes in California

21. Lakes in California: Lake Sonoma, Sanoma County

Located in the coastal foothills of northern Sonoma County, Lake Sonoma is a scenic reservoir. Since it is just a 90-minute drive from San Francisco, people visit here as day trips.

Lakes in California Lake Sonoma, Sanoma County
Lake Sonoma, Sanoma County

You can see a lot of vineyards near Lake Sonoma. So, you can take a wine tasting tour too.

Lake Sonoma features 50 miles of scenic shoreline with diverse recreation opportunities. For example, you can enjoy swimming, boating, water-skiing, and fishing.

Aside from that, this area is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping while enjoying panoramic views.

Address: 3227 Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Rd, Geyserville, CA 95441, United States

Lakes in California

22. Lakes in California: Pyramid Lake, Angeles National Forest

If you drive just an hour from Los Angeles, you will find this beautiful Pyramid Lake.

Lakes in California Pyramid Lake, Angeles National Forest
Pyramid Lake, Angeles National Forest

It is famous for its panoramic views, swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, rafting, paddleboarding, water-skiing, camping, picnicking, and photo shooting.

Especially, the beaches like Vaquero Beach on Pyramid Lake offer you year-round water experiences.

Address: 35800 Camino Del Lago, Castaic, CA 91384, United States  Phone: +16612951102

Lakes in California

23. Lakes in California: Lake Sabrina, Inyo National Forest

We know that Eastern Sierra is filled with stunning lakes. Another one is located near the town of Bishop called Lake Sabrina.

Lakes in California Lake Sabrina, Inyo National Forest
Lake Sabrina, Inyo National Forest

It was formed by damming Bishop Creek. And now it features stunning views with endless outdoor activities.

For example, you can experience boating, fishing, kayaking,  pontoon boating, and canoeing like fun things. Rentals are also available at the marina.

Aside from that, you can enjoy many beautiful hiking trails around Lake Sabrina, like Sabrina Lake Trailhead and Blue Lake Day Hikes.

Address: Bishop, CA 93514, United States   Phone: +17608737425

Lakes in California

Lakes in California

  • Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada
  • Lake Shasta, Shasta County
  • Mono Lake, Mono County
  • June Lake, Mono County
  • Convict Lake, Mono County
  • Tioga Lake, Mono County
  • Big Bear Lake
  • Lake Berryessa, Napa County
  • Lake Havasu, San Bernardino
  • Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park
  • Folsom Lake
  • Clear Lake, Lake County
  • Bass Lake, Madera County
  • Lake Oroville, Butte County
  • Cachuma Lake, Santa Barbara County
  • Mammoth Lakes Basin
  • Lake Almanor, Plumas County
  • Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino County
  • Donner Lake, Nevada County
  • Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lake Sonoma, Sanoma County
  • Pyramid Lake, Los Angeles County
  • Lake Sabrina, Inyo National Forest

Lakes in California