Best 41 Lakes to visit in California (updated)

Lakes are a great way to cool off from the summer heat.  With many lakes in California, there is no shortage of water-based recreational activities to enjoy. So if you’re looking for a great spot to swim, fish, camp, or just relax by the water, consider one of these fantastic lakes in California.

1. Lake Tahoe (Nevada and California)

Lake Tahoe (Nevada and California)

Located on the border of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe offers a spectacular view. It is the largest natural freshwater lake in all of North America. The clear blue water makes it seem as if you could just dive right in. However, if you plan, there’s plenty to enjoy at this vast lake, such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, and more!

2. Pyramid Lake (Inyo County)

Pyramid Lake (Inyo County)

Pyramid Lake only flows into the ocean during high rainfall or snowmelt runoff from surrounding mountains. This beautiful area is excellent for hiking or taking a tour on a boat. There are also opportunities for fishing throughout the year, with abundant populations of largemouth bass and Lahontan cutthroat trout.

3. Lake Sonoma (Healdsburg, CA)

Lake Sonoma (Healdsburg, CA)

Enjoy a day of boating, swimming, and picnicking at this 462-acre lake located in Northern California’s wine country. There are also opportunities to hike nearby and tour nearby wineries if you find yourself wanting to take a break from water activities.

4. North Fork Reservoir, Eldorado National Forest (Somewhere near Pollock Pines or Placerville)

North Fork Reservoir, Eldorado National Forest (Somewhere near Pollock Pines or Placerville)

North Fork Reservoir is one of the most amazing lakes in all of California! There are many options for recreation in this beautiful area, such as camping, biking, swimming, and kayaking/canoeing, however, the best option is to embark on a multi-day hike with friends and family! There are over 120 miles of trails around this lake.

5. Lake Oroville (Chico, CA)

Lake Oroville (Chico, CA)

Enjoy swimming, canoeing, and fishing at beautiful Lake Oroville in northern California. This area also offers the convenience of having the Chico Marina if you forget something or want to rent a boat for the day.

6. Castaic Lake (Castaic, CA)

Castaic Lake (Castaic, CA)

Enjoy boating and f fishing at Castaic Lake, located near Los Angeles in Southern California close to Santa Clarita Valley and Ventura County. If you’re looking for an even more secluded spot with amazing views, travel about 20 minutes up the road to Lake Hughes.

7. Lake Shasta (McArthur, CA)

Lake Shasta (McArthur, CA)

Located near the Sacramento River and just a few hours from Redding, Lake Shasta is one of the most popular lakes in California with its pristine blue water and beaches. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure with your family or friends, this is a great location to check out!

8. Laurel Springs (San Bernardino County)

 Laurel Springs (San Bernardino County)

Laurel Springs offers some of the best recreation opportunities in all of Southern California! With many hiking trails available and biking and equestrian trails, this lake is perfect for anyone who wants to spend their vacation enjoying Mother Nature.

The views at these lakes are breathtaking, and what better way to enjoy them than by getting out there and being one with nature? So whether you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon by the water or an outdoor adventure, these lakes have plenty to offer.

9. Silverwood Lake (San Bernardino County)

Silverwood Lake (San Bernardino County)

Rising to a depth of 177 feet and at an elevation of 2,718 feet, Silverwood Lake is the perfect destination for scuba divers and swimmers alike. It is also great for boating and water skiing! If you’re looking for something more outdoorsy, this lake has plenty to offer by hiking trails.

10. Donner Lake (Near Truckee or Tahoe City)

Donner Lake (Near Truckee or Tahoe City)

This beautiful alpine lake offers views that will take your breath away! As one of the highest mountain lakes in California with a surface elevation of 7,223 feet, it only receives runoff from melting snow high in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Great for boating and fishing!

11. Lake Tahoe (Truckee, CA)

Lake Tahoe (Truckee, CA)

This 5mile long lake is located at 6,225 ft elevation. It has a maximum depth of 989 feet with two islands in the middle of the lake. This lake offers water activities such as boating and skiing, but it also has many perfect trails for hiking or mountain biking!

12. Folsom Lake (Near Sacramento)

   12. Folsom Lake (Near Sacramento)

This large lake is at 2,500 ft elevation. It has a maximum depth of 400 ft and covers 890 acres. However, this lake offers much more than water activities, as it also contains many trails for hiking, biking, and camping facilities!

13. Shaver Lake (Near Fresno)

Shaver Lake (Near Fresno)

This lake is surrounded by Sierra National Forest and is located in the highest part of the Sierras at 7,200 feet elevation. The surface area is just over 100 acres with a maximum depth of 450 feet. There are also many trails to explore if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure!

14. Huntington Lake (Fish Camp, CA)

Huntington Lake (Fish Camp, CA)

Another beautiful alpine lake that resides near Sequoia National Park with views that will take your breath away! Great for camping, hiking, and fishing.

15. Casitas Lake (Near Ojai)

Casitas Lake (Near Ojai)

This lake is located at 6,200 ft elevation. It has a maximum depth of 340 ft and covers 1,500 acres. There are many trails along the lake that are perfect for hiking or biking and lovely picnic areas with views of the surrounding mountains!

16. Lake Nacimiento (Near San Luis Obispo)

Lake Nacimiento (Near San Luis Obispo)

Located in Central California near Paso Robles, Lake Nacimiento offers visitors water activities such as boating and fishing andManyhas many campsites for those who want to spend their vacation enjoying nature!

17. Pyramid Lake (Near Bishop)

Pyramid Lake (Near Bishop)

Another high mountain lake, like the other alpine lakes on this list, is surrounded by Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Park at 8,100 feet elevation! This lake offers beautiful views and plenty of activities such as fishing and hiking trails to keep you busy for your entire vacation!

18. Big Bear Lake (Big Bear City, CA)

Big Bear Lake (Big Bear City, CA)

This beautiful mountain lake is about 68 miles from Los Angeles and is located near San Bernardino County with a surface elevation of 6,705 ft. The maximum depth is around 100 feet, with many camping facilities available if you’re looking to spend some time enjoying the great outdoors!

19. Strawberry Lake (Lemoore, CA)

Strawberry Lake (Lemoore, CA)

Located in Central California near Hanford, Strawberry Lake offers visitors pristine water with views to match! Great for spending time outdoors camping, fishing and boating.

20. Pyramid Lake (Lee Vining)

Pyramid Lake (Lee Vining)

Located in Mono County, CA, this lake is at an elevation of 6010ft. It has a maximum depth of 382ft and covers 350 acres. This lake offers hiking trails that are perfect for exploring the surrounding area!

21. Silver Lake (Near Los Angeles)

Silver Lake (Near Los Angeles)

This artificial reservoir has a surface area of 165 acres with 65 ft maximum depth making it great for swimming or boating! Many campsites offer views of the surrounding mountains!  

22. Castaic Lake (Castaic, CA)

Castaic Lake (Castaic, CA)

Located in Central California near Santa Clarita, Castaic Lake offers visitors a chance to relax on the lake with water activities such as boating and fishing or enjoy the campgrounds available with views of the surrounding mountains!

23. Lake Clementine (Near Silver Lake)

Lake Clementine (Near Silver Lake)

Located in Central California, many not far from Los Angeles, this lake is at an elevation of 5,486ft. With a maximum depth of just over 100 feet. It has a surface area of 155 acres, making it great for spending time outdoors, whether camping, hiking, or fishing!

24. Silverwood Lake (near San Bernadino)

Silverwood Lake (near San Bernadino)

Another artificial reservoir located in San Bernardino County, CA, this lake at 4380 ft elevation is perfect for enjoying nature while still being close to home! It has a surface area of 1,680 acres and a maximum depth of 85 feet and offers excellent campgrounds and picnic areas for your enjoyment.

25. Lake Perris (near Riverside)

Lake Perris (near Riverside)

Located in Riverside County, the lake at an elevation of 784 ft. is relatively new to the Central California region having only been completed in 1973. However, it has a surface area of 1,100 acres, making it perfect for water activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing! In addition, many campsites offer excellent views of the surrounding mountains!

26. Baldwin Lake (near Redlands)

Baldwin Lake (near Redlands)

This beautiful lake is located just over 400 ft elevation with a surface area of 37 acres and a maximum depth of 20 feet, offering visitors opportunities for activities such as fishing, hiking, or picnics at one of the many surrounding parks!

27. Lake Fulmor (Near Riverside)

Lake Fulmor (Near Rivers

Located in Riverside County, CA, this lake is at an elevation of 902 ft with a surface area of 160 acres, making it great for water activities like boating, fishing, or any other fun summer activity you can think of!

28. O’Neill Forebay (near San Bernardino)

O'Neill Forebay (near San Bernardino)

This reservoir is on the Santa Ana River and has no natural inflows or outflows. It has a maximum depth of 115 feet and covers 1,750 acres making it perfect for outdoor enthusiasts with opportunities to enjoy water activities like fishing, swimming, boating, kayaking, and more!

29. Castaic Lagoon (Near Valencia)

Castaic Lagoon (Near Valencia)

This lake is located in the mountains north of Los Angeles. It is not a natural lake but somewhat artificial by the building of the Castaic Dam in 1953 on Santa Clara Creek, which flows along an elevation of 1,450 feet. The lagoon has a maximum depth of 15 feet and covers 90 acres making it perfect for water fun with activities like fishing, kayaking, or even swimming!

30. Pyramid Lake (near Los Angeles)

Pyramid Lake (near Los Angeles)

Located near La Habra Heights, CA, this lake is at an elevation of 619 ft, where it stores drinking water managed by the Hetch Hetchy Water & Power system. It offers visitors beautiful views with opportunities for hiking, biking, or just taking some time to relax. It has a surface area of 68 acres and a maximum depth of 80 feet!

31. Castaic Lake Dam (near Valencia)

31. Castaic Lake Dam (near Valencia)

This lake is located in the Angeles National Forest, CA, at an elevation of 4,542 ft with a surface area of 2,000 acres, making it perfect for water activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking, and many campgrounds to explore hiking trails and more!

32. Diamond Valley Lake (near Hemet)

Diamond Valley Lake (near Hemet)

This artificial reservoir is located in Riverside County near San Jacinto at an elevation of 1,325 ft along the Santa Margarita River. The lake held 3,730 million gallons of water and was formed by damming the river, which creates a surface area for visitors to enjoy boating, fishing, and water sports!

33. Lake Paloma (near Lancaster)

Lake Paloma (near Lancaster)

Located in the Antelope Valley Region of Los Angeles, CA, this lake is at an elevation of 1,000 ft with a surface area of 242 acres, making it perfect for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, or biking while also offering visitors excellent views to take in from all around the lake!

34. Silverwood Lake Dam (Near Hesperia)

Silverwood Lake Dam (

Another artificial reservoir near San Bernardino holding 110 billion gallons of water, this lake has a maximum depth of 85 feet and covers 2,050 acres making it great for enjoying nature while having fun on the water, kayaking, boating, water skiing jet, or any other activity you can imagine!

35. San Clemente Dam (near San Clemente)

San Clemente Dam (near San Clemente)

This lake is located in the city of San Clemente near the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve at an elevation of 745 ft with a surface area of 4,850 acres, making it perfect for water fun with boating fishing, swimming, scuba diving, sailing, wakeboarding tubing jetskiing kayaking paddleboarding, or any other activity you can imagine on the epic waters!

36. Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet, CA

Diamond Valley Lak

This artificial reservoir is located in Riverside County near San Jacinto at an elevation of 1,325 ft along the Santa Margarita River. The lake held 3,730 million gallons of water and was formed by damming the river, which creates a surface area for visitors to enjoy boating, fishing, and water sports!

37. Silverwood Lake Dam Near Hesperia, CA

37. Silverwood Lake Dam Near Hesperia, CA

Another artificial reservoir near San Bernardino holding 110 billion gallons of water, this lake has a maximum depth of 85 feet and covers 2,050 acres making it great for enjoying nature while having fun on the water, kayaking, boating, water skiing jet, or any other activity you can imagine!

38. Pyramid Lake Near Los Angeles, CA

Pyramid Lake Near Los Angeles, CA

Located near La Habra Heights, CA, this lake is at an elevation of 619 ft, where it stores drinking water managed by the Hetch Hetchy Water & Power system. It offers visitors beautiful views with opportunities for hiking, , biking or just taking some time to relax. It has a surface area of 68 acres and a maximum depth of 80 feet!

39. El Capitan Reservoir Near Santa Clarita CA

El Capitan Reservoir Near Santa Clarita CA

Located in southeastern Ventura County near the Angeles National Forest, the elevation is over 2,000 ft with a surface area of 4,365 acres, making it perfect for water sports like fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, or any other activity you can imagine on the lake’s epic waters!

40. Castaic Lake Near Valencia CA

This lake is located in the Angeles National Forest, CA, at an elevation of 4,542 ft with a surface area of 2,000 acres, making it perfect for water activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking, and many campgrounds to explore hiking trails and more!

41. Pyramid Lake Near Los Angeles, CA

Located near La Habra Heights, CA, this lake is at an elevation of 619 ft, where it stores drinking water managed by the Hetch Hetchy Water & Power system. It offers visitors beautiful views with opportunities for hiking, biking, or just taking some time to relax. It has a surface area of 68 acres and a maximum depth of 80 feet!

conclusion

California is home to a variety of lakes, each with its unique features. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure near Los Angeles, the Castaic Lake in Valencia might be the perfect spot for you! This artificial lake has many amenities like campgrounds and hiking trails that make it easy to enjoy time outdoors while exploring this beautiful area. Pyramid Lake or El Capitan Reservoir may be better suited for those who want more seclusion or are interested in water sports. They offer plenty of space on the water where visitors can kayak, fish swim, scuba dive, wakeboard tube skiing, jetskis sailing paddleboarding, and much more!

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