Top-Rated Lakes in California: California is known for its breathtaking landscapes that feature a variety of natural attractions including mountains, beaches, and lakes.
While some of these freshwater lakes such as Lake Shasta and Lake Tahoe are quite famous, there are many lesser-known lakes that offer a host of recreational activities and a refreshing escape into nature.
Planning your lake trip in the Golden State?
Let’s help you make the perfect choice with our list of the 7 top-rated lakes in California:
Lake Tahoe #1
Nestled between the mesmerizing Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe is one of the most stunning lakes in California.
Surrounded by lush pine forests, it is also home to an impressive state park and offers plenty of recreational activities such as boating and photography amongst others.
Take the Rubicon Trail that connects Emerald Bay with the nearby D.L. Bliss State Park where you can set up camp.
Wish to stay near the lake?
You can find numerous cabins, campgrounds, and lavish resorts in the area. The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail circles the lake basin, offering a scenic hiking experience.
Shasta Lake #2
Located a four-hour long drive away from San Francisco, Lake Shasta is one of the best lakes to visit if you’re looking for a serene vibe away from the crowds.
With the scenic backdrop of the majestic Mount Shasta, the lake seems straight out of a fairy tale.
Full of glacial run-off water from the Whitney Glacier, the water here is icy cold. If that isn’t a concern, you can enjoy a refreshing swim.
Fishing and lake cruises are also popular recreational activities here.
You can take a guided boating tour of the subterranean Lake Shasta Caverns.
If you prefer a more laid-back outing, there are numerous picnic tables and easy hiking trails around the lake. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adventure enthusiast, this beautiful oasis is sure to delight you.
Big Bear Lake #3
Considered one of the best boating lakes in the state, Big Bear Lake is nestled in the San Bernardino forest.
From winter skiers to hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and vacationers from L.A., the lake draws many visitors to enjoy its spectacular environs.
From kayaking to fishing, swimming, and boating, there is a plethora of recreational activities to enjoy here.
You can also go hiking on the many trails that go through the forest and offer breathtaking views of the lake.
Wish to spend more time?
You’ll find several cabin rentals and resorts here.
Mono Lake #4
Love the idea of visiting a thousand-year-old lake?
Mono Lake won’t disappoint.
Perched near Yosemite National Park’s eastern entrance, this lake is known for its ancient tufa towers, that protrude from the water. The fascinating geological features and unique landscape draw many to enjoy a memorable outing.
While swimming and boating, you’ll experience some extra buoyancy here owing to the alkaline waters of the lake.
The place is also a paradise for birders as it draws many migratory birds and has protected Ospreys in the state park.
Wish to spend the night?
You can enjoy camping too.
Lake Havasu #5
Looking for a vibrant party vibe?
Head to Havasu Lake which straddles the eastern California and western Arizona border. From hiking, fishing, and biking to golfing and shopping, there is no dearth of recreational activities to indulge in here.
If you’re seeking a more relaxed experience, you can soak up the sun at the several beautiful beaches of Lake Havasu State Park.
You’ll also find various campsites here, perfect for spending an entire weekend by the lakeside. Got some more time on your hands? Explore Lake Havasu City.
Convict Lake #6
Located in the Mammoth Lakes region, Convict Lake is surrounded by the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains.
With Mount Morrison Peak as the backdrop, the lake boasts postcard-worthy scenery. One of the deepest lakes in the region, it was formed due to glacier activity.
If you’re an adventure junkie, go for a cold plunge in these ice-cold waters. There’s also a three-mile-long trail around it, allowing hikers to explore the area.
Love to fish?
The lake abounds with freshwater trout.
With so much to offer, it is one of the best lakes in California.
Sonoma Lake #7
Sonoma Lake is nestled amidst scenic coastal foothills and is surrounded by rolling hills and lush vineyards.
Featuring more than fifty miles of shoreline, the lake offers plenty of recreational activities. From boating and swimming to camping and fishing, there is something here for everyone.
You’ll find numerous picnic areas, patio lounging, and boat services here.
After an exciting outdoor experience, indulge yourself in a scrumptious meal at the deli at the Sonoma Lake Marina.
You can also visit attractions such as the Warm Springs Dam and Bridge.
So, pick the one that attracts you the most and get ready for an unforgettable lake vacation.
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Q. What is the best lake to visit in California?
With the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains and surrounded by lush alpine forests, Lake Tahoe is considered the best lake to visit in California.
Q. What is the 3rd largest lake in California?
Goose Lake is the third largest lake in California with a surface area of 380.7 sq. km.
Q. How many lakes are in California?
California has around 3,000 officially named lakes.