When many people picture California, they envision the bright lights of Hollywood and the towering palm trees lining the never-ending coast. Although you can go surfing, sunbathing, and enjoy beautiful weather at the ocean in the Golden State, there are plenty of beaches there as well!
Whether you live in the Golden State or you’re just visiting, we’ve found the must-see lake towns that will make you feel like you’re on a permanent vacation!
#1 Tahoe City
As one may be able to assume from the name, Tahoe City is home to the ever-stunning Lake Tahoe. On warm summer days, the sidewalk is dotted with flower baskets that overflow with vibrancy at every turn.
You can see the mountains on one side of the town, and the glistening Lake Tahoe on the other. Visitors enjoy shopping, visiting an art gallery that features some truly amazing photos of the region’s natural splendor, and grabbing a bite to eat.
Since the town has easy access to the lake, activities including boating, waterskiing, paddling, swimming, fishing, and lake cruises become popular during the hottest times of the year. Cycling and hiking keep individuals active all year long.
State parks and hiking trails welcome guests to their picturesque retreats and are the ideal locations to bring a packed lunch.
#2 Lake Shasta
Located in Shasta County, Lake Shasta is another beautiful area to visit in California. The lake is the largest man-made reservoir in the entire state! The area lies 10 miles north of Redding and on an ordinary summer day, fishing boats, speedboats, inner tubes, and just about anything else that floats may be seen in the clear blue waters.
Mirror-smooth coves are surrounded by over 370 miles of beach that are perfect for relaxing. Watch bald eagles and osprey flying above while casting for bass, crappie, or sturgeon. From modest hotels with cozy rooms to multi-level, floating mansions with jacuzzis, culinary kitchens, and luxury suites there is something for everyone here.
There are various campgrounds in the vicinity, some of which are reached only by boat. A public tour of Shasta Dam is one of the lake’s other excellent attractions. It is the second-largest concrete dam in the nation at 602 feet!
#3 Donner Lake
Donner Lake is the crown jewel of the lakes throughout Truckee! The first view is quite breathtaking when you cross Donner Summit on I-80 heading north. It’s a beautiful lake for biking, hiking, and enjoying the water views and beaches.
At this stunning mountain lake, which the Shallenberger Ridge borders on the lake’s side, visitors enjoy jet skiing, parasailing, boating, canoeing, paddle boating, and paddle boarding.
Donner Lake is home to some of the largest lake trout throughout the state of California, making fishing there another well-liked activity.
Every year, there is a triathlon at Donner Lake that involves swimming in the lake, jogging around it, and biking up Old Highway 40, across the Rainbow Bridge, toward Kingvale, and back to Donner Lake.
#4 Clear Lake
If you’re ever in Lake County, check out Clear Lake in northern California. This watersports mecca is surrounded by over 100 miles of shoreline and is the biggest freshwater lake entirely within California.
There are various boat marinas that rent out all types of watercraft, notably man-powered kayaks, in addition to fishing equipment. It’s a perfect area to try having a go at catching one of the lake’s fabled big monsters since this is the home of bass fishing.
Even from the campgrounds at Clear Lake State Park, the crisp air at night allows for some amazing stargazing. Clear Lake offers a variety of hiking paths for hikers to enjoy. An easy half-mile self-guided route, the Indian Nature route demonstrates how the Pomo people made use of the local resources.
The location of the former Pomo settlement is where the route passes, immersing visitors in history!
#5 Lake San Antonio
Despite the name reminding you of The Lone Star State, Lake San Antonio is located in Monterey County, CA. On the stunning central coast of California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Lake San Antonio Recreation Area is a practical getaway spot or stopover for tourists.
While groundwater recharge and flood management are the reservoir’s main goals, Lake San Antonio’s 335,000 acre-feet of water, 16-mile course, and over 100 miles of shoreline offer an excellent recreation area as well.
The best freshwater recreational area is located here in Monterey County. It spans 4,200 acres and is separated into two sites. The South Shore has 3,020 acres and North Shore has 1,180 acres.
People can engage in recreational activities year-round at the South Shore and North Shore park locations. This includes angling, swimming, boating, hiking, horseback riding, camping, and more!
#6 Big Bear
Big Bear is a mountain town with a lake of the same name. This is a luxurious lakeside town that often sees visitors that you may recognize from your favorite films! Big Bear Lake is a four-season mountainous lake getaway in Southern California.
It’s a short drive from Arizona and Las Vegas, making it a great location for many. The crowning glory of the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is renowned for superb fishing, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, cycling, and much more!
The city has a laid-back atmosphere, awe-inspiring natural scenery, and a wealth of outdoor activities. 22 miles of coastline are found here along with breathtaking mountain landscapes. Big Bear Lake allows swimming during the summer but at your own discretion.
Swimmers are required to keep within 50 feet of the coast or no more than 20 feet from a private pier. There are no lifeguards on duty.
#7 Mammoth Lakes
You can find Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This place is nothing short of a dream! It’s a spectacular location where you are surrounded by breathtaking views in all directions. where craters, hot springs, and lakes coexist with unearthly vistas.
If you enjoy the great outdoors, Mammoth Lakes offers a variety of thrilling excursions and breathtaking vistas throughout the summer. Anything from exhilarating mountain bike rides to tranquil fly fishing in streams and lakes will keep you busy. You can also opt for a remote camping adventure to a relaxing evening trek in the woods.
Winter is another popular time for people to visit this area. There are numerous activities available for everybody to take advantage of in this breathtaking, snowy winter paradise. This includes skiing and snowboarding at the renowned Mammoth Mountain.
You can also try endless cross-country and snowshoe trails, snowmobile excursions, and family-friendly activities like sledding and snowball fights.
#8 June Lake
You’ll find June Lake in an unincorporated area of the Golden State. June Lake appears to be something you’d see on a postcard. With its crystal-clear waters encircled by the Sierra Nevada’s jagged peaks, it’s hard to find something not to love about this area of California.
June Lake is one of the biggest and few natural lakes in the area, with a total area of about 320 acres. It is well known for fishing, particularly trolling. June Lake has a number of marinas and boat ramps for anglers.
On the eastern shore of the lake, the June Lake beach offers velvety sand, a swimming area, and jaw-dropping vistas. Along the 1.5-mile-long lake, paddling, kayaking, and windsurfing are additional popular activities.
#9 Lee Vining
The unincorporated village and census-designated place of Lee Vining is located in Mono County, CA, in the United States. At the foot of the Sierra just below Tioga Pass, Lee Vining serves as the entryway into Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake.
This small town makes a great starting point for experiencing Yosemite or the surrounding Mono Basin. Tioga Pass, which is Yosemite’s Heavenly entryway and a fantastic site to explore while you’re in the area, is located at a height of 9,945 feet.
Saddlebag Lake, a popular and unique location for hikers, fishermen, and travelers who camp, is situated on the Eastside not far from the summit of Tioga Pass. A ferry boat transports visitors to the trailhead for the magnificent five-mile circle at Twenty Lakes Basin on the west side of the lake throughout the summer.
Lundy Lake is a well-known canyon for its springtime blooms and autumn color show once the leaves change colors, located at the foot of Conway Summit. For camping and day tourists, a resort on the lake’s coast provides boat rentals and other essential facilities.
Summary of the 9 Best Lake Towns in California
|1||Tahoe City||Placer County|
|2||Lake Shasta||Shasta County|
|3||Donner Lake||Nevada County|
|4||Clear Lake||Lake County|
|5||Lake San Antonio||Monterey County|
|6||Mammoth Lakes||Mono County|
|7||Big Bear||San Bernardino|
|8||June Lake||Mono County|
|9||Lee Vining||Mono County|
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