4 Remote Lakes in California to Fish and Swim

Shasta Lake in California in summer
© iStock.com/Strekoza2

Written by Niccoy Walker

Updated: July 26, 2023

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California is an outdoor lover’s paradise. From surfing in the Pacific Ocean to hiking through redwood forests, the state offers plenty of outdoor adventures. This western state is great for those who prefer to swim in nature rather than splash in a resort pool, offering plenty of lakes, streams, rivers, and swimming holes to choose from. But like most of California, many areas can be crowded. If you want to beat the summer heat without sharing your space with strangers, head over to these four remote California lakes for some fishing and swimming.

The Best Time of the Year to Fish and Swim in California

Overall, California has a temperate climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. But the weather can vary drastically depending on where you are in the state. For instance, Northern California is slightly cooler than Southern California. The terrain is also very different. The northern regions have mountains and volcanic features, while the southern regions are flat and desert-like. Geography and climate can have a lot of impact on the seclusion and remoteness of lakes, as well as the best time of year to visit. 

The best time of year to swim in California is from early June to mid-September or from Memorial Day to Labor Day. However, even during the warm summer months, lake water will still be chilly. But taking a refreshing dip may be just the thing after a long afternoon hike.

The best time of the year to fish in California greatly depends on the type of fish you’re after. But as a general rule, mild weather with stable conditions often produces the best fish. Lake fishing in California is best in the spring and fall, while ocean fishing is better during summer. 

1. Lake Gregory

Lake Gregory California

This special lake has year-round trout fishing and swimming beaches.

©iStock.com/Try Media

Lake Gregory is a reservoir in the San Bernadino National Forest, a little over an hour outside of Los Angeles. Despite its remote location, this area is very popular during the summer, but the lake and park are big enough for many groups of people to enjoy the space. The lake is surrounded by 84 acres of national forest, hiking trails, and picnic spots. You have to pay for a day pass, which costs $16. They have concessions and play areas with large blow-up slides and water equipment. And you can bring food and drink coolers to make a day of it. Lake Gregory is known for its year-round trout, which the park stocks continually. But you have to pay $10 to use the lake for fishing.   

2. Blue Lakes

Blue Lakes in Lake County, California ca 1910

©Michael Rieder (1868-1949), Public domain – Original / License

Located in Lake County inside a deep canyon, the string of Blue Lakes are about two and a half hours north of San Francisco. Though it’s nestled in a secluded area north of Clear Lake, it’s a popular area for summer camping getaways. There may be days when it gets busy, but this lake stays relatively quiet even in the summer. You can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, floating, and paddleboarding. Bring your RV or tent and your closest friends for the ultimate summer lake vacation. The water is clear and clean, perfect for taking a refreshing dip or lounging on floats. Fishing is allowed year-round, and the lake is stocked with rainbow trout, brook trout, and Lahontan cutthroat trout. 

3. Shasta Lake

Lake Shasta landscape

Shasta Lake is large enough that you feel like you have the water to yourself even when it’s busy.

©Devin Powers/Shutterstock.com

The Shasta Lake Reservoir is a popular tourist destination during the summer, where you can rent a houseboat and stay right on the water. The lake is very large, making visitors feel like they have the water to themselves, even during the busy Fourth of July weekend. While the water is chilly during the winter, it feels like bathwater during the summer. And there are plenty of secluded coves and beaches for private swimming and boating. With 365 miles of shoreline, there are also many spots for fishing, hiking, camping, and everything else you can imagine. The fishing is best in the spring and early summer. And spotted bass and smallmouth bass are the most abundant.  

4. Smith Lake

If you’re looking for a super remote and secluded lake, check out Smith Lake in the Plumas National Forest. The best way to get there is by hiking the Smith Lake trail, which begins in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Continue to Jamison Creek for 2.5 miles. Along the way, you can stop and fish or have a quick dip in the refreshing Smith Lake. It sounds like a lot of work, but the hike is actually quick and easy.  

Best Remote Lakes in California to Fish and Swim: A Recap of the Top 4

RankRemote Lakes in California to Fish and SwimLocation
1Lake GregorySan Bernadino National Forest
2Blue LakesLake County
3Shasta LakeShasta
4Smith LakePlumas National Forest
Summary Table of 4 Remote Lakes in California to Fish and Swim


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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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