The 5 Best Lakes Near San Diego, California

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Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: July 3, 2023

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San Diego, California, has a rich history and even deeper culture. It is just a few miles away from the border between Mexico and the United States. While visiting San Diego, most people look at museums, nightlife events, and amusement parks like Sea World. However, did you know that San Diego also has some extraordinary lakes?

Picture graph of 5 Best Lakes in San Diego, California
These lakes may be urban or up in the mountains, but all are enjoyable.

Not only are the lakes big, but they are also beautiful. Next time you are in the area, why not visit one of the best lakes near San Diego and take a dip to beat the heat? Ready to dive into the best lakes near San Diego, California? Keep on reading!

1. Lake Miramar

Lake Miramar

Lake Miramar offers fantastic views of Mira Mesa.

© Uomala

First, we are starting with Lake Miramar. The City of San Diego designed and built this reservoir in 1960. While tourists do not visit it frequently, many locals have nicknamed the Miramar Reservoir Lake Miramar. This lake offers fantastic views of Mira Mesa. It is also a popular fishing destination with a large population of bass and sunfish. Even if you don’t like fishing, you can enjoy watching the wildlife. Common birds in the area include pelicans and ruddy ducks.

If you simply want to take a walk or cycle, there are paved and dirt paths around the lake. Want to take your dog or child in a stroller? The paved path fits most strollers since it is wide. There are also plenty of opportunities to take pictures of black sage and monkey flowers. Fun fact about this lake: it is called “Miramar” because, before housing developments, you could clearly see the ocean (“miramar” is Spanish for “sea view.”)

2. Los Rasalies Lake

Milky Way galaxy over Big Laguna Lake in Mount Laguna, California

An amazing look at the Milky Way as seen from the Laguna Mountains, home of Los Rasalies Lake.

©Kevin Key/

Los Rasalies Lake is more than just a lake and is definitely for those of us who love adventure! To reach Los Rasalies Lake in San Diego County, you need to take an 11-mile hiking loop. It takes almost 5 hours to complete, but it is well worth it! Dogs are not allowed on the trail or in the lake.

It is best to visit during the warm months before September and after April since Los Rasalies Lake is in the Laguna Mountain Range where it can get cold, snowy, and icy. It is very close to the larger Big Laguna Lake, pictured above, and not far from the famous Palomar Observatory where you can get an even closer look at the Milky Way in the picture.

The lake is about 1 hour away from San Diego, enough to experience peace and quiet. It is a hidden gem and is usually enjoyed by avid hikers and locals. Bass are common in Los Rasalies Lake, and swimming is refreshing, especially after a long hike! It is also an excellent place to bird watch since geese, mallard ducks, and blue herons swim in the lake.

3. Dixon Lake

Dixon Lake

Dixon Lake is in Escondido and offers night fishing during specific months of summer.


If you like camping, Dixon Lake is a great lake and park to enjoy! There is a large campground on the lake, and fishing is encouraged. This recreational lake is stocked frequently with catfish and trout. It is also kid-friendly and dog-friendly, perfect for pet lovers! Dixon Lake is less than an hour away from San Diego. It is far enough for you to experience tranquility while also enjoying Dixon Lake as a quick day trip.

Dixon Lake is in Escondido and offers night fishing during specific months of summer. The gates to Dixon Lake open at 6:00 am daily and close by dusk. This lake is beautiful because it is authentic. The trails are not perfectly maintained, but they are easy to walk and enjoy. Multiple bridges offer stunning views. Most of the lake is clear, but other parts are a deep turquoise, tempting anyone to jump in for a refreshing swim. Box turtles are common in the water and will sometimes show up on the hiking trails.

4. Lake Ramona

Lake Ramona is a small lake with clear water and a lot of charm.

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Just 37 miles away from San Diego is Lake Ramona. It is a small lake with clear water and a lot of charm. It takes 5.9 miles to hike to this hidden gem, but it is well worth the walk. The lake is pristine and surrounded by rocky hills. Be careful when walking the trail and on the rocks, as they get very slippery when wet. The lake is artificial and was built in 1980 as an emergency water supply for agriculture. The climb can be exhausting since it is 3 miles up a hill, and there are no bathrooms.

Once you finish the hiking trail and reach the lake, you can enjoy its shallow and crystal clear water. It is not for swimming, but fishing is allowed. I recommend visiting in spring as many wildflowers are gorgeous and in bloom. There are also multiple ducks and water birds in the area, so bring a pair of binoculars!

5. Lower Otay Lake

Lower Otay Lake California

Lower Otay Lake is an artificial reservoir with plenty of recreational activities.


The City of San Diego maintains Lower Otay Lake, an artificial reservoir with plenty of recreational activities. It offers 25 miles of shoreline, and when full, the maximum depth is 137.5 feet. It was completed in 1918 after the original dam made over 20 years prior gave way, flooding parts of California and leading to the sad passing of 14 individuals. Now, 100 years later, the dam and the reservoir stand strong and well-maintained to ensure no floods.

You can’t swim, but you can fish! There are massive blue catfish and bass in the water. Some blue catfish reach 100 pounds and bass 18 pounds! Can you imagine reeling in such a heavy beast? Other than those fish, you can also find black crappies, bluegill, and channel catfish. It is also used as a tournament lake for bass fishing.

Summary Of The 5 Best Lakes Near San Diego, California

#LakeLocation in San Diego CountyHow Far From Downtown San Diego
1Lake MiramarMira Mesa17 miles
2Los Rasalies LakeMount Laguna58 miles
3Dixon LakeEscondido38 miles
4Lake RamonaPoway & Ramona37 miles
5Lower Otay LakeChula Vista23 miles

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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