From snow-covered mountain ranges up north to the sunbaked desert down south, the Golden State’s diverse scenery supplies endless outdoor entertainment opportunities that the whole family can enjoy. However, when it comes to variety and beauty, few attractions can compete with the sunny state’s lakes.
California’s more than 3,000 lakes and reservoirs offer incredible destinations for outdoor lovers. But when it comes to offering entertainment for the whole family, some places are just on another level.
So, pack your bags, buckle your seatbelts, and don’t forget your swimsuits because the following lake destinations promise an experience your family will never forget.
Northern Cali’s Shasta Lake is the state’s largest water reservoir and a favorite family vacationing spot. Shasta Lake’s numerous marinas rent everything from a jet ski to a houseboat – which is good news as boating is the best way to explore Shasta’s 250-million-year-old caverns and otherworldly stalactite formations. Anglers will find many types of basses and trout in the lake while children can have fun mining for gems or running around in one of the lake’s many playgrounds.
Famous for its year-round ski resorts, Lake Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada border and is the largest alpine lake in America. Lake Tahoe’s history as a touristic hub means there is an impressive catalog of restaurants, golf courses, water parks, and boat rentals to cater to your needs. So, while the ski resorts catch most people’s attention, the lake itself offers endless recreational opportunities like fishing, parasailing, scuba diving, boating, and even the prestigious Concours d’Elegance wooden boat show.
Lake Arrowhead’s deep-blue waters and thick pine forest offer a romantic vacationing spot just 23 miles outside San Bernardino. If you’re looking for a quiet spot for a family reunion, Lake Arrowhead’s cozy scenery should be your first stop. Relax and share stories in a rustic cabana or board the Arrowhead Queen paddleboat for a guided tour of the shoreline and luxurious lakefront homes. Kids and adults alike can enjoy petting the animals at the Wildhaven Ranch or trolling around the lake for Rainbow Trout and Catfish.
Plumas County’s Lake Almanor is a popular destination for fishing and water sports enthusiasts. Boating and fishing rentals are available at good prices. Water sports of all types – kayaking, water-skiing, wakeboarding, etc. – are practiced throughout the lake which is spacious enough to never feel crowded. Water temperatures oscillate between 75°F in the summer to below zero during the winter, making Lake Almanor a prime destination for fishing trout, king salmon, and bass throughout the year.
Bass Lake’s warm (nearly 80°F during the summer) emerald green waters make it a fantastic summer destination year-round. But if the unlimited swimming, wakeboarding, boating, and pedal boating opportunities weren’t enough to swing your family’s vote, consider the lake’s unequaled location of just 17 miles from Yosemite National Park.
Spend a wild day of water sports with the younger members of your family or settle for a quiet afternoon swimming in one of the more secluded coves. Get fishing gear from a local rental and spend a quiet evening snagging bass and Kokanee salmon while you enjoy the view provided by the granite peaks and pine-trimmed forests surrounding you.
Big Bear Lake
Located in the heart of Southern California, Big Bear Lake’s 22 miles of shoreline offers a natural playground to practice a variety of water sports. Boat and watercraft rentals are found on any of the lake’s six marinas, allowing you to choose whether you explore the lake on paddleboards, kayaks, boats, or go waterskiing. Fishing is a favorite pastime for visitors as Big Bear Lake’s waters abound with fish like Rainbow Trout and Largemouth Bass just waiting for you to snag them while you enjoy the impressive view created by the towering peaks surrounding the lake.
California’s reputation for urban and beach attractions means its scenic lakes don’t get the attention they deserve. Hopefully, this list will give you the information you need to enjoy a family vacation you’ll never forget!
To make our list, the lakes had to have plenty of outdoor activities to do and the availability of lake house rentals for big families.