Northern California boasts an astounding number of scintillating, utterly gorgeous lakes and is one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the entire country. We couldn’t pick a single one above all the rest, so we asked our readers what their favorite lakes in the region are on our own
Only In Northern California and Northern California Nature Lovers Facebook Groups, and they did not disappoint! Take a look at what our readers say are the best 14 lakes in Northern California for fishing, camping, kayaking, or simply taking in a view you’ll never forget.
1. Sardine Lake
Kathleen Trnr via Northern California Nature Lovers
Sardine Lake rests between the Plumas National Forest and Tahoe National Forest way up in the Sierra Mountains. Not only is it simply stunning to look at, but it's a great spot for fishing, and mountain biking, and is surrounded by hiking trails.
2. Bullard's Bar Reservoir
Cat Cottingham via Northern California Nature Lovers
Over 112,000 people visit Bullard's Bar Reservoir every year and it's easy to see why. With 55 miles of shoreline and over 20 miles of hiking trails, not to mention the bright blue water, it's a sapphire gem that sparkles in the sun.
3. Donner Lake
Kathy Teerink Snow via Only In Northern California
The tiny town of Truckee has this lovely lake to thank for so many visitors coming here to fish some of the biggest lake trout in all of California. With rainbow and brown trout and Kokanee salmon, Donner Lake is a fisherman's dream.
4. Lake Britton
Terri Wheatley via Only In Northern California
The Mt. Shasta area of Northern California is known as one of the most naturally beautiful areas in America. Lake Britton is one of the reasons why. It's lovely to behold and the bridge here was the setting of the railroad scene in the movie Stand By Me.
5. Lake Tahoe
Mark McCulloch via Only In Northern California
Lake Tahoe is the most famous lake in the state, and is an impressive 122,160,280 acre-feet in size and reaches depths of 1,645 feet! It's the second deepest lake in the nation and the largest Alpine lake in North America. Plus, there's no denying its beauty as it's drawn millions of photographers to its shores.
6. Lake Siskiyou
Renee Winn via Only In Northern California
The idyllic Lake Siskiyou is actually a reservoir created by the Box Canyon Dam on the Sacramento River. It's both lovely and useful, as it provides flood control and watershed protection. With views of Mount Shasta, this is a bucket list lake if ever there was one.
7. Thousand Island Lake
Andrew Tomelloso via Only In Northern California
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Thousand Island Lake is a pristine paradise at the foot of Banner Peak, which rises 12,936 feet into the sky. You could imagine Bob Ross would have been eager to set up his easel here!
8. Volcano Lake
Maria Ahrens via Only In Northern California
Volcano Lake is one of the most remote on our list, but you can see why it would be worth the trek. It's a perfect spot for backpackers to hike out to and set up camp and truly be away from it all, with only the sounds of the wind through the trees, the gentle lapping of the lakeshore, and the birds in the trees.
9. Tamarack Lake
John Elliott via Only In Northern California
Tamarack Lake is the embodiment of a remote and bucolic backpacking destination. This area has the most winter snowfall in California, however, the warmer months make this spot ideal for camping and fishing rainbow and brook trout. The array of stars at night would make you catch your breath.
10. Silver Lake
Kevin Fitz Foraker via Only In Northern California
Amador County's Silver Lake is about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe and well worth visiting on its own. At 525 acres, this reservoir is at an elevation of 7,200 feet and a lovely, quiet place to explore in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
11. Second Lake
Ray Bini via Only In Northern California
Second Lake is one of at least nine numbered Big Pine Lakes in the Palisades and is fed by glacial water. After the melt, it turns a bright turquoise color, and being here makes one feel like they've been transported to prehistoric times. The beauty of this place will make you wonder why cities even exist.
12. Lake Almanor
ick Snyder via Only In Northern California
This remote reservoir's capacity is 1,308,000 acre-feet and reaches a 90-foot depth. Several creeks and rivers feed into Lake Almanor, and it's used for hydroelectricity. This doesn't stop fishers, skiers, and boaters from flocking to this gorgeous lake every year.
13. Clear Lake
Sharon Leckbee via Only In Northern California
Clear Lake, known as Lypoyomi by the Pomo people of the region, is the largest natural freshwater lake that is entirely within California's borders. It's also the oldest lake in North America at 2.5 million years old. The water is relatively warm and it's a popular place for swimming, wakeboarding, water skiing, boating, and more.
14. Philbrook Reservoir
Annalee Elizabeth via Only In Northern California
Philbrook Reservoir is at a 5,548-foot elevation in Butte County, CA, and is a marvelous place to get away from everything and just enjoy nature. A lazy paddleboard ride is a fabulous way to enjoy the pleasant, serene waters and makes for sensational camping.
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