Northern California is home to amazing lakes in all of its far reaches. From the alpine lakes of the Sierra and Cascades to the deep reservoirs of Shasta and Oroville, there’s no shortage of crystal clear water that’s perfect for swimming and boating.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite lakes in Northern California, in no particular order.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Trinity Lake
Located on the Trinity River, this lake is formed by a dam on the Trinity River and is one of the largest and most beautiful reservoirs in Northern California. It's located close in proximity to Lake Shasta but is much less crowded thanks to the long, winding road that visitors need to travel to access its shores. It's a great place to get away from it all and go for a long soak.
2. Lake Almanor
This large reservoir is located on the Feather River and a great place for a mountain escape. Whether you sail, swim, or simply relax in the sun, you won't forget your time at this breathtaking place any time soon. Fun fact: the lake was named for Alice, Martha and Eleanor, the 3 daughters of the vice president of the power company that put the dam here in 1914.
3. Lake Berryessa
The largest lake in Napa County, Berryessa is a fun place to cool off on a hot summer day. Visitors often come here for fishing, waterskiing, jet skiing, pleasure boating, kayaking and canoeing, hiking, road bicycling, motorcycle pleasure biking, birding, wildlife observation, picnicking, and swimming. It's practically paradise for anyone interested in outdoor recreation of any kind.
4. Lake Oroville
This Butte County reservoir made news this year when the emergency spillway off the dam failed, but Northern Californians have been coming here to play in the water, boat, and camp for generations. Located on the Feather River, it's a nationally renowned area for bass fishing and coho salmon are also a popular catch here. It's a favorite place for water skiers and wake boarders, as well.
5. Lake Tahoe
Famous around the world, Lake Tahoe has been dubbed the "Jewel of the Sierra." Locals advise not visiting on popular weekends because traffic here can be insane, but that being said, it's a one of a kind destination that is unparalleled for its beauty and grandeur. From hiking to swimming to boating, there's nothing else like this place in the world for outdoor activities.
6. Lake Helen
This pristine, but frigid, lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park is a true beauty. You won't find bluer water or a better location for a picnic, either. Jump in if you dare, but know it's quite cold! The lake is ringed by Lassen Peak and other prominent mountains of the Southern Cascades.
7. Shasta Lake
One of the most popular lakes in Northern California, Shasta Lake offers some of the best boating (including houseboat rentals!) and scenery around. The red dirt beaches are a lovely contrast with the emerald waters of this man made reservoir. Known for its finger-like channels, the lake has four major arms, each created by an approaching river: The Sacramento River, the McCloud River, Squaw Creek, and the Pit River.
Located in the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, this reservoir is another great place for relaxing and boating. Other popular activities here include camping and fishing. Personal watercraft have been banned from the lake, so you will have to rent out a boat or paddle craft from the folks here or stick to swimming. It's great because of the 30 feet visibility of its waters and the abundance of surrounding wildlife.
9. Clear Lake
Likely the oldest lake in North America, there has been water in this location for at least 2,500,000 years. It's also the largest freshwater lake that is completely within the state (Tahoe is partially in Nevada) and known as the "Bass Capital of the West" among fishermen.
10. Donner Lake
This natural, high alpine lake surrounded by cabins and featuring public piers is located in the town of Truckee. It's great for paddling, swimming, and is located right off of Interstate 80.
11. Lake Siskiyou
Take in the incredible views of Mount Shasta and the southern Cascades from the shores of this popular Siskiyou County reservoir. Stake out a spot on these shores to watch the fireworks shoot off each 4th of July. You won't be disappointed.
Did we nail it on the head with this list of awesome lakes? Are there any other places that you would add to the list?