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Northern California's Idyllic Lake Escapes

Northern California, with its vast stretches of untouched nature, is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking to plan a lakeside getaway this summer. Whether interested in boating, fishing, hiking or simply disconnecting, visitors can choose from hundreds of lakes - each offering a uniquely special experience.

Enjoy a peaceful getaway to Lassen County’s Eagle Lake Resort 
Eagle Lake, located in the mountainous area of Northern Lassen County, is the second largest natural lake in northern California. Previously stricken by drought, the north shore of Eagle Lake is once again home to eagles, osprey, pelicans, grebes and the famous Eagle Lake Trout, making this lake the perfect spot for nature-lovers, fishermen and birders. Eagle Lake Resort, located on the north shore of the lake, offers RV camping and cabins for rent. 

Explore the mountain lakes of Trinity County
The majestic peaks of Trinity County frame its three recreation lakes -- Trinity Lake, Lewiston Lake and Ruth Lake. Trinity Lake is the third largest California reservoir and a favorite of visitors for house-boating, camping, recreational boating and fishing. For a little more laid-back experience, Lewiston Lake has a speed limit of 10 mph and is home to the largest population of eagles in California this year. On Ruth Lake, which maintains 90-100% capacity year-round, visitors can catch a glimpse of over 200 species of birds. After a day on the water, guests can recharge at one of several cabin resorts along Trinity and Lewiston Lakes.

Disconnect at the Medicine Lake Recreation Area
In the far northeastern corner of the state sits Medicine Lake and the wide-open landscape of the Medicine Lake Recreation Area. Here, guests can enjoy a lakeside camping experience adjacent to the Medicine Lake Lava Flow - an otherworldly landscape accessible by a short hike. The lake offers camping, boating and fishing, along with hiking and mountain biking trails including the popular trail up Little Mt Hoffman. Within a 15-30 minute drive, visitors can experience other amazing sites including Glass Mountain and the Lava Beds National Monument. There are four campgrounds with a total of 75 campsites that vary between somewhat rugged to larger areas suitable for RVs.

Enjoy a fun lakeside getaway in Butte County
The second largest reservoir in California, created by the tallest dam in the nation, Lake Oroville is home to the state’s only campsites where guests can picnic, barbecue and pitch their tent right on the lake. At Bidwell Canyon Marina or Lake Oroville Marina, visitors can rent boats of all sizes, and fuel up on gas and sundries. Nestled among the pines in Magalia, Paradise Lake provides a relaxing alternative to crowded summertime lakes. Here, visitors can enjoy a quiet paddle, picnic or hike in the cooler, higher elevations. A 4.5-mile-long trail follows the western shore of Paradise Lake, with occasional restrooms and benches along the way, along with a shaded picnic area, playground and horseshoe pit.

Relax at the foot of Mt. Shasta at Lake Siskiyou 
Siskiyou County is home to more than 270 named lakes, including Lake Siskiyou at the base of majestic Mt. Shasta. Perfect for a couple’s getaway, Mount Shasta Resort offers fully appointed chalets overlooking the lake, where guests can tan on the beach, enjoy a variety of watersports or explore the 7-mile Lake Siskiyou Trail. The resort is home to a challenging 18-hole golf course, tennis and pickleball courts, a restaurant and lounge, and the rejuvenating Sacred Mountain Spa. For families, nearby Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort offers up the perfect lakeside getaway with rustic cabins, RV spaces and camping. There’s also the Snack Shack and Grille & Brew restaurant on-site with an outdoor eating space. 

Enjoy incredible views from the tranquil lakes of Lassen Volcanic National Park
Located just a short 10 minutes from the 20 lakes of Lassen Volcanic National Park, Highlands Ranch Resort is a great home base for outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the lakes are hike-in and some can be enjoyed from the park highway -- a portion of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway known as the All-American Road. From Emerald Lake and Lake Helen to tranquil Summit Lake and the amazing views of Lassen Peak from Manzanita Lake, they all offer opportunities to fish, swim, kayak or photograph.

Enjoy outdoor recreation at Orick’s lagoons
Just south of Redwood National & State Parks on the Redwood Coast, a string of three freshwater bodies provide a paddler's paradise. Reed beds, ospreys, cormorant rookeries, hidden coves, playful otters, swimming elk and agate beaches delight visitors to Big, Freshwater and Stone Lagoons, the last of which boasts one of California’s few boat-in only campgrounds. Visitors can rent kayaks and gear and launch from the Stone Lagoon Visitor Center on Hwy 101. From there, guests can journey to the secluded Ryan’s Cove, where most nights all the primitive campsites, as well as gorgeous views of the redwoods and ocean, will belong to only one group. 

Plan the perfect lakeside getaway in Yosemite’s Gateways
There are dozens of lakes for visitors to choose from throughout Yosemite’s gateway communities. Tuolumne County alone is home to 78 lakes including Pinecrest Lake, which offers boat rentals, fishing, hiking, camping and an outdoor amphitheater. Cabins are available at Pinecrest Lake Resort, Pinecrest Chalet, Pinecrest Area Vacation Rentals and more. There is also Lake Don Pedro, the ultimate destination for water sports. Boats of all types are available for rent at Don Pedro Lake Marina, and camping is available through the Don Pedro Recreation Agency. In Mariposa County, Lake McClure is peppered with coves where visitors can set up camp or anchor a houseboat for the ultimate camping experience. Nearby, the Lake McSwain Camping and Recreation Area is home to the Splash-n-Dash, an inflatable on-water obstacle course.

Cool off at the lakes of Sonoma County
Sonoma County Regional Parks encompasses more than 50 parks and beaches including Spring Lake Regional Park, a 72-acre reservoir and an idyllic spot for boating and paddling year-round. Visitors have access to seasonal boat rentals, a swimming lagoon with a floating water park, and a sandy beach with shady picnic areas and a seasonal cafe. Tucked into the secluded Pacific Redwood Forest minutes away from downtown Healdsburg, New Tree Ranch is one of Northern California’s few multi-sensory destinations and the most intimate of Northern California wine country accommodations. NewTree Ranch is unique in that it is home to Lake Andreas, a private lake where guests can swim, paddleboard and kayak before enjoying a range of interactive outdoor experiences. 

Plan a fishing vacation at Coyote Lake in Gilroy
Coyote Lake, nestled in the foothills east of Gilroy, is a 449-acre lake that is popular for fishing and boating. There are also over 33 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding that wind through oak woodlands and meadows surrounding the lake. Both powered and non-powered vessels are allowed on the water, but reservations are required at this time. Camping is also available by reservation only.

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.