If your idea of an idyllic summer day involves lounging on a giant floatie with no waves in sight, then the lake life is definitely for you. With everyone and their brother heading to Lake Tahoe these days, now is the perfect time to check out some of the other local lakes nearby. The water is calm and warm, perfect for setting up a picnic, casting out your fishing line and splashing around with the littles. Check out our list below and plan your next road trip!
This lake in the East Bay city of Castro Valley is less than an hour away from all of the Bay Area and the perfect spot for a day on the water. While swimming is not allowed in Lake Chabot, boating and fishing are the perfect activities. The boathouse opens at 6 a.m. in the summer for rentals of kayaks, pontoon boats, pedal boats and motor boats. No advanced reservations are taken so plan to arrive early on the weekends to get your ride. Save a few bucks and come on Wednesdays when you can get half off your boat rental. Military receive half off boat rentals all week long (bring your ID).
Those looking to get a tour of the lake can book a spot on the Lake Chabot Queen ($6/hour for ages 13 and up, $3.50/hour for under 13). They are currently revamping their kayak tour service so check back later for an update.
The marina cafe offers a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, cookies and more, perfect to bring along on your pontoon boat. Call ahead with your order and they’ll have it ready for you when you arrive. They also offer fishing licenses (only required for age 16 and up) and any tackle/bait that you need. Parking is $5/car and does fill up on the weekends.
Castro Valley, CA
Nearby Gilroy is home to this lake that offers both fishing and boating. Both motorized and non-motorized vessels are allowed on the lake but there is no swimming permitted. The campground is great spot to set up your tent for the weekend and explore the 33 miles of hiking trails on the property. The park rangers run some great free programs for kids on the weekends. On the opposite side of the lake from the campground is the Coyote Dam with some massive rocks for climbing.
Lake Del Valle
This East Bay lake is a hot spot for those looking to cool off in the summer. Swing by the visitors center to learn the history of the area and find out about campfire programs offered throughout the summer months. Swimming is allowed in the lake and there are two swimming beaches staffed by lifeguards during posted periods. Fishing is allowed and campsites are available for those looking to stay the night.
Just east of Redding and Chico, Lake Almanor sits just outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park. With a maximum depth of 90 feet (compared to Lake Tahoe’s 1,600+ feet) the water is warm and swimable , especially the later you get into the summer months. Rent a kayak, paddleboard or boat from one of the many businesses around the lake. There are a number of marinas that offer sheltered areas for kids to swim and float around in their giant unicorn inflatables.
Plumas County, CA
You will feel like you have gone back in time to the simpler days when you spend the weekend at Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest. Located near Dodge Ridge Ski resort, this lake offers fishing, boating, kayaking and all sorts of other outdoor activities that are guaranteed to tire the kids out. Sunbathe at the sandy beach on the southern edge of the lake. Hike around the lake or book a horse or pack mule ride at Aspen Meadows. You can stay right on the lake at the Pinecrest Lake Resort or book one of the many cabins like those at the Rivers Resort in the nearby town of Strawberry.
Located in the Sierra foothills near Bear Valley, Lake Alpine has tons to offer families who are looking for some low-key fun. Rent a boat to take out on the lake and enjoy some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the area. Swimming is allowed but the water doesn’t tend to warm up until August. Hike the 4-mile trail around the lake and take a side trip to Inspiration Point for some amazing views. Bring your tent to camp at one of the three campgrounds that surround the lake ($25/night, no reservations taken) or try out one of the cabins and tent cabins available at Lake Alpine Resort.
4000 Highway 4
The state’s largest reservoir is a draw for water lovers of all ages, especially those looking to spend their weekend on a houseboat. About a four hour drive north of San Francisco, now is a great time to head to Shasta as the winter rains made it full to the brim. Day temperatures reach the upper 90s and the water is a balmy 78 degrees in the summer months. Make sure you plan time to take a tour of Shasta Dam, the second-largest concrete dam in the country. Another point of interested is the Lake Shasta Caverns. These underground wonders are only accessible by boat as part of a guided tour.
Lake Shasta, CA
What lake will you splash in this summer? Let us know below!
—story and photos by Kate Loweth