When we think of Southern California, the sparkling Pacific Ocean is one of the first things that comes to mind. However, the sunshine state is also known for its beautiful lakes, which have become popular places to visit in the summertime for the ultimate weekend (or even weeklong) getaway. From jet skiing and camping adventures to high-end spas and world-class resorts, check out these six top lake destinations in Southern California. Tripping.com also offers a variety of cozy cabins and luxury lake house rentals to make your stay even more enjoyable.
Best Lakes in Southern California
A popular destination in the winter for snowboarding and skiing, Big Bear is a quaint city located in the San Bernardino Mountains that sits along the seven-mile long Big Bear Lake and is surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. In the summertime, visitors come here to participate in kayaking, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and other aquatic activities on the lake, which is a common place to host a BBQ or a picnic during the warm season. For the best view in all of Big Bear, take a ride on the Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit, a 15-minute chairlift ride that spans one-mile long and offers 360 degree views of the lake and forest. Entry into the forest is free, which offers trails for walkers and hikers at any skill level.
California’s premier mountain resort town, Mammoth Lakes is a destination for all seasons with outdoor activities and a great nightlife scene. Located approximately six hours north of Los Angeles, the Mammoth area is home to 11 lakes, with Lake Mary being the largest and most developed. Visitors enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, and camping at the closely spaced campgrounds at the northwest end of Lake Mary. Mammoth Lakes Basin contains additional lakes for more fishing and boating activities, including Lake George – which is the highest road-accessible lake in the Lakes Basin.
One of the world’s greatest wonders, Yosemite National Park is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Mammoth Lakes and is located within California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and has incredible natural beauty to offer, including its famed giant sequoia trees, waterfalls, forests, and wide variety of wildlife. There are several well-known lakes in Yosemite, the two most commonly known being Tenaya Lake (popular for swimming, canoeing and picnicking) and Mirror Lake (the biggest swimming hole in Yosemite).
Located in Riverside County, Lake Elsinore is Southern California’s largest freshwater lake that has become a popular destination for motor boating, kayaking, fishing, and other water activities. With over 14 miles of shoreline, Lake Elsinore has public beaches, areas for picnicking, and features a three-mile levee for hiking. The town of Lake Elsinore is also home to the popular Outlets at Lake Elsinore, which feature over 45 retailers for an afternoon of shopping.
5. Vail Lake
One of Southern California’s top bass fishing lakes, Vail Lake is 1,000+ acres and is located adjacent to the nearby Temecula Valley wine country, which has over 30 different wineries. The lake is also bordered by Cleveland National Forest and the Agua Tibia Wilderness, and hosts RV campsites for those looking to stay for more than a day Located just nine miles east of the 1-15 on Highway 79 South, Vail Lake is easily accessible and offers scenic views, recreational activities, and abundant wildlife.
Located in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County, Lake Jennings Park is known for being one of the most scenic parks that offers year-round camping, fishing, and a five-mile loop around the lake for hiking. Bird watching is another popular activity, with over 475 recorded bird species, including eagles and hawks. Every year, Lake Jennings offers some of the best fresh water fishing in the county, stocking its lake with 34,000 pounds of fish. Unlike most lakes in San Diego, boating is allowed, and Lake Jennings also provides recreational boat rentals, from paddleboats and rowboats to motorboats.
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This article was written by Kamala Kirk.