Starting at Monterey Bay and ending at the Oregon border, Northern California is known for its redwood forests, a stunning Pacific Ocean coastline, and for being home to bustling metropolis San Francisco, to name a few. Northern California is also famous for its beautiful lake destinations such as Lake Tahoe and Shasta Lake, which are popular summertime destinations for Fourth of July celebrations, family outings, and for solo travelers who just want to unwind for a weekend. Whether you’re looking for a more relaxing getaway that includes a celebrity golf competition, or a busy trip that keeps you outdoors and under the sun, here are seven of summer’s top lake destinations in Northern California.
Best Northern California Lakes for Summer
1. Lake Tahoe
Located along the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular vacation destinations in California. Tahoe South is located in California and spans 16.6 miles, while North Lake Tahoe is in Nevada. Many visitors come to South Lake Tahoe for skiing in the winter and water activities like kayaking in the summer, but there are other fun things to do, like attending the Celebrity Golf Tournament in Tahoe, which takes place at Edgewood Golf Course, and listening to live music at popular venue Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe.
2. Lake Shasta
Shasta Lake is the city that lies at the gateway to Shasta Dam and is primarily a residential community, and nearby Lake Shasta has become a popular tourist attraction that boasts Bridge Bay – the largest marina on the lake, which includes a 40-room lodge, the several bars and restaurants. There are numerous marinas around Shasta Lake, both public and private, where visitors can rent houseboats, dine, and camp. Other points of interest include the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, as well as the Lake Shasta Caverns – a two-hour tour of limestone caverns that can only be reached by boat.
In Northern California’s Modoc National Forest, you’ll find Medicine Lake – a 640-acre lake that was formed thousands of years ago when part of a volcano collapsed. Nowadays, the lake has many visitors and has four national forest campgrounds within walking distance along its northeast side: A.H. Hogue, Headquarters, Medicine, and Hemlock. They all accommodate RV campers, have picnic tables, and are conveniently situated along the lake offering campers easy access to water activities and hiking trails.
Located just one-mile south of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake is another great spot to visit. Fallen Leaf Campground is situated on the north shore of the lake, adjacent to Taylor Creek, and has 206 sites for campers. For those looking for a place that is less crowded than Tahoe, Fallen Creek Lake is slightly less well-known and offers tubing, motorized boating, and swimming. Located nearby, the Glen Alpine and Mt. Tallac trailheads provide great hiking and backpacking opportunities.
5. Clear Lake
The largest natural freshwater lake in California (not to mention the oldest lake in the United States), Clear Lake is popular for all kinds of water activities, and hiking through various trails including the Kelsey Creek Trail, Dorn Trail, and the Indian Nature Trail – a half-mile self-guided trail that passes through the site of an ancient Native American village. The entrance to Clear Lake State Park, which is located on the shores of the lake, is 3.5 miles northeast of Kelseyville on Soda Bay Road, north of Calistoga in wine country. The entire Clear Lake area has a rich Native American history, and there is also a visitor center in the park that features an aquarium, historical displays, and a gift shop.
6. Trinity Lake
Located in Trinity County and a 90-minute drive northwest of Redding, Trinity Lake is an artificial lake that was formed by the Trinity Dam and is one of the largest reservoirs in California. The lake has three marinas, most of which rent houseboats year-round. Trinity Lake is slightly less popular than its Lake Shasta counterpart, but still is popular for fishing, water sports, and wildlife sightings. The area, which was previously inhabited by Native American tribes including the Yurok and Hoopa, still has reservations lands in the area to this day.
7. Lake Sonoma
Surrounded by lush vineyards in the beautiful coastal foothills of Sonoma County is Lake Sonoma, which runs nine miles on Dry Creek and four miles on Warm Springs Creek. Available activities include camping both for tends and recreational vehicles, boat-in campsites, water sports and activities, in addition to more than 40 miles of trailers or hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riding. For those looking for a break from nature, Sonoma County is home to countless wineries, from family-owned establishments to historic estates – perfect for a long afternoon of wine tasting with friends and family.
This article was written by Kamala Kirk.