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10 Awesome Lakes to Check Out in Northern California

Lake Tahoe

Many travelers appreciate the natural beauty of an area when visiting a new destination, rather than focusing just on manmade features and attractions. They love the visual appeal of the natural sights and spending time outdoors. Some also enjoy fun outdoor activities that are based around the geography of an area. If this appeals to you, then adding a few visits to lakes may appeal to you. Not only are lakes naturally beautiful features, but they also offer an array of activities that people of all ages can enjoy. Here are 10 awesome lakes to visit in Northern California.

10. Trinity Lake, Trinity County

Trinity Lake is California’s third-largest reservoir. People visit this lake to sunbathe on the shore or to fish for smallmouth bass or Chinook salmon. Other activity options are jet skiing and water skiing. There are campsites around the lake, so visitors can spend the night. Alternatively, there are lodging options in nearby towns including Weaverville, Trinity Center, and Coffee Creek.

9. Lake Oroville, Butte County

Lake Oroville is a fantastic place to visit for people who enjoy outdoor activities. It is a manmade lake in Lake Oroville State Recreation Area that boasts 167 miles of shoreline. Horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, hiking, biking, powerboating, swimming, water skiing, and sailing are just some of the things to do at this lake. There is also a visitor center with a museum with exhibits about the local area’s history.

8. Lake Sonoma, Sonoma County

Lake Sonoma is a popular weekend destination in Northern California. The lake is a reservoir built from the Warm Springs Dam, and it boasts 50 miles of shoreline. Visitors to this lake enjoy hunting, camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and boating. If you plan to stay overnight at the lake, you should book in advance due to the lake’s popularity.

7. Lake Siskiyou, Siskiyou County

Lake Siskiyou was formed by the Sacramento River’s Box Canyon Dam, and it is fed by mountain streams. Fishing is a popular activity at the lake, as it is home to smallmouth bass, lake trout, and rainbow trout, but you should check the fishing regulations before your visit. Fishing and kayaking are other popular activities on the lake. Although there are campsites around the lake, there are also lodging options in the nearby town of Redding.

6. Mono Lake, Mono County

In terms of its uniqueness and otherworldly charm, Touropia says that one of the most awesome lakes in Northern California is Lake Mono. The lake lies between the Nevada border and the Yosemite National Park. It is unusual because it has jagged crystal formations protruding from the water. The lake’s high salt content and constantly evaporating surface form the crystals.

5. Donner Lake, Nevada County

Donner Lake lies on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, and it is surrounded by a stunning alpine landscape. The lake is one of the best fishing spots in Northern California, as it is home to Kokanee salmon, brown trout, and rainbow trout. There are plenty more activities for those who are not fishing enthusiasts, including hiking trails, water skiing, jet skiing, and kayaking. Those who want to spend the night can choose from the 154 campsites surrounding the lake.

4. Lake Helen, Shasta County

Lake Helen is situated in Lassen Volcanic National Park, just west of Bumpass Mountain. In 1964, Helen Tanner Brodt was the first woman to reach the summit of Lassen Peak. It led to the park’s lake being named in her honor. The lake was formed when glacier movements created a natural cavity that filled with water from the mountains. One of the most stunning features of the lake is the water’s translucent sapphire color which is due to the minerals in the water. It is a lake to visit for its beauty rather than its activities, as the high altitude means the lake is frozen for most of the year.

3. Lake Almanor, Plumas County

Many of the lakes in Northern California can become crowded, especially during the summer months. However, Lake Almanor is a quieter lake, so it is ideal if you want to go somewhere peaceful away from the crowds. The lake is set between the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, so there is a stunning backdrop of mountains. Along the lake's banks, many spots are shaded by the trees, and these are ideal for keeping out of the sun and enjoying a picnic. Lake Almanor is one of the top fishing lakes in Northern California, as it is home to brown bullhead, black bullhead, golden shiner, brook trout, and bluegill. If fishing is not your thing, you can enjoy bird watching, kayaking, golf, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and biking.

2. Lake Tahoe, Placer County and El Dorado County

Lake Tahoe is set within the Sierra Nevada mountain range, so the views are stunning no matter where you stand on the lake’s banks. It is the second-deepest lake in the United States and North America’s largest alpine lake. Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular lakes to visit in Northern California for tourists and locals alike because of both the lake’s beauty and the range of activities that visitors can enjoy. The activities vary depending on the time of year you visit. If you go to the lake in the summer, the activities include boating, jet skiing, parasailing, waterskiing, fishing, hiking, yachting, sailing, and swimming. Those who visit in the winter can enjoy snowboarding and skiing.

1. Shasta Lake, Shasta County

According to, one of the most amazing lakes in Northern California is Shasta Lake. It is the largest reservoir in the state4, as it measures 30,000-acres. The lake is set within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, where hiking is a popular activity, and several of the trails bypass the lake. Other activities to enjoy at the lake are swimming, fishing, boating, and water skiing. Several accommodation options are around the lake, induing houseboats, camping sites, and lodges.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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