Lakes In California: 8 Stunning Wild Places To Find By Car

Lakes In California

Sun-drenched deserts to the south and snow-capped, rugged Sierra Nevada peaks to the north – California is renowned for its varied climate and fantastic landscapes. Lakes are another Californian gem. On their shores, it’s so pleasant to walk, fish, camp, picnic, and take long hikes with the whole family.

Your only task is to rent a car to get there. Located in the central part of the state, San Jose is a great starting point for your trip. Of course, a family trip requires a big car, this 12 passenger van rental San Jose is what you need.

So which lakes in California can provide a great outdoor experience? Let’s find it out right now!

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

This resort with many lakes has been a popular tourist destination for several decades. The magnificent combination of high mountains, pine forests, clear water, and traditional alpine houses is truly unique – it’s simply impossible to find something similar. Lakes are so in demand that it’s better to book accommodation in this resort in advance.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

The lake is located 230 miles away from San Jose, which will take you about 4 hours to reach it by car rental.

This reservoir is mentioned in most American films and is usually associated with top-class vacations. Travelers from all over the world come there to admire the crystal clear water, pine forests, and bright blue skies. 

Here photographers take some of the best nature shots. The fans of outdoor activities will be able to find plenty of entertainment – swimming, sailing, boating, and fishing. In winter, the weather is unpredictable, but it’s a perfect time to enjoy wonderful ski resorts there.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

If it’s not a problem for you to drive 5 hours in a rental car, then plan a trip to Mono Lake, which is located 280 miles from San Jose.

The lake is approximately three-quarters of a million years old and is arguably the oldest lake in the United States. The lake is almost 3 times saltier than the sea. The towers that rise above the water are calcareous tuff – a rock that gradually accumulated above freshwater sources, at the bottom of a lake rich in calcium.

Fresh water, entering the lake, rose up through a system of pores, accelerating the growth of the towers and creating amazing formations – speirs and spirals that delight tourists. 

Also, you’ll see hot springs near the shore and in the southern part of the lake, there’s a lot of blackened porous rock, confirming the volcanic origin of the area. The lake can’t be called the best place for water sports, but such an original landscape can hardly be admired anywhere else.

Lake Almanor

Lake Almanor

Surrounded by thousands of hectares of forest and located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the lake is considered to be one of the most beautiful and most remote in the state. It’s quite difficult to get here even with a rental car, since the nearest major highways are far away, and country roads are not all of good quality.

The most picturesque part of the lake is Lassen Peak, which rises above the horizon in the north. There are a large number of campgrounds, restaurants, and a marina where you can rent a yacht and arrange an unforgettable trip.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

Located on the border between Arizona and California, the lake emerged after the Parker Dam on the Colorado River was built in 1938. The local landscape is somewhat desert-like, but travelers find the reservoir very attractive. Beautiful palms, desolate mountains, and clear water under the blue Californian sky look fantastic. This place is especially popular among those who prefer to live like birds and migrate every six months to warm regions to avoid the harsh winter. 

You can also buy a one-day trip to the lake at a relatively low cost, during which you will learn about its origin, get acquainted with the unique flora and fauna, and visit local sights.

Lake Oroville 

Lake Oroville

This artificial reservoir was created in 1969 after the erection of the dam of the same name, which limits the flow of the Feather River. It’s located in Northern California near the Sierra Nevada city. You can easily reach it in your car rental, as it’s just an hour and a half drive from Sacramento. 

The lake is surrounded by hills and gentle mountains, from where you’ll enjoy a gorgeous view of the reservoir. The local dam is the highest dam in the country. Along with the suspension bridge, it’s a popular attraction in the United States that is definitely worth seeing. The lake is also an excellent fishing spot.

Lake Sonoma

Lake Sonoma

Among all the amazing Californian lakes, this particular reservoir is located closest to the Pacific coast, which makes it possible significantly reduce travel time for those who want to visit it.

Exploration of local attractions and landscapes can be alternated with fishing, swimming and boating. In spring and early summer, the mountains around Lake Sonoma are covered with lush greenery. Spectacular landscapes attract photographers from all over the world, since the pictures taken there are simply incredible.

Lake Mendocino 

Lake Mendocino

This is one of the cleanest lakes in the United States, located in the district of the same name in California, a few kilometers northeast of the city of Ukiah. Mendocino is a man-made lake formed by a dam on the Russian River. There are over 300 recreational areas on the shores, providing water skiing, fishing, camping, and hiking. Due to the high demand, it’s recommended to pre-book vacation spots on Lake Mendocino.