You may be fortunate enough to call California, the nation’s most populated state, home. Its western side borders the Pacific Ocean and it is also known as the Golden State. It stretches along the West Coast of the United States and has diverse scenery including world famous coast lines, desert landscapes, mountains, forests, lakes, and more. California is home to many of the best places to boat in the country. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, it’s worth checking out some of the best lakes in California for boating.
Whether you’re going to be in Los Angeles on a business trip or in San Francisco sightseeing on vacation, you will be able to enjoy being out on the water and the beautiful scenery and enjoyable weather that California has to offer. You may even spot one of your favorite celebrities out on their boat, or you may spot one of the state’s eponymous seals sunbathing.
If you don’t already own your own boat and want to purchase one so you can spend your free time cruising along the best boating lakes in California, then reach out to learn how we do boat loans at Trident Funding. Simply apply online, get an answer within 48 hours, and enjoy smooth sailing while we guide you through the entire boat purchase process.
Best Boating Lakes in California: Where to Go and What to Expect
California boasts more than 1,000 miles of lakes. There are both freshwater and saltwater lakes and you will find small lakes you’ve never heard of as well as massive infamous lakes where you look up and only see water for miles in the distance. There are alpine lakes that are crystal clear but quite cold and then there are lakes in Southern California that stay warm year round.
California is one of the states that does require you to carry a boater’s card. As of January 1, 2023, all boaters 50 years of age or younger must carry a boater’s card and by 2025, the law will change to all boaters of any age will be required to carry a boater’s card. This card can be obtained by passing a boater safety course. This course can be found online and can be taken by anyone; not just residents of California. It’s a good idea for all boat operators to take this course so they’re more familiar with state specific rules while on the water.
Now, let’s dive right in and check out some of the best boating lakes in California:
- Lake Tahoe: One of the most well-known lakes in the country, if not the world, Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s located in both California and Nevada. Additionally, it boasts state parks, beaches, and ski slopes. It’s the largest alpine lake in North America and people come here to swim, boat, enjoy water sports, and just soak in the beautiful scenery.
- Mono Lake: This saline lake, also known as a saltwater lake, is in Mono County, California, and is over one million years old. It is saltier than the ocean and makes for a very buoyant swim. No fish can survive here due to the excess salt in the water. All types of boats are allowed here but be on the lookout for nesting Osprey which are popular here.
- Big Bear Lake: Located in Southern California, this town is home to a fish-filled lake, ski slopes, camping, and hiking areas. All boats are allowed in Big Bear Lake and there is a marina that has a store and sells boat gasoline, as well as multiple boat launching sites.
Lakes Near Los Angeles for Boating
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the West Coast’s largest city, or simply need to cool down after a hot summer day, consider going to a lake. You can swim, boat, and partake in some water sports.
Some of the best boating lakes near Los Angeles include:
- Castaic Lake: This lake is located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains in Northwestern Los Angeles County. It’s a reservoir formed by Castaic Dam and has 29 miles of beautiful shoreline. There are two areas: one for boats and the other for swimming and non-motorized boats. The lake is surrounded by parkland and has stunning scenery and plenty of space to explore. There is a marina onsite with a bait shop and boat rentals.
- Lake Perris: This reservoir is an artificial lake that was created in 1973. All types of boats are permitted as long as they follow the lake’s boating regulations. Dry boat storage is available but the marina is currently under construction as of December 2022 so no boats are available to rent and there aren’t any boat slips for rent. There are two swimming areas and a beautiful sandy beach to enjoy once you hop off your boat.
- Pyramid Lake: Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Los Angeles, Pyramid Lake is located in the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests. It’s actually a reservoir and has a dam that is over 385 feet tall. Thousands of visitors travel here each year to hike, boat, and swim. You can boat here year-round and there are many areas that are only accessible by boat and make for great spots to picnic and admire views of the lake.
Boating in Northern California
Some of the best boating in Northern California can be found at these lakes:
- Lake Berryessa: Located in Napa County, so you can enjoy some boating on a day you’re not sipping your way through the area’s world famous vineyards. It’s the largest lake in the county and you can swim, boat, and hike in the area. Pleasure Cove Marina rents boats and jet skis, offers boat launches for your own boat, and also sells boat gasoline. Additionally, there are houseboats and cabins if you need overnight accommodations.
- Trinity Lake: Formed by the Trinity Dam, and previously called Clair Engle Lake, Trinity Lake, is an artificial lake. It’s situated on the Trinity River and is a popular boating, swimming, and picnicking destination in The Shasta-Trinity National Forest. There’s a marina here with boat slip rentals, boat rentals, houseboats, and cabin rentals.
- Lake Sonoma: This reservoir is situated in northern Sonoma County and is known for its beautiful scenery. It’s surrounded by foothills, vineyards, and has coves which are ideal for swimming. Boating is a popular activity here and you can rent a variety of boats including pontoon boats and fishing boats. You can also launch your own boat and store it in a covered slip. If you want to entertain onshore, rent one of the marina’s waterfront patios.
Some of these lakes may be a bit of a trek from where you live or where you’re staying, so it’s advisable to go on the website or give the nearby facility a call to check out hours and available amenities. Some places are seasonal and others are open all year round.
Safety Tips When Visiting the Best Boating Lakes in California
Some tips to remember when boating on a lake in California include:
- Stay up to date on all of the U.S. Coast Guard Requirements including the one that requires you to carry one lifejacket per person on your boat. They must be usable and in working order and must fit everyone on board. For example, if you have children or babies on your boat, you will need specially sized lifejackets to properly fit them.
- Obey all posted signs and always watch out for wildlife. For example, if the sign says no wake one, then you need to idle your boat to produce as little speed and as little wake as is safely possible.
- Never throw trash off the boat. Be considerate. You wouldn’t want someone to litter in your home and California’s lakes are home to many species of wildlife, fish, and vegetation.
- If boating is allowed in the lake after dark, drive slowly and with caution and make sure your navigation lights are working and are turned on. Lights can not only help you see the way to a dock or to avoid hitting a rock, but they can also help other boats see you and prevent an accident.
- Keep an eye on the weather. If bad weather is predicted, don’t take the chance, and just go boating another day. If an unexpected storm occurs, wrap up the watersports, and safely head back to shore.
Best Motor Boats for Lakes
Although you may enjoy kayaking, canoeing, tubing, and paddle boating, you probably want a boat with some get up and go, a boat with enough horsepower to take you across the lake quickly, to tow you while you and your kids inner tube, and enough room to carry at least a few of your friends and family members. Typically, the best types of boats for lake life include:
- Pontoon boats: These are really meant for lake life. They have an open seating plan so can comfortably seat 6 to 12 plus people. They usually range in size from 16 feet to over 25 feet and they’re designed for entertaining. They’re generally stable and easy to maneuver. An outboard motor powers them and is easier to maintain than an inboard motor.
- Jet boats: Another type of boat that is ideal for boating on a lake is a jet boat. These boats can operate in shallow water, although you do need to be careful they don’t suck up any foreign items. They typically range from about 16 to 28 feet and are ideal for entertaining and watersports. They have enough horsepower to tow a first-time tuber or an experienced waterskier.
- Deck boats: These boats are very versatile and can be used in lakes for watersports, recreation, and fishing. They’re designed for stability and can either come equipped with inboard or outboard motors. You will find all different types of seating configurations from tables and chairs to sun loungers.
The Wrap Up: Best Boating Lakes in California
California is a beautiful state filled with amazing boating lakes. Whether you’re looking for a small idyllic alpine lake with stunning mountains in the background or a lively lake full of loud music and waterskiers, you can find it all in the Golden State. Check out some of the best boating lakes in California, enjoy the great outdoors, and make the most of your leisure time. Just remember to follow all boating rules, operate your vessel safely, and be aware of your surroundings.
If you’re ready to purchase your own boat and enjoy the best boating lakes in California, then check out a free online boat loan calculator to see how much boat you can afford. The next step is to apply online for a boat loan with Trident Funding. We make the entire process smooth sailing and before you know it, you will be enjoying one of these scenic, crystal clear lakes yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Lakes in California for Boating
Which of the Best Boating Lakes in California are Warm Year Round?
Most of Southern California has mild winter temperatures and boating can be done year round. Water temperatures can change depending on the amount of sunlight and the overall weather conditions. What you may consider a warm lake, someone else may find cold, so it’s also a bit subjective.
If you’re in Northern California, you know that winters can get cold! If you still want to enjoy boating or swimming during the winter, you will need a warm water lake. Lake Berryessa, Lake Sonoma, Clear Lake, and Mendocino Lake are all warm lakes that can be enjoyed year round.
Can You Swim in the Best Lakes in California for Boating?
Depending on which lake you choose to go to, you can swim there and boat there. Usually, there will be signs for areas that are safe to swim in and signs where no swimming is allowed. Currents, weather conditions, boating traffic, and pollution can all affect whether or not a lake is good for swimming.
If you have your heart set on swimming during your boating excursions, research the lake first, look up the water temperature, bring a wetsuit if necessary, and always swim with someone else and get out of the water before it gets dark.
Which Lake in California has the Clearest Water?
This lake has a memorable name and is said to be home to some of the clearest lake water in the state. Convict Lake is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains but is easily accessible. There is a nearby parking lot at the trailhead and a trail that circles the lake. The lake got its name when a group of convicts was surrounded and captured in the area and the lake was named after them.
This lake is so clear that in some places you can actually see the rocks at the bottom of the lake. The surrounding mountain scenery is stunning as well. Fishing is popular here and so is boating. The lake is a designated no wake zone, has boat launches, and is ideal for boats under 25 feet, as well as kayaks, and paddle boards.