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The 11 Best Boating Lakes in California

The 11 Best Boating Lakes in California

Satisfy your inner wanderlust on your next getaway and set sail on the best boating lakes in California.


6 min read

April 25, 2021

Boating in California is all about experiencing the undulating waves as you take in the surrounding scenic beauty. With over 3,000 lakes and reservoirs, the Golden State is dotted with lake views that leave you breathless. From splashing around in San Diego to smooth sailing at Lake Shasta, your options are abundant. Satisfy your inner wanderlust on your next getaway and set sail on the best boating lakes in California.

Best Lakes for Boating in California 

Located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, Mono Lake is a saline lake that's endorheic, which means that it does not connect with the sea.

Mono Lake 

Just outside of Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake is one of the best lakes for boating in California. Open to both motorized and non-motorized boating, the gorgeous scenery invites all families to hop on board. 

Mono Lake spans more than 65 square miles. Not only is it one of the oldest existing lakes in North America, but it’s also one of the saltiest. Spend the day in the great outdoors kayaking your way around Mono Lake. If you’re in the mood for a boat tour, the Mono Lake Committee offers fantastic canoe and kayak opportunities. Experience the unmatched ecology of Mono Lake on an unforgettable canoe tour. 

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Castaic Lake

Powered by both engine and sail, Castaic Lake stands out as a premier destination for boating enthusiasts across the state. Welcoming everyone from paddlers to jet ski aficionados, this expansive reservoir is the largest of its kind in Southern California, managed by the state water project. Its close location to Los Angeles places it among the top spots for boat tours in the region.

The lagoon at Castaic Lake is particularly renowned, featuring three miles of inviting shoreline and 197 acres of navigable shallow waters. It's a favorite spot for floating tube enthusiasts, kayakers, and those who prefer fishing from non-motorized boats. For those looking to soak up more of this idyllic setting, a range of camping options are available. Whether you're pitching a tent or bringing an RV, it's an ideal spot to enjoy some of the finest boating and lakeside camping Southern

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As the largest lake in Napa County, Lake Berryessa has a funnel-shaped outlet that allows water to bypass the dam when it reaches capacity.

Lake Berryessa

Travel two hours north of San Francisco to visit Lake Berryessa—one of the largest, prettiest, and simultaneously weirdest places in California. Blessed with over 165 miles of radiant shoreline, the lake is a year-round watersport delight. Mild temperatures are Lake Berryessa’s best feature—no wonder one million people beat the heat here every year.

Lake Berryessa boasts a handful of sandy beaches and secluded coves. Spend hours appreciating the backdrops and snap a picture or ten. On the southern shore, you’ll find Pleasure Cove Marina, a houseboat rental that takes care of your needs. Live the aquatic lifestyle without having to actually own a boat on one of the best houseboat lakes in California

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. It's around 1,644 feet deep, meaning it could completely submerge the Empire State Building.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake, is undoubtedly one of the nation’s finest. Spanning state borders between California and Nevada, the dazzling blue charmer is among the best lakes in California for boating. 

From kayaks and paddleboards to jet skis and powerboats, you’ll never run out of options here. Interested in boat rentals? Check out Lakeside Marina, the largest water sports service on Lake Tahoe. Providing fuel docks, boat rentals, and launch ramps, the marina’s only a five-minute walk from South Lake Tahoe’s finest attractions. While the crystal clear water keeps you afloat, you’ll fall in love with the granite mountainous reflections on the lake—what better way to spend the weekend?

The Best Boating Lakes in Northern California 

Surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery, Lake Shasta is the largest man-made reservoir in California. The "Three Shastas" are all visible from here.

Lake Shasta

Want to experience the best houseboating vacation ever? Lake Shasta is the perfect place for exactly that. Nestled in the heart of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the 30,000-acre reservoir boasts plenty of water-related activities. A typical summer’s day boasts crystal blue waters sprinkled with almost anything that floats—inner tubes, jet skis, fisher boats, and everything in between.

Lake Shasta features nearly 370 miles of shoreline. If you’re looking for the best houseboat rentals in Lake Shasta, Bridge Bay is your best bet. Offering four models of houseboats with top-notch amenities, the company provides a quintessential lake experience you’ll never forget.

When Lake Sonoma is full, it has a surface area of more than 2,700 acres and 50 miles of shoreline, making it perfect for outdoor recreation.

Lake Sonoma 

With 50 miles of shoreline and superb recreational areas, Lake Sonoma secures its coveted spot among the best boating lakes in Northern California. The scenic area is equipped with a variety of rentals—canoes, ski boats, wakeboards, and jet skis are all found at this boater’s paradise. Lake Sonoma Marina, located just 10 minutes west of Healdsburg, is a rental dock with everything you need. Grab your boating supplies from the marina; it’s time to go sailing.

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Trinity Lake 

With close proximity to Lake Shasta, Trinity Lake offers unparalleled views minus the crowds. The bluest waters you’ve ever seen make Trinity NorCal’s number one boating destination. Cruise by tree-lined shores and secluded coves, and claim one as your own basecamp. Your blissful afternoon is further enhanced by the breathtaking vistas of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Don’t believe us? Check it out yourself.

The Best Boating Lakes in Central California

Folsom Lake is home to 10,000 surface acres of water and 75 miles of shoreline. This recreation area is one of the most visited parks in California.

Folsom Lake 

Enjoy the very best of the Sierra Nevada foothills at Folsom Lake, one of the best boating lakes in California. Home to plenty of campgrounds, hiking trails, and shoreline access, the massive reservoir offers a fun-filled day waiting to happen. While boating activities are a highlight at Folsom Lake, sailing, windsurfing, and jet skiing are among the popular ones. 

Folsom Lake Marina—located at Browns Ravine—offers 674 wet slips and 175 dry slips accommodating boats up to 26 feet. Get onboard a pontoon and sail along the gorgeous waters. 

Bass Lake 

Situated in Sierra National Forest, Bass Lake is a gem for boaters and water enthusiasts alike. Dotted with sheltered coves, the lake is the perfect place to swim, fishing, and paddle.

Adventure awaits on the south shore at Miller’s Landing Resort. Providing a variety of exciting watersport activities, the company lets you cruise in style. Visitors can rent out kayaks, canoes, rafts, patio, fishing, and rowboats. Does it get better than this?

The Best Boating Lakes in Southern California 

Boating, fishing, and swimming are just a few of the many things that locals and tourists love about coming to Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Lake 

Launch into your next adventure at Big Bear Lake, Southern California's ultimate year-round destination for those who love the water. Renowned as one of the region's premier spots for boating, Big Bear Lake consistently delivers unforgettable aquatic experiences.

The lake's scenic shoreline is home to six marinas, offering ample opportunities to enjoy the water. Renting a pontoon boat is a popular choice for visitors looking to fully embrace lake life. These boats are user-friendly, equipped with straightforward controls for throttling and steering, making it easy to explore the expansive seven-mile stretch of shoreline. For adventurers inclined to engage more directly with the elements, the marinas also offer kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and a variety of other watercraft for an up-close experience with the lake's serene beauty.

Silverwood Lake 

The breathtaking Silverwood Lake is a mere 90-minute drive from Los Angeles. Located along the West Fork Mojave River, the reservoir attracts many crowds for endless watersports adventures. 

As one of the best lakes in California, Silverwood Lake provides prime boating opportunities. Rent a fishing boat and set sail along the smooth waters surrounded by the marvelous snow-capped peaks. While you’re onboard, keep an eye out for animal sightings—rock wrens, mountain bluebirds, and California mule deer are all dear residents of the area. 

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