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The Best Lakes to Live On in California
Real Estate

The Best Lakes to Live On in California

Imagine waking up to tranquil views and lush landscapes. You’ll get all this and more at the best lakes to live on in California.


5 min read

February 21, 2024

Envision starting your day with serene vistas of gentle waters, vibrant foliage, and verdant surroundings. This picturesque scenario is a daily reality when residing by California's premier lakes. The state's diverse lakeside locales range from peaceful retreats to lively hubs of activity, making the dream of lakeside living attainable in the Golden State.

The allure of these top Californian lakes includes the absence of oceanic hazards like riptides and sharks, and the convenience of enjoying the waterfront without the hassle of sandy garments. These idyllic spots offer a slice of paradise that beckons for endless enjoyment.

The Best Lakes in California to Live On

Lake Tahoe is without question one of the best lakes to live on in California. Whether you choose the north or south shore, you won't be disappointed.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous Northern California lake with superb views, outdoor recreation, and plenty of entertainment. The two main parts of the lake, North and South Shore, offer somewhat distinct properties and should be discussed separately. 

North Lake Tahoe: If lakeside living enveloped in the wilderness sounds like a lifestyle you’d enjoy, then the North Shore is a better fit for you. Dotted with world-class ski resorts, North Lake Tahoe offers more of a mountainous lifestyle than its southern counterpart. You’ll face more tourists here during the winter months, but in comparison you’ll have yourself a serene summer scene.

Truckee, Tahoe City, and Tahoe Vista are some of the most popular towns for living in Lake Tahoe. While giant lakeside mansions have steeper price tags, houses inland are more in line with the regular state standards.

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South Lake Tahoe: If North Lake Tahoe is a pristine and relaxed winter wonderland, South Lake Tahoe is more of a year-round affair. As any guide to Lake Tahoe would tell you, the lake’s reputation as a premier vacation spot precedes it. While winters are more relaxing than summers, it’s unlikely that you'll ever have a slice of public South Tahoe waters all to yourself.

This side of the lake doesn’t lack natural beauty whatsoever. But, it also packs plenty of indoor entertainment. Après ski clubs, restaurants, and shopping spots are aplenty—boredom is out of the question.

Since last year, average home prices in South Lake Tahoe have gone up approximately 21 percent. According to the average value index, you’re looking at about $500,000 to $600,000 for a home at one of the best lakes to live on.

Angelenos love vacationing near Big Bear Lake. Why not purchase a property there so you have a second home available at all times?

Big Bear Lake

Nestled within the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake presents an enchanting retreat, boasting seasonal charms that cater to various interests. During the winter months, the area becomes a haven for snow-based activities, while spring ushers in a period of tranquility. Autumn showcases the stunning beauty of changing leaves, and summer invites endless water sports and activities under the sun. Big Bear Lake epitomizes the quintessential year-round paradise.

Contrary to the typical secluded lakeside living, Big Bear Lake offers the best of both worlds. Situated just a two-hour journey from the heart of Los Angeles, it provides easy access to urban amenities and coastal pleasures, blending the tranquility of lake living with the vibrancy of city life. With its appealing real estate market, where home values have been appreciating consistently, Big Bear Lake stands out as a premier choice for those seeking a lakeside residence, with median home prices ranging between $400,000 and $500,000.

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Whether or not you like watersports, Lake Shasta is an awesome place for a getaway. It's also one of the best lakes to live on in the Golden State.

Lake Shasta

Sitting pretty in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, Lake Shasta is one of California’s best lakes for many reasons. Boaters flock to the lake every summer, making pontoons, jet skies, sailboats, and houseboats common Lake Shasta sights during the warmer months. You also won’t run out of fresh seafood to catch since Shasta is abundant in bass, catfish, sturgeon, and everything in between.

Compared to other lake towns, Lake Shasta is somewhat more affordable in property prices. The average home value index is reported to be around $250,000, with lower yearly price increases than Tahoe and Big Bear.

Mammoth Lakes boasts jaw-dropping surreal views that spark the imagination and make every moment memorable.

Mammoth Lakes

If the amazing outdoor recreation and beautiful scenery aren’t enough to convince you to live in Mammoth Lakes, the 300 days of sunshine definitely will. The Mono County destination boasts a vibrant scene of local businesses and a tight-knit community that’ll help you fit right in.

The beautiful mountainous city offers housing options for every family size, including condos and single-family homes. The average home prices hover around half a million dollars. We can rave about the picturesque Central California destination all day, but the best way to see Mammoth Lakes is definitely on a weekend getaway.

Donner Lake, also known as the “Jewel of the Sierra", is not only the focal point for water-related activities, but also for lakeside living.

Donner Lake

The shores of Donner Lake are adorned with charming cabins and luxurious houses. Residential complexes can be found on both the north and south shores. Cottages are aplenty on Donner Pass Road, and more modern glass-front houses are common at Donner Summit. The wide range of listings also means that home prices are very varied, ranging from $200,000 all the way to millions.

Your best bet is to live and work in the mountain town of Truckee. It offers comfort and convenience, along with the opportunity to play along the shores of the lake when the season is right. Undoubtedly one of the best lakes to live on, Donner will give you the best lakeside features without cutting you off from big-city amenities.

Next time you're in Northern California, experience the abundance of Clearlake and cool off with a summery splash in the lake.


Clearlake is one the more affordable lake towns in California, with average home prices just under $200,000. However, its ghost town status seems to be changing with a larger number of people moving here after the pandemic. While Clearlake has not always found itself among the list of best lakes to live on in California, its newfound popularity may change that substantially. 

The city is rebuilding its park with the goal of making it a better place to live. Many serious steps are being taken to tackle the city’s larger problems such as littering, homelessness, and fire hazards. When moving here, you’ll enjoy the NorCal lakeside lifestyle among gorgeous natural scenery.

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Lake San Antonio

Lake San Antonio isn’t among the most urbanized lake towns in California, but it sure is among the most beautiful. As the premier freshwater spot in Monterey County, Lake San Antonio is popular among hikers, campers, boaters, birders, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

You’ll find that the residential properties here are mostly large-scale, single, and multi-family homes. Therefore, people coming to Lake San Antonio mostly use their properties as vacation homes—you won’t find many full-time residents. However, San Luis Obispo is only an hour-long drive away. So, if living life in the slow lane is your cup of tea, then you'll love living at SLO and vacationing around Lake San Antonio.

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