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The Most Scenic Lakes in SoCal

The Most Scenic Lakes in SoCal

There are more than a thousand lakes in Southern California. Here are the 8 most scenic lakes in SoCal not to miss.

Palig Dzadourian


5 min read

August 23, 2022

Southern California is home to some of the world’s most beautiful lakes. While most people mainly associate SoCal with its amazing shores, there is a multitude of different things to see, and the lakes in Southern California are truly a sight to behold. Crystal clear waters surrounded by the breathtaking scenery and mountain ranges of Southern California are a recipe for paradise. With so many lakes to choose from, which ones are the best lakes in SoCal?

1. Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is a must-see if you are on the hunt for the best lake adventures in SoCal.

Location: San Bernardino Mountains.
Big Bear Lake is considered to be one of the classic Southern California lakes, and for a number of reasons. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, but it is also one of the best lakes for boating in Southern California. Head over to Big Bear Lake for the perfect day out on the water, or even in it, as Big Bear Lake is one of the many Southern C.A. lakes you can swim in. You can relax on the 22 miles of shoreline after partaking in all the water activities in this breathtaking boating destination.

Big Bear lake also has one of the best lake camping grounds in the region, attracting many camping enthusiasts during this time of year.

2. Silverwood Lake

Spend a day at Silverwood Lake for the ultimate lake getaway.

Location: San Bernardino County.
Silverwood Lake is a destination that will always be brimming with people looking to unwind in the warm weather. Since it is located in San Bernardino County, it is considered to be an outdoor playground in SoCal. There are designated areas for fishing, boating, and water skiing, even camping is available around these parts. The campgrounds allow campfires in park-provided fire rings.

Swimming is allowed in Silverwood Lake, but as this is a natural lake it can be dangerous to expose yourself to harmful algae and chemicals. All visitors will be warned of the intensity of the danger beforehand and can dive in the water depending on the results of the time.

3. Pyramid Lake

This artificial lake in Southern California is filled to the brim with exciting and fun activities.

Location: Los Angeles County.
Pyramid lake is a reservoir formed by the Pyramid Dam on Piru Creek, and it is somewhere most, if not all, Angelenos have seen. It gets its name from the pyramid-shaped tufa all around the lake. This stunning reservoir is ideal for a short lake getaway, as you will not be needing to drive for long to reach it. It is located within the Angeles and Los Padres forests, so expect a lot of scenic views when arriving at this lake.

If you are in a hurry the Vista Del Lago visitor center may help you with that. Open seven days a week, the building offers a viewing deck for visitors wanting to see the scenery of SoCal’s natural wonders. There are also many informative exhibits inside about geology and water supply.

4. Lake Perris

Let the beauty of Lake Perris take you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Location: Riverside County.

As one of the most popular summer destinations in SoCal, Lake Perris Recreational Area can get rather crowded during this time of year. This is one of the few artificial lakes in Southern California, however, that doesn’t take away from the beauty of this place. Lake Perris was built in 1973, by the California State Water Project as the southern terminus.

While it may not be the best option for a relaxing getaway with its extremely hot temperatures and how busy it can get, it is still worth the trip. Do not be fooled by the barren appearance of Lake Perris, as even if it may seem that way it is actually buzzing with natural wonders to discover. So get your sunscreen and swimsuits ready, and visit one of the biggest lakes in Southern California.

5. Lake Dixon

Take a trip to one of the cleanest lakes in SoCal.

Location: Escondido, San Diego County.
Lake Dixon is among the cleanest lakes in Southern California, with crystal-clear waters and absolutely beautiful sceneries. This lake is a very popular family destination, but somehow still retains its pristine state. 

Lake Dixon has many activities for the whole family to enjoy, including fishing, boating, camping in reserved spots, and more. If you are only looking to relax and simply enjoy the natural beauty of the lake, there are plenty of benches you can sit on and do just that.

6. Lake Gregory

An absolute gem of a lake, the scenery of Lake Gregory will take your breath away.

Location: San Bernardino Mountains.
You will not find a single dull moment in Lake Gregory, as it is always full of water-related activities and gorgeous views. This lake used to be a hidden gem of Southern California, but as its reputation grew, more and more people began visiting it. It is now among the most frequently visited lakes in Southern C.A.

Whenever the shorelines get too crowded, get a paddle and start drifting away on the tranquil waters, where no sound besides that of the lake will reach you. There are also some inflatable water structures, diving platforms, and swings that will maximize the fun on your trip.

7. Castaic Lake

The gorgeous Castaic lake is definitely worth checking out.

Location: Los Angeles County.
Welcome to the largest reservoir in Southern California, it is part of the State Water Project. The Castaic Lake serves as a source of fresh water, as well as a recreational area for the public. This lake in Southern California has two bodies of water, one of them being the Lower lake, which is used for non-power boating and canoeing. Whereas the Upper lake is where people go for power boating, fishing, and jet-skiing.

There are a lot of boats and bait rentals for those who do not own either one of them. Other outdoor activities include hiking, biking trails, picnicking, and playgrounds.

8. Cachuma Lake

Even if you’ve never heard of Cachuma lake, after visiting it once you will not regret it!

Location: Santa Barbara County.

One of the lesser-known lakes in Southern California is Cachuma Lake. The surrounding Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains are what make this lake getaway so distinct, it has the added feel of a mountain getaway. Getting to Cachuma Lake is fairly easy, and you do not have to worry about taking detours and bumpy rocky roads.

Indulge in a variety of activities such as kayaking, swimming and even hiking around the lake on the many trails available. Take a visit to the Near Taylor Nature Center, which will give you a better understanding of Cachuma Lake, and give a higher enjoyment of the trip.

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