California State Parks
With Lakes

California State Parks with lakes are places we love to go because of many options for different types of fun. Plus lake scenery is often so pretty, with sun reflecting on the water, & interacting with cloud reflections.

In California, state parks often add in historical features, lofty mountains as a background, wonderful hiking trails & a variety of animal life. California's state parks that feature lakes can offer Ranger Programs to add more value to your visit. There are many to visit. We ourselves, will try to get to them all! Will we? Hmmm. Anyway - let's see some of these you may want to regularly Get To Yourself. We try to find some that aren't very well-known, but are so well worth it!

Which California State Park Lake's Region Interests You?

A lake with some trees and reeds along the edgeLove to Get Out & Go to a Lake?

Northern California State Parks with Lakes

Lining across from Truckee, Yuba City & Bodega Bay, East to West, view North to the Oregon border. Which state parks in California have lakes to enjoy? Check it out:

Map outlines the area of Northern California
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - In Orick, 707-488-2039, open all-year.3 Watch for Roosevelt elk at the entrance off Hwy. 101, as you visit this wonderland of old growth redwoods! Be awed by the tallest trees of all1 before seeing the freshwater 8-acre Espa Lagoon not far from the Pacific. An intermittent flow feeds it.2 Accessed via back on Hwy 101, south from The Park main entrance, turn onto Davison Road & go 3-1/2 miles.3
  1. Facilities/activities include two campgrounds, trails, bike trail, Pacific coastal picnic grounds, scenic drive, cabin rentals, see gorgeous Fern Canyon for some scenes from Jurassic Park.3
  • Clear Lake State Park5 - It's California's biggest freshwater lake. This state park has lots going for it! Swimming, boating, fishing, are all things you can enjoy. Some say it's America's best bass fishing lake. Bird watching is terrific, especially for waterfowl. Hiking trails, & even an aquarium. Clear Lake State Park phone: 707-279-2267
  1. Four campgrounds, but no hook-ups at sites
  2. You can rent a cabin: 8 available
  • Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park6 - With two miles of natural forested Lake Tahoe frontage, this pristine Pine Point State Park has special features. Incorporating glimpses of the "lives of the rich and famous" on Lake Tahoe. A mansion on the property is now a museum. What else though?
  1. Swimming beach, hiking trails, fishing, pier, picnic areas, tennis court, boat houses, Nature Center
  2. Winter activities, including cross-country skiing
  3. Campground: reserve minimum 48 hours ahead at 1-800-444-7275 (TTY 1-800-274-7275)

More Northern CA Lake State Parks

We have some more you can look into. These have lakes of varying sizes.

  • Anderson Marsh State Historic Park10 - Adjacent to south end of Clear Lake. Formed from marshy areas of Cache creek, and two water zones, one intermittently drying. Gorgeous trails traverse riparian habitats. Historic ranch complex tours available. Nature walks, kayak tours & special events sometimes scheduled. 707-279-2267
  • Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park11 - An exclusive one, not many will access. Have a boat? You can go! To a meeting of the waters: Big Lake, Tule & Fall Rivers, Ja She & Lava Creeks. Fall River Valley basin's system of springs are among America's largest. : 800-777-0369
  1. From SR299 to Rat Farm parking area for the Boat Launch. Navigate to camp one of three primitive sites. 
  2. NOTE: Power boats are OK, but strongly suggest sticking to smaller sizes/draughts with shallow access at landings.
  3. To Do: Fishing, boating exploration, hiking trails to historic ranch & volcanic sites, marshes, picnic areas

Central California State Parks with Lakes

Think of a line through Lake Tahoe over to the Sacramento area, then North of San Francisco around Santa Rosa. From there look South to just above Bakersfield.

Map designating the area of Central California
  • Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve1,4 - An eerie, unique, gloomy looking place. 3X more salty than the Pacific! Tufa rise from its 65 sq. miles of water. They're the twisted, gnarled calcium-carbonate towers & lumps. It's a must-see! Walk the nature trail for some bird sightings. Can you believe it? Navy Beach for swimming! Boats, too. Sunsets can't be beat with the High-Sierra glow.
  1. Open all year. More details call 760-647-6331.
  • Natural Bridges State Beach - Yes, it's on the ocean. Pretty cool! And just North of wonderful Santa Cruz. But the advantage is two small scenic lakes you can also access. Moore Creek Wetlands Natural Preserve's creek widens into a lakey area near the ocean sandy beach. On the opposite side of the park is Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve. A boardwalk & trail to see the Monarchs takes you near a small lake formed from Natural Bridges Creek. For details: 831-423-4609.
  • Jack London State Historic Park - We'd planned to go there. But the day before I fell & seriously injured my knee. It was braced & I could barely walk. At least we enjoyed the wonderful place we stayed for two nights, right down the road. Jack London, the author, probably best known for Call of the Wild. He purchased this property, living there with his wife Charmian. It's a fascinating place we've yet to return to, but it's on the list! 
  1. On the property is London Lake. Only five acres, but Jack built the rock dam to create it. Fern Lake is just to the East of the park, off Orchard Road.
  2. Jack & Charmian's ashes were both placed on a knoll specified by Jack
  3. There's so much to see! 1400 acres, with many historic buildings, gardens, ruins, trails. Weekends free docent tours are given.
  4. Open 9am to 5pm, closed Christmas. Specific hours for museum & cottage. $10 per vehicle entry. $49: yearly pass.

More Central CA Lake State Parks

  • Millerton Lake State Recreation Area - Known for the Bald Eagles wintering here. Lake created by damming the San Joaquin River. Basic campsites, with electric, or boat-in. Hiking & bicycle trails, historic sites, picnicking, boating & fishing. Tours, campfire & Junior Ranger programs available. 559-822-2332
  1. North of Fresno: Hwy. 41 & Hwy. 145 for 20 miles
  • Folsom Lake State Recreation Area12 - Folsom & Natoma Reservoirs are here. Dams inserted into the American River created the lakes, making this California State Recreation park area. Boating, picnicking, swimming, camping (3 areas), boat-camps, multi-use trails including horseback riding, water sports & more. 25 miles East of Sacramento. 916-988-0205

Southern California State Parks with Lakes

From the Central Valley, Bakersfield area, look East toward Death Valley, and West toward Santa Maria. What California State parks with lakes are south of that area?

Map citing the areas of California in the Southern region of the state.
  • Gaviota State Park7,8 - A gem of a California State park with access to a lake & ocean. A tremendously scenic coastal area between Santa Maria & Santa Barbara. Cliffside geology is a treasure. Contact number: 805-968-1033. 
  1. Campground on the beach. But recommend trailers/RVs because of periodical strong winds, particularly at night. Rentals available. 
  2. Lagoon adjacent to parking lot. Take Hwy. 101N to 246E to 154E for Lake Cachuma access from the far Northeast corner of Gaviota State Park.
  • Anza Borrego Desert State Park9 - This huge (over 600,000 acres) California State Park has it all! Including lake access! Even in the desert! So many activities & options here. All year-round. 760-767-4205
  1. Trails for hiking, bicycles, horse-back riding
  2. Campgrounds: Primitive, water available sites, horse camp, full hook-up sites, dump station, showers
  3. Natural features: wildflower bloom, Yaqui Well & other natural springs, Clark Dry Lake, palm groves, wind caves, elephant trees, Cuyamaca Lake at the far Southwestern section
  4. Historic/cultural features: Visitor Center, historic homes, Village Site, History Corridor Drive, regular events

More SoCal Lake State Parks

  • Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area - The West Mojave River is dammed up to create this place for 976 acres of lake water play. Those include fishing, swimming, boating & water sports. The Pacific Crest trail is among the hiking trails available, plus those for bicycles. Multiple campground sites are available by reservation. What's cool is the variety of wildlife, especially the birding opportunities. They sponsor Bald Eagle Barge Tours Saturdays, January thru March. 760-389-2281
  • Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area - This Park is managed by the County of Los Angeles. Found near the city's heart itself, in Ladera Heights, off La Cienega Blvd. What a delight. So much fun here, plus the fishing lake. 323-298-3660

What's Your Favorite California State Park With a Lake?

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