Our Favorite Lakes: West Coast

Part 1 of our 4 part series talking about our favorite lakes on the west coast.

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If you enjoyed our recent series of posts introducing you to our favorite beaches around the US, you will love the next adventure we are taking you on. In this series of posts, we will introduce you to our favorite lakes across the country. To kick things off, let’s explore some beautiful lakes in the West Coast region.

Chairs next to lake

Why Visit West Coast Lakes?

The West Coast is home to some dramatic scenery as well as a wide range of climate zones. Whether you are in Southern California, Washington State, or anywhere in between, you can find some stunning lakes surrounded by majestic vistas.

Big Bear Lake, California

If you are visiting Los Angeles or live there and you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, head east to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Big Bear Lake is home to the Bear Mountain Ski Resort and Boulder Bay Park. It is a hot spot not only for skiing and snowboarding, but also for water sports, hiking, and other outdoor fun. Nearby Big Bear City (which is a small town, not a city) has plenty of amenities, and you can rent a boat at one of the marinas or head out on a boat tour.

You can camp in a tent or RV while visiting Big Bear Lake, or even with a horse!

Why You’ll Love It

At Big Bear Lake, you have everything you could want all in one place and reasons to visit in any season. But even with all the amenities, Big Bear Lake offers plenty of secluded spots that surround you with the beauty of nature. The large boulders also give the area a distinctive look that is unlike anywhere else.

Mountain Lake, Washington

You will discover the gem that is Mountain Lake in Moran State Park. This park is on Orcas Island in Washington State that is right near the border with Canada. You can reach the park by ferry. You can camp in an RV or tent; there are 151 sites in all. A few of them are even glamping sites.

Why You’ll Love It

The 5,424 acre park offers access to swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, and more. When you are taking a break from fun on the lake, you can discover beautiful waterfalls in the surrounding forest, or take in the views from the distinctive stone tower at the summit of Mount Constitution. The tower was constructed by the CCC during the 1930s, and is in the style of 12th century Russian watchtowers. So, there is some interesting history and architecture here.

Crater Lake, Oregon

While we are talking about the best lakes to visit in the West Coast region, there is no way we cannot mention Crater Lake.

No doubt, you are familiar with Crater Lake from photographs; it is the deepest lake in the US, and among the deepest worldwide. It takes its name from the fact that it is the caldera of Mount Mazama, a collapsed volcano.

Why You’ll Love It

While visiting Crater Lake, it may feel hard to believe that this was the site of such cataclysmic geological activity. Nowadays, it is a serene place to be; the waters are often still enough to produce stunning reflections of the surrounding terrain. Go driving, hiking or cycling, take a bus or trolley tour, or go fishing (no license necessary). You can stay at the famous lodge, or you can camp at Lost Creek Campground or Mazama Campground. There truly is no other experience quite like a stay at Crater Lake.

Tips for Visiting West Coast Lakes

  • Look up the amenities. Before you pack for your lake trip, check what amenities are available at the lake you are visiting and in the surrounding area. Will you be close to a marina or town? Or will you be out in the wilderness without access to services nearby? You may need to pack more or less, depending on what is available.
  • Find out what activities are permitted. Are you allowed to fish in the lake? If so, do you need a license? Are you able to keep your catches, or do you have to throw them back? What about boating? What types of watercrafts are permitted on the lake, if any? Check what you are allowed to do on the shore as well.
  • Make sure you know how to place a reservation if you will be camping overnight. If reservations are required, book early, especially if you are heading to a really popular destination. If the campsite is first-come, first-serve, have a backup plan in case you arrive only to find that the spots are full.
  • Bring a pop-up canopy tent. While you might find a shady spot near a lake, quite often, lake shores are exposed to a lot of sun and wind. So, it can be to your benefit to bring your own shade in the form of a pop-up canopy tent. Within minutes, you can have some shelter, allowing you to enjoy the lake in extra comfort. If you will be visiting a Pacific Northwest lake, this is also a great way to keep the rain off of you.
  • Dress for the weather. As we just mentioned, the Pacific Northwest can receive a lot of rainfall. Up in the mountains, it can also be cool and breezy, so bringing layers is a good move. If you are visiting a lake further south, you may need to concern yourself more with suntan lotion than layers. But do not forget that it can get to be cool up at elevation, even in Southern California!

Enjoy the Lakes of the West Coast

Crater Lake, Mountain Lake, and Big Bear Lake are just a few examples of the numerous gorgeous lakes that dot the West Coast region of the US. Add these lakes to your bucket list, but be sure to research additional ideas. No matter where you will be traveling along the West Coast, you should find yourself close to an unforgettable lake!