Discover 17 of the Best Lakes in San Diego

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Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.

Welcome to the sun-kissed city of San Diego, home to some of the most beautiful lakes in California. From bustling reservoirs filled with exciting outdoor activities to serene lakes nestled amidst majestic mountains, there’s something for everyone. Join us as we take a tour of San Diego and discover 17 of the best lakes in “America’s Finest City”.

Lake Murray

Lake Murray, San Diego
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Situated in the heart of San Diego, Lake Murray is a reservoir that’s full of fun outdoor activities for every type of vacationer. Cyclists, hikers, and runners can traverse the 3.2-mile path winding around the lake, while those looking to make the most of the water can hop aboard a kayak or cast a line for some catch-and-release fishing.

Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca, San Diego
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Nestled in eastern San Diego’s Cuyamaca Mountains, Lake Cuyamaca is a 110-acre reservoir and recreation hub for those looking to get back into nature. From boating and fishing to picnicking and hiking, every outdoor pursuit is catered for here. Discover captivating trail routes leading up to Cuyamaca Peak or indulge in a spot of birdwatching, all while enjoying modern amenities like a restaurant, pub, and cabin rentals on-site.

San Vicente Reservoir

Man wakeboarding
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San Vicente Reservoir is San Diego’s largest reservoir with 1,500 surface acres full to the brim with fish including largemouth bass and blue catfish. In 2016, after 7 years of expansion, the San Vicente Reservoir has doubled in capacity. From kayaking to waterskiing to wakeboarding, you’ll find endless opportunities for some adrenaline-fueled fun.

Lake Poway

Lake Poway, San Diego
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Located in Poway, California, Lake Poway has plenty of fun outdoor activities on its shoreline. Its 2.75-mile loop trail weaves through unique eco-zones, while the reservoir invites year-round fishing opportunities. Plus, sports buffs can appreciate a statue of local baseball legend, Tony Gwynn!

Lake Hodges

Lake Hodges, San Diego
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Just north of Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, you’ll find Lake Hodges, a popular reservoir for a variety of outdoor pursuits. From hiking trails of the San Dieguito River Park to nearly 200 bird species attracting avid birdwatchers, it offers a unique blend of water activities. Fishing is particularly appealing with the prospects of catching near record-sized Largemouth Bass.

Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings, San Diego
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Tucked away in Lakeside, California, is the scenic Lake Jennings. It provides an array of recreational pursuits, including fishing, hiking, and camping, while maintaining the feel of a secluded wilderness. Hosting daily shore fishing and stocking nearly 30,000 lbs of fish each year, it’s an angler’s delight!

Lake Miramar

Lake Miramar, San Diego
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Located in the Scripps Miramar Ranch, Lake Miramar invites visitors to enjoy a variety of recreational activities amidst beautiful San Diego landscapes. This reservoir, completed in 1960 as part of the San Diego Aqueduct project, now thrives as a hub for boating, fishing, picnicking, and trail exploration. With a trail spanning over five miles encircling Lake Miramar, perfect for a day trip to enjoy natural beauty and outdoor pursuits.

Sweetwater Reservoir

Crappie fish
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Spanning 960 acres, Sweetwater Reservoir offers a perfect fishing spot on its southern shoreline. This artificial lake, fed by the Sweetwater River from the Cuyamaca Mountains, is packed with freshwater fish including channel catfish and crappie. A short distance away, you can find Sweetwater Summit Regional Park with campgrounds and picnic areas.

Lake Ramona

Lake Ramona, San Diego
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Lake Ramona, an artificial reservoir located 37 miles from San Diego, requires a bit of effort to reach but is worth the 5.9-mile hill climb. This gem, built in 1980, is set amidst rugged hills and offers shallow, crystal-clear water, creating an idyllic spot for fishing. Spring visits are particularly rewarding, with blooming wildflowers and an array of water birds.

Dixon Lake

Hiking in the woods
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Situated less than an hour away from San Diego, Dixon Lake offers a blend of tranquility and adventure. Whether you’re camping at the lakeside campground, fishing for stocked trout and catfish, or hiking along the rustic trails, there’s something for everyone. With kid-friendly and dog-friendly areas, it’s a perfect family getaway.

Lindo Lake

Lindo Lake - Lakes in San Diego
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Lindo Lake, one of San Diego’s few natural lakes, offers a picturesque setting for outdoor activities. Whether you’re strolling the multi-use trails, participating in ranger-hosted hikes, picnicking, or reeling in fish, Lindo Lake caters to all. It also boasts a butterfly garden, sports facilities, and picnic areas. For bird watchers, a variety of species including the Cinnamon Teal and American Coots await.

Lake Morena

Lake Morena, San Diego
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As San Diego County’s most remote reservoir, Lake Morena offers an idyllic escape amid the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. Its impressive campground and trails, including a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail, offer plenty of outdoor activities. With personal boats welcomed and boat rentals provided, the lake offers fantastic fishing opportunities, from winter trout to record-breaking largemouth bass in spring and summer.

Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes, San Diego
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Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, a 190-acre park in East San Diego County, houses seven lakes, each with its own fun things to do. With over 700,000 annual visitors, it offers a range of experiences from fishing and boating to bird watching. The site includes 300 campsites, lakeshore or floating cabins, and amenities such as bicycle and pedal boat rentals, picnic sites, and an off-leash pet area.

Chollas Lake

Children fishing
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Built in 1901, Chollas Lake not only played a role in San Diego’s early water supply but now serves as an engaging recreational spot. Designated as a youth fishing lake in 1971, it caters specifically to young anglers under 15. The area also offers a variety of hiking trails, suitable for all fitness levels, and regular archery lessons.

Lower Otay Reservoir

Lower Otay Reservoir, San Diego
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Located in San Diego, Lower Otay Reservoir, an artificial lake formed by the Otay River behind Savage Dam, offers a tranquil setting for various activities. With picnic and BBQ areas perfect for enjoying stunning sunsets, a concession stand supplying fishing necessities and refreshments, and kayak or rowboat rentals for fun on the water, it’s a great all-round recreational spot.

Barrett Lake

Float tubing
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Around 35 miles east of San Diego sits Barrett Lake, a reservoir offering reserved access to serene outdoor pursuits. While boat usage comes with a reservation, kayaking, fishing, and float tubing are readily available. In October, a lottery draw opens up opportunities for waterfowl hunting. Visitors can also enjoy the scenic lakeside views from the comfort of picnic tables and barbecue areas.

Los Rasalies Lake

Man with binoculars
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Los Rasalies Lake, located in San Diego County’s Laguna Mountain Range, is a haven for adventurous hikers. This hidden gem, reached via an 11-mile hiking loop, provides an idyllic setting for fishing, swimming, and bird watching, with species such as geese, mallard ducks, and blue herons present. Best visited between April and September, it offers a peaceful escape just an hour away from San Diego, with the reward of refreshing waters after a long hike.

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Havasu Falls
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Olympic National Park Hoh Rainforest
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