Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada (credit: Thinkstock)
Spring is in the air and what’s left of any winter weather in the Bay Area disappeared as quickly as it arrived. With the prospects of crystal clear blue skies and a perfect climate the region is well known for, it’s a great time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’re looking for a secluded campsite amid eternal forests or a exciting new place to visit in your RV, there are plenty of great destinations within driving distance to get away from it all, many of which are surprisingly affordable. Here are five of the best lakeside getaways near the Bay Area.
5300 Soda Bay Road
Kelseyville, CA 95451
Clear Lake is the largest freshwater lake in California and one of the oldest lakes in North America. Located 123 miles north of San Francisco, Clear Lake continues to be a popular getaway from the Bay Area despite the absence of one of its top attractions, Konocti Harbor, which closed in 2009 but is reportedly back on the market. Nevertheless, Clear Lake is a excellent spot for hiking, camping and all sorts of water recreation, including water skiing, swimming, boating and fishing. Clear Lake State Park, with 138 campsites and eight cabins, and is just one of several places to offer overnight accommodations. Among other suggested lodging located along the lake are Clear Lake Cottages and Marina, Clear Lake Resort, and Honeymoon Cove Resort.
10840 Coyote Reservoir Road
Gilroy, CA 95020
One of the most popular getaways for outdoor recreation in the south bay, this sprawling park can be found within the hills just east of Gilroy, near the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley. Once known as Coyote Lake Country Park, the 4,595-acre recreational area is a prime spot for camping, biking and watersports, particularly fishing, powerboating and waterskiing. Coyote Lake – Harvey Bear Ranch Park offers 73 reservable sites for RV and tent camping and is home to abundant wildlife, including 219 bird species. The expansion to include Harvey Bear Ranch a decade ago opened up 35 miles of biking, hiking and equestrian trails affording visitors spectacular views of the valley, the beautiful three mile-long lake, blacktail deer, the rare western pond turtle, and America’s mascot, the bald eagle.
7000 Del Valley Road
Livermore, CA 94550
Located 10 miles south of Livermore, Del Valle Regional Park is just one of 11 lakes and reservoirs provided by the East Bay Regional Park District, the nation’s largest urban park district. The centerpiece of this park is the five mile long lake encircled by nearly 4,400 acres of rolling hills sprinkled with golden wildflowers and oak trees. Lake Del Valle provides for a variety of recreational uses, such as swimming, boating and fishing, in addition to hiking, picnicking and camping along the lakeshore. Two swimming beaches are available for visitors and is open year-round with seasonal lifeguards. The Del Valle Family Campground features 150 sites with fire circles and picnic tables, in addition to several group camps for larger parties up to 300 people and an equestrian camp.
Lake Chabot Regional Park
17600 Lake Chabot Road
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Swimming isn’t allowed in Lake Chabot, but that doesn’t prevent the 315-acre reservoir from drawing thousands of visitors each year. An excellent East Bay spot to spend a day or camp overnight at neighboring Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Lake Chabot has a history stretching back more than 130 years. Like many other regional lakes, fishing is one of the favorite forms of recreation here, with several fishing piers within the park. In addition to boat rentals, the park features 20 miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and an 18-hole golf course. Anthony Chabot Campground is open year-round with 75 campsites, 12 of which are for RVs and trailers while ten others are walk-in sites. What makes Lake Chabot a particularly interesting destination this year are possible sightings of bald eagles that may return to nest near the West Shore Trail.
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
3066 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Lake Tahoe is not exactly near the Bay Area, but it’s easily the most popular lakeside destination in California and possibly the best in the country. The largest alpine lake on the continent, Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination for a wealth of activities from world class skiing and hiking to gambling and top shelf entertainment. While there are many attractions all around 71 miles of shoreline, the majority of visitors descend upon South Lake Tahoe, the primary gambling center in the Sierras, featuring the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which opened in January with 539 rooms and, like Harvey’s Tahoe, is set to host a summer concert series beginning in June. Often considered among one of America’s favorite destinations, Lake Tahoe also offers hiking, biking and boat tours during the summer and skiing and snowboarding at 12 alpine ski areas, like Heavenly Valley and Northstar in winter.