Lake Chabot Regional Park (credit: Randy Yagi)
San Francisco is fortunate enough to be surrounded by the bay with easy access to the Pacific Ocean. There are also plenty of lakes, bays, ponds, creeks and marshes among others that are also in and around San Francisco. Birding, boating and bicycling are all activities that can be enjoyed at these underrated water destinations. Whether you want to spend a lazy day on the water or have a picnic by the shore, these bodies of water will have you exploring these lesser known gems.
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Lake Chabot is 315 acres popular with fishers, boaters, bicyclers, hikers, campers, runners and picnickers. Take a scenic walk with trails such as the Lake Chabot history walk or reserve a picnic table with a barbecue pit. Boats are available for rental and there is a cafe and bait and tackle shop on premises. The lake is stocked with catfish and trout among other fish including bass and crappie that call it home. It’s a perfect way to spend a day whether you are on the water or just surrounded by it.
Pescadero, CA 94060
Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is 243 acres of extensive coastal wetland that includes habitats such as dense woods, freshwater marsh and a tidal estuary. It is perfect for bird watching since more than 200 species have been found there including the Great Blue Heron. Other wildlife like the California red-legged frog, steelhead trout and the San Francisco garter snake also call the preserve home. Nature walks are offered the first and third Sunday of the month and last for about two hours.
Geyserville, CA 95441
Lake Sonoma has a shoreline of about 50 miles with a lake surface that surpasses 2,700 acres. The lake is set up for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and various water sports. There is a deli, barbecue area and swimming beach. Camping and pig hunting are also available with advanced reservations.
Oakland, CA 94610
Lake Merritt is a tidal lagoon that has 3.4 miles of shoreline located near downtown Oakland. This urban space offers a multitude of activities surrounding the lake including gardening, running, walking, rowing, lawn bowling and boating. About 70 different birds also call Lake Merritt home. Children’s Fairyland is 10 acres of fun designed for younger children also located on the edge of Lake Merritt. There are plenty of benches and areas to picnic if you just want to take in the scenic view.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Stow Lake is 12 acres surrounding Strawberry Hill Island, making it the largest body of water that in Golden Gate Park. There is a trail along the lake’s perimeter that include views of a Chinese pagoda, Huntington Falls and a stone bridge. The Stow Lake Boathouse offers rentals by the hour for row boats, electric boats and pedal boats. The path around the lake is perfect for strolling, running or bicycling. There are also plenty of benches to picnic or watch the ducks.
San Francisco, CA 94132
Lake Merced has a 4.5 mile trail around the freshwater lake’s perimeter and is located in San Francisco. This place is popular with runners, walkers, roller skaters and bicyclers alike. There are also plenty of picnic areas, a boathouse and fishing pier. Rowboats and canoes are offered for rental by the hour. Bird watching is also good here with regular visits from loons, hawks and egrets.