Real Estate

11 Best California Lakes to Live in 2024

From national parks like Yosemite and Sequoia to Death Valley and Joshua Tree, rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, and sparkling lakes, California has countless natural wonders to explore. With its many different landscapes, California has plenty of cities and small towns to call home – especially if you’re looking for a lakefront home.

To help you find the perfect lake town for you, Redfin has you covered. We’ve put together a list of the best California lakes to stay at this year. From the tranquil shores of Mono Lake to bustling lakeside activities at Lake Tahoe, there’s a California lake town for you on this list.

1. Shaver Lake (Shaver Lake)

Closest city: Shaver Lake, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $744,000
Population: 700
Homes for sale in Shaver Lake, CA
Apartments for rent in Shaver Lake, CA

The first lake in California to live this year is Shaver Lake. A popular lake for Central California residents, the lake offers a quiet retreat for those looking to escape city life. This picturesque lake is surrounded by lush forests, offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing and boating. With a small population of just 700, Shaver Lake has a strong community feel. The town is also the gateway to the Sierra National Forest, making it a great destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful lakeside home or vacation getaway, Shaver Lake has something to offer.

2. Bass Lake (Bass Lake)

Closest city: Bass Lake, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $501,000
Population: 550
Homes for Sale in Bass Lake, CA
Apartments for rent in Bass Lake, CA

Bass Lake is a hidden gem nestled in the foothills of the Sierra National Forest. This picturesque lake is a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts, offering pristine waters for boating, kayaking and fishing. With its small population of 550, Bass Lake is home to a vibrant community with a love of the great outdoors. The surrounding area is filled with cozy cabins and waterfront properties, making it an ideal location for those dreaming of a lakeside home. The city’s proximity to Yosemite National Park is an advantage as it provides endless adventures for residents.

3. Big Bear Lake (Big Bear Lake)

Closest city: Big Bear Lake, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $620,000
Population: 5,500
Homes for Sale in Big Bear Lake, CA
Apartments for rent in Big Bear Lake, CA

Big Bear Lake is a year-round destination, popular with those living in Southern California. The lake is famous for its outdoor recreational activities in all seasons. In winter, the area transforms into a snowy paradise for skiing and snowboarding, while the summer months offer excellent conditions for fishing, hiking and mountain biking. With a population of 5,500, Big Bear Lake offers a combination of small-town charm and outdoor adventure. The lake itself is a focal point for community events and activities, making it a lively place to live or visit. The town also has a variety of dining and shopping options, catering to both residents and tourists.

4. Clear Lake (Clear Lake)

Closest city: Clearlake, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $260,000
Population: 15,000
Homes for Sale in Clearlake, CA
Apartments for rent in Clearlake, CA

Clearlake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California, is located at the base of the Mendocino National Forest. This expansive lake is a fisherman’s paradise, teeming with bass, catfish and crappie. The town of Clearlake has many amenities, shops and parks, combined with a close-knit community atmosphere. Clearlake is also known for its vibrant arts scene and local wineries due to its proximity to Sonoma Wine Country. The surrounding area is full of hiking trails and parks, offering plenty of outdoor activities for nature lovers, making this a great lake in California to live in this year.

Aerial view of Donner Lake in California

5. Donner Lake (Turkey)

Closest city: Truckee, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $1,155,000
Population: 17,000
Homes for sale in Truckee, CA
Apartments for rent in Turkey, CA

Donner Lake, located in the picturesque town of Turki, is a stunning alpine lake known for its clear, blue waters and scenic mountain backdrop. The lake offers a peaceful retreat with activities such as boating, fishing and swimming in the summer, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. Truckee’s 17,000 residents enjoy easy access to world-class ski resorts, hiking trails, and wonderful shops and restaurants in a historic downtown area. The area is close to Lake Tahoe, meaning you can enjoy everything the wider area has to offer.

6. Lake Al Manor (Lake Al Manor West)

Closest city: Lake Almanor West, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $450,000
Population: 300
Homes for sale in Lake Almanor West, CA
Apartments for rent in Lake Almanor West, CA

Nestled between the Lawson National Forest and the Plumas National Forest is Al Manor Lake, a hidden gem. The lake offers a serene environment for those seeking a peaceful lakeside lifestyle. The lake itself is a haven for boating, fishing and water sports, surrounded by stunning natural beauty. With a small population of just 300, residents of Lake Almanor West enjoy a close-knit atmosphere. The area is also a gateway to outdoor adventures, with nearby hiking trails and parks. Lake Almanor West has many lodging options for those looking to call this beautiful area home, from rustic cabins to beautiful waterfront properties.

Lake Tahoe Skiing

7. Lake Arrowhead

Closest city: Lake Arrowhead, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $650,000
Population: 12,500
Homes for sale in Lake Arrowhead, CA
Apartments for rent in Lake Arrowhead, CA

Lake Arrowhead, known as “The Alps of Southern California,” is a charming mountain community that offers a unique blend of natural beauty and high-end living. The lake is a private oasis for residents, offering exclusive access to water sports, fishing and boating. The community of 12,500 people is welcoming with a variety of shops, fine restaurants and outdoor activities. The area is also known for its seasonal events, including a summer concert series, which brings the community together and offers entertainment for all.

8. Lake Tahoe (South Lake Tahoe)

Closest city: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $637,500
Population: 21,000
Homes for sale in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Apartments for rent in South Lake Tahoe, CA

No list of lakes in California would be complete without including Lake Tahoe. On the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a scenic beauty with year-round recreational activities. The area is a paradise for skiers, snowboarders, hikers and beachgoers, offering something for everyone. Be sure to check out spots like El Dorado Beach, Heavenly Mountain Resort, or one of the many hidden hiking trails. South Lake Tahoe, with a population of 21,000, serves as a bustling hub for visitors and residents. The community is known for its lively atmosphere with casinos, live music and fine dining options. Lake Tahoe’s clear waters and pristine beaches make it a popular choice for those seeking a lakeside lifestyle.

Mono Lake in California with mountains

9. Mono Lake (Mono City)

Closest city: Mono City, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $709,000
Population: 200
Homes for sale in Mono City, CA
Apartments for rent in Mono City, CA

Mono Lake, an ancient salt lake located near Mono City, is a unique and ecologically important area known for its limestone towers and bird life. The lake itself is a major attraction for photographers, bird watchers and nature lovers. With a small population of just 200, Mono City offers a quiet, secluded lifestyle. Despite its remote location, the community is welcoming, and the surrounding area offers plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and exploring nearby ghost towns like Dogtown.

10. Shasta Lake (Shasta Lake)

Closest city: Shasta Lake, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $282,500
Population: 10,500
Homes for Sale in Shasta Lake, CA
Apartments for rent in Shasta Lake, CA

Shasta Lake, California’s largest reservoir, is located in the city of Shasta Lake. This vast body of water is a perfect place for boating, fishing and water sports enthusiasts. The surrounding area is known for its natural beauty, with numerous trails and parks for hiking and exploring, such as the Water Gulch Trailhead and Lake Shasta Caverns. The city of Shasta Lake offers many amenities and a friendly atmosphere, from its charming downtown to local parks.

11. Whiskey Town Lake (Shasta)

Closest city: Shasta, CA
Median Home Sales Price: $350,000
Population: 1,300
Homes for Sale in Shasta, CA
Apartments for rent in Shasta, CA

Last on our list of lakes to stay in California is Whiskeytown Lake. Located near the city of Shasta, Whiskeytown Lake is a reservoir known for its crystal clear water and natural surroundings. The lake offers a variety of recreational activities, including boating, kayaking and fishing. Nearby Whiskeytown National Recreation Area offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. With a population of 1,300, Shasta offers a quaint, rural lifestyle where you’ll find a mix of rustic cabins and modern homes. Whiskeytown Lake’s natural beauty and recreational offerings make it one of California’s hidden gems.

Note, this list is not comprehensive of all California lakes. Median home sales price data from Redfin Data Center through April 2024. Population data obtained from April 2024 United States Census Bureau.

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