11 Best Lakes in California to Live on in 2024

11 Best Lakes in California to Live on in 2024

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

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

Shaver Lake in california's central valley

1. Shaver Lake (Shaver Lake)

Nearest city: Shaver Lake, CA
Median home sale 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 on this year is Shaver Lake. A popular lake for Central California residents, this lake offers a tranquil retreat for those looking to escape city life. This picturesque lake is surrounded by lush forests, providing ample opportunities for hiking, fishing, and boating. With a small population of just 700, Shaver Lake has a tight-knit community feel. The town is also a gateway to the Sierra National Forest, making it a perfect spot for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful lakeside home or a vacation getaway, Shaver Lake has something to offer.

2. Bass Lake (Bass Lake)

Nearest city: Bass Lake, CA
Median home sale 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 located in the foothills of the Sierra National Forest. This charming 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 warm community with a love for the great outdoors. The surrounding area is dotted with cozy cabins and waterfront properties, making it an ideal spot for those dreaming of a lakeside home. The town’s proximity to Yosemite National Park is a benefit as it provides endless adventures for residents.

3. Big Bear Lake (Big Bear Lake)

Nearest city: Big Bear Lake, CA
Median home sale 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 amongst those living in Southern California. This lake is popular across the seasons with its outdoor recreational activities. In the winter, the area transforms into a snowy paradise for skiing and snowboarding, while the summer months offer perfect conditions for fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. With a population of 5,500, Big Bear Lake provides a blend 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 features a variety of dining and shopping options, catering to both residents and tourists.

4. Clearlake (Clearlake)

Nearest city: Clearlake, CA
Median home sale 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, filled with bass, catfish, and crappie. The city of Clearlake has a range of amenities, shops, and parks, combined with a close-knit community atmosphere. Clearlake is also known for its vibrant arts scene and local wineries as the city is close to Sonoma wine country. The surrounding area is filled with hiking trails and parks, offering plenty of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts, making it a great lake in California to live on this year.

Aeriel view of Donner Lake in California

5. Donner Lake (Truckee)

Nearest city: Truckee, CA
Median home sale price: $1,155,000
Population: 17,000
Homes for sale in Truckee, CA
Apartments for rent in Truckee, CA

Donner Lake, situated in the picturesque town of Truckee, 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 a historic downtown area with quaint shops and restaurants. The area is close to Lake Tahoe, meaning you can enjoy everything the expansive area has to offer.

6. Lake Almanor (Lake Almanor West)

Nearest city: Lake Almanor West, CA
Median home sale price: $450,000
Population: 300
Homes for sale in Lake Almanor West, CA
Apartments for rent in Lake Almanor West, CA

Between Lassen National Forest and Plumas National Forest is the hidden gem, Lake Almanor. This lake offers a tranquil setting 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, Lake Almanor West’s residents enjoy a close-knit vibe. The area is also a gateway to outdoor adventures, with nearby hiking trails and parks. Lake Almanor West has a range of housing options for those looking to call this beautiful area home, from rustic cabins to elegant waterfront properties.

Lake Tahoe Skiing

7. Lake Arrowhead (Lake Arrowhead)

Nearest city: Lake Arrowhead, CA
Median home sale 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 picturesque mountain community that offers a unique blend of natural beauty and upscale living. The lake is a private oasis for residents, providing exclusive access to water sports, fishing, and boating. The community of 12,500 people is welcoming, with a variety of shops, gourmet restaurants, and outdoor activities. The area is also famous for its seasonal events, including a summer concert series, which bring the community together and offer entertainment for all.

8. Lake Tahoe (South Lake Tahoe)

Nearest city: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Median home sale 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 stunning beauty with year-round recreational activities. The area is a paradise for skiers, snowboarders, hikers, and beachgoers, offering something for everyone. Make 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 alike. 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)

Nearest city: Mono City, CA
Median home sale price: $709,000
Population: 200
Homes for sale in Mono City, CA
Apartments for rent in Mono City, CA

Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake located near Mono City, is a unique and ecologically significant area known for its limestone tufa towers and birdlife. The lake itself is a major attraction for photographers, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts. 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 the nearby ghost towns, like Dog Town.

10. Shasta Lake (Shasta Lake)

Nearest city: Shasta Lake, CA
Median home sale price: $282,500
Population: 10,500
Homes for sale in Shasta Lake, CA
Apartments for rent in Shasta Lake, CA

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

11. Whiskeytown Lake (Shasta)

Nearest city: Shasta, CA
Median home sale price: $350,000
Population: 1,300
Homes for sale in Shasta, CA
Apartments for rent in Shasta, CA

The last spot on our list of lakes in California to live on is Whiskeytown Lake. Located near the city of Shasta, Whiskeytown Lake is a reservoir known for its crystal-clear water and scenic surroundings. The lake offers a variety of recreational activities, including sailing, kayaking, and fishing. The nearby Whiskeytown National Recreation Area provides ample 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 the lakes in California. Median home sale price data from the Redfin Data Center during April 2024. Average rental data from Rent.com April 2024. Population data sourced from the United States Census Bureau.

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