When you love Huge Bear, you may additionally love these 3 Central California lakes

 If you love Big Bear, you'll also love these 3 Central California lakes

2021-08-13 01:25:17

There are few higher methods to flee California’s lengthy, dry summers than lounging by a cool, clear lake. But when Huge Bear and Arrowhead have turn out to be too acquainted, head 4 hours north to Bass, Shaver and Huntington, lush mountain lakes within the central Sierra.

These lovely alpine locations — every with its personal vibe — are a brief drive from each other, making a tour of all three doable in lower than per week.

These off-the-beaten-path beauties, usually overshadowed by Lake Tahoe to the north, are ripe for mountain climbing, kayaking, tenting, fishing, boating and a cool late summertime splash or swim. And they’re three hours nearer to Los Angeles by automobile.

One factor to know earlier than they you go: The scenic drive between Shaver and Huntington lakes modified dramatically after final 12 months’s Creek hearth, which scorched near 380,000 acres, leaving a hellscape of blackened tree trunks and ashen earth on either side of California 168.

Fortunately, most of the big pines had been spared, as I witnessed on a current go to, preserving the attractive views which have lengthy lured boaters, campers and the occasional film crew. Bass Lake served because the backdrop in John Sweet and Dan Aykroyd’s
1988 comedy “The Nice Open air,” and Shaver confirmed up in 2019’s “Captain Marvel.”

The water ranges in two of the lakes are under capability due to California’s extended drought, however this hasn’t affected outside actions as a lot as it has in different areas, similar to Huge Bear, which has dwindled to half its capability, with its swimming seashore closed and docks and boat slips beached.

One other bonus: Not like many lakes in Southern California, these reservoirs are open for swimming in addition to boating, with small sandy seashores the place guests can unfold towels or get pleasure from a picnic.

Right here’s a have a look at what every lake has to supply:

Bass Lake

Water ranges at Bass Lake are about 12 toes under capability this summer time, however you may nonetheless swim and boat.

(Steve Montalto / Southern Yosemite Guests Bureau)

Consider Bass as a “mini-Tahoe,” with clear blue waters ringed by pines and cedar. However there’s one key distinction: Its decrease elevation (3,400 toes) means the water is hotter for swimming, water snowboarding and wave operating.

It’s additionally a well-liked vacation spot for boating — Bass Lake was one of many high natural search phrases on Google for California journey through the COVID-19 pandemic — however for a lot of Angelenos, like me, it could be a brand new journey.

Powerboating isn’t the one exercise on this 4½-mile-long lake, 47 miles northeast of Fresno on California 41. (The water ranges at Bass Lake are about 12 toes decrease than full capability this summer time.)

The lake’s sheltered coves lure fishermen angling for bass, rainbow trout or kokanee salmon, in addition to kayakers making an attempt to catch sight of bald eagles, herons and the occasional black bear, just like the one I noticed one morning paddling in entrance of my kayak. Kayak and boat leases will be discovered at Miller’s Touchdown and the marina at Pines Resort and Bass Lake Watersports.

Bass Lake is extra developed than Shaver and Huntington however continues to be picturesque. Dozens of mountain climbing trails encompass the lake, together with the Means of the Mono Path, a simple one-mile loop that includes the Indigenous historical past of the world and spectacular views from the highest.

One other benefit: Bass is a bit over half-hour from the southern entrance to Yosemite Nationwide Park, for individuals who need to mix lake time with a hike to the park’s Chilnualna Falls or the Mariposa Grove of big sequoias (don’t overlook your Yosemite day-use reservation). When you want a bit enjoyable out of the solar, Yosemite Axe Throwing is open in close by Oakhurst.

Guests have their selection of a number of resorts, in addition to tenting and cabin leases.

The Pines Resort, 54432 Highway 432, Bass Lake; (559) 642-3121. Two-story lakefront suites and chalets in addition to an on-site marina for boat leases and a village with a market, a bar and some outlets.

Miller’s Touchdown Resort, 37976 Route 222, Wishon; (559) 642-3633. One- and two-bedroom cabins for lease. Boat and kayak leases on the marina.

The Forks Resort, 39150 Highway 222, Bass Lake; (559) 642-3737. Cabins and suites for lease inside strolling distance of the lake.


South Gate Brewing Co., 40233 Enterprise Drive, Oakhurst; (559) 692-2739. Many brewpubs in vacationer cities aren’t definitely worth the hops of their IPA. Not this one, with its award-winning beer and attractive pub fare.

The Forks Resort restaurant, 39150 Highway 222, Bass Lake; (559) 642-3737. A author for the New Yorker in 2019 proclaimed the Forks Burger the most effective issues she had eaten within the earlier decade. I’m unsure I’d go that far, however the burgers and shakes are actually scrumptious.

Ducey’s on the Lake, 54432 Highway 432, Bass Lake; (559) 642-3121. This wood-paneled restaurant on the Pines Resort serves cocktails and conventional American fare at tables overlooking the lake.

Shaver Lake

Boulders along the shoreline of a lake

Shaver Lake is forecast to be at 60% capability, however thus far the drought hasn’t had a lot influence on actions.

(Shaver Lake Customer’s Bureau)

An hour’s drive up California 168 from Bass is Shaver. Boulders and big sugar and ponderosa pines ring the 22 miles of shoreline in addition to a dam that proprietor Southern California Edison makes use of to assist provide hydroelectric energy to Los Angeles.

The lake’s larger elevation — about 5,500 toes — makes it cooler than Bass, a giant promoting level in July and August. It’s additionally a bit extra rustic, with no giant resorts, simply campgrounds and personal cabins for lease.

Shaver Lake is forecast by Edison to be at 60% of capability this month. However on a current go to, the drought appeared to have had little impact on the lake expertise. If something, Shaver, which at full capability has little in the way in which of seashores, now supplies a bit extra room for guests to unfold blankets and revel in dips within the water.

The realm had a detailed name with the Creek hearth, which burned its technique to inside blocks of Shaver’s essential avenue. Giant banners thanking firefighters cling from properties and companies, and the group has launched a Rebuild Our Sierra marketing campaign to assist these within the space who misplaced a lot within the hearth.

Boat leases can be found at a number of factors on the lake, together with at Sierra Marina and Shaver Lake Marina. Shaver’s quiet coves are additionally good for kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Inexperienced anglers can rent a constitution similar to Dick’s Fishing Constitutions to verify they catch a fish.

Simply refill earlier than you arrive. There aren’t any supermarkets within the tiny city of Shaver. These are on the drive up, half an hour away within the city of Prather. As an alternative, you’ll discover a handful of eating places, two mini-markets, and outlets for fishing and tenting provides.


Camp Edison, 42696 Tollhouse Highway, Shaver Lake; (559) 841-3134, Ext. 6. SCE owns and operates greater than 250 RV and tent campsites on the shore of Shaver Lake. Noncamping lodging will be discovered at GoShaver.web/lodging


Seasons Bistro and Tavern, 41830 Tollhouse Highway, Shaver Lake; (559) 841-4108. Elevated but informal American fare, with a menu that adjustments — you guessed it — seasonally.

Hungry Hut, 42008 Tollhouse Highway, Shaver Lake; (559) 841-3222. Standard and sometimes crowded outside patio with Shaver’s greatest burgers, fries and shakes.

Shaver Lake Pizza, 41820 Tollhouse Highway, Shaver Lake; (559) 841-7249. Strong thin-crust pizza joint additionally serves wings, sizzling sandwiches and beer. Name early; it will get crowded on weekends.

Huntington Lake

Drive 40 minutes farther up California 168 previous miles of blackened tree trunks and also you’ll attain Huntington Lake. At 7,000 toes, it’s recognized for its cool winds and summer time crusing regattas.

Of the three lakes, Huntington was most affected by the Creek hearth, with flames torching timber and cabins round half the lake.

On my go to, nonetheless, the jap facet of the lake close to the China Peak ski resort was lovely, with a few day-use areas and campgrounds open as a base for crusing or fishing.

If Shaver is rustic, Huntington is decidedly extra so, notably for the reason that hearth, with cabins and one in all its resorts closed. Due to the injury, we determined to make it a day journey from our cabin in Shaver. Because it turned out, it was the most effective days of our household journey.

Floating within the cool, clear lake — it’s at 99% capability — watching sailboats and casting a line from an previous boat slip made this cease a winner. And it was the one lake wherein we simply caught fish.

We didn’t have time to take a look at the mountain climbing trails that encompass the lake, together with Rancheria Falls, a steep four-mile hike that pays off with a wonderful waterfall. That’s on our checklist for after we return.


Tenting is accessible at Rancheria, Decrease Billy Creek, School and Deer Creek campgrounds and will be booked at Recreation.gov.

Cabins and boats can be found for lease from Huntington Lake Resort and Marina, 58730 Huntington Lake Highway, Lakeshore; (559) 326-6687

Lakeview Cottages, 58374 Huntington Lodge Highway, Lakeshore; (559) 553-3550. Cabins for lease on Huntington’s southern shore.


The Lakeshore Resort and its restaurant are shuttered, however Huntington Lake Resort’s Grill is open for burgers, tacos and different fare.

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