The Best Places to Go Boating Within Two Hours of Sacramento
The greater Sacramento area is undoubtedly known for its hot summer days and warm summer nights. It’s also known for its abundance of scenic lakes and rivers. Put the two together and you have the makings for a perfect day on the water! In fact, there’s no better way to cool off in Sacramento than by hitting the water, and the region is one of the most popular areas in Northern California for water recreation, including tubing and rafting as well as just taking a dip in a swimming hole.
The best thing is you don’t have to own your own boat to enjoy the water — many spots offer rentals, so you can have all the fun of boat ownership without the commitment. Although water levels are low this year, there are still plenty of spots to explore. Following are our picks for the best places to go boating within two hours of Sacramento.
This 302-acre park is located in downtown Sacramento, and offers an easy natural retreat for city dwellers. The park sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, and is perfect for boating within the city limits! In fact, it boasts one of Sacramento County’s best boat launches and is a popular spot to go fishing. After the water adventures are done, enjoy 32-miles of paved bike trails, an archery range, softball fields and picnic areas.
Downstream from Folsom Lake, nearby Lake Natoma has gained national recognition for its rowing course as well as its sailing and kayaking options. If you don’t have your own vessel, no worries — the Sac State Aquatic Center offers kayaks and canoes to rent! The lake is open primarily for non-motorized vessels, and motorboats are limited to 5mph. Here, you’ll find several launch ramps to make your life on the lake easier, bountiful fish that you can catch (with a license), and opportunities for swimming. If you’re planning to take a dip, there are two areas located at both the southern and northern end of the lake, including Nimbus Flat and Negro Bar, across from old Folsom. The lake also features more than 11 miles of paved bicycle trails, six miles of multi-use trails, and several picnic areas.
Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills nestled between Folsom, El Dorado Hills and Granite Bay, the gorgeous Folsom Lake sits just 25 miles northeast of Sacramento. This spot is popular year-round due to its beaches, swimming spots, biking trails, wildlife viewing, and 11,500 acres of water that provide a haven for boating, wake boarding and other water sports.
The Sacramento River Delta is one of the most popular spots to boat in all of Northern California. There are hundreds of miles of waterways to explore, whether you’re into fishing, swimming or just taking in the scenery. Some of the access points include the River View Marina near the Garden Highway, Miller Park Marina in Sacramento, Clarksburg Marina, Walnut Grove Public Dock, and Sandy Beach County Park in Rio Vista. Another nearby place to explore is Brannan Island State Recreation Area, which has miles of waterways, plus camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
Situated in a narrow canyon in the North Fork American River near Auburn, Lake Clementine is an idyllic spot for boating, paddling, relaxing and soaking in the warm California sun. The area boasts abundant wildlife, fishing opportunities and plenty of picnic tables for shore dwellers. Lower Lake Clementine is the spot to go for boating and other aquatic sports, while Upper Lake Clementine is more ideal for hanging out on the beach and swimming. There’s an impressive waterfall over the dam, and boat-in campsites if you want to make a weekend of it!
Rollins Lake is situated just off I-80 due north of Colfax, and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding pine-covered mountains. It’s an ideal weekend destination, with plenty of opportunities to boat, swim, fish and waterski. It’s notoriously one of the best mountainous lakes in the region, as well as a popular camping spot for Sacramento locals. In fact, the lake offers 250 campsites (spread over four campgrounds), several cabins, stores for supplies, and even a few local restaurants! If you’re in need of a boat for the weekend, there are even boat rentals available, conveniently located at the boat launch at Long Ravine Campground.
Nestled in the foothills in Nevada County just over an hour from Sacramento, Collins Lake is open year round for camping, boating, picnics and other outdoor adventures. In fact, the lake boasts trophy-sized bass, trout, bluegills and catfish, which makes it a desirable spot to come catch dinner. The lake spans more than 1,600 acres and boasts 12 miles of shoreline, and the surrounding scenery is absolutely picturesque. They also rent fishing boats, patio boats and kayaks.
Located just over an hour from Sacramento in El Dorado County near Pollock Pines, Jenkinson Lake, also known as Sly Park Lake, is set amid rolling hills covered in tall pine trees — making for spectacular views and plenty of photo opportunities. The clean blue water is perfect for boating, swimming, kayaking, water-skiing, wake boarding, tubing and more. Paddle board and kayak rentals are available at the lake on weekends in the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day), and for those who’d like to make a weekend out of it, there are several campsites near the water.
Located in the Napa Valley, the scenic Lake Berryessa is popular for water sports of all kinds. It’s one of the largest bodies of fresh water in California, and offers vast open spaces for high speed boating, tubing and the like, as well as quiet coves for swimming and kayaking. There are plenty of local businesses for boat and jet ski rentals, as well as camping options. In the summer, the water can reach a balmy 75 degrees!