Why Whiskeytown Lake is our favorite Northern California lake.
Many people who visit Northern California don't know about Whiskeytown Lake. It is time this changed. Whiskeytown Lake is a beautiful little lake offering 36 miles of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres of water. Nestled only 7 miles west of
on HWY 299, you will have to drive through
Historic Old Shasta
on the way. We suggest you stop for an hour or two and check out this town. You can also grab some munchies at J's Market, the local hangout. If you plan to do some fishing on Whiskeytown Lake, J's is the best place to get some advice where the fish are biting.
Most family vacation getaways to Northern California will involve a day or two on
because that is the lake everyone knows about! For those who actually visit Whiskeytown Lake, will find that the lake is much cleaner, calmer, and more swimmer friendly, besides it has a nice sand beach-Shasta Lake does not. If you have been to Shasta Lake, you will know that one of the biggest complaints from people is that the water is kinda dirty and there are too many boats to make it enjoyable to go for a swim.
As you can see by the picture, this lake has mountains around it, and in fact, it actually is like a basin in the middle of the mountains. Picture a lake in the center of a mountain range and there you have it.
Nothing is more peaceful than going for a leasurely swim, floating on your back, looking up at the mountains surrounding you and watching the occasional falcon or Bald Eagle flying overhead.
So what can you do at Whiskeytown Lake?
This lake is actually a sailboaters favorite, boasting a little marina on the west side for you to dock at. Besides the sailboats, it is also popular for water skiing, fishing, and scuba diving. But, perhaps the most popular activity on Whiskeytown Lake is swimming. This lake offers several swimming holes to the North side of Hwy 299 that are local favorites. These swimming holes have water that is only 30-75 feet, therefore they warm up quickly in the summer, making it very pleasurable to go for a swim and not have to deal with the frigid snow runoff that the western corner of the lake is so famous for.
This lake is located in the Trinity National Recreation Area, so you will encounter 2 negatives about this lake: there is a charge to swim here. If you have a
Golden Eagle Pass
, however, you can use that in place of the fee. Because of the fee (its only $5), many people decide to go to Shasta Lake instead. Another reason people may avoid this lake, is because Jet skis are prohibited on this lake.
Since it is public land that backs up to the Trinity Wilderness area, it is not uncommon to see wildlife coming down to drink out of the lake. In some of the less populated swimming areas, we have seen a black bear, numerous deer, several bald eagles, and numerous species of birds. You will also notice that there is a rather large "hill" to the south of the lake. This is called Shasta Bally (6,209 ft.) and is accessible by foot, bike, or 4x4. This peak gives you a great lookout over the Sacramento valley and a good portion of Northern California. If there have been any fires, however, your view will be greatly limited due to the smoke that stays in the air.
Another activity that is very common around Whiskeytown Lake and Northern California, in general, is the number of hiking trails and mountain bike trails. There are literally hundreds of miles of trails waiting to be conquered. If your family enjoys the outdoors, this is the place to come, because you can even camp in one of the several campgrounds around the lake.
If swimming, rope swinging, fishing, sailboating, hiking, biking, or just relaxing on the beach (yes, it has a nice beach) is your thing, then you would do well to spend a day or two of your family vacation getaway on