Top Serene Lakes Near Los Angeles for Your Next Relaxing Escape

Silver Lake in Los Angeles, California

No matter how much you love city life, a vital part of living in Los Angeles is knowing where to go for a dose of nature, water, and serenity. While heading to the coast and dipping into the Pacific is always popular, there are many nearby lakes that provide great—and, in some cases, closer—alternatives to the salt water. Uncover tranquil lakes near Los Angeles for your next day trip or weekend getaway. Find out where to swim, sunbathe, picnic, hike, and more without having to plan a long journey from LA.

Major Highlights

  • Lake Balboa is a fun spot with walking trails, bike paths, and recreational activities like swan boat and specialty bike rentals; plus, it's a good fishing spot with a license.
  • Hollywood Reservoir features a scenic 3.3-mile loop trail with views of the Hollywood sign and Mulholland Dam, catering to hikers, bikers, and photographers, open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Silver Lake has a 2.2-mile urban loop trail perfect for walking, jogging, and bird watching, supported by amenities like a basketball court, dog park, and community center.

Lake Balboa

Nestled next door to the Van Nuys neighborhood, Lake Balboa is a favored retreat for families and couples, presenting an array of leisure activities in a serene setting. The lake offers:

  • A 1.3-mile walking and jogging path
  • A bike path that integrates into a broader regional trail network
  • The opportunity to enjoy an afternoon picnic by the calm waters
  • Swan boat rentals for a leisurely ride
  • Specialty bike rentals for a friendly race with your partner.

Fishing enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the sport in designated areas, provided they have a license. The lake's waters are sourced from the reclaimed, treated water of the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, signifying the loop of urban water use and natural recreation. With its stunning views and family-friendly environment, Lake Balboa—one of the top features that comes with living in the Lake Balboa neighborhood—is a must-visit for any nature lover in Los Angeles.

Hollywood Reservoir

Hollywood Reservoir in Los Angeles, California

The Hollywood Reservoir, located in the Hollywood Hills area, is renowned for its breathtaking views for hikers and features the iconic Hollywood Sign. The reservoir offers a 3.3-mile loop trail, perfect for a variety of activities like hiking, jogging, biking, and more. This trail, also known as the Lake Hollywood trail, has been fully accessible since its reopening in 2013 following its closure due to landslides.

Photography enthusiasts find the south side of the reservoir particularly appealing for capturing the Hollywood Sign with the water in the foreground, especially during the golden hours shortly after sunrise or before sunset. Visitors can also enjoy the sight of the Mulholland Dam, an architectural highlight from 1924, combined with the views of the Hollywood Sign. Although access to the water is restricted by a chain-link fence, the area remains a hotspot for visitors seeking scenic vistas.

So, whether you're an early riser or prefer afternoon excursions—and whether you're visiting town or living in the adjacent Hollywoodland neighborhood—the Hollywood Reservoir, open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., accommodates everyone's schedule.

Silver Lake

If you head southeast from the Hollywood Reservoir for approximately six miles, you'll find the Silver Lake neighborhood and its central feature: the Silver Lake Reservoir. This spot boasts:

  • A 2.2-mile urban trail loop offering locals and tourists picturesque views, including downtown sights from a hilltop rest area
  • The trail is accessible year-round
  • Partially paved paths that are wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, although some steep sections may require assistance

Apart from walking, Silver Lake Reservoir's trail is a favorite for running, jogging, and bird watching, with benches strategically placed for visitors to relax and take in the environment. The reservoir's surrounding amenities encompass a basketball court, dog park, playground, and a community center, enhancing the overall experience of a day spent at Silver Lake.

If a lakeside stroll in one of Los Angeles' best neighborhoods sounds appealing, Silver Lake is the place to be!

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake Near Los Angeles, California

Pyramid Lake, an ideal destination for thrill-seekers, caters to water sports enthusiasts with a variety of activities, including jet skiing, boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking. Located less than 60 miles northwest of Downtown Los Angeles, it's a viable option for day trips and weekend getaways alike.

The lake ensures safety through designated areas and speed limits for boating and waterskiing. Anglers can enjoy fishing for species like large and smallmouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, crappie, and trout in a lake where swimming is allowed at specified swim beaches.

Offering more than just water sports, the lake also provides:

  • Picnicking and camping amenities
  • Emigrant Landing offers a beach and picnic areas
  • Los Alamos Campground offers sites with facilities such as flush toilets and potable water
  • Visitors can access unique day-use areas by boat only for a secluded experience
  • Learn about the State Water Project at the Vista del Lago visitor's center

If you're an adventurer at heart, Pyramid Lake is the perfect destination for you.

Crystal Lake

Venturing deeper into the mountains, we find the Crystal Lake Recreation Area Campground. While Crystal Lake is a bit further away from the heart of LA, it's less than 40 miles (and typically less than an hour's drive) from the Downtown Pasadena area. Perched at 5,539 feet in elevation, this serene location offers 50 campsites with picnic tables, vault toilets, and accommodation for RVs up to 22 feet.

Hikers at Crystal Lake can choose from a range of trails such as:

  • The moderate Crystal Lake Trail
  • The challenging Mount Islip and Windy Gap Loop
  • The incredibly demanding South Mount Hawkins Loop
  • The overgrown Big Cienega Trail

Each trail offers unique sights and experiences. The Crystal Lake Cafe and nearby amenities provide hot meals, sandwiches, and camping necessities and are open Wednesday to Monday, catering to the needs of visitors and campers.

Fishing enthusiasts must have a California State fishing license to fish for rainbow trout in Crystal Lake, with an easily accessible entrance fee for day use and camping. If a peaceful retreat into the heart of nature is what you seek, Crystal Lake is the place to be.

Castaic Lake

Castaic Lake Near Los Angeles, California

Next on our journey is Castaic Lake, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts in the Castaic community. It offers a diverse range of activities such as boating, water skiing and wakeboarding, sailing, horseback riding, hiking, and more.

Over 7 miles of trails wind through the Castaic Lake area, accommodating hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding with varying difficulty levels that cater to novice and experienced trail enthusiasts. These trails are located near the beautiful Los Padres National Forest, providing a scenic backdrop for your outdoor adventures.

Family camping facilities are available on the east side of the Lower Lake. Anglers can enjoy 24-hour fishing from a pier located near the camping area, and all of these outdoor possibilities are located just over 10 miles from the city of Santa Clarita.

Malibu Creek Rock Pools

Heading west from Los Angeles past the Woodland Hills community and the city of Calabasas, fresh water recreation enthusiasts can find the Malibu Creek Rock Pools. Arguably the most beautiful and serene of all the lakes near LA, this natural area features an array of pools that can fill up quickly when the weather is nicest. 

This popular destination in the Santa Monica Mountains offers a picturesque environment that is suitable for visitors of all ages. To enjoy a scenic hike to Malibu Creek Rock Pools, visitors can embark on a 3-mile round trip using the Grassland Trail, starting from Mulholland Highway or opt for the main trail from the park's lower parking lot, which is located in the Agoura Hills community.

Adjacent to the Rock Pools, enthusiasts can find a rock wall, a favorite among local rock climbers—and movie buffs, as it was featured in the original 'Planet of the Apes' film. California State Parks advises against jumping or diving into the Rock Pools due to safety concerns but encourages exploration of the surrounding natural beauty.

So, if you're after a picturesque oasis with a hint of Hollywood history, not far from Beverly Hills, the Malibu Creek Rock Pools should be on your bucket list.

Wildlife Encounters

The serene lakes near Los Angeles, located within the Angeles National Forest, offer more than stunning views and recreational activities. Hikes and day trips to these destinations are some of the most popular things to do in Los Angeles, but remember that they also host a diverse range of wildlife. The trails offer opportunities to observe wildlife, notably a variety of birds, including herons, egrets, hawks, and ducks. You may also encounter a wide range of wildlife, such as deer, coyotes, rabbits, and squirrels, with the possibility of spotting larger predators like mountain lions, bears, and beavers.

Aquatic wildlife in natural lakes includes various fish species like catfish and bass, providing a rich fishing environment and attracting predators such as bald eagles during winter. Therefore, while enjoying the serene waters and engaging in various activities, remember to appreciate the abundant wildlife that makes these lakes their home.

Lakeside Events and Festivals

Lotus Blooming in Echo Lake in Los Angeles, California

In addition to the tranquil ambiance and outdoor activities, the lakes near Los Angeles are also popular venues for a myriad of events and festivals in the Los Angeles County region. The area around Los Angeles is home to a number of special events at its lakes, such as:

  • Triathlons
  • Cross country events
  • Track meets
  • Pro mountain bike races

Seasonal events and festivals in downtown Los Angeles, such as the Lotus Festival at Echo Park Lake, offer unique experiences at these serene locations.

These events may affect lake access for regular activities due to increased visitor numbers or specific event requirements. Therefore, visitors are encouraged to check local event calendars to avoid any inconvenience during their lakeside retreat. These events and festivals offer an added layer of excitement to your lakeside adventure.

Living The Los Angeles Lake Life

From Lake Balboa's family-friendly ambiance to the adventurous Pyramid Lake, we've explored some of the most serene lakes near the city of Los Angeles. Each of these lakes, with their unique offerings and stunning views, provides the perfect escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

Whether you're a nature enthusiast, an avid hiker, a water sports lover, or someone simply seeking tranquility, these lakes offer a refreshing retreat. So why wait? Pack your bags, follow our tips for a safe trip, and embark on your serene lakeside escape today. Experience the tranquility and beauty that these lakes have to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any natural lakes in Los Angeles?

No, there are no natural lakes in Los Angeles. Natural lakes are rare in Southern California, and the nearest ones are located further north, such as Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake. The Malibu Creek Rock Pools, though not a lake, are natural.

What is the biggest lake in Los Angeles?

The biggest lake in Los Angeles is Castaic Lake, the largest state water project reservoir in Southern California, containing over 11,200 acres of parkland and open space habitat.

If you're looking to make your home in Los Angeles, contact The Brad Korb Real Estate Group with LA Homes at (818) 953-5300 to discover your LA dream home today.

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