Lake Pillsbury: California’s bucolic gem in Lake County

April 14, 2016

Located in the heart of Mendocino National Forest

There are vacation getaways, and then there are true hideaways—those unspoiled, hidden, well-kept secret spots that let you unplug from the day-to-day to recharge your battery in the mountains, forests and all that Mother Nature has to offer.
For years, Californians have enjoyed a camping sweet spot three hours north of San Francisco at Lake Pillsbury, the largest lake in California wine country’s Mendocino National Forest, and among the most pristine and beautiful. At peace with nature, you can easily lose yourself at Lake Pillsbury, surrounded by forests of colossal pine trees, majestic peaks and the crystal-clear waters of a lake that’s at a high elevation but still stays under the radar.

Lake Pillsbury California
Calming view from the Lake Pillsbury Resort.

While Lake Pillsbury is located in Mendocino National Forest, you won’t find it in Mendocino County. The manmade lake sits squarely in Lake County, the flourishing high-altitude region in the northern part of wine country, which is also home to the cleanest air in the US, and offers the natural magic of boating, hiking, camping and fishing on its whopping 65 miles of shoreline.


The hospitality centerpiece of Lake Pillsbury is the Lake Pillsbury Resort & Marina, a premier vacation spot with a rich history going back more than 60 years. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day (with limited accommodations at other times throughout the year), the Lake Pillsbury Resort & Marina offers lakeside cabins, campgrounds, water sports and a boating marina with docks. No need to haul your own boat here, because Lake Pillsbury Resort rents out both boats and kayaks on site. Some cabins at the resort even offer a private beach setting to help you kick back and relax. Wi-Fi is available in some areas, and dogs are welcome as long as they’re kept on a leash.
Lovers of the great outdoors can lodge in style at the Lake Pillsbury Resort or at other great places to stay in Lake County, but there are also campgrounds at the Lake Pillsbury Recreation Area. A no-reservations-required, first-come, first-served park operated by the US Forest Service and PG&E, the Lake Pillsbury Recreation Area is a great casual camping option for families, couples or groups. Multiple campgrounds for both tent and RV camping are available. The park also has miles upon miles of hiking trails for outdoor daytime wandering.
But the big lake itself is what makes this getaway a true gem, thriving with scenic boating tours and action-packed water sports. The fishing is world class, as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks Lake Pillsbury with trout each year. The whole range of boat rental and boat services is available in close proximity to Lake Pillsbury.
It’s a special place for wildlife-watching, most notably because bald eagles are known to appear several months each year. Mendocino is one of only two national forests where the rare and majestic tule elk can be seen, a species once thought to be extinct. Deer will often appear at Lake Pillsbury, as will foxes, quail and, of course, squirrels and chipmunks.
Californians have been visiting Lake Pillsbury to relax and unplug for generations. It’s part of Lake County’s outdoor paradise, where majestic scenery and routine wildlife converge. Make Lake Pillsbury part of your vacation plans this year, and you’ll get a pastoral getaway that will take your breath away.