Discover the Blue Lakes of Lake County
May 13, 2022
The fish are always biting, and the waters are always clear at a unique pair of Northern California lakes called Blue Lakes. Located 135 miles north of San Francisco in placid and picturesque Lake County, Blue Lakes is composed of two separate lakes (Upper and Lower), but the locals refer to both lakes as a whole, calling them simply “Blue Lakes”— perhaps to honor their one-of-a-kind, limnological nature. Ahead, read more about the Blue Lakes, specifically what keeps these beauties so crystal clear; how to get access to the lakes; and where to eat, play, and stay.
Why the Blue Lakes Are So Clean
Lake County’s best-known lake is Clear Lake, whose unique geological factors make it the oldest lake in North America. Years ago, a giant landslide caused the water at Clear Lake to spill over, forming Blue Lakes, which benefit from an entirely different set of unique geological factors that render the waters uniquely clear and cool.
Sitting at the base of the scenic and pine-tree-covered Cold Creek Canyon, these lakes form their own little ecosystem with clean groundwater keeping them free from the spread of algae and other various aquatic weeds.
While many lakes all across California and western Canada experience an uptick in algae bloom, usually between the months of April and October, the uniquely positioned Blue Lakes remain unspoiled. Blue Lakes are spring-fed, leaving them unaffected by larger climatology factors that many are experiencing across western North America. That means the waters are clean and ideal for swimming and fishing pretty much year-round. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks about 1,000-1,200 pounds of trout into the Blue Lakes from the Narrows Family Resort boat launch once a month during the cooler months, typically October-May.
Ways to Access Blue Lakes
There are two ways to enjoy the beauty of Blue Lakes. The first is to stay right on the lake. There are a variety of camping and lodging options near Blue Lakes, but your best bet is one of the lodgings located right on the shores of the lakes themselves. There are four of them, and each one keeps a very small footprint on the natural environment, and their amenities are first-rate.
Stay on Blue Lakes
A gorgeous facility that’s especially well-suited for weddings, workshops, or other large events you might want to host on the lake, The Lodge at Blue Lake offers a number of electric boats rentals that comply with the Blue Lakes’ non-motorized boat policy, as well as kayaks, stand up paddle boards and hydro-bikes. It is also a dog-friendly resort.
Located on the backside of upper Blue Lakes, the Narrows Family Resort is a secluded, gated resort offering five cabins, four luxury yurts, two camping yurts, and 11 full hookup RV sites. For those looking for a variety of boating options, the lodge rents out Pontoon boats, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, canoes and pedal boats. The resort hosts movie nights under the stars every Saturday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
This resort has been around for more than a hundred years and takes pride in its family hospitality. Each of Le Trianon’s cabins has a screened-in porch and comes equipped with an outdoor picnic table and fire pit. Sailboaters, canoers, windsurfers, and kayakers are all welcome. Another plus? There’s a grocery store right on the property where you can buy fishing tackle, swimming gear, ice, firewood, beer, wine, and, of course, food.
At Pine Acres Resort, you can hook up your RV, camp on the edge of the lake, fish along the shoreline, or enjoy the area’s white sand beach and crystal clear water. Pine Acres offers nearly a dozen accommodations, with each cottage showcasing its own distinct amenities. The resort also rents out pedal boats, row boats, and kayaks for your leisure.
Buy a Day Pass for Blue Lakes
The second way to access Blue Lakes is to purchase a day pass. By taking this route, you get to play on the lake all day and still make it to Clear Lake — or back to Mendocino — before sundown.
The Lodge at Blue Lakes offers passes for guests, and even non-guests, so you don’t have to be staying the night to take advantage of all the resort’s facilities. The day pass, which extends access to everything from the spot’s beaches and docks to its lawns and grill zones, will run you $25 per person — and per dog.
Be sure to inquire at your resort of choice before making the drive, because not all resorts offer day passes.
Ways to Play at Blue Lakes
The Blue Lakes are blessed with natural wonders and fun activities that will make you fall in love with the great outdoors all over again. With so many things to see and do at the lakes, both on and off the water, there’s something for everyone.
On the Water
Blue Lakes is exceptionally popular for fishing trout and bluegill. It’s also great for boating, though boats with motors are not allowed. This helps maintain the water’s purity and ensures a peaceful and idyllic experience. That said, canoes, kayaks, row boats, and electric boats are all welcome. You can either bring your own or rent one from the vendors around the lakes.
Further lake activities include swimming, paddle-boarding, and hydro-boarding. Of course, the main only way to access the lake is through one of the four lodgings, or by purchasing a day pass. So keep that in mind when planning your day. Note: there is limited parking along Hwy 20 to reach the lakes, and the hillside slopes are often steep and slippery.
Off the Water
Rather not get your feet wet? The area is also popular for its bird-watching, with birders checking off bald eagles, great blue herons, snowy egrets, and loons from their lists. Hiking the nearby Mount Konocti, with trails for novice and more experienced hikers, is always a plus. And you can also frolic through acres of well-kept vineyards, tasting and sipping winery varietals all along the way.
Where to Eat at Blue Lakes
As Blue Lakes are the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, you won’t find any actual restaurants on the lakes. But you can find some great places a short drive away in Upper Lake. Grilling out is always a good idea if you’ve come prepared with dogs and buns, but should you want to let someone else do the cooking, the following list of Lake County favorites offer a good bite to eat.
The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe for upscale al fresco dining
Catch a table under the sycamore trees or on the veranda. Local wines, California cuisine, Sunday brunch and music many nights.
Treasure Cove for piping-hot pizza
Replenishment here comes in the form of thin-crust pies, crafted with house-made sauce, covered with a variety of tasty toppings, and served in a cozy, friendly space.
Mi Chelas for authentic Mexican
Chow down on signature family made Mexican dishes. The crew also offer breakfast classics all day, and there’s even alfresco seating available.
Cordial Confections for a little something sweet
When the sweet tooth calls, head to Cordial Confections for baked-from-scratch, locally sourced goods, including cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, and cinnamon streusel.
Judy’s Junction for breakfast all day
A locals favorite for decades.
So this summer, if you’re looking for a quiet respite (or maybe Clear Lake is just a little too crowded for you), head to Blue Lakes. One look at the unspoiled, clear waters, and the vast assortment of amazing activities that are available, and you’ll be glad you did. You can thank us later.