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11 Top-Rated Recreational Lakes near Arnold, CA

Arnold provides access to a variety of lakes in Calaveras County. Some options are mountain lakes with a short summer season, while others are large recreational reservoirs in the valley below.
itiswild.com Best Lakes near Arnold CA

Arnold is the perfect base for exploring Calaveras County’s numerous lakes and reservoirs. 

Visitors can experience mountain lakes with a short summer season which are great for escaping summer’s heat.

The valley below the High Sierras is home to some of the largest recreational reservoirs in California that operate year-round.

Most of the lakes allow swimming, boating, and camping, while anglers can enjoy warm and cold-water fishing.

There is something for everyone here. Learn more about the area and discover what Arnold has to offer!

Lakes near Arnold:

  1. White Pines Lake
  2. New Melones Lake
  3. Beardsley Lake
  4. Spicer Meadow Reservoir
  5. Utica Reservoir
  6. Union Reservoir
  7. Lake Alpine
  8. Pardee Reservoir
  9. New Hogan Lake
  10. Camanche Reservoir
  11. Don Pedro Lake
Lakes near Arnold California Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. White Pines Lake

  • Website: White Pines Lake
  • Distance from Arnold: 1 mile (5 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

A mile north of downtown Arnold, White Pines Lake was created in 1970. A 26-acre impoundment of San Antonio Creek, this tranquil lake surrounded by hills and forests also receives inflow from Big Trees Creek. 

Created after a lumber mill in the hamlet of White Pines closed, the original plan was for the lake to be surrounded by a residential subdivision that American Forest Products, Inc. intended to build between Arnold and Camp Connell. 

Designed to attract prospective homebuyers, the lake remained surrounded by nature as development plans fell through.

The Calaveras County Water District acquired the lake and surrounding land in 1977. The clear waters within the lake serve as a community water source. 

The White Pines Park Committee plays an important role in maintaining picnic areas, the beach site, BBQ pits, and other amenities along the lakeshore. 

A designated swimming area is available for seasonal swimming, with boating and fishing not permitted in that section of the lake. A disc-golf course is available near the lake.

Anglers who visit White Pines Lake will find largemouth bass and rainbow trout to be the predominant species. Black crappie and bluegill also swim in these waters.

2. New Melones Lake

A line of houseboats on the New Melones Lake in California.
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: New Melones Lake
  • Distance from Arnold: 25 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A drive of 25 miles south-southwest of Arnold, New Melones Lake took shape after the US Army Corps of Engineers built a hydroelectric dam on the Stanislaus River. 

Constructed to generate hydroelectricity, the earth and rockfill dam also supplies water for communities and irrigation and has created new recreation opportunities in Calaveras County. 

With an average of 12,500 surface acres, this reservoir near Mother Lode – where the 1849 California Gold Rush began – is the state’s fourth-largest in size. 

The trip from Arnold to New Melones is an elevation drop of more than 2,900 feet.

New Melones Lake is a popular recreation site. Activities include sailing, swimming, boating, fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding, wildlife viewing, rock climbing, biking, horseback riding, camping, and hiking. 

Federal recreation areas at Glory Hole and Tuttletown are popular destinations.

Those who enjoy fishing will find a variety of species in this reservoir. Bass, Kokanee salmon, bluegill, back crappie, channel catfish, and rainbow trout swim here.

3. Beardsley Lake

Reflection in clear blue lake in Northern California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Beardsley Lake
  • Distance from Arnold: 37 miles (1hr 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Windsurfing

A mountainous trip a little more than 35 miles east of Arnold allows visitors to experience Beardsley Lake. 

Created as an impoundment on the Stanislaus River’s Middle Fork, this reservoir spans between 650 and 720 surface acres. 

This dam impounding the lake, along with a smaller afterbay dam, were built in the late 1950s to generate hydroelectricity.

Located in Stanislaus National Forest, the Beardsley Reservoir has adjacent recreation facilities.

Although the lake is open year-round, facilities close during the winter season as roads may become impassable during heavy snow. 

Day-use areas at Beardsley on the lake’s southern shore and China Flat at the dam offer great locations to fish for brown, brook, and rainbow trout. 

The Beardsley Dam Campground and nearby TeleLi puLaya (Black Oak) Campground provide great night-sky viewing for overnight visitors.

4. Spicer Meadow Reservoir

  • Website: Spicer Meadow Reservoir
  • Distance from Arnold: 31 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

Spicer Meadow Reservoir is 31 miles northeast of Arnold in the Stanislaus National Forest. This impoundment of Highland Creek, a tributary of the Stanislaus River, can extend up to 2,000 surface acres when full. 

The dam, constructed in 1989, is managed by the Calaveras County Water District. 

Visitors to this area, with an elevation of 6,621 feet above sea level, enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, and horseback riding in a timbered setting. 

Low-speed boating is permitted in the lower part of the lake, with the northern arm set aside for canoeing and kayaking. 

Visitors who wish to stay overnight may camp at the Spicer Reservoir Campground. This High Sierra lake is known for its rainbow trout.

5. Utica Reservoir

Kayaking Utica Reservoir in California
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Website: Utica Reservoir
  • Distance from Arnold: 31 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, ATV Trails

Thirty-one miles northeast of Arnold and a couple of miles north of the Spicer Meadow Reservoir, Utica Reservoir was developed after a dam was constructed along the North Fork of the Stanislaus River in 1903. 

Reachable during the warmer months by taking Spicer Reservoir Road, this lake spans approximately 240 acres in a rustic area. 

A popular summer and fall destination, the waters in this granite basin are located in forests of lodgepole pine and red fir. Visitors will notice many rocky islands along the water.

Campers may stay at two campsites along Utica Reservoir, Rocky Point and Sandy Flat. 

With an elevation of 6,800 feet, cool evenings continue into the summer at this location, popular for camping, boating, and fishing. 

Fish are not stocked in this reservoir, though an angler may see an occasional trout.

6. Union Reservoir

Union Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest, California, USA
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Union Reservoir
  • Distance from Arnold: 31 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

Located immediately southeast of Utica Reservoir, Union Reservoir is its 192-acre upriver sibling. 

A rockfill dam constructed in 1910 created this reservoir of the Stanislaus River’s North Fork in 1910. 

Together, these scenic reservoirs and their granite basins and forested surroundings attract visitors in the late spring, summer, and fall who want to escape to the higher elevations of Alpine County.

Guests who wish to stay overnight should attempt to secure a first come, first served space at either the Union East or Union West Campgrounds

Although this reservoir and nearby Utica are open year-round, winter visitors may find it difficult to gain access along high-elevation roads. 

Fish found within Union Reservoir include rainbow trout, brown trout, Kokanee salmon, and smallmouth bass.

7. Lake Alpine

Gorgeous Lake Alpine at Ebbets Pass in Alpine country over highway 4
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Alpine
  • Distance from Arnold: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing

Located a little more than 25 miles northeast of Arnold, Lake Alpine was created by a rockfill impoundment in 1891. Silver Creek flows from the other side of the dam. 

Visitors will enjoy views of Inspiration Point, casting a presence over the lake’s southeastern shore. 

Located in the Calaveras Ranger District of Stanislaus National Forest, this pleasant 170-acre lake offers opportunities to fish for trout, hike, camp, and enjoy high-elevation relaxation.

This lake is easily accessed from Route 4. It offers several campgrounds and a family-run lodge with a restaurant and boat rentals.

Winter visitors who venture to the area near the reservoir may enjoy activities in the Lake Alpine SNO-PARK

Located near the winter closure gate along California Highway 4, this area has become a popular destination for cross-country skiing, snow play, dog sledding, and snowmobiling.

8. Pardee Reservoir

California fisherman holding a 6 pound largemouth bass caught at Lake Pardee.
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pardee Reservoir
  • Distance from Arnold: 46 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

A 46-mile drive towards Mokelumne Hill, Pardee Reservoir sits in the Sierra Nevada foothills. 

Between 1927 and 1929, crews built the 345-foot-high Pardee Dam that created this reservoir to store water from the down-mountain flow of the Mokelumne River. 

The East Bay Municipal Utility District collects water from the Pardee Reservoir to serve the San Francisco Bay region. 

As a source of drinking water, the Pardee Reservoir cannot be used by swimmers, jet skiers, or water skiers. 

Although body contact with water is prohibited, fishing may occur along the 37-mile shoreline and aboard vessels launched into the reservoir at the Pardee Recreation Area

Boat rentals are available. Day-use facilities include picnic areas and hiking trails. Visitors may reserve overnight camping sites.

Most guests fish for trout. Other common species found in the Pardee Reservoir include catfish, black bass, bluegill, crappie, and kokanee salmon. 

9. New Hogan Lake

New Hogan Lake in California
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Website: New Hogan Lake
  • Distance from Arnold: 43 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

New Hogan Lake became a reservoir for the forks of the Calaveras River after the New Hogan Dam came into service in 1964. 

Approximately 4,400 acres in size, this lake near Valley Springs collects water for drinking, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. 

Vistas along the southern shore offer locations to spot grey foxes, turkeys, and mule deer, as well as the occasional eagle, bobcat, and mountain lion.

Along with a number of land-based activities, year-round fishing opportunities exist at Hogan Lake. Fishers commonly spot bass, bluegill, stripers, and catfish. Guides recommend casting a line in shallow water for some of the best catches.

Warm summertimes amidst the hills make this a popular spot for swimming as temperatures get into the 90s. 

The Acorn Campground offers a place to stay overnight. Seasonal hunting is permitted in some areas.

10. Camanche Reservoir

Aerial view of the beautiful Camanche Reservoir, Sacramento, California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Camanche Reservoir
  • Distance from Arnold: 47 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A 47-mile drive from Arnold, the Camanche Reservoir represents a portion of the Mokelumne River resting above the Camanche Dam that began service in 1964. 

Flooding occasionally occurred along the lower sections of the Mokelumne River before the construction of this dam, one managed by the East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

The 7,700-acre reservoir has grown into a popular fishing, recreation, lodging, and camping destination. 

Anglers commonly see crappie, catfish, sunfish, bluegill, kokanee, and varieties of bass. A private entity under contract with the National Park Service manages concession operations. 

The former town of Camanche existed along some of the areas now submerged under the reservoir. As construction began in 1962, nearly 50 families abandoned the former town. 

11. Don Pedro Lake

Afternoon view of the beautiful Don Pedro Reservoir at Tuolumne County, California
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Don Pedro Lake
  • Distance from Arnold: 45 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Sailing, Windsurfing

At 13,000 acres, Don Pedro Lake is the 5th largest reservoir in California. It’s one of the highest-rated and visitor-friendly lakes in the area.

The reservoir is managed by its own recreation agency that offers two main access areas – Lake Don Pedro Marina and Moccasin Point. Both locations are well-developed and provide boat ramps, boat rentals, campgrounds, swimming areas, and more.

Camping is fantastic at the reservoir. Visitors can stay at developed campgrounds with full hookups and Wi-Fi or camp along the banks. Don Pedro Lake is one of a few places where dispersed shoreline camping is still allowed.

Don Pedro Lake is large enough to allow for all sorts of boating activities, including wakeboarding and sailing. And the marinas provide support and rentals. Plus, a houseboat community on the lake adds to the charm.

Fishing here is a unique experience. Thanks to the lake’s great depth, Don Pedro Reservoir has both cold and warm water species. From bass, crappie, and catfish to trout, kokanee, and Chinook, there are plenty of species to target.

Swimming is allowed at Don Pedro Lake. It has fantastic beaches that get pretty busy in summer. The surrounding area has a selection of hiking trails to warm up before cooling off.

Don Pedro Reservoir is extraordinarily versatile and well-managed. It gets some of the highest ratings in California.

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