7 Lakes near Bakersfield, CA Swimming, Fishing, and Kayaking

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Located in a hot, dry valley, Bakersfield isn’t known for lakes or reservoirs. In fact, there are just a few options for water recreation around the city.

Still, this makes the available lakes even more precious, especially during the hot summer months when cooling down is on everyone’s mind.

The options below will help you choose your next adventure and plan a perfect lake getaway. 

Lakes near Bakersfield:

  1. Lake Ming
  2. Hart Park Lake
  3. Buena Vista Lakes
  4. Lake Isabella
  5. Ironwood Ranch Lakes (Members Only)
  6. Lake Woollomes
  7. Lake Success
Lakes near Bakersfield California Comparison Table

1. Lake Ming

Lake Ming
  • Official Page: Lake Ming
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 13 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Nature Trips, Hiking, Camping, Swimming (Kern River)

Lake Ming is a 104-acre lake near Bakersfield located in the Kern River County Park, and it’s the perfect spot for a family trip, especially when trying to escape summer’s heat.

The water in Lake Ming is untreated, so swimming is prohibited, but that doesn’t stop locals and visitors from making the most of it. Still, if you want to cool down in the water, Kern River nearby is an excellent option, but be aware of the current; it frequently sweeps people away.

The lake offers boat launching ramps, beautifully landscaped shoreline, picnic tables, and grills. And if you want to make a weekend out of it, there is Kern River Campground nearby.

Boating, kayaking, and canoeing are prevalent activities at the lake. Also, fishing is permitted with a valid license, and there are designated quiet zones where you can sit back and cast out.

Considering the lake’s proximity to the city and having easy access to the Kern River, it’s one of the best water destinations near Bakersfield.

Related: 9 Epic Lakes near Bishop, CA

2. Hart Park Lake

  • Official Page: Hart Park Lake
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 10 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Nature Trips, Camping, Swimming (Kern River)

Hart Park Lake is another lake near Bakersfield situated in the Kern River County Park. It is technically a neighbor to Lake Ming above. 

And just like Lake Ming, swimming is prohibited in Hart Park Lake itself, but there is access to the Kern River, where you can cool off in summer.

Still, Hart Park Lake is the perfect fishing spot. It has catfish, trout, and bass. As the lake is slightly smaller than Lake Ming, it’s more relaxing and serene than its bigger neighbour.

Besides fishing, the area also has plenty of hiking trails nearby, which are a lot of fun if you’re looking for active recreation.

The picnic spots by the lake are also well-developed, with picnic tables and on-site grills available. Fires can only be started in designated areas, and you’ll need to bring your own fuel, but still, grilling by the lake is a fun experience that makes Hart Park Lake an excellent option for an all-day trip!

If focussing on the lake, there are also kayak rentals nearby. It’s an excellent opportunity to get out on the water and explore.

Overall, Hart Park Lake has a lot going for it: it’s close to town, well developed, and offers tons of activities. Don’t miss this location!

Related: 15 Top-Rated Hikes near Bakersfield

3. Buena Vista Lakes

Buena Vista Lakes
Photo: Lightning in a Bottle 2019 music festival
  • Official Page: Buena Vista Lakes
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 29 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Buena Vista Area is a destination with two man-made lakes: Lake Evans and a much larger Lake Webb. 

At 873 acres, Lake Webb is a perfect spot for boating, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and water skiing. In contrast, Lake Evans is known for more peaceful activities like fishing, swimming, and paddling.

Also, Buena Vista offers several campgrounds, one of which is a large, developed space with over a hundred sites, many of which benefit from electric and water hookups and designated grills. 

Still, spending just a day here is also a great option. You will find picnic areas that can accommodate over 500 people, children’s play areas nearby, and three boat launching sites for a fun-filled day out on the water.

Overall, the Buena Vista Lakes are fantastic options for water recreation and family camping trips, and it’s just 35 minutes from downtown.

Related: 11 Lakes and River for Recreation near Fresno

4. Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella
Photo: David~OCC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Isabella
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 45 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Nature Trips, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Lake Isabella is an 11,000-acre reservoir formed in 1953 by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and is Kern County’s largest body of water. Serviced by Kern River, it remains full year-round and is a fantastic spot for water recreation.

Because of its size, Lake Isabella can accommodate vast amounts of people and activities at once. Everything from the more serene activities of sailing and fishing to exciting days spent boating, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and wakeboarding.

Fishing is excellent here. The lake boasts high reviews and has plenty of species. Look out for trout, bass, catfish, bluegill, and crappie, which all make Lake Isabella their home.

Also, the shoreline is dotted with campgrounds, making the lake an excellent choice for multi-day trips. And the trails in the neighboring Sequoia National Forest offer even more recreational options.

There are plenty of restrooms, restaurants, inns, and lodges, too. It’s a buzzing destination, especially in summer. 

Considering all the activities and a wide selection of accommodation options, this destination is certainly worth the one-hour drive; in fact, it often attracts visitors from as far as LA.

Related: 15 Top-Rated Hikes near Bakersfield

5. Ironwood Ranch Lakes (Members Only)

Ironwood Ranch Lakes
  • Official Page: Ironwood Ranch Lakes
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Water Skiing, Wakeboarding

Ironwood Ranch Lakes are members-only lakes south of Bakersfield used for wakeboarding and water skiing. 

Ironwood Ranch Lakes is the perfect place to improve skills and learn from the best. In fact, the location is famous for being a world-class water-skiing site, making this a thrill-seekers paradise! 

In addition to training and tournaments, the lakes are an excellent place for beginners who want to try wakeboarding and skiing for the first time. It is a safer environment compared to public lakes.

Related: 9 Epic Lakes near Bishop, CA

6. Lake Woollomes

Lake Woollomes
  • Official Page: Lake Woollomes
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 34 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing

Lake Woollomes is a 300-acre reservoir with 4 miles of shoreline, making it a cozy location for water recreation.

Swimming is allowed here, making this destination perfect for hot summer days. There’s also a boat dock and a launch ramp for those wishing to take to the water. But, the use is restricted to non-powered boats, so only sailboats, SUPs, and kayaks can be used on the lake.

There are also designated picnic areas, sheltered areas, restrooms, grassy picnic areas, and playgrounds for kids – perfect family location!

What’s missing, however, are campgrounds and trails. If you are planning a multi-day trip, Lake Woollomes isn’t ideal. And its location among the vineyards and farms doesn’t offer any hiking or biking options. 

Still, it’s only 40 minutes from Bakersfield and can work as an excellent day trip option.

Related: 11 Lakes and River for Recreation near Fresno

7. Lake Success

Lake Success
  • Official Page: Lake Success
  • Distance from Bakersfield: 59 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Nature Trips, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Lake Success is a 2,450-acre lake in Tulare County and was first formed in 1961 as a dam for flood control and water supply. It has since been used for hydropower and is also maintained for recreation and wildlife.

Perhaps the best thing about this lake is that it is nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. It provides a stunning backdrop to the water and offers excellent opportunities for landscape photography.

Lake Success benefits from picnic sites, shelters, and children’s play areas, making a trip here perfect for everyone. 

Also, there are several developed campgrounds around the lake, giving you an opportunity for multi-day trips, especially considering the distance from Bakersfield.

Another great thing about the lake is that it offers plenty of boating facilities with ramps, rentals, and even a marina. Any water activity imaginable is possible here, including more traditional kayaking and canoeing.

Although it’s over an hour away, Lake Success is a fantastic option that shouldn’t be overlooked. The expanse, the stunning backdrop, and developed facilities make this lake one of the best on the list.

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