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11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Temecula, CA

Temecula has access to a wide selection of reservoirs with various recreational opportunities. A few are full-on recreational lakes with no limits. Yet, most have restrictions on body contact and offer limited access.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Temecula, CA

Temecula offers access to a wide variety of lakes, most of which are within an hour’s drive.

Several reservoirs are full-on recreational lakes with hardly any restrictions. Yet, most limit body contact with water to preserve water quality and adhere to state laws.

Still, whether you’re looking for an excellent fishing lake, a beach, or a place to race jet skis, there are plenty of options here.

Check out what Temecula has to offer!

Lakes near Temecula:

  1. Skinner Reservoir
  2. Lake Elsinore
  3. Diamond Valley Lake
  4. Lake Henshaw
  5. Lake Mathews
  6. Dixon Lake
  7. Lake Wohlford
  8. Lake Hodges
  9. Lake Sutherland
  10. Lake Hemet
  11. Perris Reservoir
Lakes near Temecula California Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Skinner Reservoir

Skinner Reservoir California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Skinner Reservoir
  • Distance from Temecula: 12 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Sailing

Commonly known as Lake Skinner, this artificial reservoir took shape in 1973 after crews built the Skinner Clearwell Dam. 

Located just 12 miles from Temecula, the Skinner Reservoir includes popular recreational facilities managed by the Riverside County Regional Park.

Since the water in this reservoir is preserved for possible use as a drinking source by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, no body contact is permitted within the reservoir. 

A nearby splash pad provides a chance to cool off. Also, there are hiking and horseback trails and parkland. A large campground offers overnight stays.

Fishing is permitted and is a popular activity at Skinner Reservoir. Channel catfish, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and stripers are common catches. 

Access fees are required for visits to this location.

2. Lake Elsinore

Lake Elsinore California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Elsinore
  • Distance from Temecula: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located 20 miles northwest of Temecula, Lake Elsinore is almost entirely surrounded by a city with the same name that offers multiple access points. At 2,993 acres, this body of water is Southern California’s largest natural freshwater lake. 

Situated in an urban area, this lake is occasionally subject to excessive algae blooms that may require its closure to swimming, fishing, kayaking, and boating. 

While such blooms may occur in lakes regardless of urbanized surroundings, occasional closures have a great impact on Lake Elsinore, a city with more than 71,000 residents.

Originally named Laguna Grande (Large Lagoon) by Spanish explorers, this freshwater body played an important role in nurturing agricultural developments long before the area was urbanized. 

Arroyos, usually dry creek pathways that allow canyons from the nearby Elsinore Mountains to drain into the lake, are common features on the lake’s west side.

Parks and beaches offer public access to the lake, with a selection of businesses offering jet skis and similar recreation supplies. 

This warm water fishery includes bluegill, black and white crappie, channel catfish, and largemouth bass.

3. Diamond Valley Lake

Diamond Valley Lake in California
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Diamond Valley Lake
  • Distance from Temecula: 27 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

A visit to the present site of Diamond Valley Lake before the late 1990s would have taken the visitor to a different landscape. 

Construction on this extensive reservoir began then as a plan to store emergency supplies of drinking water for populous communities of Southern California. 

Located just 27 miles from downtown Temecula, Diamond Valley Lake represents long-term planning that has created a great habitat for wildlife and a popular location for recreational opportunities. 

Able to store up to 264 billion gallons when full, Diamond Valley Lake collects water from the northern part of the state that arrives from a more-than 440 mile-long aqueduct and pipeline network. 

Managed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the reservoir serves as the site of the Diamond Valley Lake Marina, a popular lakeview trail, and abundant recreation facilities. 

Although fishing, kayaking, and boating with clean burning engines are permitted, body contact in the water is prohibited to preserve the reservoir’s integrity as a source of potable water. 

Water skiing, swimming, and personal watercraft use are not permitted in Diamond Valley Lake. 

4. Lake Henshaw

Lake Henshaw California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Henshaw
  • Distance from Temecula: 36 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Camping, Picnics

Situated in northern San Diego County, Lake Henshaw is a 1,140-acre artificial reservoir for crop irrigation. A 35-mile drive southeast of Temecula, the lake has become a popular inland destination for larger cities such as San Diego (approximately 60 miles to the southwest) and Los Angeles (nearly 110 miles to the northwest).

Constructed in 1923, Henshaw Dam collects water from the San Luis Rey River and is managed by the Vista Irrigation District

Lake Henshaw Resort offers campsites, and there are other camping facilities along Palomar Mountain, northwest of the reservoir, and other nearby areas. 

Those wishing to transport watercraft to the lake should only plan to bring boats larger than 12 feet in length. Smaller boats, canoes, pontoons, and other personal watercraft are not permitted.

The lake’s large size and close proximity to mountains may lead to strong winds and rough waves, so boaters should plan accordingly. 

A popular place for fly fishing and bow fishing, the shallow flats offer a great destination for casting a line for carp. Crappie and largemouth bass are also widely available.

5. Lake Mathews

Lake Mathews California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Mathews 
  • Distance from Temecula: 37 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Hiking, Photography, Birdwatching

A place to see in passing but not visit, Lake Mathews serves as an important water reservoir managed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. 

Forty miles northwest of Temecula, the site of this reservoir once held a large carob orchard. 

Construction on this waterway – originally known as the Cajalco Reservoir – took place in the 1930s to create a source of potable water to serve the growing Los Angeles region.

For more than 80 years since its establishment, Lake Mathews has had a fence surrounding it to restrict access. 

No swimming, fishing, boating, or other direct public access is permitted due to concerns that extensive human contact in the water may compromise its drinking quality. 

Previous attempts to provide access, including efforts by nearby organizations and municipalities in Riverside County, have been unsuccessful.

Along much of the southern shore, the reservoir edges against the Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve. An important site for bird nesting, this reserve offers no direct public access to the lake.

6. Dixon Lake

  • Website: Dixon Lake
  • Distance from Temecula: 31 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Completed as a water reservoir in 1971, Dixon Lake preserves water for the San Diego area. With access offered by the city of Escondido, this small reservoir of fewer than 70 acres has gained the reputation of having some of the biggest largemouth bass on the planet.

Escondido manages access to the lake, which is open every day except Christmas. The lake and surrounding grounds offer a popular fishing, camping, hiking, and picnicking destination. 

Although gas-powered outboards and privately owned boats are not permitted on Dixon Reservoir, boats are available for those who want access to the lake. The city charges an admission fee and requires a daily fishing permit.

While visitors will see carp, bluegill, trout, and crappie along with the bass, they will have to refrain from having any body contact with the water. No wading or swimming is permitted within the lake.

7. Lake Wohlford

Lake Wohlford California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Wohlford
  • Distance from Temecula: 35 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Picnics, Hiking

Similar to Dixon Lake, access to Lake Wohlford on its northern shore is managed by Escondido. Part of the foothills region north of San Diego, this lake is 35 miles south of Temecula.

Cottonwood, oak, and sycamore trees surround this 146-acre lake, one of the most popular inland fishing destinations in the greater San Diego area. 

This lake provides potable drinking water for the region, so no wading, swimming, or body contact is permitted. And pets should be left at home, as well. 

To prevent the proliferation of quagga mussels, park officials prohibit private watercraft and flotation devices. This ban includes canoes, kayaks, boats, flotation devices, and any other item – such as a trolling motor – that may bring invasive mussels into the lake.

Anglers who cast a line at Lake Wohlford will not be disappointed. Sufficient amounts of trout, bluegill, and largemouth bass swim in the lake. Crappie and catfish are also present.

Lake Wohlford Resort nearby offers cabins, a swimming pool, and a cafe to support the lake’s visitors. 

8. Lake Hodges

Lake Hodges California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Hodges
  • Distance from Temecula: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Created after the construction of the Hodges Dam along San Dieguito Creek, Lake Hodges now has a maximum capacity of approximately 1,234 surface acres. 

A 40-mile drive south of Temecula, this reservoir is currently managed by irrigation and water management authorities in the San Diego area. The dam opened in 1918 and needs regular maintenance.

A boat launch is maintained by San Diego. Recreational trails found in the area offer great birdwatching, hiking, and biking opportunities.

Fishing is a popular activity along the water, though swimming and most other human contact activities within the reservoir are prohibited or limited. 

Since February 2019, stand-up paddle boarders have legally been allowed to use portions of the lake.

Popular fish include bass and crappie. 

9. Lake Sutherland

  • Website: Lake Sutherland
  • Distance from Temecula: 57 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Situated 57 miles away, Lake Sutherland was created with the construction of the Sutherland Dam between 1927 and 1954. Located northeast of Ramona, the area around this reservoir offers a variety of outdoor recreation activities.

West of the lake and downstream from the dam, the areas around Santa Ysabel Creek have great trails with wildflowers and birdwatching opportunities. 

Some roads in the area around the lake are made of dirt and gravel, an important consideration during inclement weather.

Those interested in fishing on a boat should check local conditions. During periods of extreme drought, boat launches and boat rentals may not be available due to water levels. 

Crappie and catfish are popular catches for anglers.

Cleveland National Forest nearby offers additional trails, OHV roads, and dispersed camping.

10. Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet California
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Lake Hemet
  • Distance from Temecula: 49 miles (1 h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Lake Hemet is nestled by the San Jacinto Mountains, some 49 miles from downtown Temecula.

This popular destination on the western side of the mountains sits approximately 4,330 feet above sea level. 

Workers finished the original dam that created this reservoir in 1895. The Lake Hemet Municipal Water District maintains this 470-acre lake and an adjacent campground that sits in the San Bernardino National Forest.

In addition to shoreline fishing, boats are available for rental from the Water District. 

Anglers will find largemouth bass and trout abundant in the waters. 

Access requires the purchase of a federal Adventure Pass or Interagency Pass. 

11. Perris Reservoir

Perris Reservoir California
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Perris Reservoir
  • Distance from Temecula: 32 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

A drive north of Temecula takes visitors to Perris Reservoir. The southernmost portion of the California State Water Project, this artificial lake began to fill in 1973. 

The Lake Perris State Recreation Area provides access and offers boat ramps, campgrounds, swimming areas, and trails.

Fish commonly spotted in the reservoir include bluegill, carp, catfish, crappie, and redear sunfish. The largemouth bass is a popular catch, and stocking of rainbow trout occurs from the fall through spring. 

At over 1,550 above sea level, Perris Reservoir has become a popular summertime party destination to escape the desert valley heat.

Abundant fish and amphibian populations attract avocets, egrets, herons, kingfishers, and stilts. Owls and a variety of wildlife, including bobcats, coyotes, and mule deer frequent the coastal sage scrub near the reservoir. 

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