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11 Lakes and Rivers for Recreation near Fresno, CA

Fresno has access to a selection of lakes and rivers that offer fantastic opportunities to cool down in summer and spend quality time with friends and families. Know your options.
ItIsWild.com: Lakes near Fresno

When Fresno gets scorching hot, there is no better way to cool down than to take a dip in chilling lakes and rivers. 

Luckily, there are plenty of options for swimming, kayaking, and boating around. Add BBQ, friends, and a few cold ones, and you get yourself the perfect weekend.

Lakes and Rivers near Fresno:

  1. Pine Flat Lake
  2. Hensley Lake 
  3. Millerton Lake
  4. Lost Lake Park
  5. North Riverside Park on Kings River
  6. Avocado Lake Park
  7. Choinumni Park
  8. Skaggs Bridge Park
  9. Winton Park
  10. H.V. Eastman Lake
  11. Shaver Lake
Lakes and Rivers near Fresno California Comparison Table

1. Pine Flat Lake

  • Official Page: Pine Flat Lake
  • Distance from Fresno: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Pine Flat Lake is a popular swimming spot that welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Yet, it doesn’t feel crowded, thanks to multiple recreation areas and 67 miles of shoreline. 

In addition to beaches and picnic spots, there are plenty of facilities for boating. For example, the lake has four launch ramps and two commercial marinas for long-term storage. 

Because of the proximity to Fresno, the lake is a popular day-use location. And two shoreside campgrounds also make weekend trips and longer stays possible.

And if you don’t want to get wet, you can go hiking in the nearby hills, which offer stunning views over the water. For example, consider Edison Point Trail that runs through the wildlife area and has charming vistas.

Overall, Pine Flat Lake is the perfect family escape with tons to do. It rarely disappoints.

Related: 9 Epic Lakes near Bishop, CA

2. Hensley Lake

Hensley Lake
  • Official Page: Hensley Lake
  • Distance from Fresno: 39 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Like Pine Flat, Hensley Lake is an artificial reservoir with a selection of beaches and campgrounds, perfect for escaping the city. 

There are two recreation areas at the lake. Buck Ridge is a day-use area with plenty of picnic tables and BBQ grills. While Hidden View – on the opposite shore – has a campground with showers, restrooms, and electric hookups.

The most popular activities here are fishing and boating. There are two launch ramps, one on each shoreside. Plus, you can hire a kayak and explore the lake.

Also, Buck Ridge has a popular hiking and mountain biking trail that makes a loop on the eastern shore. It is rich in wildlife and great for birding. So, it’s not all about water here.

The common complaints about the location are the lack of shade and the algae in the water. So, if you were planning on swimming, there are better options on this list.

Related: 7 Fantastic Lakes near Bakersfield, CA

3. Millerton Lake

Millerton Lake
  • Official Page: Millerton Lake
  • Distance from Fresno: 27 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Millerton Lake is one of the largest and most popular lakes near Fresno. It offers plenty of water activities but is also known for its wide selection of hiking and mountain biking trails and campgrounds. Needless to say, this is a spot that never gets boring.

Boaters have plenty of launching options and access to the marina for technical support and long-term storage. The lake is a popular choice for wakeboarding and water skiing, too.

Don’t have a boat? No problem. You can hire one or go on a boat tour to enjoy the lake. Also, you can hire kayaks and explore the multiple coves and beaches.

When it comes to camping, the area is well-developed, with multiple campgrounds on the north shore. The most popular choice is Meadow Campground, as it welcomes RVs and has electric hookups, showers, and clean restrooms.

There are plenty of hiking trails in the area. For example, if you decide to stay at Meadow, try Buzzards Roost Trail. It is a short climb to the overlook with sweeping views over the lake – perfect at sunset. And if you are looking for a more serene option, try climbing Pincushion Peak instead, or take the famous San Joaquin River Trail.

Related: 17 Top-Rated Trails near Fresno

4. Lost Lake Park

  • Official Page: Lost Lake Park
  • Distance from Fresno: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Lost Lake Park is a striking day-use area on the banks of the San Joaquin River. It is located a couple of miles downstream from Millerton Lake.

As the park stretches along the river, it provides multiple access points to the water, making it easy to find secluded spots (unless it’s a holiday weekend). 

However, it’s not recommended to use the river when the water is released from the dam, as the flow can get dangerous. Still, there is a quiet lake at the bottom of the park to avoid the current.

In addition to the day-use area, the park has a designated campground with picnic tables and BBQ grills. Perfect for a family weekend!

When it comes to activities, there are lots to do here. Kayaking, SUPing, and fishing are just some of them. Plus, you can go for nature hikes as there is a trail that follows the river. 

Still, most visitors prefer to cool down in the shade, escaping the busy city. While the beautiful scenery provides Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.

Related: 9 Epic Lakes near Bishop, CA

5. North Riverside Park – Kings River

North Riverside Park
  • Official Page: North Riverside Park
  • Distance from Fresno: 31 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Tubing, Hiking, Nature Trips

North Riverside Park is a quiet spot with access to the Kings River. It is located just below the Pine Flat Dam and is known mainly for fishing. 

Facilities here are limited; there are a few picnic tables, a restroom, and a small parking lot. This may be uninviting to some, but this means there are no crowds, which is the spot’s biggest advantage.

It’s an excellent place to play with a kayak, fish, or go for a dip when the flow is not too strong. In addition, there is a maintained nature trail that runs along the river offering charming views and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Related: 7 Fantastic Lakes near Bakersfield, CA

6. Avocado Lake Park

  • Official Page: Avocado Lake Park
  • Distance from Fresno: 25 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Nature Trips

Avocado Lake Park is a popular recreation area near Fresno. It features a small lake suitable for swimming, kayaking, and SUPs. Plus, there is access to Kings River, which is a common fishing spot.

The lake is surrounded by picnic tables and BBQ grills, but it also gets jam-packed. Arrive early if you want to secure a nice, shaded spot by the water. 

Other facilities include restrooms, launching ramps, and a children’s playground, making the lake the perfect choice for all the family.

Related: 17 Top-Rated Trails near Fresno

7. Choinumni Park

  • Official Page: Choinumni Park
  • Distance from Fresno: 29 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Tubing, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Choinumni Park is another stunning location on Kings River. It is located a few miles from the Pine Flat Dam and has a campsite, as well as picnic tables, BBQs, and lots of shade.  

The park is very tidy and seems to attract friendly folk. And when it comes to activities, there is plenty to do here. Apart from the usual river recreation – kayaking, tubing, and swimming, there is a nature trail that connects to the North Riverside Park (#5). 

Despite the park’s excellent reviews, it doesn’t get too crowded, and the only complaint is mosquitoes and bugs, so bringing a repellent is a good idea.

Related: 9 Epic Lakes near Bishop, CA

8. Skaggs Bridge Park (closed in winter)

  • Official Page: Skaggs Bridge Park
  • Distance from Fresno: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Tubing, Nature Trips

Skaggs Bridge Park is a small area on the San Joaquin River west of Fresno. It only operates from Easter until October, making it an excellent spot for escaping the heat in summer.

The facilities include BBQs, picnic tables, and a restroom. But the best thing about the park is its sandy beach. So if you aren’t a fan of pebbles, this location is for you.

The only complaint is how crowded the area gets on weekends. Arrive early to secure a spot in the shade.

Related: 7 Fantastic Lakes near Bakersfield, CA

9. Winton Park

  • Official Page: Winton Park
  • Distance from Fresno: 27 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Tubing, Nature Trips

Winton Park is the next spot downstream of Choinumni Park, on the Kings River. Although small, it is a top-rated destination for families and anglers. 

Depending on the season, the water can be really fast here, making it dangerous for swimming. Still, the area is clean and has plenty of picnic tables and BBQ spots. 

And just like Choinumni Park, it’s scenic and high-rated but not well-known, which makes it a perfect option for people who value nature and serenity.

Related: 17 Top-Rated Trails near Fresno

10. H.V. Eastman Lake

  • Official Page: H.V. Eastman Lake
  • Distance from Fresno: 45 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Eastman Lake is a large man-made reservoir completed in 1976. It is a popular recreational area not dissimilar to Millerton Lake or Hensley Lake but a little further away from Fresno.

When it comes to facilities, the lake has it all. Campgrounds, picnic areas, BBQ pits, boat launching ramps, and hiking trails make this area a popular destination. 

The reservoir is big enough to allow sailing, skiing, and wakeboarding. Also, you can explore the shoreline on kayaks or canoes. In other words, you can do any water-based activities here.

Also, there are a couple of trails that follow the lake. For example, the aptly named Lakeview Trail starts at Cordoniz Campground and runs through the rolling hills, providing some stunning views. It’s 4 miles long (one way), but you can make it as long or as short as you like.

11. Shaver Lake

Shaver Lake
  • Official Page: Shaver Lake
  • Distance from Fresno: 50 miles (60 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

The best for the last. Shaver Lake is located 50 miles away from Fresno but is definitely worth the drive. Part of the Sierra National Forest, it is the most scenic yet the most developed destination on this list.

The setting is simply stunning. The reservoir is surrounded by thick pine forests, has views of the Sierras, and features a selection of sandy beaches. What more can you wish for!

When it comes to facilities, Shaver Lake doesn’t just have the usual boat ramps, campgrounds, and showers, it also boasts the marina and a selection of cottages and cabins, making it an excellent year-round destination.

The popular activities here are jet ski, wakeboarding, and windsurfing. Also, you can race your friends on SUPs or explore the multiple coves in a kayak. It’s the top outdoors destination.

Tip: If you are into hiking, don’t miss the Bald Mountain – one of the high-rated climbs near Fresno. 

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