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While Los Angeles is famous for its beautiful golden sands, waves for surfing and calmer water for ocean swimming, this desert city is also within 100 miles of multiple lakes. If you’re looking for something different, these fresh bodies of water often provide stunningly scenic surroundings and you’ll also find some swimming holes and hot spring pools for memorable relaxing soaks. While some require a trek to reach, a refreshing dip is the perfect reward afterward.
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The 250-acre lake in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park known as Puddingstone Reservoir offers three separate activity areas along its five miles of shoreline: one for fishing, one for boating, and one for swimming. The swimming beach is located on the south shore, available from mid-July through Labor Day weekend with lifeguards on duty between 10 am and 6 pm daily. If you have a boat, you can drive it right up to the swimming area too. Plus, this lake is less than 27 miles east of downtown L.A.
The scenery here at Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest makes it worth a visit even for those who don’t plan on swimming. The lake, formed by the Cedar Springs Dam, reflects the often snow-capped mountains around it. Located between Hesperia and San Bernardino, the 80-mile drive from downtown L.A. will allow you to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature with white sandy beaches, including two swimming beaches, and abundant wildlife like deer and all sorts of birds, including raptors and the occasional bald eagle. There are lifeguards and clean bathrooms too. Just be sure to check that swimming has a green light to go before you travel there, as toxic algae can occasionally close it. Or just enjoy the great fishing, this is an angler’s paradise for trout, largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. Plus, you’ll find 13 miles of paved trails to hike or bike.
Located just over 30 miles from downtown L.A., technically this isn’t a lake but it’s a fantastic swimming hole. Situated beneath a canopy of sycamore trees and surrounded by rocks, the rock pool makes for a refreshing dip following the three-mile hike to get there. Along the trail, you’ll see the Planet of the Apes Wall, named after the film that was shot here. As the creek that forms the hole winds throughout the state park, there are multiple other swim spots too, making it easy to find a more tranquil option if one is too crowded.
Nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, less than 100 miles from Los Angeles, this seven-mile-long lake offers many beaches along the shoreline for swimming. If you head out to Garstin Island in the middle, you can leap off from the rocks into the water and enjoy it with few others around. Meadow Park is the place to go for a sandy beach with lifeguards and restrooms. You might also get out into the lake in a canoe, kayak, or on a paddle board, which can be rented at multiple marinas around the 23 miles of shoreline. There are plenty of scenic trails for walks through the forest or into the rugged mountains that surrounded the lake too.
If you’re looking for a stunning natural oasis, Deep Creek Hot Springs offers both cold and hot pools in the San Bernardino National Forest, just under 100 miles from downtown L.A. Clothing optional, the cluster of undeveloped hot springs sits along the Deep Creek fork of the Mojave River, surrounded by lush vegetation, and there’s a sandy beach for sunbathing too. The five main pools range from 100 to 105 degrees while a larger pool that’s big enough for swimming is the coolest option. There are two hikes that reach the area, the 2.5-mile Bowen Ranch trail and six-mile stretch that’s along the Pacific Coast Trail.
Located in Lake Gregory Regional Park, there are a ton of things to do here in addition to swimming in the 84-acre lake. There’s even a large waterpark with diving platforms, water slides, paddle boats, and fantastic beaches. It’s also popular for swimming with abundant brown and rainbow trout, while the Beach Club is ideal for those seeking an exclusive atmosphere without a high price. You can bring a picnic or dine at the Cove Café known for its delicious gourmet meals, hike through the forest and watch for wildlife too.
One of the popular lakes near Los Angeles for swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, and more, Lake Perris is located just 11 miles from Riverside and has pre-marked swimming areas by its beach where you can enjoy sunbathing in between your refreshing dips. There’s also a marina where you can rent a vessel and a store for picking up items for a picnic, beverages, and what not. Some even enjoy scuba diving, as it’s a good place to practice before heading to the sea. Biking, hiking, and horseback riding are available too.
Lake Elsinore boasts more than 14 miles of shoreline and plenty of sun-soaked spots for hanging out, along with countless activities on and off the water. The largest natural freshwater lake in Southern California, it’s located less than 70 miles southeast of L.A. and offers opportunities for swimming as well as kayaking, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and boating. There are three designated areas for fishing, beaches for wading that are safe for little ones to splash around, picnic areas, and volleyball courts. Plus you’ll be able to enjoy the Cleveland National Forest and Ortega Mountains as a picturesque backdrop.