Lovely lakes to visit in San Diego, California

It’s not just about the beautiful beaches in our county — we’re a land of great lakes, too.

Lake Murray

Lake Murray is an East County staple.

Photo via @geek_89_31

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Yes, San Diego is renowned for its gorgeous coastline, but our county is also home to many lovely lakes + reservoirs that give us all kinds of recreation options — especially during these sunny summer days. Let’s check out some of our local lakes.

Lower Otay Reservoir

Lower Otay Reservoir is a beautiful place for a stroll. | Photo via @playfulmonkeycosplay

Lower Otay Reservoir, 1500 Wueste Rd., Chula Vista

This artificial lake is flanked by Otay Open Space Preserve and offers water activities like boats and kayaks, plus fishing (think largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish). Leashed dogs are allowed, and the reservoir has areas for picnics + BBQs. It’s open sunrise to sunset Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday — except the second Wednesday of each month.

Oh, and super low-key fun fact: This is where Olympic hopefuls from the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center train for rowing sports.

Lake Murray

Lake Murray has a great path for walking + biking. | Photo via @august003

Lake Murray, 5540 Kiowa Dr., La Mesa

Located in East County (within the boundaries of Mission Trails Regional Park — our fave for hiking), this reservoir also offers boat rentals + fishing. The path along the lake is great for walking, jogging, or bicycling, offering pretty views of the water along the way. When you reach the end of the path, there’s a bullseye sign — you better tap it “or your lap doesn’t count.” Lake Murray is open daily, except the second Tuesday of each month.

Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes is home to a campground, playgrounds + seven manmade lakes.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, 9310 Fanita Pkwy.

This privately-owned, 190-acre park boasts seven manmade lakes, many playgrounds, a campground, and seven lakefront rental cabins. The spot is popular for fishing + boating too, and also features picnic areas and a Sprayground that’s a hit with little ones during those hot East County days. There’s an Angry Pete’s restaurant near Lake 4, where you can dine on the deck overlooking the water. Santee Lakes is open daily and parking fees range from $4-$7 — plus $3-$5 for the Sprayground.

Lake Poway

Lake Poway.

Photo via @shortguypics

Lake Poway

Lake Poway.

Photo via @shortguypics

Lake Poway, 14644 Lake Poway Rd.

The City of Poway owns this dam and reservoir that serves as the water supply and recreation area for boating (weekends only), fishing, and hiking. Lake Poway also hosts many of the community’s special events throughout the year. It’s open daily at 6 a.m.; parking is free for Poway residents (ask for a resident sticker) and $10 on weekends and holidays for non-residents.

Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings is a little escape in Lakeside.

Photo via @lakejennings

Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings in Lakeside.

Photo via @syv24

Lake Jennings, 9535 Harritt Rd., Lakeside

Camping, boating, fishing + hiking (the trail around the lake is about 5.5 miles) are some of the ways to get your rec on at this reservoir. Lake Jennings is stocked with 30,000-lbs of fish throughout the year (catfish in the summer) — the current lake record is an 84.4-lb blue catfish caught in January 2020. It’s open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Lake San Marcos

The marina at Lake San Marcos.

Photo via @katie_Iavieri

Lake San Marcos, 1025 La Bonita Dr.

This lake is the focal point of Lakehouse Hotel & Resort in San Diego’s North County, and offers all kinds of boat rentals, kayaks, paddleboards + dock fishing. With the hotel, golf course + lakefront dining, we can vouch that this makes for a nice, quick getaway.

Lake Miramar

Strolls around Lake Miramar are pretty + peaceful.

Photo via @madsjlonzrick

Miramar Reservoir, 10710 Scripps Lake Dr., Scripps Ranch

According to the City of San Diego, this reservoir has been an important part of the city’s drinking water system for 62 years, working alongside the adjacent Miramar Water Treatment Plant. In terms of rec, locals can enjoy boating rentals, fishing, and picnic areas. Leashed dogs are allowed, too. Lake Miramar is open daily, but closed the first Tuesday of every month.

SD Chollas Lake Park

Chollas Lake Park is a designated fishing space for kids.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Chollas Lake Park, 6350 College Grove Dr.

This rec space has been a designated youth fishing lake since 1971 and offers free fishing clinics every Tuesday and Thursday for kids age 15 and under (they can even borrow equipment). You’ll also find lakeview nature trails, gardens, a playground, and special programs like archery lessons and adult walking groups. It’s open at 6:30 a.m. daily.

SD Lake Hodges Bridge

The bike and pedestrian bridge at Lake Hodges makes for a beautiful stroll.

Photo via @ender_in_exile

Lake Hodges, 20175 Lake Dr., Escondido

When the Hodges Dam was built in 1918, this lake was formed. Visitors can enjoy rental boats, kayaks, fishing, picnic tables, and hiking along a portion of the Coast to Crest Trail. It’s open Wednesdays and weekends, sunrise to sundown — from February through October. Don’t miss a stroll on the picturesque bridge, too.

SD Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca in San Diego’s East County also features a campground.

Lake Cuyamaca, 15027 Highway 79, Julian

Located in East County’s mountains near Julian, Lake Cuyamaca makes for a fun day trip. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, birdwatching, a playground, picnic areas, boat rentals, and fishing — and even a lakefront pub. If you want to stay longer, there’s a campground for RVs and tents, as well as cabin rentals.

SD El Capitan Reservoir

Boating and fishing at El Capital Reservoir in Lakeside.

El Capitan Reservoir, 16850 El Monte Rd., Lakeside

When the El Capitan Dam was completed in 1935, this East County reservoir was created and connected to the local water system. Visitors can boat, fish, BBQ, and picnic here — and leashed dogs are allowed on the shore. It’s open Friday-Tuesday, a half-hour before sunrise to sunset.

Hey, lake lover. This is just a sampling of reservoirs + lakes in San Diego County — we know there are others, so if we missed your favorite, please let us know because we’re definitely on board for another roundup down the road. 🛶

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