Sacramento can get downright blazingly hot in the summer. Two great rivers run through the area, urban forests offer some respite and Delta breezes can cool the evening down nicely. But when the days just get too hot to sit under a tree though, it’s off to the lakes for the best cool down of all, and it’s just short drive to get to them.
CSUS Aquatic Center Lake Natoma
1901 Hazel Ave.
Gold River, CA 95670
Lake Natoma is loaded with possibilities for a great summer day on, or next to, the water. The CSUS Aquatic Center is located right by the entrance. With covered, grassy picnic areas, it’s easy to spend the day just taking it easy. The Aquatic Center has kayak and canoe rentals and lessons if you’d like to get out on the water. You can launch your own kayak or canoe here too. Along with the Hazel Avenue spot, Willow Creek, off of Folsom Boulevard, is a great place to put your feet or your kayak, canoe or raft in the water. The lake has the American River Bike Trail running along both sides of the lake, and after a great bike ride, a cooling dip in the water is especially nice. Fish, picnic, kayak, canoe; it’s very family oriented and very easy to get to. When the thermometer heads up, this is one of the best places to relax.
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
7755 Folsom-Auburn Road
Folsom, CA 95630
Folsom Lake is upstream from Lake Natoma and is a state park. It is very big, with camping, picnicking, fishing and all kinds of water sports. The shoreline is extensive, the water is cool and hot days in Sacramento can be tamed here. Choose your spot from many places: Granite Bay, Beals Point, Folsom Point, Negro Bar, Browns Ravine and more. It is a fantastic place to watch waterfowl, water ski or paddle about in your boat hoping the fish are biting. Swimming or testing your napping skills on a hot day lead the parade in the hot summer months. Pick a place along the shore and relax, or ride your bike down to Lake Natoma and back, and take a refreshing dip before you dig into that picnic basket.
Sly Park Lake
4771 Sly Park Road
Pollock Pines, CA 95726
Sly Park Lake or Jenkinson Lake, whichever you prefer, is a beautiful mountain lake located in Pollock Pines. Leave the valley heat and come to the cooler climate at the lake. All kinds of boating activities, with some rentals available, coupled with great picnic spots along the lake, make this a natural for relief from hot days in Sacramento. The lake is surrounded by National Forest and is loaded with hiking trails. Your mountain bike will be at home here too. Bring your tent and stay a few days under clear blue skies while swimming, fishing and relaxing. Stop in Pollock Pines for supplies or at the Sly Park Resort just across from the lake on Sly Park Road.
26909 Rollins Lake Road
Colfax, CA 95713
Take a short drive east on US Highway 80 and plop yourself down at Rollins Lake, away from the summer heat in Sacramento. Cool, cool waters surrounded by green forest will bring a sigh of relief. Camping spots are well spaced and the picnic areas have all-day lake views. There are multiple areas around the lake to sit down for the day. It’s a big lake, with many boats on it. Bring your own boat or rent one at the marina and enjoy a day on the water. Clean air and cool temps lead hot and frazzled Sacramento residents here for heat relief.
2000 Camanche Road
Ione, CA 95640
Ione can be a bit warm in the summer months but the relief here is at Lake Camanche. Shaded picnic areas, wildflowers and that ever-present cool water make this a good place to retreat to when the heat is just too much. RVs, camping, hiking and equestrian trails are all on the menu at Camanche. Anyone who fishes will enjoy the largemouth bass and trout that lurk in the depths of the lake. The lake boasts two marinas, one on the south shore and the other on the north shore. The lower end of the lake is perfect for water skiing and personal watercraft, while the upper end is reserved for human-powered craft. Cool down, relax and enjoy a summer day in a gorgeous spot.
Related: Guide To Kayaking Along Lake Tahoe
Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.