Lotsa mid-western transplants typing in Google "Southern California Lakes". Well campers, I hate to break it to ya, but California has mostly reservoirs. Man-made lakes & river dams to supply our cities & crops with valuable water. The few more natural lakes in Southern California - Henshaw, Hemet, Cuyamaca nearly dry up in late summer. California is a dry state, the whole west for that matter. Face it, inland San Diego is almost a desert. It's right next to Baja & Anza Borrego Desert.
If you wanna see clear mountain water, with trees, maybe pine forest views & hear bluebirds... with big rivers flowing & decent fishing, then you are gonna need to drive.
When the crowds at Big Bear & Arrowhead annoy you, then the plan B is obvious. Drive further. Drive north, about half way up the Golden State Freeway I #5. About 6 hours from the busy hub of SoCal. For recreation lakes, alpine lakes, real lakes in California. The Sierra Nevada mountains is where you can start your serious "ultimate lake search". The granite peaks, pine forests, water falls and the secluded lakeside camp visions you had of California are indeed true, you just need to leave the bottom half of the state.
|Lake Cachuma in the wine country of Santa Barbara, CA|
The quiet docks at Lake Arrowhead, CA
|Round Valley Reservoir in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains, near Crescent Mills and Greenville, CA|
Collecting of dead and down campfire wood is a common practice in most National Forest areas within California. Bring your own saws and hatchets. Stop at the local ranger station to renew your campfire permit for the whole year.
|Twitchell Reservoir on California SR166 (Hwy 166) in the scenic mountains behind Santa Maria is NOT a recreational lake.|