Along with so many other gifts of Mother Nature — mountains and meadows, redwood forests and pygmy trees, and that gorgeous Pacific Ocean coastline — you can enjoy a beautiful lakeside vacation in Sonoma County.
Many of Sonoma County’s state and regional parks have small lakes that you can hike or bike to, go fishing in, or picnic beside. The trail to Lake Ilsanjo in Trione-Annadel State Park, for example, makes for a great moderate-level hike; once you arrive you can try your hand at catching bluegill and bass or just enjoy the scenery.
Or bring a picnic to Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic Park, and eat it beside the dam-created lake built by famed writer Jack London more than a century ago (he used to throw swimming parties there). Bike the two-mile Lake Trail loops at Riverfront Regional Park in Healdsburg — and then go kayaking, canoeing, or fishing. And during rainy winters it’s always a joy to visit the seasonal freshwater lake that develops at Tolay Lake Regional Park.
Looking for a vacation spent camping beside a lake? Sonoma County’s the destination for that, too, either at Spring Lake Regional Park or Lake Sonoma.
Vacationing at Spring Lake, located in the scenic hills along Santa Rosa's eastern edge, you'll enjoy the best of two worlds. At your campsite and throughout the park, you'll feel far from civilization — but you’ll still be close to sophisticated urban conveniences and have easy access to Sonoma County’s wine country and other attractions.
Spring Lake’s 350 acres include the 72-acre body of water that gave the park its name, along with a spring-fed swimming lagoon (with an inflatable water park), ponds, oak woodlands, grasslands, meadows and, in spring and early summer, a diversity of wildflowers.
Spring Lake's 31 year-round campsites (for tents, trailers and RVs) are nestled into oak woodlands above the lake and come equipped with a fire ring and picnic table. Campground amenities include potable water, restrooms with electrical outlets, flush toilets and showers, and a dump station (no RV hook-ups available). Download a campground map. For more information about camping at Spring Lake, visit this page.
In addition to tent and RV camping, Spring Lake has three small, rustic, and eco-friendly cabins. These simple cabins — which have no electricity, running water, or bathrooms — can be reserved (two cabins are ADA-accessible). Beds with mattresses are provided, and campers can bring a sleeping bag or their own linens. Cooking can be accomplished outside the cabin on the site’s barbecue grill. Running water and bathroom facilities are nearby. For more information, read the Cabin Guide.
The spring-fed swimming lagoon features a sandy beach, shaded lawns, picnic tables, and barbecues. It’s open, with lifeguards in attendance, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Free admission.
The floating water park at Spring Lake Lagoon contains inflatable bounce islands, bridges, climbing cliffs, a trampoline, a balance beam, and other play stations for children 6 and older, as well as adults. All-day admission is $10 per person, with season passes available. Open daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
To enjoy 72-acre Spring Lake you can bring you own paddling or electric motor craft up to 16’ in length (year-round), or rent a kayak, paddleboat or canoe from the concession stand for $12/hour (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day). Launch fee for trailered boats: $4.
With nearly 10 miles of trails, Spring Lake is one of Sonoma County's most popular walking, hiking, and running destinations. The paved Spring Lake Loop makes for an easy 2.3-mile circuit around the lake. Hikes can be extended significantly by connecting to trails in adjacent Trione-Annadel State Park.
Kids in particular enjoy Spring Lake’s 2.3 miles of paved bicycle trails. Speed limit for bicyclists: 15 mph. If you’re a dedicated mountain biker, you’ll find challenge a-plenty at adjacent Trione-Annadel State Park.
Catch large-mouth bass, sunfish, and catfish year-round at the lake. If you’re 16 or older, a California fishing license is required. Fishing poles can be rented for $7/day and bait can be purchased ($4/container) from the concession stand from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
The Environmental Discovery Center
Geared to kids aged 6-12, this family-oriented science center offers interactive displays, activities, nature hikes, a monthly Science Saturday, and more. Free admission. More info.
Spring Lake maintains wheelchair-accessible trails, and accessible picnic, cabin, and camp sites. Beach wheelchairs available by request.
Beyond Spring Lake’s Borders
Spring Lake is directly connected to two other parks—5,500-acre Trione-Annadel State Park, with many miles of trails; and 152-acre Howarth Memorial Park, which has a small lake of its own, Lake Ralphine, an amusement area with a miniature train ride and carousel, and many resources for children.
Details: Spring Lake Regional Park, 393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa, 707-539-8092
The Army Corps of Engineers created Geyserville’s Lake Sonoma in 1983 during construction of Warm Springs Dam. A large and beautiful lake — with 50 miles of shoreline and 2,700 acres of lake surface — is nestled into a valley and surrounded by steep hills and vineyards.
Lake Sonoma offers extensive recreational opportunities that include car and boat-in camping, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, archery, fishing, hunting, boating, water- and jet-skiing, a full-service marina, and even a fish hatchery with a visitor's center.
Lake Sonoma has two different types of camping experiences:
- Boat-in Campsites: Reservations for one of the lake's 106 boat-in camping sites is required. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, and lantern holder, and chemical toilets are available. Campers must bring their own drinking water (or filter for purifying lake water). Lake Sonoma Marina rents crafts ranging from a 1-person kayak to a double-decker patio boat that accommodates 12.
- RV/Tent Camping: The Liberty Glen Campground at Lake Sonoma has 96 drive-in campsites for RVs and tent campers (no electrical or water hook-ups available). Campsite reservations are required, and can be made up to one year in advance. In summer months many campfire programs and special events occur. Individual campsites are $25. Double sites, one group site, and a camping cabin are also available. For more information, phone 707-431-4533. To make a reservation, visit recreation.gov. Download Liberty Glen Info and Campground Map.
- Other Camping: First-come/first-served camping is also available at the Lake Sonoma Marina. For more information, call 707-433-2200.
The lake's designated beach is a day area on the north side at the Yorty Creek Recreation Area (2651 Hot Springs Road, Cloverdale). It's got a large sandy beach, picnic facilities, and a playground. No lifeguards are on duty.
Lake Sonoma has more than 40 miles of trails that can accommodate all skill levels. A detailed trail brochure is available at the visitor center. Download Lake Sonoma's trail map.
You'll find excellent fishing here year-round, including what is reputed to be some of the state's best bass fishing. Species include Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Black Crappie, Channel Catfish, and Redear Sunfish. Lake Sonoma is subject to all California Department of Fish and Game fishing regulations (you can purchase a fishing license at local bait/tackle shops).
- Boat owners: Lake Sonoma has two launch areas for boat owners — a public boat ramp near the dam, and a second launch at Yorty Creek Recreation Area (2651 Hot Springs Road near Cloverdale). In addition, Lake Sonoma Marina has launch facilities. Launch fees apply at all facilities.
- Rentals: Lake Sonoma Marina offers an extensive variety of watercraft for rental, from a single-person paddleboard to a Double Decker Patio that can seat. They also offer canoes and 14-foot aluminum fishing boat, as well as many other choices.
Fish Hatchery/Visitors Center
The Milt Brandt Visitor Center contains cultural and natural history exhibits about the region, gives tours of the resident state-of-the-art Don Clausen Fish Hatchery, and offers ranger-led programs.
The Ranch at Lake Sonoma Horseback Riding offers diverse wilderness horseback tours overlooking Dry Creek Valley, Lake Sonoma, and the Rockpile wine region.
Lake Sonoma Visitors Center & Fish Hatchery, 3288 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4533
Lake Sonoma Marina, 100 Marina Drive, Geyserville, 707-433-2200
Liberty Glen Campground at Lake Sonoma, 13005 Rockpile Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4533
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.