The 10 Best Places to Go Boating Near Sacramento
California is known for its abundance of sunshine, gorgeous weather, idyllic scenery, and bountiful lakes and reservoirs — and locals definitely know how to make the most it. When springtime rolls around and the days grow longer, we grab our paddle boards, kayaks and motorboats and head to the nearest body of water we can find.
Sacramento offers easy access to a number of prime boating destinations, including winding rivers and vast mountainous lakes. We rounded up some of the best places for water sports near Sacramento so you’re prepared for your next adventure. Enjoy!
Distance from Sacramento: 7 minutes from the heart of downtown
This 302-acre park is located in downtown Sacramento, and offers an easy natural retreat for city dwellers. The park sits at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River, and is perfect for boating within the city limits! In fact, it boasts one of Sacramento County’s best boat launches. After the water adventures are done, enjoy 32-miles of paved bike trails, an archery range, softball fields and picnic areas.
Distance from Sacramento: 28 minutes
Downstream from Folsom Lake, the nearby Lake Natoma has gained national recognition for its rowing course as well as its sailing and kayaking options. The lake is open primarily for non-motorized vessels, and motorboats are limited to 5mph. The restrictions make for a much more peaceful setting — perfect for taking in the gorgeous views!
Here, you’ll find several launch ramps to make your life on the lake easier, bountiful fish that you can catch (with a license), and opportunities for swimming!
If you’re planning to take a dip, there are two areas located at both the southern and northern end of the lake. The lake also features more than 11 miles of paved bicycle trails, six miles of multi-use trails, and several picnic areas.
Distance from Sacramento: 42 minutes
Photo courtesy of the California State Parks, 2018
Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the gorgeous Folsom Lake sits just 25 miles northeast of Sacramento. This spot is popular year-round due to its beaches, swimming holes, mountain biking trails, wildlife viewing opportunities, and 11,500 acres of water that provide a haven for boating, wake boarding and other water sports.
Distance from Sacramento: 48 minutes
Situated in a narrow canyon in the North Fork American River, Lake Clementine is an idyllic spot for boating, paddling, relaxing and soaking in the warm California sun. The area boasts abundant wildlife, fishing opportunities and plenty of picnic tables for shore dwellers. Lower Lake Clementine is the spot to go for boating and other aquatic sports, while Upper Lake Clementine is more ideal for hanging out on the beach and swimming.
Distance from Sacramento: 56 minutes
The Sacramento River, which stretches 375 miles from the shadow of Mount Shasta through the Central Valley and down to San Francisco Bay, is an ideal destination for boating enthusiasts. In fact, its reservoirs draw more than eight million visitors annually! Popular areas for boating on the river near Sacramento include Brannan Island State Park (good for swimming, camping and wildlife viewing) and Sherman Island County Park just a bit further downstream (ideal for windsurfing). A complete guide to boating the Sacramento River, including nearby ramps, is available on the website!
Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour
Rollins Lake is situated in the Sierra Foothills, and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding pine-covered mountains. It’s an ideal weekend destination, with plenty of opportunities for boat, swim, fish and waterski. It’s notoriously one of the best mountainous lakes in the region, as well as a popular camping spot for Sacramento locals. In fact, the lake offers 250 campsites (spread over four campgrounds), several cabins, stores for supplies, and even a few local restaurants!
If you’re in need of a boat for the weekend, check out Rollins Lake Boat Rentals, which is conveniently located at the boat launch at Long Ravine Campground.
Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour, 13 minutes
Nestled in the foothills between Marysville and Grass Valley just over an hour from Sacramento, Collins Lake is open year round for camping, boating, picnics and other outdoor adventures. In fact, the lake boasts trophy-sized bass, trout, bluegills and catfish, which makes it a desirable spot to come catch dinner. The lake spans more than 1,600 acres and boasts 12 miles of shoreline, and the surrounding scenery is absolutely picturesque — of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less from California.
Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Located just over an hour from Sacramento, Jenkinson Lake is set amid rolling hills covered in tall pine trees — making for spectacular views and plenty of photo opportunities. The clean blue water is perfect for swimming, kayaking, water-skiing, wake boarding, tubing and more. Paddle board and kayak rentals are available at the lake on weekends in the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day), and for those who’d like to make a weekend out of it, there are several campsites near the water.
Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Located in the Napa Valley, the scenic Lake Berryessa is popular for water sports of all kinds. It’s one of the largest bodies of fresh water in California, and offers vast open spaces for high speed boating, tubing and the like, as well as quiet coves for swimming and kayaking. There are plenty of local businesses for boat and jet ski rentals, as well as camping options. In the summer, the water can reach a balmy 75 degrees! So what are you waiting for? Jump on in.
Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Of course we couldn’t leave Lake Tahoe off the list. This incredible destination is situated just over two hours from Sacramento, and offers ample opportunities for boating and kayaking. Aside from the wildlife, crystal clear waters and picturesque islands, the lake is also surrounded by snow capped mountains and evergreens, making it one of the most gorgeous spots in California. Come for a weekend getaway filled with golf, water sports, hiking and more! And don’t miss our guide to the area, which includes places to stay and recommendations for activities.
Enjoy the water!
Where are your favorite boating destinations near Sacramento? Let us know in the comments!