The 7 Best Lakeside Lodges in California

All the kayaking, canoeing, fly-fishing, regular fishing and s’mores you can handle

California Lakeside Lodges
The Tamarack Lodge and Resort on Twin Lakes
Tamarack Lodge & Resort
By Diane Rommel / August 1, 2019 10:52 am

Nothing says summer quite like a stay at a lakeside lodge. 

Not a five-star resort (too fussy). Not an Airbnb (though there are plenty of them on the shores of our state’s finest lakes, and lots of super-luxe ones as well). Rather, these are lodges: wood-paneled, community-minded, kayak-loaning spots at the water’s edge.

If you want fancy room service, look elsewhere. If you want to catch a fish, clean a fish and then grill the fish under the stars, you’re in the right place. 

Rates start at under $100 per night. 

Salmon Lake Lodge

On: Salmon Lake 

Key experience: Eating the fish you just caught that morning

In brief: Salmon Lake Lodge is so legit that no less a wilderness aficionado than Juniper Ridge founder Hall Newbegin is a fan — that’s his Insta above. Come for the solitude, stay for the community barbecue on Thursday nights. (Also, the fishing: The lake is stocked with hybrid rainbow trout and home to eastern brook, German brown and rainbow trout.)

Stay: $1,000 per week

Lake View Lodge

On: Mono Lake

Key experience: Shooting the tufas (see below) at dawn

In brief: Halfway between L.A. and Reno is this fourth-generation family-run lodge on Mono Lake. You’ll be bedding down at nearly 7,000 feet — and within easy striking distance of Yosemite. Or head out for a morning kayak on Mono Lake; local outfitter Caldera can hook you up with a kayak, a lesson, or guided tour. If you don’t know Mono Lake, get your camera ready: its dramatic, otherworldly tufa towers are the stuff of influencers’ dreams. 

Stay: From $169 per night

The North Shore Inn

On: Lake Gregory

Key experience: Canoeing along the lake’s edge

In brief: Remember that gorgeous lake from Us? While Jordan Peele’s spring horror smash was set near Santa Cruz, filming for the Wilson family’s summer rental took place about six hours southwest, on Lake Gregory, in the San Bernardino National Forest. The North Shore Inn is the closest lodge to the lake’s edge; ask for a room with a stone fireplace. The buzzier Lake Arrowhead is nearby, but unless you’re scoping out an ex’s wedding (Lake Arrowhead hosts a lot of them), Lake Gregory is a satisfying alternative.

Stay: From $100 per night

Tamarack Lodge

On: Twin Lakes

Key experience: Trekking up to the higher-elevation lakes: Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, Horseshoe Lake and more

In brief: Hiking? Biking? Fishing? Ziplining? If you can conjure a summertime wilderness activity, Tamarack — part of a family of resorts on Mammoth Mountain — definitely offers it, nicely managing the balance between intimate digs and critical mass for adventures like a via ferrata or a gondola ride up the mountain. Choose between a newish cabin, or — our pick — historic lodges “reminiscent of 1920s fishing cottages.”

Stay: From $129 per night

Franciscan Lakeside Lodge

On: Lake Tahoe

Key experience: Barbecuing on the lake’s shore

In brief: The lago di tutti laghi, Lake Tahoe remains the emblematic lakeside destination of northern California/the world. You can spend more money if you want — the Ritz Carlton is just up the hill, offering easy access to the slopes at Northstar — but a handful of lakeside lodges are right on the water, and have reasonable prices. Be sure to book a room on the water side of the highway at the Franciscan Lakeside Lodge, which offers guests a private beach on the northern end of the lake, with apartment-style spaces from studios to two-bedrooms.  

Stay: From $145

Tsadi Resort

On: Lake Shasta

Key experience: Checking off the 16 nearby waterfalls the lodge suggests 

In brief: Your top option on Lake Shasta, the Tsadi sits on 20 acres of land — which works out to about an acre a room, so there’s space to ramble on land and on the water (see: complimentary use of the resort’s SUPs, kayaks and more). If you do feel like exploring, Whiskeytown NRA is only 30 miles south, and Lassen Volcanic National Park about twice that. Of the two, Lassen might actually lend itself better to a day trip, since its bubbling mud and hot pots are easy to access and instantly unforgettable.

Stay: From $125

Quail Lodge Lake Almanor

On: Lake Almanor

Key experience: Hitting the Almanor Slam

In brief: Lake Almanor’s Chamber of Commerce describes the area dramatically, if correctly, as “a crossroad where the granite of the Sierra Nevada meets the lava of the Cascades.” Fishermen will love all of it, including the stocked streams and lakes of nearby Lassen Volcanic National Forest — perhaps accomplishing the “Almanor Slam,” which would involve catching a rainbow trout, brown trout, salmon and small-mouth bass. John Crotty, who owns the lodge with his wife Deb, is a fly-fishing guide, and can either recommend suitable spots or take you out himself.

Stay: From $90 per night