Go Jump in a Lake


By Erin Goss
When the motion of the ocean isn’t floating your boat, head east to dip your toes where almost anything goes: fishing, hiking, biking and boating.

The county’s manmade lakes serve as impounding reservoirs for San Diego’s water supply system, but the public is encouraged to visit for fun in the sun. From concession stands offering live bait and boat rentals, to guided nature walks and luxury campsites, these bodies of water a refreshing break for any body.

Surf’s down? Thumbs up! It’s time to jump in.

Lake Murray

Located within Mission Trails Regional Park, Lake Murray offers picturesque scenery along a paved road (3.2 miles in each direction). Relax at any of 10 public barbeque pits or more than 60 picnic tables.

Hours: sunrise to sunset, daily
5540 Kiowa Dr., La Mesa (entrance)

Lake Barret

Lake Barrett reels in fishing enthusiasts with one of the largest remaining populations of northern-strain largemouth black bass in the region. But don’t plan on having seafood for dinner-a catch-and-release policy is strictly mandated.

Lyons Valley Rd., Dulzura
Hours: Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, half hour before sunrise until half hour before sunset (reservations mandatory)
619.465.3474 (city lakes number, no concession)

Santee Lakes

“The camping at Santee Lakes is world-class,” says Johnathan Skinner, director of park and recreation. Tents, 10 newly opened cabins (three floating and seven waterfront) and 300 campsites make campers of all experience levels feel right at home.

Hours: Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. until one half-hour before dusk; Friday - Sunday 6 a.m. until one half-hour before dusk
9310 Fanita Pkwy., Santee (entrance)

Lake Poway

With 17 landscaped acres, a 300-foot boat dock and 75 picnic spots, Lake Poway is a popular destination for families. Visitors can join the hundreds of daily hikers on the Mt. Woodson Trail, sign up for archery classes or just kick back and play with the quacks. “Lake Poway was voted one of the best places to feed ducks in San Diego...seriously,” says senior park ranger Doug Smith.

Hours: Wednesday - Sunday,
7 a.m. - sunset
14644 Lake Poway Rd., Poway
858.668.4772 (ranger’s office)

El Capitan Reservoir

El Capitan is the only reservoir in San Diego County that invites guests to take to the water on Jet Skis and other personal motorized watercrafts. Don’t feel like getting wet and wild? The lake is heavily stocked with fish, so anyone casting a pole can count on getting a bite.

Hours: Thursday - Monday, half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset
16852 El Monte Rd., Lakeside (entrance)
619.443.4110 (concession stand)

Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca offers a “mirrored image of a High Sierra alpine lake with panoramic views,” says general manager Butch Paddock. Here, visitors can spot abundant wildlife, from bobcats to the bald eagles, or explore stunning landscape by boat or trail. “It’s the best kept secret in San Diego.”

Hours: 6 a.m. - sunset
15027 Hwy. 79 Julian

Lake Hodges

With 27 miles of shoreline, Lake Hodges is a lush oasis nestled amongst the hills of Escondido. Known for its stunning scenery, the immense reservoir and surrounding San Diego River Park can make visitors forget San Diego is situated in a desert. Hike around the lake’s seven-mile perimeter or barbeque that largemouth bass you just reeled in.

Hours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.
20175 Lake Drive, Escondido (entrance)
619.668.2050 (concession)

Lake Morena

“Lake Morena boasts two previous world-record largemouth bass,” says public outreach coordinator Shannon Singler. The lake also hosts nature walks on certain Saturdays-free, one-hour hikes highlighting the lake’s natural vegetation and the role it played in the lives of Kumeyaay Indians.

Hours: Day-use activities limited to sunrise to sunset; open 24 hours a day (due to camping)
2550 Lake Morena Dr., Campo (entrance)