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The sun is shining, and it’s hot out! You need a break from the heat. One easy, fun, and affordable way to do this is by shoving off on a kayak. Even if you don’t own one, they’re affordable to rent, and the activity is easy to try. And even better, this is an activity that is safe for the environment. Here’s a few of our favorite lakes to go kayaking in California High Sierra.

Lake Tahoe

Image appears courtesy: North Lake Tahoe

How could we have this list without at least talking about the legend of alpine lakes – Lake Tahoe. It’s the 2nd deepest lake in the US. The largest alpine lake in North America. And most of all, the views are simply spectacular. With over 72 miles of shoreline and over 20 Lake Tahoe Water Trail trailheads, there is no shortage of places to paddle or rent kayaks. From full moon tours with Tahoe Adventure Company to transparent kayaks with Wild Society, you’ll get an up close and personal view of one of the purest, large lakes in the world.

Twin Lakes

people kayaking on Lower Twin Lake in Mono County
Photo by: Local Freshies

As soon as you slow down and begin to explore the nooks and crannies throughout the High Sierra, you’ll realize there are A LOT of precious gems hidden just a short detour away. A good example of this is Twin Lakes. It might only be ten miles from Bridgeport, but it feels like it’s in a different world. At seven thousand feet above sea level, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes provide an opportunity to catch trophy sized fish (state record for Brown Trout), and of course go kayaking in California High Sierra. Butting up to the Sawtooth Ridge, the famous Matterhorn Peak looks down on the lakes like a guardian. This is the same mountain that Jack Kerouac spoke of in “The Dharma Burns.” You can rent kayaks and boats from the Twin Lakes Resort which is on Lower Twin Lake.

Bass Lake

kayaking on Bass Lake
Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite | Madera County

On the surface, this pine rimmed lake may feel like a smaller version of Tahoe but as soon as you look closer, you’ll find that it has its own charm and feel. Despite it being only fourteen miles away from the southern gate of Yosemite, this body of water offers a vast array of recreational options in its own right. Within a few miles of it, you can see Giant Sequoias in Nelder Grove. Access miles and miles of amazing mountain biking. Enjoy a 19th century steam engine ride. And of course, go kayaking in California High Sierra via the multiple rental locations around its shores.

Pinecrest Lake

person kayaking on Pinecrest Lake in Tuolumne County
Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

For a more relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t include personal watercraft or anyone waterskiing, consider visiting Pinecrest Lake. This 300-acre jewel is a good option for those that want to enjoy a human powered water activity like canoeing, stand up paddleboarding, or kayaking in California. At an elevation of 5,600 feet, this is a great warm weather destination to cool off at. Due to this, it’s quite popular in the summer months so we recommend visiting on a weekday when the crowds are less.

When it comes to kayaking in California, the lakes of the High Sierra offer respite from the heat alongside some of the best views anywhere. Don’t just sit home in your air conditioning. Make it a point to get outside and enjoy these amazing places.


Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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