This California Lake Is The Perfect Family-Friendly Spot For An Outdoor Weekend In The Sun

When you think of fun in the sun in California, you may picture attractive young people carting their boards to the shore to surf on Malibu's beaches. Perhaps your vision has fans doing their best to spot Hollywood celebrities at outdoor cafes in Los Angeles while they make movie deals on the phone. However, there is so much more to California than what you see in the movies and on TV. That goes double when we're talking about the wonderful parks up and down the Golden State. 

Just a bit under 50 miles east of Modesto in Northern California sits Lake Don Pedro, aka Don Pedro Reservoir, and it has all sorts of water sports, camping, and fishing for outdoorsy types. This lake has 13,000 surface acres of water to play in and 160 miles of shoreline. There is hiking, biking, and some incredibly scenic views to be had, but there are a few helpful things to know before you go to this lesser-known recreation area of California. 

On the shore and in the water at Lake Don Pedro

Lake Don Pedro looks like a spot out of a dream, with its green hills and sparkling blue water. If fishing is your sport, grab your California fishing license (or get one here) and set out for a day of fun and maybe a night of yummy, freshly caught dinner. The lake is open for fishing all year long. The only places that close are the tributary creeks from November through April. The lake is stocked with several different kinds of fish, including black and largemouth bass, rainbow trout, brook and brown trout, Chinook and Kokanee salmon, sunfish, bluegill, carp, and crappie. 

The record for a largemouth bass caught at Lake Don Pedro is 18.9 lbs! You are also permitted to hunt here (with a license) in non-developed and dispersed areas. No firearms or shooting/target practice is permitted in campgrounds or recreation areas. Boating is another popular activity at the lake, and you can rent boats through H20 Craft. There are three launch ramps, as well as floating restrooms. 

There are great spots for hiking and biking at Lake Don Pedro as well. Three multi-use trails include the Manzanita Lookout Trail, which is a short walk through the Manzanita trees. If you'd like something a bit longer, you can take the Moccasin Point Lake View Trail, a one-mile roundtrip with lots of shade and views of Moccasin Bay. The Blue Oaks Shoreline Trail is a longer, seven-mile roundtrip hike or cycling route. 

Camping at Lake Don Pedro

Camping is a delight at Lake Don Pedro, with a huge number of sites of all kinds. At the Fleming Meadows Recreation Area, there are 90 full RV hookup sites, as well as 176 tent and walk-in sites. It's even got a sandy beach to sun on, a green space, picnic tables, and shelters for groups. There are horseshoe pits, a boat launch, a fish-cleaning station, a snack shack, a ball field, hot showers, a volleyball court, a sewage dump, a camp store, restrooms, and a full-service marina. 

If you camp at Moccasin Point in the canyon on the Tuolumne River, there are 18 full hookup sites for RVs and 78 tent and walk-in sites. It's got restrooms with hot showers, a picnic area, a fish-cleaning station, a boat launch, and a full-service marina. The Blue Oaks campsite has 34 partial RV hookup sites and 161 tent sites, a boat launch, a fish-cleaning station, a sewage dump station, and a bathhouse. You can make reservations at the campsites up to a year in advance.

Lake Don Pedro is also one of the few lakes in California that allows you to camp along the shore in spots that aren't designated for official camping. However, if you do this, please be conscious of the mark you're leaving on the environment and pack in and out. If you're planning a camping trip, remember to do these things before leaving your campsite