With summer right around the corner, the warming temperatures remind us that there’s a gorgeous lake just up the hill from the Napa Valley floor. At 23 miles long, Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County, with a 2,000-acre wildlife area along its east side. When full, it stores 1.6 million acre feet of water, making it one of the largest bodies of fresh water in California.
There are year-round recreational opportunities at this beautiful spot, but spring and summer are obviously the most popular seasons to get up there and enjoy the view.
What is there to do at Lake Berryessa?
- Boating and paddle sports. The lake has two marinas and three recreation areas with concessions and paddle sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and paddle-boarding are increasingly popular. You can hand-launch anywhere with legal access to the water, then explore the whole lake to find quiet coves and beautiful views.
- Fishing. If angling’s your thing, you can fish for both cold- and warm-water species, including rainbow trout, bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill.
- Hiking. Around the lake’s perimeter, there are at least six easy trails – from .1 mile to 2.6 miles – that invite you to explore, observe wildlife, and enjoy great views among the grassy hills dotted with oak and manzanita.
- Picnicking. Stock up on provisions at Soda Canyon Grocery store on your way out of Napa, and pick a spot for a perfect picnic. There are picnic tables near the camping areas, and also shady spots along the many trails that surround the lake.
- Camping. For information on specific sites and regulations, you should contact individual concession areas. Markley Cove Resort also offers cabin rentals.
- Swimming. Berryessa’s water reaches temperatures of up to 75 degrees in the summer, and there are beaches at the various concession areas. Note that there are no life-guarded areas at Lake Berryessa, so swim at your own risk.
- Cycling. Bicycling is allowed in all of the day-use areas, and the roads surrounding the lake offer a variety of terrain and challenges. Note that the Smittle Creek Trail has bridges and stairs and was not designed with bicycles in mind.
- Bird-watching. Eagles, hawks, songbirds, and wild turkeys are just a few of the species you can spot here.