The Dragon Lake
Just a few minutes from downtown is Lake Nacimiento, known as “The Dragon” for its unique shape of waterways, coves and winding tributaries. When looking at a map or an aerial shot of the lake you'll quickly understand how it got its name. With over 5,000 surface acres, 165 miles of shoreline and hundreds of inlets and coves to explore, the waterways provide endless possibilities for finding private nooks and crannies to hang out in.
The lake itself is surrounded by miles of wilderness, mountains, river canyons, and bountiful oak and pine forests. The lake and surrounding hills and woods are a water and nature enthusiast’s dream. Whether you want to boat, kayak, paddleboard, or hike its endless pristine trails, “Lake Naci” has you covered.
Lake Nacimiento was originally designed for irrigation water, flood control and recreation. Construction of the Nacimiento Dam began in 1955, and by 1958 the dam was completed and filled, forming the lake we know today. The lake measures nearly 200 feet deep at the spillway of the dam and spans 18 miles long. Due to the direct connection to the Nacimiento River, the water stays clean and maintains a consistent temperature of around 72 degrees and up to 80 in the summer. Today, despite its many roles, the lake is primarily utilized as a recreational attraction.
The Dragon boasts year-round, and pet-friendly accommodations, including Lakeview Lodges, RV trailers and Naci Cottage – all with scenic views of the lake. Here you'll find a general store and restaurant on the shore, open year-round. The general store is open Thursday through Monday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, and offers everything you could need during your stay at the lake, including groceries, beer, wine, ice, fishing licenses, tackle, clothes, camping supplies plus souvenirs and gifts. For those looking for a rustic adventure, there are seven unique campgrounds situated amongst numerous hiking trails. Whether you plan to “rough it” or want to enjoy lakeside “glamping,” you will find lodging that pleasantly accommodates your vacation.
Boating Lake Nacimiento
Lake Nacimiento is the ultimate destination for boating and water sports such as, waterskiing, wakeboarding, jetskiing, wakesurfing and more. For adventure seekers, the lake even has a designated ski and wakeboard slalom course. The Slalom course was installed in 1979 in Dip Creek Cove and has been in continuous operation ever since, known for attracting seasoned athletes and beginners alike. For those looking to slow down and enjoy a relaxing lake-ation, “The Narrows” section of the lake is well known for being a low speed spot to hang out and tether boats together. Visitors love to gather here to celebrate long holiday weekends, spend the day fishing or make a splash diving off the rocks.
If you're looking for this sweet spot, "The Narrows" are located at the tail of the dragon, the furthest point from the marina and boat launch zone. The water here is extra glassy in the morning and late afternoon, ideal for skiing, wakeboarding, and other water sports and activities. Meanwhile, the multitude of coves in this area provide plenty of opportunities to discover private spots to anchor or go on shore.
Please note that houseboats are not allowed.
Fishing Lake Nacimiento
Cast a line and hook a good time at Lake Nacimiento! Due to the twisting inlets and coves, there are countless, quiet locations to set up camp and spend the day fishing. The lake is home to most native warm water fish including large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, carp and catfish but is most well known for being well-stocked with white bass. In 1981, the world fly-fishing record for a white bass was broken at Naci. Caught by Cory Wells of Three Dog Night, his record stood for over 27 years. Now, the area attracts fishermen from all over trying to beat the record themselves. White bass are most often caught during the spring and fall in the main channel between the marina and Bee Rock, "The Narrows", Oak Shores, Town Creek, and Las Tablas Creek. Grab directions and a map at the welcome center and set off for an afternoon by the water.
Bait & Lure Tips from the Lake Naci Professionals
The perfect catch requires the perfect bait, pack your tackle box accordingly.
- White Bass — roostertails, zara puppies, kastmasters
- Largemouth Bass — shad imitations, worms, topwater lures
- Catfish — nightcrawlers, minnows, anchovies
- Bluegill — mealworms, nightcrawlers
Lake Nacimiento Marina
The Lake Nacimiento Marina is home to one of the best rental fleets; here you can rent out family pleasure boats, pontoon (also known as patio boats), or ski and deck boats. Paddleboards, kayaks (both single and tandem),water skis, wakeboards, kneeboards, life vests, and fishing poles are also available to rent. The marina features 120 boat slips, easily accessible dock locations, that can be rented out on a yearly, monthly, weekly or daily basis. Come park it for a while and enjoy lake life at Lake Nacimiento.
The marina is open Monday - Sunday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. You can access the Launch Ramp Monday - Sunday, from 6:00 am until 8:00 pm.
Pro Tip: Know before you go – check out the marina's live webcam to get a preview of the local weather and lake conditions.
Lake Nacimiento Campgrounds
Set up camp and stay a while with seven unique campgrounds and over 350 individual campsites available to choose from. Whether you're planning to glamp with your fully outfitted RV or "rough it" in a tent, you'll find your perfect match at Nacimiento just beneath the “head of the dragon." Escape to nature while still enjoying access to nearby park and resort amenities; you can have the best of both worlds and make memories of a lifetime.
Find Your Campground:
- Quail’s Roost Campground: Quail's Roost sits closest to the park entrance, offering 60 single regular sites. Here you can enjoy shady coverage and open space, as well as amenities such as boat trailer parking pads and a horse shoe pit. Flush restrooms and free showers are located conveniently at the center of the campground. Water is available throughout the campground and most sites have fire rings, barbecues and picnic tables available for use. This campsite only location does not provide drive-in or back-in spots and is not recommended for large RV's or trailers.
- Oak Knoll Campground: Oak Knoll is the place to be for anyone looking for some peace and quiet. This small campground is tucked away behind the entry gate and is home to just 40 full hook-up single sites. The grounds have everything you need for a relaxing getaway, complete with drive-in and back-in spots, flush restrooms, free showers, and water. Bring your boat and enjoy the simple life, with boat trailer parking pads available on a first come first serve basis. Overflow parking is available near the park's General Store.
- Rocky Canyon Campground: Calling all tent campers – this first come, first serve campground is reserved for tent camping groups only. Narrow roads limit RVs and other large vehicles from accessing this area, leaving it as a private tent community. With 14 sites ranging from single vehicles to seven vehicle group sites, collect your closest friends and family to enjoy this intimate camping experience. Sites have picnic tables, barbecues, water and fire rings available for use at most sites, as well as, flush restrooms and free showers conveniently located on-site. Due to its picturesque location on the ridge overlooking the lake, Rocky Canyon yields magnificent views and evening breezes while remaining tucked within the pine and oak forest.
First-come, first-serve (reservations not required).
- Sandy Point Campground: Sandy Point is another very popular spot and widely considered the best place to camp. It's appropriately named for its close proximity to the beach and has an extensive day use area. If you're hoping for a sandy vacation, with days spent soaking up the sun - Sandy Point is for you. This is a campsite only location with no hookups, drive-in or back-in spots, but water is available close to many of the spaces. Flush restrooms and free showers can be accessed at the center of the campgrounds. Due to narrow roads, the area is not recommended for trailering boats or trailers.
Reservations recommended but not required.
- Eagles Ridge Campground: Eagles Ridge is best suited for nature lovers and those looking for a more authentic camping experience. Many of the campsites are walk-in and offer exceptional views of the lake and resort due to the ground's high elevation. Chemical toilets, trash service and fresh water are provided on-site, however, you will need to drive or hike to the nearest showers. If you're seeking an overflow campground or a place to get away from it all, head up to Eagles Ridge, it may be the perfect place for you.
First-come, first-serve (reservations not required).
- Pine Knoll Campground: If you're looking for water access and close proximity to the shore, you'll love Pine Knoll campground. Pine Knoll is a favorite amongst campers and vacationers for its convenience and beauty. This popular campground is ideal for campers and glampers who wish to be located closest to the marina, welcome office, general store, restaurant, launch ramps, lodge and seasonal movie theater. The location consists of over 90 campsites, two flush restrooms, free showers, a swimming pool, laundry, water, and drive-in and back-in spots. Enjoy easy access to the lake, sweeping views at the upper campsites, and walking distance to the park's amenities. This ideal spot fills up quickly on weekends, we recommend booking your reservations early.
Lake Nacimiento Resort
Adventure begins at Lake Nacimiento Resort! With 165 miles of scenic shoreline, mountains, canyons, forests and waterfalls, the lake is a popular family destination. Here the whole family can take part in a long list of exciting outdoor activities like water sports, fishing, hiking, camping, lodging and wildlife viewing. Kids can enjoy on-site amenities such as the swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts. With ample space to roam and fun activities for all, the resort serves as great space for events, family reunions, and retreats. Looking to try something new? With equipment available for rent, now is the perfect opportunity to try it all. Stay on-site with a variety of accommodations suited for families of all sizes. This fun filled getaway is perfect for a quick trip or a staycation with plenty of things to do and see.
If you love lake life but you're not one for camping, Lake Nacimiento Resort has lodging options for you. Lakeview Lodges has small and large lodges available for groups of four to eight people. If you're traveling with family, the Lakeview Lodges are a great choice! Both small and large lodges come fully furnished, including a full kitchen with a fridge, microwave, and toaster oven. The lodges also offer a complimentary boat slip for your convenience. Large lodges include a fireplace and outdoor patio with furniture while small lodges include a balcony overlooking the water. Have a four-legged friend that loves the lake? Pet-friendly units are available, just ask!
For a charming romantic getaway, look no farther than The Naci Cottage. This one bedroom, one bathroom cottage is the perfect place for two but comfortably sleeps up to four. With a kitchen, dining area, living room and complimentary boat slip you can head straight from bed to the boat for an afternoon cruise around the lake. Bring your own boat or rent from the resort and you'll have everything you need for the ultimate staycation.
Top 5 Things to Do at Lake Nacimiento
1) Dog Days of Summer
Take a stroll with your four-legged friend along the groomed “5 K Dog Path.” The convenient marina trailhead loops around for easy exploration of the area’s oak studded hillsides and beautiful views of the lake.
2) I Spy
While known for fishing and boating, Lake Nacimiento, about 20 minutes west of Downtown Paso Robles, is one of the Central Coast’s best-kept secrets for wildlife viewing – and includes bald eagles. The massive birds love to nest in and soar above the lake’s outline of towering Gray Pine Trees and are easily be spotted year round. Elk, deer, wild turkey and even wild boar can also be seen roaming the surrounding woods and sipping water at the lakeshore. Whether taking in the wildlife scene from a boat, or hiking the lake’s trail system, Lake Nacimiento is a wondrous and peaceful escape.
3) Cast a Line
Fishing is a must – whether along some 165 miles of pristine shore or while trolling in the slower waters in your own pontoon boat. Stories of numerous fish “boils” inspire even the notice fisherman to have a line prepped at any given moment. Stocked with largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, bluegill, crappie, carp and catfish. You can find the perfect inlet to cast your line along the lake’s 165-miles of shoreline.
4) Never Be (Board)
Explore the serene weaving inlets of the famous dragon-shaped lake via kayak or stand up paddleboard. The shoreline of Lake Nacimiento changes weekly as water is let out of the dam throughout the summer. Take advantage of the new terrain with family members of all ages and venture out into hidden, shallower coves. Available to rent at the marina store.
5) Jet(ski) Setter
Rent a wave runner to launch for the day. With 18 square miles of water, the best way to see the lake is with a bit of speed – and wave runners are a great solution for those who don’t own boats.
Lake San Antonio offers year-round activities including camping, recreational boating, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. This picturesque man-made lake is approximately 35-miles northwest of Paso Robles. It’s also one of the few lakes in California that allows shoreline camping at the water’s edge.
- Fishing – cast your line for striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill.
- Birding – popular winter habitat for bald and golden eagles, which makes Lake San Antonio a destination for ornithologists. Avid birders can often spot grebes, red-tailed hawks, swans, and American coots along the lake’s 26-miles of hiking trails.
- Other wildlife – resident deer frequent campsites near the lake, as well as elk, bobcats, and badgers.
- Camping – San Antonio has more than 500 campsites, located along the northern and southern shores of the lake.
Lake San Antonio Reservoir
Lake San Antonio was originally formed in 1967, when a 200 foot tall earth-filled embankment dam was completed across the San Antonio River. Like its sister Lake Nacimiento, the primary purpose for its creation was to aid in groundwater recharge and flood control. The long narrow lake is made up of roughly 335,000 acre-feet of water, with 16 miles in length and 100 miles of shoreline but very few coves and inlets.
The recreational area at the lake is divided into two areas, the North Shore and the South Shore. The South Shore has over 26 miles of trails making it popular for outdoor activities such as horseback riding and mountain biking. Meanwhile the North Shore is ideal for water access and shoreline camping. Today this popular recreational lake is also home to one of the largest triathlon events in the world, “The Wildflower Triathlon."
Fun fact: The gravesite of Civil War Union Veteran, John McBride, is located in part of the lake, along with the remnants of the town of Pleyto. Back in the 1890s, Pleyto was a stagecoach stop between Gilroy and Los Angeles, where Cemetary Cove now exists. The small town consisted of one single store, a hotel, post office and blacksmith. In 1965, the location was flooded to create the lake's reservoir, giving name to Playto Road on the north shore side of the lake.
Birding, Boating & Fishing at Lake San Antonio
Become one with nature at the beautiful Lake San Antonio. Home to wildlife abound, the lake and surrounding campgrounds are perfect for nature-lovers looking to getaway and discover local flora and fauna. If you're interested in bird-watching, the lake's shoreline is a particularly popular nesting ground for the bald eagle but you may also spot golden eagles, grebes, red-tailed hawks, swans and American coots. If you're interested in a tour, Monterey County often provides Eagle Watching Tours where you'll learn all about the eagle and hopefully see one for yourself! Ask about nature tours at the welcome office.
If you're hooked on fishing, be sure to pack your hook and line when you make your way to San Antonio lake. The waters here are known for being stocked with striped bass, large and smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill. BYOB, bring your own boat, or pack light and rent a boat from the public marina located on the South Shore. Unlike Lake Nacimiento, houseboats are allowed on the lake.
Lake San Antonio Campgrounds
One of the best aspects of Lake San Antonio is a wide selection of shoreline camping opportunities. The Lake San Antonio Campgrounds are one of the few parks in California where shoreline camping is permitted, allowing you to dock your boat at your campsite. For those whose sole purpose is camping, Lake San Antonio is often favored over Nacimiento for its shoreline camping and diverse sites. With over 500 unique campsites, you're sure to find the perfect destination for you.
Find Your Campsite:
South Shore Campgrounds
A total of 3 campgrounds can be found along the South Shore of Lake San Antonio. The South Shore Campgrounds are great for family travel as they offer an authentic camping experience while still providing the necessities and a collection of activities. For families traveling with young children, don't miss the opportunity to visit the beach and the Harden Youth Area, located between Harris & Lynch Campgrounds Harden. The Harden Youth Area is a very popular camping area reserved by a lottery system. This site is unique in that it requires a 6 to 1 child to adult ratio. Providing a camp-like appeal where young children can make friends and safely explore the great outdoors.
- Harris Creek Campground offers 91 campsites specifically designed for RVs, trailers and tents. This campground does not have hookups but offers showers, fish cleaning station and launch ramp.
- Lynch Campground offers 105 sites located in a canyon close to the marina. 54 of the sites have water and electric hookups, while all offer communal amenities such as showers, a fish cleaning station, and launch ramp. Cabins are also available for rent near the boat launch.
- Redondo Vista Campground offers more than 259 campsites, each about a mile from the lake. 86 of the sites have full hookups, while all offer communal amenities such as restrooms, showers, outdoor lighting, amphitheater, and horseshoe pit.
Reservations required for Loop A. Please note there is no potable water on the South Shore. The Visitor Center headquarters are located by Lynch Campground.
North Shore Campground
The northeast side of the lake provides endless possibilities with camping permitted all along the shoreline. If you're planning to camp without hookups, it's as simple as finding a spot along the shore. For those in need of a hook up, McCandless Springs Campground is a shoreline camping experience with 18 campsites complete with full hookups. There are an additional 73 sites available with electric and water. Don't forget your boat, boats can be landed close to most of these campsites providing the ideal set up for easy boat days.
Reservations not required, the area is first come first served.