8 Things to Do at Lake Berryessa

With spring just 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.

So, what can you do at Lake Berryessa? Consider the following:

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 and picnicking. 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.

Camping. For information on specific sites and regulations, you should contact individual concession areas.

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.

Special events. Lake Berryessa’s management is finalizing details on a spring event in collaboration with Arts in April: On April 21, it will offer a boat tour, lunch, and wine tasting at Nichelini Winery. It’s also developing a year-round artist-in-residence program, in which visual artists, writers, musicians, and other creative media are invited to participate in park programs by sharing their art with the public.

Kirsten Mickelwait is a St. Helena-based writer who has lived and raised her family in the Napa Valley for nearly 20 years.

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