7 Beautiful Lakes In Riverside County, California

lakes in riverside
| 4 min read

Near the southern section of California, USA, lies Riverside County. It’s a prosperous region, boasting a population of over two million inhabitants. It’s renowned for its lovely Mediterranean weather and its many resort cities, including Desert Hot Springs, La Quinta, and Palm Springs. But that’s not all, Riverside County features several stunning lakes, many of which are manmade and provide water to the region. These lakes also offer recreational facilities to lure in travelers and holidaymakers. Diamond Valley Lake houses paleontological artifacts inside its Western Science Center, Lake Mathews is almost completely untouched by humans, and Lake Skinner Park offers a wide range of outdoor activities. Check out our amazing list of beautiful lakes in Riverside County, California - and plan your trip accordingly, while finding a great accommodation in Riverside.

1. Lake Henshaw

DSC_5912 Lake Henshaw NRSmult 1200
Source: Photo by Flickr user Sharon Tate Soberon used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Lake Henshaw is a beautiful destination where you can enjoy beautiful sceneries and various outdoor activities. It’s located in San Diego County, which is less than two hours south of Riverside County. The lake is man-made and constructed with the building of Henshaw Dam which is used mainly for agricultural irrigation in the region. It is about 1,140 acres (460 hectares) big and holds about 68,000,000 cubic meters of water coming mainly from the San Luis Rey River.

Due to the quality of water and the natural beauty that surrounds it, Lake Henshaw has become a popular outdoor recreational destination. Some of the activities to be enjoyed here include hiking, sightseeing, camping, kayaking, and fishing.

Lake Henshaw

Address: Southeast base of Palomar Mountain, San Diego County, California

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2. Lake Fulmor

Lake Fulmor Reflections12-13 (16054968213)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user inkknife_2000 used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Lake Fulmor is a man-made lake that was formed when an earthen dam was built on Indian Creek in 1947. It has attracted day-trippers from nearby communities like Pine Cove, Idyllwild, Fern Valley, and beyond thanks to the panoramic views of the San Jacinto Mountains and the giant sequoia grove that was planted by the US Forest Service in the 1980s.

The lake and the surrounding areas also support a healthy number of wildlife including various species of birds, deer, squirrels, tree frogs, dragonflies, and butterflies. Aside from the beautiful sceneries, the lake is known for the recreational activities it offers. Some of the things visitors can enjoy here include hiking and fishing.

Lake Fulmor

Address: State Route 243, 7mi (11km) Northwest of Pine Cove

Opening hours: For day use only

Price: 5 USD

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3. Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet 1
Source: Photo by user Takwish used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Artificial dams may not seem terribly exciting, especially if you’re a nature lover who wishes to enjoy the most authentic natural attractions. But keep an open mind, as Lake Hemet is an artificial water storage reservoir that has so much to offer. The dam is surrounded by the stunning San Jacinto Mountains, and there’s plenty of gorgeous oak, pine, and sage trees in the vicinity. Also, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the magnificent wildlife - eagles, hawks, and trout - in and around the lake.

If you’re planning on staying in the area for more than a day, then consider booking a cabin at Lake Hemet Recreation. There are only ten cabins available, and they’re highly sought after, so make sure to reserve yours as early as possible. You’re allowed to partake in boating, camping, and fishing activities. Swimming and setting off fireworks are not allowed. Another popular attraction nearby is Splashing Eagle Water, which operates during the spring and summer seasons.

Lake Hemet

Address: 56570 State Hwy 74, Mountain Center, CA, Riverside, CA 92561-3050

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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4. Lake Mathews

Source: Photo by user Jeremy Caesar used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lake Mathews is one of the more enigmatic lakes in the region. And that’s because it’s fenced off to protect its waters from becoming contaminated. This hasn’t stopped others from jumping over the fence to do some fishing, but we strongly advise against such actions. Since this lake is owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, it’s best to respect that it’s under private ownership and steer clear. Instead, you can enjoy the lake from afar by bringing along a pair of binoculars to watch its serene waters from an elevated vantage point.

The lake was built as a reservoir for the Colorado River, providing much of the water to the cities in the area. Apart from the lake, the gorgeous Cajalco Canyon and nearby Temescal Mountains will take your breath away. Due to the lack of human intervention, the fish in the lake grow bigger than usual, and birdlife is abundant too. Once you’re done with your visit to the lake, you may want to head to Corona, Riverside, or Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, which are all a short driving distance away.

Lake Mathews

Address: Cajalco Canyon, Riverside County, California, USA

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5. Lake Elsinore

Source: Photo by user Mrbooger used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Lake Elsinore is the biggest freshwater lake in the southern part of California. And unlike all the other lakes on this list, this one is natural and regularly fluctuates due to the changing weather conditions. It’s situated in the basin of Elsinore Valley, to the east of Santa Ana Mountains. Furthermore, an entire city has been built around the shores of the lake that goes by the same name.

The city goes through great lengths to provide locals and visitors many recreational options by the lake. These include boating, camping, fishing, water skiing, and skydiving activities, which should appeal to both sports enthusiasts and outdoor lovers. And, if you get hungry, there’s plenty of good dining options nearby.

Lake Elsinore

Address: Lake Elsinore, Western Riverside County, California USA

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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6. Diamond Valley Lake

Source: Photo by user Lvi56 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’ve finished your trip to Lake Hemet, then consider visiting Diamond Valley Lake nearby. It’s one of the largest and newest reservoirs in the region, and it was completed in 2003. Surprisingly, plenty of valuable paleontological artifacts were found during its construction, and these are on display at the nearby Western Science Center. While this is a good reason to visit the lake, it’s also renowned for its animal life.

There are various endangered species and birds found around the lake’s periphery. But it’s the lake’s diverse fish life that should interest fishing enthusiasts and nature lovers the most. Here, you’ll find bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and striped bass, to name a few. There’s also a lookout area so that you can view the large tower, pumping station, and most of the lake. There are even plans to add further recreational facilities such as camping grounds, a golf course, and water parks.

Diamond Valley Lake

Address: 2615 Angler Ave, Hemet, CA 92543-9703

Website: Diamond Valley Lake

Opening hours: Wed - Sun: 6am - 6pm (closed on Mon & Tue)

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Nearby lake

7. Lake Skinner Park

RivCoParks is seeking two volunteer Camp Hosts for Lake Skinner Recreation Area. If you are interested, please e-mail DNewell@RivCo.org for more details.

Posted by Riverside County Park and Open Space District on Thursday, 5 December 2019

Lake Skinner is yet another reservoir that’s connected to the Colorado River. It’s part of the State Water Project, and its filtrated waters flow through to Riverside and to various counties in San Diego. But unlike Lake Mathews, it features a recreation area for visitors to enjoy fishing, hiking, horse riding, sailing, and swimming. You can expect to find an amphitheater, boat rentals, camp store, laundry facilities, restrooms, showers, and a splash pad, at Lake Skinner Park or Lake Skinner Recreation Area.

With all these facilities, there’s no doubt that this park has much to offer visitors. If you’re heading here with family and friends, you’ll want to chill out and enjoy a barbecue, and the park provides such facilities as well. Also, there’s picnic benches, camping sites, and fire pits to make your outdoor excursion a memorable one. But don’t forget to attend the park’s events, which often feature birds, wild animals, and snakes that will excite the kids.

Lake Skinner Park

Address: 37701 Warren Rd, Winchester, California, CA 92596, USA

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Many great recreational options

Apart from Lake Mathews, all the lakes on this list offer travelers a respectable amount of recreational facilities - Diamond Lake Valley even has its own center that houses many amazing paleontological discoveries unique to the area. Overall, all these lakes are good family-friendly attractions that allow everyone to enjoy the beautiful and tranquil surroundings.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Demos, a freelance writer, boasts an entrepreneurial background that informs his diverse writing portfolio. His articles span across various topics, encompassing travel, business, technology,...Read more

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