Tucked between the mountains of Northern California, you will find the watery oasis of Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake wholly contained in California.
Clear Lake is believed to be the one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America, dating back at least 480,000 years. A unique geological formation underneath the lake which tilts at exactly the right angle to offset any water loss from runoff and other causes is the reason for this longevity.
One of the most interesting features around Clear Lake is Mount Konocti, part of the Clear Lake Volcanic Field. It last erupted over 10,000 years ago, but the U.S. Geological Survey has assessed its risk of erupting again at some point in the future as High/Very High Threat Potential. Since 2011, the summit of Mount Konocti has been part of a county state park, making hiking to the top of Mount Konocti available to the public for the first time. A rigorous 6 ½ mile hiking trail rewards you with a spectacular view of the lake below, as well as the surrounding mountains.
One of the crown jewels of Clear Lake is Clear Lake State Park, with over 500 acres set apart for users to enjoy the natural setting, fishing, hiking or boating. For the naturalist, Clear Lake State Park provides several different ecosystems for observation – the water and marsh areas close to the rivers and streams, a mid-level ecosystem of woodlands and the ancient volcanic flow eco-system at the top elevations of the park. If you are quiet and careful as you trek through the various systems, you can see animals such as black-tail deer, squirrels, skunks, the ever playful river otters and muskrats. Occasionally, even mountain lions have been spotted in the woods.
Clear Lake State Park has three different hiking trails – the Indian Nature Trail, a ½ mile self-guided tour explaining how Native Americans used the plants around them in everyday life, the Dorn Trial, a 2.5 mile trail and the Kelsey Creek Trail, a boardwalk trail along the wetlands of the park.
Whether you go to the State Park or put in at one of the 11 free boat launches that surround Clear Lake, the fishing in Clear Lake is legendary. Professional fishermen have labeled Clear Lake as the top rated bass lake in the nation. The biggest largemouth bass captured to date weighed 17 ½ pounds! Other fish in the lake include bluegill and crappie. Both the state park and the surrounding areas host fishing tournaments throughout the year. Guided fishing tours and fishing lessons can be arranged as well through at least 8 different year-round companies.
Weekend Activities Guide
For those who are less interested in the sylvan beauty and fishing, Clear Lake also provides ample opportunities for water play. Motorboats for waterskiing and pontoon boats for enjoying the lake are available for rent at several locations surrounding the park. Personal watercraft such as jet skis also can be rented. While the state park does not rent motorized vehicles, it does have canoes and kayaks available for rental. In addition, depending on the time of year, the state park also will have guided kayak tours.
For those interested in activities that do not involve quite so much of the great outdoors, the Clear Lake area also boasts about 30 wineries. Many of these vineyards offer tasting rooms and some even provide tours of their facilities.
If you are looking for some relaxing down time, the Clear Lake area offers day spas around the lake, including Harbin Hot Springs, which was recently rated one of the top ten places in which to receive a massage. As the name suggestions, Harbin Hot Springs hosts a number of natural springs, with temperatures ranging from hot to warm to cool.
Playing or relaxing on or around a lake usually makes people hungry. Each of the communities that surround Clear Lake, which include Clear Lake, Hidden Valley Lake, Kelseyville and Upper Lake has a variety of restaurants. Irish, Mexican, Italian, American and Thai food are all represented in the area at prices that range from inexpensive to gourmet.
A recent addition to the area is the Running Creek Casino where gaming enthusiasts have their choice of 349 slot machines, six gaming tables and other types of gaming entertainment.