Discover Lake Nacimiento

Tucked among the Santa Lucia mountains, Lake Nacimiento stretches 18 miles long and offers a serene escape for nature enthusiasts and water sports lovers. With 165 miles of shoreline, you’ll find plenty of room to enjoy the area’s beauty.

Why not try your hand at boating, water skiing, or fishing? Lake Nacimiento is also home to diverse wildlife, making it an ideal spot for birdwatching and photography. Numerous hiking trails around the lake provide incredible views and opportunities for further exploration.

Located partway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Lake Nacimiento is accessible yet feels like a hidden oasis away from the urban hustle. In addition to outdoor recreation, the surrounding community offers various places to stay, dine, and immerse yourself in local culture. So, as you explore the lake, don’t be surprised if you make connections with fellow adventurers and locals alike.

Now that you know what Lake Nacimiento offers, do you feel inspired to plan a visit? From water activities to hiking and wildlife watching, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the enchanting beauty that this California gem provides. All that’s left to do is book your Lake Nacimiento vacation rental!


Best time to visit

Top 3 Facts About Lake Nacimiento in California


A Massive Shoreline

Boasting 5,000 surface acres and an impressive 165 miles of shoreline, Lake Nacimiento features many hidden coves, winding tributaries, and breathtaking river canyons snaking through the Santa Lucia Mountains.


Nicknamed “The Dragon”

Lake Nacimiento is nicknamed “The Dragon” for its dragon-like labyrinth of waterways, coves, and tributaries – a whimsical twist of nature clearly visible from above or on a map.


A Fishing Paradise

Besides the rare opportunity to catch white bass, an unusual find in California lakes, you can also reel in largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, carp, and catfish. If you’re an angling enthusiast, this is a must-visit lake on California’s Central Coast.


Must-See Attractions

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Hearst Castle

Historic Landmark

Just a short drive from Lake Nacimiento, Hearst Castle awaits, an architectural marvel perched on the San Simeon waterfront. This exquisite estate, with its 115-room ‘big house’ and stunning Spanish Catholic church bell towers, is a feast for the eyes. Inside, you’ll find intricately carved walls, 17th-century Italian wooden ceilings, and the opulent Poseidon Pool, all narrating the story of luxury and extravagance.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Wildlife Encounter

About an hour’s drive from Lake Nacimiento lies the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, a haven for these fascinating marine mammals. Visitors can observe hundreds of elephant seals lounging, playfully interacting, and basking in the sun from the convenience of a roadside viewing platform.

DAOU Vineyards


Nestled in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, DAOU Vineyards is the passionate endeavor of brothers Georges and Daniel Daou. This family-owned winery is committed to producing world-class wines, offering visitors a chance to savor exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends while enjoying breathtaking views from an elevation of 2,200 feet.

Annual Events and Festivals

March 2024

Paso Robles Art in the Park

Immerse yourself in creativity at the Paso Robles Art in the Park, a much-loved art festival in the heart of California’s Central Coast. With over 135 artists and craft designers from across the western states showcasing their work, this event transforms Downtown Square into a hub of artistic expression. Whether you’re an art lover or a casual browser, you’ll no doubt fall in love with this welcoming festival celebrating all things art.

April 25 – 30, 2024

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLO Film Fest)

Experience the magic of cinema under the Californian sky at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, a cornerstone event for film enthusiasts. Held annually in late April, this six-day festival showcases various films, from local gems to international masterpieces, in various venues around San Luis Obispo County. Celebrating both the art of filmmaking and the beauty of the Central Coast, SLO Film Fest is an unmissable event for movie buffs and industry professionals alike.

June 2024

Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

Join the celebration of craft beer excellence at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, a prestigious event held annually at the Paso Robles fairgrounds. This festival unites beer fanatics, offering a taste of over 150 unique brews from 50 top global brewers, accompanied by live music and gourmet food from local restaurants. The festival also contributes to community projects, making it a perfect blend of enjoyment and philanthropy for those visiting the Lake Nacimiento area.

Top Hiking Trails

Lake Nacimiento Shoreline Trail

Paso Robles, CA 93446

For those seeking a moderately challenging hike near Paso Robles, the Lake Nacimiento Shoreline Trail is an excellent choice. This 5.5-mile point-to-point trail offers an elevation gain of 1100 ft, providing hikers with stunning views of Lake Nacimiento and the Santa Lucia Mountains. The trail’s location, just minutes from the heart of Paso Robles wine country, adds to its allure, making it a perfect blend of natural beauty and convenience​​.

Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail

Avila Beach, California 93424

If you’re looking for a more leisurely outdoor experience, head out on the Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail. This easy 3-mile trail, paved with asphalt and concrete, is a delightful journey from the city to Avila Beach. As you travel along San Luis Obispo County’s coast, you’ll be treated to beautiful natural landscapes and opportunities for wildlife viewing, making it a pleasant outing for nature lovers and casual walkers alike.

Salmon Creek Trail

Salmon Creek Trailhead, CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

For the more adventurous hikers, the Salmon Creek Trail offers a challenging yet rewarding experience. This 19-mile backpacking route takes you from Salmon Creek TH to Buckeye TH. It’s a multi-day trek that tests your endurance but rewards you with breathtaking ocean views and serene camping sites like Lion Den Camp. This trail is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy a more rugged hiking adventure.

Best Golf Courses

Hunter Ranch Golf Course

4041 CA-46, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Just a short drive from Lake Nacimiento, Hunter Ranch Golf Course offers a memorable golfing experience with its well-maintained greens and friendly staff. The course is beautifully framed by century-old blue oaks and sparkling lakes, offering stunning views as you play. Its design is inspired by classic courses like Augusta National and Pebble Beach, making it both challenging and enjoyable for players of all skill levels.

Paso Robles Golf Club

1600 Country Club Dr, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Established in 1961 as a private country club, Paso Robles Golf Club is now a renowned public course celebrated for its friendly and knowledgeable staff. The course is conveniently located in the heart of Paso Robles, a short distance from downtown and wine country, offering a superb golf experience in a picturesque setting. The addition of the onsite restaurant and bar, Deeds Bar & Grill, in 2019 has added to its allure, providing a space for both golfers and visitors to relax and enjoy the view.

Cypress Ridge Golf Course

780 Cypress Ridge Pkwy, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

Experience golf as it should be at Cypress Ridge, a Peter Jacobsen Signature Course located on California’s Central Coast. This course is as challenging as it is beautiful, making use of the natural surroundings to create a unique golfing experience. Mature cypress trees, lush green fairways, and the cool ocean air combine to create a golfer’s paradise, so much so, it has been certified as a Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International.

Water Sports

Boating Lake Nacimiento

This destination is perfect for a variety of boating and water sports, including waterskiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, and wake surfing. The lake features a designated ski and wakeboard slalom course in Deep Creek Cove, which is open to the public and hosts water skiing tournaments from April through October. For those who prefer a more relaxed experience, “The Narrows” section of the lake offers a low-speed area ideal for leisurely activities and tethering boats together.

Fishing Lake Nacimiento

Anglers can enjoy a peaceful fishing experience amidst the lake’s twisting inlets and coves. The lake is home to a variety of fish, including large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, carp, and catfish, and is particularly known for its white bass population. The best spots for white bass fishing are in the main channel between the marina and Bee Rock, “The Narrows,” Oak Shores, Town Creek, and Las Tablas Creek.

Kayaking Lake Nacimiento

Stand Up Paddleboarding

Paddlers can explore the lake’s 165 miles of shoreline, offering stunning scenery and opportunities to spot wildlife. However, it’s important to note that there is only one public boat launch access, aside from private ones, limiting the sections of the lake accessible by kayak. To explore more of the lake, being towed to different locations by a powerboat is an option. The eastern loop of Lake Nacimiento and the narrow channel near Bee Rock Road are particularly worth exploring​.

Winter Activities

Winter Winery Hopping

The region around Lake Nacimiento, known for its stunning vineyards, is a delightful destination for winter winery hopping. The Paso Robles wine region is home to over 200 wineries, each offering unique experiences and tastings. This activity is perfect for those looking to explore local vineyards and indulge in the area’s famous red varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel while enjoying the region’s warm hospitality.

Winter Fishing

Fishing in the winter at Lake Nacimiento is a peaceful experience, thanks to reduced boat traffic and cooler temperatures. The lake is home to a variety of fish, such as white bass, largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. For the best fishing experience, use appropriate baits like roostertails for white bass or nightcrawlers for catfish. Also, keep on the lookout for local fishing tournaments that are held annually every winter.

Winter Hiking

The cooler temperatures of winter make it an excellent season for hiking around Lake Nacimiento or on the trails of California’s Central Coast. The milder climate allows for longer hikes without the discomfort of the summer heat, and you can look forward to pleasantly quiet trails. Additionally, running or mountain biking on these trails can be equally enjoyable​​.

Where to Eat

Rock’n’robles Pizza

$$ • Piazza

Hemingway’s Steakhouse

$$$ • Upmarket American

Orange Cat Organic Cafe

$$ • Sandwiches & Quickbites

Where to Shop

The Blenders

Women’s Clothing


Boutique Shop

General Store Paso Robles

Gift Shop

Where to Sleep

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Tips on Renting a Vacation Home on Lake Nacimiento

Location Choices

Decide whether you prefer a lakeside spot for easy water access or a more secluded location further from the lake for privacy and tranquility. Each offers a unique experience.

Activity Planning

Lake Nacimiento is known for water sports and fishing. Plan and possibly pre-book activities like boat rentals or fishing tours to ensure availability.

Seasonal Considerations

Visit during off-peak times for potentially lower rental rates. Also, be aware of the lake’s water level variations throughout the year, which can affect water activities.

Preparation for Remote Areas

Some rental locations might be quite remote. Prepare accordingly with supplies, as nearby shopping options could be limited. Also, cell service can be spotty, so plan for potential connectivity issues.

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Going Deeper on Lake Nacimiento

Lake Nacimiento was primarily designed for irrigation, flood control, and recreational purposes. Its creation began with the construction of the Nacimiento Dam, a 210-foot earthfill structure completed in 1956 by the Monterey County Water Authority. The lake serves a crucial role in recharging groundwater and has a capacity of 377,000 acre-feet, with careful management to accommodate seasonal surges from the Santa Lucia Range. Its development was funded by Monterey County, while San Luis Obispo County retained rights to a portion of its water.

The lake’s history is marked by significant developments, such as the construction of a pipeline in 2007 to distribute water to nearby cities, operational in 2011. However, in 2014, the lake’s dam faced a shutdown due to turbine damage, impacting the water supply and levels of neighboring Lake San Antonio. The lake’s management and patrolling are unique, with the Monterey County Parks Department overseeing the water and resort area under a joint agreement with San Luis Obispo County.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lake Nacimiento

Lake Nacimiento is a sizable lake, stretching for 18 miles with several creeks and arms. As a result, water levels can vary depending on factors such as seasonal precipitation and water demands. It’s always a good idea to check the current water levels before planning your trip to ensure the lake’s conditions are ideal for your preferred activities.

There are campgrounds near Lake Nacimiento that cater to both tent and RV campers. Here, you can find a variety of amenities like restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and more. Additionally, the surrounding oak and pine forests offer plenty of opportunities for more secluded campsites if you prefer a more immersive experience with nature.

Lake Nacimiento offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. On the water, you can try boating, water skiing, or fishing. If you prefer land-based activities, you can explore the beautiful oak and pine forests through hiking, birdwatching, or simply relaxing at a scenic viewpoint. There’s something for everyone at this enchanting lake.

Fishing at Lake Nacimiento can be a memorable experience, as it’s the only lake in California stocked with white bass. Furthermore, the lake is home to various other warm-water fish species, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, carp, and catfish. The state record carp was caught in Lake Nacimiento back in 1968!

The Dragon of Lake Nacimiento refers to the unique dragon-like shape created by the layout of the lake’s creeks and arms. This fascinating geological formation adds a touch of mystery to the lake and is only one of the many aspects that make it a truly remarkable destination.

Yes, there are regulations, especially regarding water usage, boat launching, and fishing. It’s advisable to check the latest rules from local authorities or community guidelines.

The best time to visit is during the spring and summer months for water activities. However, the lake offers different attractions throughout the year, including fishing and hiking in the cooler months.

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