Dip out of the heat and into the water at Castaic Lake, aquatic heart of the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s hard to beat it for a cool day trip or a getaway weekend campout—a reservoir tucked into the Sierra Pelona, surrounded by trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Of course, the water itself is the big lure as we continue into the hottest weeks of summer. The quickest way to get wet is to park in Lot 13 at the Lower Lagoon and mosey on down to North Beach, which is flooded with children wading in the pools. Take off your shoes, squish your toes in the warm sand, and splash some water on your face to cool off. Then wander down past South Beach and Hobie Beach to rent a kayak at Paradise Cove. Gleefully hop into your ’yak and crack jokes to see which of your friends will be the first to capsize. Darn! We’re all wet now!
While on the water you’ll spot sailboats and hydrobikes and folks fishing across the bay, silhouetted in front of the mesa. As the glistening sun sets over the lower lagoon—and your muscles ache from a day of paddling—return to Paradise Cove and then check in to your campsite on the opposite side of the bay. After pitching your tent, head over to the giant fire pit and crack open a cold beverage to let your muscles relax and enjoy a night filled with beautiful stars and even better company.
TIP: Looking for a bit more speed (and noise)? Head to the Upper Lake, where Jet Skis and speedboats abound.
To get to Castaic Lake from the south, take the I-5 to Exit 176A and turn right on Ridge Route Rd. Proceed 0.8 mile, turn right on the lake access road, and continue to Lot 13. Parking is $11. Campsites are $20 a night and can be reserved if you’re staying more than one night. Kayaks, paddleboards, and hydrobikes are available for rent at Paradise Cove. All trails can be accessed beside Lot 13. If you plan to hike or ride, print a map of the trails ahead of time, as they are not available at the lake. Get an early start to beat the heat, and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Dog-friendly!