Gliding across the tranquil waters of Lake Natoma, you’ll quickly discover why this oasis is beloved by locals. The lake—actually part of the American River—is a paddler’s paradise, attracting water enthusiasts to canoe, kayak, and row on its calm waters.
The on-site Sacramento State Aquatic Center rents all of the above, as well as stand-up paddleboards and sailboats. However you go with the flow, be sure to explore further upstream, where the canyon narrows, the trees thicken, and the lake becomes more serene. There are plenty of islands, inlets, and secluded coves to see.
Beer Bonus: For a selection of the best craft brews Sacramento has to offer, try SacYard Community Tap House (1725 33rd St., Sacramento). At least two dozen local beers are on tap at any given time. Though the selection varies, SacYard has poured award-winning beers from nearby Track Seven, New Glory, and New Helvetia. Grab a pint and curl up by the communal fire pit. Or, if you still have energy to burn, take in a round or two of cornhole or giant Jenga.
The easiest access to Lake Natoma is via the Nimbus Dam Recreation Area/Sacramento State Aquatic Center. Take Hazel Ave. (Exit 21) from eastbound Hwy. 50 and proceed north for about half a mile. At the second stoplight, turn right onto Gold Country Blvd./Nimbus Rd. and continue to the parking lot. Parking is $10.