15 Best Lakes in San Jose

San Jose, the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” is the largest city in Northern California and the third most populous city in the state. It’s a global city known for innovation, climate and affluence, and a high cost of living. For tourists, the city is full of beautiful buildings, museums, landmarks and delicious food.

San Jose is located in the center of the Santa Clara Valley on the south shore of the San Francisco Bay. It also has about 6,455 hectares of parkland, a 100km trail network and some great wildlife. There are also some great lakes in the city itself and nearby to get you away from city life. Below are our picks for the 15 best lakes in and around San Jose.

1. Lake Cunningham; 2305 South White Road

Lake Cunningham

This artificial lake is located within Lake Cunningham Park in East San Jose. The lake and park are named after James F. Cunningham; the man who owned the land before the city built the lake for flood protection.

Unfortunately, the water quality in the lake is so poor that it is currently inaccessible even by boat. Still, there is plenty to do in the park, such as picnics, rollerblading, horseshoes, volleyball, and other land-based sports.

Lake Cunningham Extreme Sports Park and Lake Cunningham Native Gardens can be found along the lake’s eastern shoreline, while San Jose Raging Waters is to the west. There are also hiking trails around the lake and in the mountains above.

2. Cottonwood Lake; 985 Hellier Avenue

cottonwood lake

Cottonwood Lake is located in Hellyer County Park off US-101 in South San Jose. The lake is not big, but fishing is possible.

The parks around the lake have a lot to offer and make spending a day here very relaxing. It features a new thrilling playground including bridges, swings, a rock climbing area and waters with waterfalls, sprinklers and splash pads.

The 24-kilometer multipurpose Coyote Creek Trail passes along the west side of Cottonwood Lake, but there is also a trail around it. There also happen to be three disc golf courses southeast of the lake.

3. Anderson Lake; 19245 Malaguerra Ave, Morgan Hill

Anderson Lake

Anderson Lake isn’t actually in San Jose itself, although it’s on the southeastern border of the Diablo Mountains foothills. The 514-hectare lake, at 191 meters above sea level, is one of the most stunning lakes in the city.

Boating, water skiing and jet skiing are popular activities here, but check beforehand to make sure the water level is high enough. If not, visitors can still enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, and jogging in Anderson Lake County Park, which surrounds most of the lake.

There are many trails on the west side of the lake with amazing views of the lake and mountains. On the southeastern end of Anderson Lake is the Woodchoppers Flat picnic area.

4. Lexington Reservoir; 17770 Alma Bridge Road, Los Gatos

lexington res.

This 182-hectare man-made lake is located less than 30 minutes south of downtown San Jose, in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The lake is part of Lexington Reservoir County Park, so in addition to supplying water to the area, it is used for recreational purposes.

Boating, boating and fishing are popular, and there is a boat launch on the east side of the lake. The Lexington Reservoir also happens to be home to the Los Gatos Rowing Club.

There are 6 hiking trails running in all directions from the lake, including the Limekiln Trail, Priest Rock Trail and Los Gatos Creek Trail. The picnic area is located on the northeast side of the lake and is on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early.

5. Calero Reservoir; 23205 McKean Road

calero res.

This San Jose lake is located at the southernmost tip of the city of Mount Santa Teresa. The 141-hectare lake is surrounded by 1,809-hectare county parks that offer many activities.

The lake was formed in 1935 by the Calero Dam, which happens to be the fourth largest reservoir in the region. It collects water that flows from the foot of the mountain and provides water to county residents.

Calero Reservoir also offers many activities including sailing, boating, fishing, water skiing and jet skiing. In addition, the surrounding park gives visitors access to 30 kilometers of hiking and equestrian trails.

6. Guadalupe Reservoir; Hicks Road

guadalupe res.

Located on the southern edge of San Jose, the Guadalupe Reservoir is a tranquil lake as it is completely surrounded by greenery. In fact, it’s located in Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

Fishing is allowed in the 30-hectare lake, but there is a catch and release policy as it is not safe to eat fish. No boats are allowed in the lake, nor swimming.

The main reasons tourists come to Guadalupe Reservoir are the scenery and the park, which happens to have nearly 60 kilometers of hiking trails. Horseback riding, cycling and picnics are also available.

7. Almaden Reservoir; Alamitos Road, Almaden

almaden res.

Almaden Reservoir is located south of Almaden Quicksilver County Park along Herbert Creek. The lake was created in 1936 by the earthen Almaden Dam.

It is a small lake of only 25 hectares, the smallest of the 10 reservoirs owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Still, it supplies about 4% of the water to the area.

Like the Guadalupe Reservoir, the Almaden Reservoir has a fishing and release program and is off-limits to the lake. There are picnic tables on the lake shore and the adjacent Almaden Quicksilver County Park is filled with hiking, biking and equestrian trails.

8. Stevens Creek Reservoir; 11401 Stevens Canyon Road, Cupertino

stevens creek res.

The 3,518-hectare lake is located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just west of the city near Cupertino. The Stevens Creek Reservoir is surrounded by 430 hectares of county park that offers a wealth of recreational activities.

Stevens Creek Reservoir is a popular spot for fishing for koi, bluegill, largemouth bass, Asian carp and crappie, but is strictly fished and released. Non-powered boats are allowed on the lake, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the mountain scenery.

There are more than 14 kilometers of multi-use trails in Stevens Creek County Park, as well as some great mountain biking. The Lake Shore Picnic Area is a peaceful picnic spot, and tables are provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

9. Calaveras Reservoir; Calaveras Road, Milpitas

calaveras res.

Calaveras Reservoir is located north of San Jose, in the Calaveras Valley near the Sunor Regional Wilderness. The lake is located in a former agricultural area but became a reservoir due to the increasing demand for drinking water in the area.

Today, the lake’s water is no longer used for drinking, but is used by ranchers to control fires. However, the lake and its surrounding area are most popular with tourists for its wildlife.

Coyotes, deer, turkey vultures, red-tailed eagles, red-winged blackbirds and purple martins are often spotted here. It’s also possible to spot a pair of bald eagles that have called the lake and valley their home since 2008.

10. Chesborough Reservoir; 17655 Oak Glen Avenue, Morgan Hill

chesboro res.

This artificial lake is part of the scenic Chesbro Reservoir County Park, located northeast of San Jose, Morgan Hill. The 133-hectare lake was formed in 1955 by the construction of the Elmer J. Chesbro Dam.

Chesbro Reservoir itself doesn’t offer much to do, but the parks around it do. Instead, people just enjoy the scenery or enjoy a picnic on the coastline.

Chesbro Reservoir County Park is a great place to hike, but there are no marked trails. This means that only experienced hikers should attempt to explore it.

11. Del Valle Lake; Del Valle Road, Livermore

del valle lake

The 50-kilometer journey from northeast San Jose to Lake Del Valle in Livermore is well worth it. The 287-hectare lake is part of Del Valle Regional Park, which consists of beautiful rolling hills.

The lake has 26 kilometers of shoreline and is lined with camping areas and marinas, as well as designated swimming areas with lifeguards. The lake is also popular for boating, windsurfing and fishing.

Visitors looking to enjoy Del Valle Regional Park can go horseback riding, have a picnic or go hiking. In fact, there are more than 45 kilometers of trails, with elevations ranging from 150 to 460 meters.

12. Crystal Springs Reservoir; Canada Road, Burlingame

Crystal Springs Reservoir

These are actually a pair of lakes about a 45-minute drive northwest of the city in the northern Santa Cruz Mountains. The lakes are fed by local precipitation as well as pipelines connecting the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.

Known for its incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna, Crystal Springs Reservoir attracts nature lovers from all over the world. Species found here include the endangered San Mateo Prickly Mint, Marin Dwarf Flax, and San Mateo Wool Sunflower.

Most people come here to enjoy the stunning natural surroundings and hike along the Crystal Springs area trails. The trail is divided into three sections and is suitable not only for hiking but also for jogging, cycling and horse riding.

13. Loch Lomond; Loch Lomond Road, Felton

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond was formed by the damming of the Newell River in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 71-hectare reservoir provides some of the drinking water for the city of Santa Cruz, as well as recreational activities.

Boating and fishing are allowed here, but swimming is prohibited. The Loch Lomond recreation area around the lake features picnic areas and charcoal pits, as well as a boat ramp.

There are hiking trails on the east side of Loch Lomond, the distance and terrain are very far, you can see the panoramic view of the lake and the mountains.

14. Coyote Lake; Coyote Reservoir Road, Gilroy

coyote lake

The 2,279-hectare Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park is the 182-hectare Coyote Lake. The lake is easily accessible from San Jose by heading south on US-101 for about 50 kilometers.

The artificial lake was created by the construction of Coyote Dam, which happens to be the second largest reservoir owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. In addition to providing water, Coyote Lake is used for recreation.

Water skiing, jet skiing, jet skiing, sailing, canoeing and kayaking are all available here, but swimming is prohibited. The surrounding county parks feature campgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas and bonfires on Saturday nights.

15. Shadow Cliff Lake; Stanley Avenue, Pleasanton

Shadow Cliff Lake

In the city of Pleasanton, northwest of San Jose, you can find Shadow Cliffs Lake and its surrounding Shadow Cliffs area play area. This lake used to be a gravel quarry, but today it is a beautiful lake with sandy swimming beaches.

In addition to swimming, you can go fishing as the lake is stocked with trout and catfish every week. Although only electric motors are allowed, rowing is also allowed.

Visitors who would rather enjoy the lake from land can picnic, hike, bike or horseback along one of the recreation area’s multi-use trails. Shadow Cliff Lake is also a bird watcher’s paradise, and many waterfowl can often be seen in the more secluded areas of the lake.

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