Within a Short Distance of Sacramento: Three Great Places to Cool Off This Summer
There’s only one direction to head to in the middle of a Sacramento summer…the water! Luckily you’ll find many options in town and within an hour’s drive. Whether you’re ready to immerse yourself in the cool water, relax on the beach or bring on the adventure watersports, the region offers something for everyone.
The best news for this summer is that Folsom Lake is full and the popular Beal’s Point and Granite Bay spots are a perfect day trip, with rentals, sandy beaches and snack bars.
“We are expecting a great summer for recreational activities out on the lake,” says Shane Hunt, public affairs officer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region. “Water levels should be higher this summer than they have been for the last several years so everyone should get out there and enjoy it.”
Locals also love taking the family to Raging Waters in Sacramento and Golfland Sunsplash in Roseville, both great options for a full day, with a wide range of water park activities. The parks are set up for all ages and renting a cabana is an ideal stay-cay amenity.
Are you looking for something a little different this summer?
Wake Island is not your normal water park. In fact, it’s the largest water park on the West Coast! It’s an oasis just outside of downtown Sacramento and West Roseville neighborhoods. You may have heard of the cable (boatless) wakeboarding it offers; that’s originally how it got its name on the map. The water park has recently expanded its activities and offers something for everyone.
A day at Wake Island is guaranteed to be a memorable day, whether you choose to challenge each other on the new Aqua Park (an enormous inflatable obstacle course), try cable wakeboarding or rent a stand up paddleboard. Families have fun with pedal boats, turbo paddlers and corcls, which are floating saucers that you can sit or stand on. The swimming beach is a great place to relax and watch the watersports, right next to Beach Hut Deli and Island Grill.
The park charges for the various water activities, but there is no admission fee to Wake Island. Visitors are encouraged to come and check out the facility.
Elizabeth Hall of Folsom enjoys coming to the water park with her husband and two children. For their family, it started as a summer camp two years ago for both kids (Lucia is 16 and Eric is 14). They had so much fun that the whole family learned to wakeboard and now purchases a season pass each year for that water activity.
“It’s one of the few spots that we can all do something at the same place at the same time,” says Hall, 48. “The thing I really like about Wake Island is that they give you free instructions; they want to see you succeed. If you want to learn something, they will definitely help you with whatever is the next step. They are not just operating the cable.”
Wake Island also offers summer camps for ages 7 to 15. Kids love the Aqua Park, cable wakeboarding, wakeskating, kneeboarding, tubing and stand up paddleboarding. On land, it’s volleyball and beach soccer!
Sacramento State Aquatic Center
Just off of Highway 50 and next to Nimbus Dam is the Sacramento State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma, which is open to the general public and a popular destination for taking lessons on the water or spending the day. The facility occupies eight acres of land, with a beach area, picnic tables, barbecues, four docks and $10 parking.
We are the closest thing to being next to the city and being right next to nature in less than 15 minutes,” says Cindi Dulgar, associate director of the facility. “There are owls, turtles, otters, deer and a heron rookery. An eagle has also been spotted.”
According to Dulgar, the renters and visitors of the aquatic center are diverse in their passions—many rent stand up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes and hydro bikes and enjoy being able to be on the water in less than 15 minutes. A popular plan for a family is to head out on two tandem kayaks and bring a sack lunch.
The on-site, week-long summer camps for kids ages 7 to 18 teach windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing.
“We have kids who most of our staff know on a first name basis,” says Dulgar. “It’s fun to see that this is not a fly-by-night business…it’s a lifestyle and community staple for this area.”
Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park
An hour drive up Highway 50 will get you to Jenkinson Lake, a man-made lake (640 surface areas) within the Sly Park Recreation Area that is owned and operated by El Dorado Irrigation District. Visitors come from all over northern California and according to the parks and recreation manager, Greg Hawkins, they love the convenience of the park, the scenery and the water quality.
“There are day-use areas scattered throughout the park with picnic tables and barbecues and potable water,” says Hawkins. “Sometimes day-use will max out on the weekends so come up early. Midweek is great with about 50 percent occupancy.”
Families enjoy swimming in the lake (the water is in the 70s according to Hawkins) and hiking two-miles round trip to a 30-foot waterfall where you can also swim. If you plan for the waterfall hike, which is mostly flat and fairly easy, check the website first at Eid.org/Recreation or call the gatehouse to make sure the water is flowing, as it’s not a natural, continuously flowing waterfall.
Lake rentals include stand up paddleboards, pedal boats, canoes and kayaks and are available on the weekends only, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Families also enjoy boating, fishing (the lake is planted with fish) and mountain biking.
What about lunch? The day-use areas include barbecues, picnic tables and restrooms, and are on a first come, first served basis. You can bring in coolers or another option is to head across from the park to the Sly Park Resort, a convenient store and bar and grill with burgers and sandwiches. The small mountain town of Pollock Pines is just 10 minutes away and also has several restaurants.
There are a couple options for coming to the park. You can enter through the main park gate and pay $11 for a day pass or enter through the Bumpy Meadows gate for $5, which only has a few picnic tables and no barbecues or potable water.
“People enjoy being able to come in and drive around,” says Veronica Slavik, a seasonal employee at the lake who says the area is really shady and there’s a nice breeze off the water. “It’s really pretty and we patrol it regularly, so it’s very safe.”
Whether it’s a relaxing day at the lake or a fun-filled adventure to a water park, a stay-cay in Sacramento and nearby areas is bound to be a great day!