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Bass Lake California: The Ultimate Outdoor Family Trip

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Travel is about so much more than merely SEEING the destination. Don’t get me wrong–destinations are incredible. However, the experiences you have with the people around you on the trip is what actually sticks in my memory the most. 

This was 1,000% true with our recent trip to Bass Lake California. The experience of being out on the water plus spending time with our loved ones equaled one incredible family vacation

Vacation is all about the ones you are with. Who are you sharing all of your experiences with? With the right people by your side, your trip will (no doubt) be enjoyable no matter where you are headed!

Every summer, we travel with Bo’s extended family (parents, siblings, and their families) to Bass Lake California. It’s a trip filled with food, friendship, fresh air, and lots of H20!

Smiling family on boat on Bass Lake California

Dad wakeboarding on Bass Lake California

What is Bass Lake, California?

Bass Lake sits up in the Sierra National Forest at approximately 3,400 feet. It’s high enough to be surrounded by alpine trees, but low enough that the lake water in the summer doesn’t turn you into an instant icicle. In late July, it can be the perfect balance of refreshing and comfortable!

The weather at Bass Lake is pretty ideal for summer fun if you ask me! It gets hot in the summer months (mostly 80s-90s), but the higher elevation saves you from the sweltering sauna temperatures that you find in California’s Central Valley about an hour away. 

If you want to see breathtaking waterfalls and go on adventurous hikes, take a short 30 minute drive north and you will hit Yosemite National Park. It’s the perfect distance for taking a day trip while you are visiting Bass Lake California. 

Skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, swimming, and hiking are all available at Bass Lake. The Pines Resort, Miller’s Landing Resort, and The Forks Resort all offer different options for boat rentals if you haven’t invested $10,000+ in a pontoon boat or jetski just yet. Outdoor adventure awaits!

Still morning water on Bass Lake California

Family Time in Bass Lake

This trip was designed to be all about family–both our immediate tribe trio (Bo, Austin, and I) and Bo’s extended family. It is a trip geared around spending quality time with loved ones. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, this trip has never felt more crucial. We had all spent the VAST majority of our time in our own homes for the past 4 months, and this was one of our first opportunities to escape the routine (albeit an odd quarantine one) and travel! 

We were all excited for our family trip when the day came to finally load up the car and hit the road! Bass Lake California, here we come!!!


Food, swimsuits, sunscreen and margarita mix were all packed up in the back of our car. That is really all we needed for a perfect week on the lake!

From San Diego, it’s about a 6.5 hr drive if you go straight through. However, we decided to break it up  and make an overnight pit stop to stay with my brother-in-law and his family. Austin couldn’t wait to play with his cousins and swim in their pool!

Pro Tip: When it comes to family travel and especially road trips, don’t try to do too much in one day. Break the trip up into manageable chunks. You might discover that your pit stops generate unexpected memories that are just as meaningful as the destination itself. 

The first leg of the drive was 5 hours, and Austin read books for about the first 4 hours. He has gotten VERY used to road trips and does a great job at chilling, reading books and listening to music on the drive. When the last hour hit, we decided to break out a movie for a little bit as a special treat!

The next morning was filled with cousin time splashing in the pool. Once everyone was showered and we reloaded the cars, we hit the road for the final part of the trip (only 1.5 hrs) to Bass Lake California. 

Relaxation begins to set in as we drive by field after field of cows grazing and taking naps in the cozy grass. All the worries of life fly out the window as we cruise down the country highway with the mountains as our finish line. We can just start to see them in the distance. 

We are rocking out in our car to our country summer 2020 playlist that we made, specifically with Bass Lake California in mind. A new song starts and in perfect time, Austin starts singing from the back seat “One margarita, two margarita, three margarita, shot!” Bo and I burst out laughing…yep…I guess we are THOSE parents! 

Finally, we catch our first glimpse of the sun sparkling on the top of the lake. Instantly, we mentally kick into vacation mode!

Mom and son in car for the road trip to Bass Lake California

Mom on front of boat under shining sun on Bass Lake California


We rented a cabin that had a deck with a view of the lake because if you can’t see the lake…are you even there? The house was perfect for our extended family. Each family had their own bedroom with at least two beds and their own bathroom (hollar!!!). 

Since we packed light, we had plenty of open space in our bedroom. It was so nice to have our own space to crash each night after hours of lake fun. 

We have made due with far less space and still had a great time. However, the personal family space in this house was fantastic, especially since there are six grandkids under age ten. 

Because our trip was centered around family time, we were thrilled to discover that the living room was large enough for us all to have space on a couch. For the few moments when we were NOT out on the lake, this was ideal. We used the space for opening presents, watching a Dodgers game, kids playing with toys, and chatting about our crazy world. 

VRBO Lakeview House in Bass Lake California

Father and son walking into VRBO rental in Bass Lake California

Family Meals

The focus on family continued into all of our meals. We chose to rotate cooks for dinner, so each night a different family was responsible for cooking. Not only do you get a delicious variety of food, but it also gives everyone an opportunity to spend time together instead of being stuck in the kitchen every night cooking for 14 people. 

Our house had enough space for everyone to sit around the table and at the long bar together during meals. There is something sacred about sharing a meal together around the table

It moves beyond physical nourishment–conversation fills your soul. It gives you opportunities to connect, get a glimpse into each other’s lives, and learn from others’ viewpoints. PLUS…it’s a chance to laugh and laugh and laugh some more (especially with kids around). 

Each member of Bo’s family lives in a different city throughout Central and Southern California. So we REALLY look forward to these times when we can ALL BE TOGETHER as a one big family.

If you don’t want to cook or just want a fun dinner out, you can go to The Pines Resort area. They have a few different eateries to enjoy some fresh fish while looking out at Bass Lake California. Last year, we went down to the resort for some refreshing ice cream, which is ALWAYS a good idea!

This desire for ice cream presented itself this year in a different form. Miller’s Landing Resort had a cute food truck serving shaved ice. After filling up the boat with gas one day, we sent a couple of “shave ice retrievers” to get one for everyone on the boat. 

Sitting in a boat, on the lake, under the sun, while eating shaved ice…does life get any sweeter? Doubtful. 

Pro Tip: Opt (like us) to get shaved ice while on your boat. BUT–don’t go over too many waves or the boat will end up dyed red from the sloshing and melting shaved ice! (Ask me how I know.)

Father and son eating shaved ice on boat on Bass Lake California

Family Outdoor Activities

Boating on Bass Lake California

No trip to Bass Lake California would be complete without spending practically every available hour boating on the lake! Not only is it a total blast, but it is the perfect opportunity for even more quality family time. 

Every single person in the family enjoyed riding on the boat. We were chatting about life, smiling ear to ear, and singing along to our favorite country tunes. Luke Bryan’s One Margarita was our main anthem!

The true essence of family was even more robust as people went skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, and riding the ZUP board. Some needed extra guidance with instruction, while others needed continuous support through failed attempt after failed attempt.

Moment of honesty — I’m TERRIBLE at skiing.  I lost count of how many times my gracious father-in-law circled back around to come get me and try again. 

Pro Tip: If you have kids (or adults like me) who want to get more comfortable with being pulled by a boat without having to master the initial popping up out of the water, then get a ZUP board. You can lay, kneel, and stand up on it for a super fun ride! Actually… ALL of our adults had tons of fun on it too!

In the end, the whole family was great at celebrating the success of someone getting up on the first try, holding on over intense waves, and kids making brave moves on the ZUP board! 

Amidst it all was TONS of laughter (my favorite thing!). So. Much. Laughter. 

Little boy driving the boat on Bass Lake California

Mom on ZUP board on Bass Lake California

Bass Lake California Water Sports

Beyond boating, we also enjoyed other water activities. The kids loved swimming in the lake and playing on the Bullfrog Lily Pad in between boat rides. If you spend any extended portion of time at a lake, this lily pad is a MUST HAVE! Add it to the birthday wish list now!

Everyone loved taking the kayaks around the no wake area on the lake. It was the perfect space even for the older kids to try their hand at kayaking. Austin even went with Bo and practiced his paddling skills…which needed some work because he almost tipped them over within the first 2 minutes!

Those who were more confident with their balance, took the paddle board out for a spin. It’s a great way to get in a little bit of a workout while still enjoying a leisurely activity. However, when boats zoomed by sending decent waves toward the shore, staying up got instantly more daring and tricky. 

The best thing about this paddle board–it is inflatable! So, it’s super easy to travel with!

Spending time doing water sports and chilling on the floating dock gave the cousins and adults a chance to grow closer. Adults had great dockside chats as the kids played at our feet. Bigger cousins helped younger ones get more comfortable in and around the water. Everyone was having loads of fun!

Father and son kayaking on Bass Lake California

Boy on lily pad on top of water on Bass Lake California

Dad paddle boarding across Bass Lake California

Bass Lake Rejuvenates the Soul 

From the family time to the boat rides to the cooked meals to the water sports, our trip to Bass Lake California rejuvenated my soul. Travel is not only about the destination (although this was a great one). It’s about the atmosphere that envelops you and ushers you into a peaceful mood from the moment you step out of the car and place your foot on the ground. 

I felt so refreshed and alive breathing in the alpine air on the dock and soaking up the sun on the boat. The community connection with loved ones was the cherry on top. This trip had all the components to offer complete rejuvenation. 

In the end, Bass Lake California was the ideal outdoor escape in the midst of limiting travel restrictions. It was a breath of fresh air both literally and figuratively speaking. I already can’t wait to return!

Family on tube on water on Bass Lake California

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