Trip Ideas

Dock with kayaks at Scotts Flat Lake

All There Is To Do At Scotts Flat Lake

Voted one of the best lakes in California for paddling, an annual Regatta, two campgrounds featuring hundreds of sites and miles of shoreline it's no wonder that Scotts Flat Lake is one of the most popular ways to cool off on a hot summer's day. And in the winter it's tranquil waters become a fisherman's dream for solitude and catching trophy fish.

Tips & Resources

As summer heats up, so is the demand for lake recreation. The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) advises visitors that its day-use area fills quickly. Arrive early in the day or better yet spend a night in Nevada City so you can get there even earlier.

Reserve your camping spot at Scotts Flat Lake Campground.

By Alex Silgalis

Experience the serenity of sailing on crystal-clear waters, caressed by the refreshing Sierra breezes. Dive into the inviting embrace of sandy beaches. Or try your luck casting a line for one of the rainbows lurking below. Relax and enjoy a picturesque picnic with cherished friends amidst the lush, forested hills and azure skies of the Cascade Shores Day Use Area. Whatever your ideal lake retreat entails, Scotts Flat Lake offers everything needed for a memorable family vacation.

Quick Facts

Nestled amidst towering pines at an elevation of 3,100 feet, Scotts Flat Lake lies just nine miles east of Nevada City, accessible via Highway 20 and Scotts Flat Road. Fed by the waters of Deer Creek, it spans an expansive surface area of 850 acres, boasting 7.5 miles of scenic shoreline. As one of the ten reservoirs under the stewardship of NID, which also includes Rollins Reservoir, Scotts Flat offers a tranquil escape surrounded by natural beauty.


The area offers 171 campsites at two large campgrounds, plus a group camp.

Scotts Flat Campground

The camping at Scotts Flat Lake is conveniently split between two areas, roughly a mile apart. The Gate 1 area, near the dam, offers 96 campsites, with an additional 75 sites at the Gate 2 entrance.

Most campsites can accommodate RVs, trailers, and tents, with approximately 40 sites exclusively designated for tent camping. In addition, thirty premium sites offer prime waterfront locations, while the remaining options provide a slightly inland retreat.

Water Sports

Note: For summer 2024 be aware that Scotts Flat Lake water levels will drop below average. For more information, see Damaged PG&E infrastructure impacts NID water supply – Nevada Irrigation District

Scott Flat Lake“, by TravisThurston, licensed under CC BY 3.0

As we’ll outline below, Scotts Flat Lake is one of the premier boating destinations in Nevada County. Boasting not one, but two launch ramps along with a marina, it offers ample access for water fanatics. One thing to note is personal watercraft such as jet skis are NOT allowed on Scotts Flat Lake.

Perfect For Paddling

Moreover, it’s not just ideal for traditional boating. According to Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) magazine, it ranks among California’s top 10 paddleboarding spots, making it perfect for those eager to try their hand at this exhilarating activity.

Go For The Gold Regatta

The Gold Country Yacht Club has been hosting the annual Go for the Gold Regatta for more than four decades. Usually held on the 1st weekend in June, the sailboat race has up to 100 boats. It is a grand thing to behold. Bring a picnic and watch the races, or bring your sailboat to take part in this fun annual tradition. Windward/Leeward and triangle courses will be set for races.

No Motor Day

Every year, the Nevada Irrigation District hosts an annual “No Motor Day” in May. This event is credited in direct response to community requests. On this special occasion, non-motorized watercraft such as sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are granted free entry to the Scotts Flat Recreation Area for the day. The use of motorized boats is suspended throughout the entirety of the event. Keep an eye out for the announcement on NIDWATER, typically released in late April.


For anglers seeking exceptional year-round fishing opportunities, this is a top choice. The waters are teeming with fighting rainbow trout, while small and large mouth Black Bass, Brown Trout, and Kokanee are plentiful. During the summer when boating is popular, it’s best to fish in the early morning or late afternoon hours, focusing on quieter areas. As winter sets in, the lake transforms into a serene haven, perfect for both bank fishing and trolling. Even in the colder months, fly fishermen are drawn to the challenge of catching bass, although trout fishing remains productive. For insider tips on fishing in Nevada County, don’t miss Tom Page’s “Tips on Fishing In Northern California’s Nevada County,” available at Reel Anglers Fly Shop.

Mountain Biking

mountain biker riding past Scotts Flat Trail sign in Nevada City California
Image taken by: Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies

While you might come for the water, you’ll definitely stay for the mountain biking. Bicyclists of Nevada County have crafted an impressive trail network sure to delight any off-road enthusiast. Take, for instance, the “Scotts Flat Lake Trail,” which offers an array of exciting features including twisty banked turns, tabletops, and log rides. For a deeper dive into the world of mountain biking in Nevada County, don’t miss our article: “Saddle Up To Nevada County’s Mountain Bike Trails In California.”


Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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