The coast is always a popular option, but at three hours away, it is not always available on short notice. The local foothill lakes are great but they are blazing hot and with the drought draining them fast they are not as pleasant as usual.
Head up into the mountains.
Go up, young man (with apologies to Horace Greeley)! Go up into the mountains! The higher one travels up into the mountains the cooler it gets. This is simple science. In addition, the higher you go the more water that remains in the ground and in the lakes. The meadows are still green, the trees are still growing and Shaver Lake still has a pleasant level of water.
The water is great!
To be sure, the water level at Shaver Lake is very obviously lower than normal. However, the water is still cool and clear; boats and personal watercraft still ply the lake; and if you find a shady spot, you can enjoy the afternoon basking in cool breezes.
Shaver Lake is a man-made lake in the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County. The lake was constructed in 1927 by the Southern California Edison power company and is part of the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project. It lies at a cool elevation of 5,500 feet. Stevenson Creek feeds the lake as well as several smaller streams. The quaint and historic town of Shaver Lake lies at the south-west shore of the lake.
Shaver Lake is less than an hour away from Fresno/Clovis on the Sierra freeway/highway 168 corridor into the Fresno County mountains. As you pass Clovis, the freeway turns into highway 168/Tollhouse Road and proceeds into the foothills. As you follow the road, it will turn into Morgan Canyon Road, Millerton Road, Auberry Road, and Lodge Road. During this segment, you will pass through the small foothill town of Prather. Follow Lodge road and watch for the turn where the route resumes back on Highway 168, locally known as The Four Lanes, because Highway 168 becomes a four lane highway into the higher mountains.
At the top of The Four Lanes the road returns to Tollhouse Road (and Huntington Lake Road) where it winds though local mountain neighborhoods and on into the small town of Shaver Lake. You can stop in Shaver Lake to pick up supplies and sporting goods or rent specialty toys for your day on the water. Continue up Highway 168 to the lake where you can find a number of recreational spots at which to stop and enjoy your stay.
So pack up a cooler and picnic basket, load up the kids, invite the friends, and head up the mountain to Shaver Lake!