Imagine enjoying a leisurely lunch with delicious Mexican food, accompanied with a cool pitcher of Margaritas and warm chips to dip in delicious salsa. After lunch and with a full belly, you head over to the pool to enjoy a relaxing nap in the shade. Near the pool sits a small sandy beach leading out to warm clean water with a small island situated just offshore. Adding to the overall ambience is a small lighthouse in the distance and palm trees swaying in the breeze.
Later in the afternoon you find a private fishing hole and catch the largest bass of your life, in fact, the largest fish of your life.
Sounds like a vacation on a tropical island right? Or a dream? Actually, what I am describing is available for any resident of Canyon Lake, a private community in Riverside County, just east of Lake Elsinore.
Unfortunately, I am sorry to say that you cannot visit the lake unless you live there or know someone to get you into this gated community.
So why are we doing a staycation on a place you can’t visit? Because, if you do happen to have a friend, relative, business associate, or just acquaintance that asks you come visit… go!!! Make these people your best friends, or favorite cousins because Canyon Lake is a hidden gem that most people don’t know about.
We were lucky enough to have our newest best friend ask us to come by for the day for a tour of the lake and to fish in a few secret spots.
Pepe’s restaurant located just outside of the gated community provided the first leg of our afternoon with the great Mexican food I mentioned and of course the cold Margaritas. When finished, we jumped in a golf cart and proceeded towards the main gate of this private community. Since all but a few roads are privately held and maintained by Canyon Lake, golf carts are allowed to freely motor around the area. Conversely, motorcycles are not allowed to drive on the streets.
Only residents and selected guests can pass through the manned gates so, sadly, we can’t just drive up for the day to take a swim in the lake. Canyon Lake is one of only five gated communities in California and one that began as a master-planned community consisting of over 4,800 lots.
As we continued the tour we were amazed by the nooks and crannies around the lake. Small little channels tucked away beautiful homes that sat right at water’s edge with their boats docked just a few feet away.
There were beaches with pools nearby, club houses, tennis and volley ball courts, ball fields, etc. Everything a fine resort would have except it is only for the lucky who happen to live there and, of course, their friends who visit.
Some areas had a “no wake” speed zone for swimmers while other areas allow water-skiing and wake-boarding. There is a slalom ski area and we even saw a lone ramp for jumping.
Ski boats, fishing boats, paddle boats, sailboats, etc. are allowed on the lake with a maximum length of 21-feet and the speed limit is 35 mph. Surprisingly, personal watercraft (Jet-skis, Sea Doos, etc.) are not allowed.
Each year the association stocks the lake with bass and catfish and boy did we discover this as we caught the largest fish of our life. We were treated to a few secret fishing holes and they delivered with catches of 5 enormous bass and one small one. Our host had a catch and release policy which we were happy about. The fish is only out of the water long enough to take a quick photo. We had to take a photo because none of our friends would believe the size of these fish!
We were told that summer is scorching at the lake and the water rises well above 80-degrees. On any given weekend the lake is filled with boats and swimmers. With a little over 10,000 residents I am sure it gets pretty packed especially with all of the favorite cousins and best friends wanting to get a piece of this paradise.
There is 14.9 miles of shoreline and a good portion of that is adorned with custom homes and docks. There are also campsites, a equestrian center, and ball fields.
It seems like a perfect place to reside save for the temperatures of 90-degrees in the summer with an occasional 100+ thrown in for good measure. It is a very hot place to live but would be no problem for me as long as I am on the lake or in the water!
As mentioned, Canyon Lake can’t be for everybody, but if you know somebody who lives there follow these instructions: go to the nearest store and buy a nice bottle of wine or a gift of some sort. Next, call them up and say, “I happen to be in the neighborhood and have a delicious bottle of wine or_____ (insert item), can I come over?” Then enjoy your day hopefully on the lake, in the pool, or with a fishing pole in your hand.
For those of you who live in Canyon Lake, I hope you appreciate what you have because I thoroughly enjoyed my day and was a tiny bit, no,… a LOT jealous.
As I have said about other staycations,” I may not live there but at least I can go visit.” However, in this case I have to make sure I keep my new best friend happy. How much is a good bottle of wine these days by the way?
Story and photos: Debbie Colwell