Walkabout California

Hiking Inn to Inn

Kayaking in the Sierra’s Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

Gliding peacefully across Utica Reservoir, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Boulders, deep below the surface catch the morning sun in the clear waters.  An osprey circles overhead, intently searching for breakfast.  Our kayaks and paddles are all that disturbs the still surface.

Three easily accessed lakes in Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, Utica Reservoir, Union Reservoir, and Spicer Meadow Reservoir offer wonderful camping, kayaking, and canoeing.  (See directions below.)  There are scores of campsites in Forest Service campgrounds and walk-in, drive-to sites around the lakes.  Or, launch your kayak and find a site along the shore or on one of dozens of islands.  Be sure to bring your own drinking water or a water purifier.

Our campsite overlooks Utica Reservoir.  Its shore is lined with pines, junipers, and glacial polished granite.  A pair of paddle boarders pass by as we prepare our kayaks, and a gaggle of curious Canada geese swim over to see what we are up to.
          We launch, paddling along the shore, and when the sun warms us, we stop at an island for a swim.  It is mid-June.  Diving off rocks into the brisk water, we do not linger.  Come July the water will be warm enough for a long swim.

Turning up an arm of the lake, we beach at the base of a stream.  A mother mallard shepherds her brood of eight chicks.  One strays too far and then skitters back across the surface to the safety of mom’s protection. 

We set out on foot up stream to Union Reservoir.  Hiking over raw granite, we spend a few hours exploring the shoreline.

A westerly, afternoon breeze has kicked up.  Heading into the wind, the journey back takes a bit more effort, but it is still a joy to be paddling in paradise.


Bring the Kids

The three lakes are great for family camping with or without a boat.  There are endless opportunities for water play and exploring.



The lakes are approximately 3 hours from the Bay Area and 2.5 hours from Sacramento.  Take Hwy. 4 west into the Sierra.  You will pass by Angels Camp, through Murphys and Arnold.  Turn right on Spicer Reservoir Rd., 22 miles east of Arnold.  Turn left on Forest Service Road 7N75 to reach Utica and Union Reservoirs.  Continue on Spicer Reservoir Rd. to reach Spicer Meadow Reservoir.


Equipment Rental

Rent kayaks and paddle boards in Arnold at Sierra Nevada Adventure Company (209)795-9310.  Even if you don’t have a car rack, they can set you up.

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