Cali Paddler Explorations - Silverwood Lake

Cali Paddlers are known for their passion of exploration. A desire to paddle our waters, and pay respects to the amazing wildlife and nature that lives in our waterways. Thank you to Bret Warner for sharing one of his favorite areas to paddle, as well as how traveling inland can lead to as good as any paddle along our coastlines. -C.P.

When talking to people at races it inevitably comes up that I live roughly an hour inland. The next question is always a riff on the following: ugh, rough, how long is your drive to the beach?  I get this question because, apart from Big Bear, most people have no idea there are several other lakes to paddle in the San Bernardino Mountains and surrounding inland areas.  My favorite of all these, and only partially because of proximity to my inland home, is Silverwood Lake.  Located on highway 138 about ten minutes east of the 15 freeway. With thirteen miles of shoreline, many of which are either off limits to boats or are low speed areas, there is plenty of space for longer, mileage building paddles, as well as plenty of beach space for a more leisurely outing.

Cali Paddler Explorations - Silverwood Lake

The lake has a rough hourglass shape, with the top, northern end, bigger than the southern end.  The southern side has a low enough speed limit to keep the waters calm, and boats are not allowed at all if you paddle far enough to the southeast of the lake. On a non-windy day, this is where you can get the pristine and glassy lake conditions that are so often absent on the ocean. The northern end will have boats going faster, but the added space there makes it easier to increase the miles you paddle, without doing laps; I personally don’t like repeating the same area in one session.  The wildlife there is what you would expect for Southern California Mountains, which is a good thing. In the southern area of the lake you will often find yourself inadvertently breaking up floating flocks of birds, I saw a great blue heron pass right by me on my last paddle there, and I have had coyotes check me out from the shore as well.

Cali Paddler Explorations - Silverwood Lake

To see another paddler there is rare. For me, this is a positive since it has become a meditative morning workout paddle spot I visit consistently. There is a good chance of at least a semblance of solitude while paddling up there, especially if you can get there in the morning.  To be fair, I have to mention the wind here. I know many of your ears just perked with the thought of a new downwind spot, but SIlverwood is not that.  The wind is unpredictable, and the shape of the lake, especially with all the inlets makes it so that the wind does not blow in the same direction for any extended distance.  On a race or a touring board it has never been unbearable, but it certainly adds to the workout.  Overall, however, I would come to Silverwood even if it was not so close to home. It is definitely one of the treasures in the hills that can make you forget the urban sprawl of Inland Southern California is only about a half hour away.

Cali Paddler Explorations - Silverwood Lake

A few more important pieces of info:

  • In the summer the park is open from 6:00-7:00, most of the year they open at 7:00
  • It’s a state park with a 10 dollar entry fee.
  • In the off season you will have to park by the boat launch and launch your board from the main swim beach, but in peak season you can take the first left after getting into the park and launch from lot 5 or 6. I like starting here a lot better.
  • Just like any state park it can fill up. I have never seen it crowded in the morning, but have been turned away on busy summer weekend afternoons before.
  • Fortunately there is a trail to hike in at the turnout, if the parking lot is full. The trailhead is just west of vista point. It’s not easy to carry a board down this trail because it’s a bit long, but it is doable especially if you promised your 6 year old daughter you would take her paddling and just got turned away by the state park ranger.

Team Writer Bret WarnerTeam Writer Bret Warner - Paddling truly got its hooks into me when I, on a whim, watched the 1999 Santa Cruz Paddlefest with my dad. I had kayaked a little before, but from then on the addiction was palpable. My first kayak, a purple and turquoise Necky Rip, came soon after. The following year I was that kid at UCSD who had a surf kayak in the common study area instead of a surfboard in my dorm room. I also taught sea kayaking all through college in San Diego, and up in Santa Cruz after I graduated.

When SUP came around, however, the paddling addiction became even more rabid. The garage started to fill up with different types of boards, and is now more than half full of hollow wood boards I have built myself,both for environmental reasons, and because it’s awesome to get to talk about how you built your own board when people ask you about it after a race.  I love the paddle racing scene in California right now. Everyone is so stoked to be on the water competing, and the fierce competition is matched by the smiling faces when the race is over.  I have gotten to paddle crafts that I never really considered before, and can see myself getting hooked all over again on something else: prone, OC-1, surfski,whatever, I just need more garage space.

Three years ago I founded the non-profit Stand up to Alzheimer’s. An organization that raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research through paddle races. This organization was born from lacking a tangible way of dealing with my father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, but has now become a way, hopefully, for other to help cope as well. Our next event is on July 9 in Monterey at Del Monte Beach, just a little north from Monterey Bay Kayaks. Visit us at

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  • Carol L - April 21, 2022

    Gladys T, we just permanently moved to Wrightwood from the coast and will be paddle boarding at Silverwood Lake whenever we can. Ww would love to join a paddling club!

  • Gladys T. - March 05, 2020

    I have some friends who paddle as well and it would be great to start a paddling club at Silverwood Lake.

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