View of Frenchman Lake between rock cliffs

Frenchman Lake Plumas County

photo by Charlie Pankey

Frenchman Lake

Ready for a laid back, relaxing and peaceful weekend?  Try Frenchman Lake, the place to visit  at the eastern end of the beautiful Sierra Valley, an easy 40-minute drive north of Reno. The lake is 38 miles NW of Reno and 26 miles northeast of Portola.  Frenchman Lake is a man-made lake created in 1962. It was constructed to provide year-round recreation opportunities and serve as a source of irrigation water for local farmers and ranchers.  The lake has 21 miles of shoreline to enjoy and explore.

The lake and recreation area is at the intersection of the high desert and mountain ecosystems, with an elevation of 5,800 feet.

Frenchman Lake is part of the Frenchman Lake Recreation Area, which is open year-round and is an excellent destination for both summer outdoor recreation and a great place to explore in the winter.

The area sustained damage from the Beckwourth Fire.  Check with Plumas National Forest on current conditions when planning your visit.

Summer Activities

Favorite summer activities at the lake include: camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, swimming, water-skiing,  jet-skiing, windsurfing, and other watercraft are allowed on the lake.

Amenities in the summer include five campgrounds, two picnic areas, two boat ramps with seasonal docks, an RV disposal site, and several places to access the lake.

The best beach is near Lunker Point Boat Launch.  The area has a sandy beach area with easy shoreline access, a great place to walk your dog, and offers opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Quiet waters of Frenchman Lake
Frenchman Lake

Fishing

Frenchman Lake is a top-notch lake for catching rainbow trout and bullhead catfish. The lake also has Crayfish. There are six fishing access points located around the lake.

Fishing is available year-round during the winter months; the lake is an excellent spot for ice fishing. Ice fishing has many inherent dangers associated with it. Goodwin General Store is available by phone for current conditions on the lake call 530-993-4683 for current conditions.

There are two fee-operated boat launches; Lunker Point Boat Launch and Boat Launch Frenchman. Parking and accessible vault toilets are available.

Things to See

The Black Mountain Lookout is 20 miles from the Cottonwood Spring Campground on the south end of Frenchman Lake.  Plan on at least an hour for this drive—high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for this trip.

Little Last Chance Scenic Area is the entranceway to Frenchman Lake Recreation Area.  It is a ten-minute drive from Chilcot-Vinton on route 284, even if Frenchman Lake is not your destination this is worth a stop. Take time to view the incredible geology before your eyes. This area was formed several million years ago, by lava flow from volcanic eruptions which completely blocked the creek, making a lake 200 feet deeper than the current Frenchman Lake. Over time, the ancient lava flows eroded and the creek chiseled its current streambed, leaving us this beautiful and scenic passage through the canyon.

Take time for photos, but please pull over safely.  

Winter Activities

Ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing are winter activities available.

Know Before You Go

Do not count on any cell service.
Check for current Alerts from the Forest Service.  The area was damaged by the Beckwourth Fire in 2021.
Closest town for supplies, Chilcoot.
Tips if encountering mountain lions

Fun Fact

Named after Claude Francois Seltirer, a French immigrant who settled in the area in 1858.
Frenchman Lake is ranked in the top 10 ice fishing lakes by Best Fishing in America

Resources

Fishing Beckwourth Ranger District
Frenchman Lake Recreation Guide
Plumas National Forest Alerts & Notices

See information that needs to be updated? Please let us know!

Discover more of Plumas County
Places to stay nearby Frenchman Lake
Quincy

We’re not a five star accommodation but we are the jewel of the Sierra Mountains. Clean, comfortable and with many amenities.

Greenville

Experience glamping in the Lost Sierra! Our spacious sites and safari-style tents offer the perfect place to rest, renew, and reconnect!

Canyondam

Beautiful resort along the shores of Lake Almanor. We offer a wide range of amenities including; cabins and rooms, an RV park, and a marina.