I'm gonna write my honest review of Clear Lake State Park.
We just returned from this state park August 2010 for our camping trip with great friends. I do want to say that we are the kind of group that would have fun anywhere we went. We know how to make a bad situation great. And although this experience was far from "bad" we did have a couple disappointments, but nothing too major.
The drive from Sacramento, Ca. was quick. Once you took I-5 North to Hwy 29, you were almost there. The drive was scenic and calming once you got closer to Clear Lake. Made for a great start. The weather in August was great. Granted, we've had an unusually cool summer for Northern California.
Once we got to the park entrance, it was easy schmeezy. The cost for parking was $8 per night. Each campsite gets a two car max, although you do have to pay for one car ($8/per night). Not too bad, but I thought when the reservation confirmation said each campsite gets two car spots, we wouldn't have to pay for those two spots. Oh well, no biggie.
We stayed in campsites 78 and 79. Our campsites were HUGE. 79 was very large. Perfect for us to tie all of our dogs on long 40-60 foot ropes to wander within our site. I did wish that the actual designated fire pits were stationed in the middle of each camp site and not near the designated parking spots. Kind of lame. But we made do.
We started a fire, star gazed (absolutely beautiful stars!!!) & chilled the rest of the night. It was gorgeous. The camp site areas were clean, well maintained and close enough to the lake. If you want to have a lake front view (which we thought we were going to have but did not due to the large trees and foliage blocking our view) try camp site 58. Only drawback there, no privacy. Camp site 58 runs along a pathway that takes you to a small beach area. People are always walking by 58. Our campsites (78 and 79) provided privacy, which was nice. We were close enough to the restrooms/showers without being too close. And yes, the site next to us was too close to the restrooms for our liking. The restrooms/showers were clean and well maintained. A state park official cleaned it every morning and stocked it with toilet paper and seat covers. Bring quarters for the coin operated shower. I hate public restrooms, so I was impressed at the well maintained facilities.
The second day of our trip we moseyed on over to the lake to do some rafting. Here is where my 5 stars turns into 3. Like I said in the beginning, my group of friends is pretty chill. However, the lake truly was not that clear. There was a lot of algae and the algae was nasssty. Once we paddled our rafts out far enough, we were able to jump in and enjoy the lake. The lake in the grand scheme of things was very pretty and provided as a gorgeous backdrop (and pretty pictures). We did some research and found that the algae is a natural part of the lake's ecosystem and not some gross buildup due to lack of care or pollution, so we let it slide.
However, husband and I, being born on an island, are water people. If there isn't swimable water, we'd rather not go. Therefore, although Clear Lake State Park had a great camp site facility, the water situation was what knocked down my rating. We are the kind of folks that could stay in water all day, and you just couldn't do that here.
I hear the algae is seasonal, but there isn't a great way to make sure it won't be there the next time we go. For that reason, we probably wouldn't go back... we'll check out other places instead. I did go on a hike with my dog and got some great photo ops in. The nature trails were gorgeous...
One other major gripe we had, that would deter us from going back... how strict they are. Park rangers really do patrol the site right after 10pm through the night and if you're mildly laughing or talking too "loudly", they will approach you and ask that you quite down. They WERE very nice though. No one was rude or had any attitude, so that was good. Although we did feel like children being put to bed. We were told we could stay up all night but had to turn off the music (that was respectfully really low as it was) and keep our voices down... bummer.
I think due to the not so swimable water and strict 10pm curfew, we wouldn't return... we'll go somewhere more out in the boondocks so we can do what we please, when we please and have clearer water. And the truth is, being in our late 20s, we are not loud and obnoxious folks... but i10pm was a lil' too quiet for our taste. I can see 12am, but 10pm seemed a lil' ridiculous for a Saturday night camping curfew...
Clear Lake State Park is not as bad as I feared reading these reviews. Goes to show, use these reviews as a guide, but not the end all be all on making your choice. We enjoyed our stay, but there are hundreds of other camp grounds we'd like to check out before returning.
If you own or manage Clear Lake State Park, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.