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Gems of San Diego

Home of fun and out-of-the way places in San Diego

Otay Lake & Reservoir

Upper and Lower Otay Lake & Reservoir

Eastern Chula Vista

A trip to Upper Otay Lake and Lower Otay Lake, as the two sections are called, is an excellent adventure for a couple of hours or all day! There is open land to explore with hiking trails, an excellent path that goes around the lake for biking or even walking [not the whole way!]; there are boat ramps and water craft for rent [Lower Lake only]; there are beach areas that include picnic and even camping areas [Lower Otay], and on and on. Oh, did I mention that the Upper Otay lake is one of only 2 lakes in San Diego County that has a Catch and Release fishing program!

The lake is still an active hatchery and breeding reserve for pure-strain Florida Largemouth. You can also catch some bluegill, crappie and channel catfish. Even rainbow trout can be caught as the lake has been lightly stocked with them as well. Because it is a catch and release, barbless hooks are required, and no live bait is allowed. So we aren’t talking dinner here but action! And lots of it!

Upper Otay is about 20 acres when full. The dam was built in 1901. Shortly afterwards, the Lower Otay Lake was completed.

The Upper Lake is open for fishing a half-hour before sunrise to sunset on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Permits can be purchased with cash at the Iron Ranger pay station, but anglers must have exact change.

There are no facilities available at the Upper Lake so you will have to bring everything. You can bring self-contained barbecues if you like but you can only use them in designated areas. The road to the Upper lake is closed in the winter months (November through January) so anglers fishing then will have to park below the lake and walk up.


There aren't any facilities at the Upper Otay Lake! None. If you plan to be there a while be sure to bring food, water, and sun block! Beyond that it really depends on what you are up there for. If biking is the plan make sure to bring a spare tire and a pump as some of the trails can get a little dicey.

For planning purposes, there are a number of stores on the drive to the lake. There is a Von's, a bike shop, a Rite Aid, Lowe's...a lot. Lot's of shops and some eateries at the corner of Otay Lakes Rd and Eastlake Pkwy. This is about 2 miles from the lake so a great place to take inventory and pick up what you need.


Fishing at Upper Otay: Sunrise to Sunset Wed, Sat and Sun.
Access road to the Upper Lake is closed Nov - Jan.
I believe Lower Otay is open year round.
Here is a link to the San Diego Water Recreation website for current access, permit, and fees information.


Upper and Lower Otay Lake & Reservoir
Eastern Chula Vista
Lower Otay is less than 1/4 mile from the Olympic Training Center.


Upper Otay is located about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, 8 miles east of downtown Chula Vista. From Interstate 805 take Telegraph Canyon Road exit east past Wueste Road to the reservoir entrance on the left. From 94 [Campo Rd], take Otay Lakes Rd. south to entrance just before Wueste Rd.

Writers Comments

A short trip from home so this is a common trip for us! Not much of a fisherman but the daughter sure is! It really is a hidden spot as you will see because not many folks are there as you might think. Very peaceful and relaxing outing for the entire family.

My personal favorite here is the hike around to the back of the lower Otay. The trails can be a little overgrown as the area is not used by the crowds so again, it is quite the hidded gem in San Diego!

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