30 Most Beautiful Lakes to Visit in America
Looking for a beautiful lake to visit in the United States, but aren't quite sure where to start? Check out this massive guide of some of our favorite lakes!
Last updated: November 27, 2023
17 min read
Are you planning a trip to the U.S. or a local looking to discover more of the country? Why not visit some of the most beautiful lakes in the entire United States?
If you want to take a memorable vacation to some of the most beautiful lakes in the United States, there are plenty of incredible options to choose from. From the crystal clear lakes of New Hampshire, to the vast and expansive lakes of Minnesota, there’s something for everyone.
While the United States is well known for the incredible beaches it has, it also boasts some of the most beautiful lakes in the world! Let’s take a small dip into some of the most beautiful and vast bodies of water you can visit in America!
Lake Tahoe – California and Nevada
26-80 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
This well-known lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains is a bucket list destination for many.
Its deep blue waters surrounded by snowy mountains, majestic pines, and idyllic beaches are sure to leave you transfixed!
Lake Tahoe is the third deepest lake in the United States, and the tenth deepest worldwide! Historically, it has been home to the Washoe tribe, gold miners, and grand resorts and casinos.
Today, the shimmering waters remain no less alluring, attracting tourists and locals alike every season.
In the summer, kayak around the lake or rest and relax at one of the many sandy beaches.
There’s a beach at Tahoe for everyone’s preference. Go boat camping in Emerald State Park for stunning views, or bring your pup to a dog-friendly beach such as Kiva or Nevada.
In the winter months, Tahoe is a popular winter sports destination. It has plenty of of options for skiing and snowboarding. For winter fun for the less sporty, you can enjoy as snowshoeing and carriage rides!
After your snowy adventure, relax with a warming spa treatment, or join Tahoe’s booming nightlife scene and get ready to party!
Diablo Lake – Washington
27-77 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, Diablo Lake is a must-visit! You’ll find this stunning milky blue lake nestled among the pines and mountains of North Cascades National Park.
The lake is actually a reservoir, formed by Diablo Dam. It works to provide hydroelectric power to Seattle and the surrounding area. The lake’s vibrant turquoise color originates from leftover glacial debris from when the valley was formed.
It’s a bit of a hike to get to the best lake views, but the journey itself is absolutely worth it!
The gentle trek features unbeatable mountain views, towering 700-foot waterfalls, and a suspension bridge. The hike is fine for kids (as well as dogs, provided they are on leash), though keep an eye out on the steeper sections.
There’s a ferry on offer from the lake in the summer months as well, for those wanting to soak in the views from the water (and skip the hike back!).
Lake George – New York
12-75 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
At the other end of the country in New York’s Adirondacks, you’ll find the deep blue waters of Lake George. This picturesque body of water is a lot warmer than some of the deeper or glacial lakes. It reaches 70°F to 80°F in the summer months!
This makes it the perfect place to go for a splash, featuring many sandy beaches you can run into the clean and clear water from.
There are cruises on offer as well. They range from tours covering the lake’s extensive history to luxury meal cruises. There are even fireworks cruises to get you top seats for the show that runs in July and August!
Whether you’re traveling with the family or just looking for some extra fun, there are loads of activities to do in the area. The most popular incluide adventure rope courses, lazy river rides, mini golf, and ax throwing! If you’re really chasing that adrenaline high, visit the nearby Six Flags.
Lake Ouachita – Arkansas
42-64 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
If you’re after something a little quieter, Lake Ouachita in Arkansas is a unique and spectacular reservoir. It features an uninterrupted coastline and over 200 little islands.
Created after the building of the Blakely Mountain Dam, the lake spans over 40,000 acres – making it the largest in the state.
This lake is ideal if you’re looking for a private and magical camping trip. The area is open camping, so you can go anywhere you want – even getting your own little island!
If you’re wanting to keep some modern comforts, there are many resorts in the area as well. This means if you aren’t a wilderness camper, you’ll still be able to enjoy Ouachita to the fullest extent.
For the avid fisherman, try your hand at catching some of the Largemouth Bass, Small Mouth Bass, Spotted Bass, Bream, Crappie, Catfish, Walleye, and World Class Striped Bass that are abundant in the area.
More unusual waterlife can be found beneath the surface as well: freshwater jellyfish, sponges, and shrimp! These incredibly rare species can be found at Lake Ouachita due to its incredible water quality and unique ecosystem.
Lake Powell – Utah and Arizona
19-85 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Looking to get lost in another world? Lake Powell’s mind-blowing geography feels like an alien landscape, unfamiliar yet strikingly beautiful.
Formed by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir in the country. It holds a staggering 24,322,000 acre ft. at full capacity.
It has unfortunately been sitting at lower levels lately, but that just makes your trip more urgent: see this wonder before it’s gone.
Explore the lake and surrounding waterways by raft, powerboat, or guided tour. Make sure not to miss the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. It’s made of the same martian red rock as the surrounding canyons and plateaus. This monument is the largest naturally occurring stone bridge in the entire world!
Stay in one of the many luxurious resorts in the area, or rent a houseboat and stay anywhere you like!
Lake Jocassee – South Carolina
31-87 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
This 9000-acre reservoir was formed after the creation of the Jocassee Dam. It features deep blue waters fed by clear vibrant streams that cascade down from the Appalachian mountains, surrounded by dense forests.
Rent a kayak or rowboat from the lake’s grassy shore and have a paddle, or take a tour up the Jocassee Gorge to catch a glimpse of local wildlife and stunning waterfalls. Horseback tours through the forest are also available seasonally.
The south end of the lake lies within Devils Fork State Park, but don’t let the name put you off!
The park is tranquil and a lovely place for a hike, featuring science views of the lake, babbling brooks, and local fishing spots.
That’s not to say there’s nothing spooky about the lake though… It gets its name from a local Native American legend telling the story of the maiden Jocassee, who, following the beheading of her lover, walks out upon the water to visit his ghost.
Plus, not all of the existing structures were removed before the lake was created: 300 feet beneath the tranquil surface rest a historic lodge, and a hilltop graveyard with headstones still standing. This eerie scene makes the lake a popular diving spot and was also featured in the 1972 film, Deliverance.
Hanging Lake – Colorado
13-87 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
If you’re a nature lover, you can’t miss Hanging Lake!
Named for the suspended pools that then rush in delicate waterfalls down to the main lake, this natural wonder has a uniquely deep and vibrant green color. The color is formed from minerals in the rock walls being brought down over the years.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to the lake; while only a little over a mile in length, the trail climbs around 1200 feet in elevation.
This makes it quite steep, and the trail can be uneven and rocky at times. Local rangers have advised it might not be suited for small children or the elderly.
Despite the climb, the journey to the lake is stunning as you travel along a tributary of the Colorado River, crossing over seven bridges and being surrounded by the sound of flowing water and towering trees.
On your way back from the lake, take a quick detour to find the Spouting Rock Falls – a series of majestic waterfalls that cascade dramatically down from the limestone cliffs.
Because of the fragility of the lake, there are several restrictions in place to make sure that visitors will get to see its beauty for generations to come.
Primarily, swimming and fishing at the lake are prohibited, as is walking on the log that floats temptingly on its surface. Dogs and drones are also not allowed.
Flathead Lake – Montana
18-83 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Flathead Lake is an enormous body of water, spanning over 200 miles of clean freshwater, speckled with islands. The lake is naturally occurring, though a hydroelectric dam erected in the 1930’s did marginally raise its elevation level.
The water is remarkably clear. On a sunny day, you can sometimes even see the bottom, making the lake appear deceptively shallow. At the lake, you can swim, kayak, or even go water skiing!
Fish are abundant in Flathead Lake. There are several varieties of trout, Kokanee salmon, Northern Pike, and Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. It is encouraged by local fishery organizations that non-native species of fish are caught.
There are many different recreation spots available along the lake’s extensive coastline for you to set up for the day, or to camp for a longer period.
If you’re wanting to visit the southern half of the lake, you’ll need to purchase a tribal recreation permit. It’s located within Salish and Kootenai Tribes Flathead Reservation.
Lake Willoughby – Vermont
6-79 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
In the middle of Willoughby state forest, with mountains towering up on either side, this lake is one of Vermont’s brightest gems. The lake shines the most in the fall months when it reflects the stunning east coast color of the trees along its banks.
However, the lake is worth a visit any time of the year! Picnic or hike in the spring, dare to take a dip in the cool water in the summer, or try your hand at ice fishing or skating in the winter months.
If you’re daring, venture away from the popular bays in search of adventure! Take the plunge from the top of Devils rock, named for the eerie image of a skull that takes form in the stone’s reflection.
Or, really feel free when you visit the secluded nude beach situated on the lake’s southern shore!
Lake Mille Lacs – Minnesota
24-86 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Mille Lacs is the second-largest lake in Minnesota, stretching a staggering 132,516 acres. However, it is fairly shallow, at only 42 feet at its deepest point.
This limited depth means it’s an ideal fishing lake! Several award-winning fish have been caught here, and it’s home to walleye, muskie, northern pike, bass, and more.
It’s also an extremely popular ice fishing spot in the winter. It’s a perfect place for an experienced ice-fisher to have a blast or for a newbie to try their hand in a safe environment.
The lake is ringed with sandy beaches perfect for a family vacation or romantic picnic, or just to kick back and relax. For the more adventurous, book an ATV tour, or hunt for deer, birds, and even bears in the surrounding woods!
Geneva Lake – Wisconsin
14-82 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Geneva Lake in Wisconsin is a stunning freshwater lake, encircled by a public shore path and numerous recreation options.
The path stretches over 20 miles in length. This makes the entire lakeshore accessible, and supposedly follows the route taken by early settlers of the region.
There are loads to do around the lake, from crazy adventures such as ziplining, booking a hot air balloon, or booking a scooter tour, to quirky local features such as museums and historic mansions to visit.
One unique activity on the lake is to take a ride on the mail boat! This guided tour takes you around the lake while mail jumpers hop on and off to deliver locals their letters – with the boat still in motion!
Mono Lake – California
34-87 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Mono Lake on the West Coast is another of the country’s most precious natural wonders.
This alkaline lake is home to naturally occurring Tufa towers. They are crazy spires of calcium-carbonate that stick out of the lake creating a beautiful and otherworldly sight.
Due to the chemical makeup of the lake, it’s saltier than the ocean! Swimming is permitted, and you’ll enjoy unusual buoyancy in the dense salt water. Boating is permitted in the lake, although access to the islands is forbidden between April and
Don’t bother packing your fishing gear though: there’s nothing to catch! The salinity is too high for fish to survive in the lake. However, there is a dense population of brine shrimp that are only found here.
If the shrimp don’t interest you, the visitors they bring in might. The lake is home to millions of birds, including Osprey, seasonal shore birds, and California locals.
Lake Eklutna – Alaska
-2-64 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
If you’re in the country’s Northernmost state, why not make a stop at Lake Eklutna? Just twenty-odd miles out of Anchorage, the lake makes a great starting point in your Alaskan exploration.
The brilliant blue glacial water is surrounded by pine-covered mountains and makes for a stunning kayak or canoe trip.
If you’d rather stay off the water, there are hikes for all ranges of abilities along the lake shore or up into the forest. There are also bike paths and ATV access during the warmer months.
In the winter, try your hand at cross-country skiing or skating on the lake before huddling up in front of the fire at one of the public cabins and waiting for the stars to come out.
Caddo Lake – Texas and Louisiana
36-95 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Way, way, further South, in East Texas, get lost in the crazy bayou of Caddo Lake!
Rent a canoe and paddle among the ancient Cyrus trees dripping with moss, while keeping an eye out for the gorgeous golden prothonotary warblers flitting between the trees.
The lake is a prime fishing spot too, with over 70 species of fish in the lake and no permit required.
Just make sure to avoid any protected Paddlefish, but you’ll know them when you see them: these fish look like a relic from the age of dinosaurs, with a shark-shaped body and a super long, paddle-shaped nose.
Watch out for another cousin of the dinosaurs in Caddo Lake as well: the American Alligator! Alligators are prevalent in the lake and are a cool sight to spot. However, swimming in Caddo lake is not recommended for obvious reasons.
Lake Winnipesaukee – New Hampshire
11-80 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire and supports a vibrant community at the foot of the White Mountains. It’s a great choice to visit if you’re in a group with diverse interests.
The local villages feature cozy architecture, tax-free shopping, and maple syrup tasting, making for a charming day out. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s ziplining, a waterslide, and snowmobiling to get your blood pumping.
End the day by coming back together for a dinner cruise, and water the sunset sparkling off the lake.
Lake Norman – North Carolina
32-88 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Lake Norman is a popular regional getaway and the largest man-made lake in the state.
It’s one of the newest lakes on the list as well, having been formed by Duke Energy in 1963.
Today, the lake is an amazing leisure site, with many hiking and bike trails, paddleboarding, boating, and fishing. There are also some more extreme watersports on offer, like flyboarding, foiling, and wakeboarding.
If you’re not too keen on getting wet, soak up the sun on the lakeside, do some shopping, or enjoy the area’s historic sites. Plus, Lake Norman has a unique and much-loved feature: an abundance of local breweries!
North Carolina’s craft beer and wine scene is booming, and you can get a taste of the wide selection at Lake Norman. If you’re a brewery lover, they even have a dedicated trail map to help you get to all the top spots!
Lake Michigan – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois
20-81 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Of course, no list would be complete without Lake Michigan! The only one of the Great Lakes entirely within the United States, this lake is the largest in the world that is contained in a single country.
The lake spans 22,404 square miles, with expansive beaches and major settlements such as Chicago at its banks. The lakeshore features many different lighthouses, recreation and nature areas, wineries, and state parks.
A highlight of these is perhaps Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, an idyllic park with towering white sand dunes, incredible views of the lake, and many nature trails, activities, and dining options.
Lake Lanier – Georgia
34-88 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
The largest lake in Georgia, Lake Lanier is a popular vacation spot known for its winding shoreline and multitude of islands.
Designed with boating in mind, there are many different marinas where you can anchor your boat or rent one for your trip.
If you prefer to go motor-free, there are many beautiful areas to kayak and swim, as well as plenty of parks and hiking trails. Take a trek through the woods to visit some of the many waterfalls that feed the lake, and enjoy the local wildlife.
Many other attractions, like a water park, vibrant nightlife, and amazing local food mean Lake Lanier is sure to be an amazing trip.
Finger Lakes – New York
18-80 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Comprised of eleven pristine narrow lakes in upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region is a gem of the East Coast.
The area is most known for its wineries, as the microclimate makes for perfect grape-growing conditions.
If you’re a fan of Riesling in particular, you’re in for a real treat. There are also many cider makers and breweries in the area as well.
You don’t have to be a drinker to enjoy the region, however! Enjoy the spectacular beauty of the lakes themselves, hike past waterfalls and pools to the lakeside, or paddle around on the lakes!
You can also visit one of the many museums and historic buildings in the area, have a blast at an amusement park, and indulge in some amazing food!
Due to the fertility of the region, many of the restaurants are entirely locally sourced, with meats, cheeses, and veggies all produced from farms in the Finger Lakes.
Lake Havasu – Arizona
51-110 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Did you know there’s more to Arizona than just the desert? Lake Havasu is a stunning oasis and watersport hot spot formed by the Parker Dam on the border of California.
Enjoy fishing for the large variety of bass that are abundant in the lake, as well as angling for catfish.
Take a swim and cool off from the southern heat in the sparkling blue water after exploring the interpretive garden, home to local plant life, birds, lizards, and cottontail.
Lake Havasu City is home to London Bridge, an 1830s structure that once spanned the river Thames and was rebuilt brick by brick here in the United States! From the bridge, you get an amazing view of the lake and surrounding desert.
Crater Lake – Oregon
28-85 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Formed by a volcanic eruption almost 8,000 years ago, Crater Lake is one of the most impressive views in the country. It’s the deepest lake in the United States, reaching 1,949 feet, and among the ten deepest in the world.
The circular lake is ringed with craggy peaks, with the cone-shaped Wizard Island dominating the center.
Make sure to plan your trip around the weather and what you want to do.
In the winter, many of the hiking trails become inaccessible due to snowfall – but the view of the snowy peaks around the lake is unbeatable, and snowboarding, sledding, and skiing are a blast.
Springtime at Crater Lake is also really special, as the melting snow leads to a rainbow array of wildflowers adorning the park.
Lake Santeetlah – North Carolina
28-86 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
For a quieter getaway, visit Lake Santeetlah, tucked away in the “wild west” region of North Carolina. Nestled in the tranquil trees of Nantahala National Forest, this lake is the perfect spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Relax by the lakeshore, do some fishing, or paddle a canoe around the water. Walk the forest trails, keeping an eye out for white-tailed deer, porcupines, bobcats, and even black bears and mountain lions!
If you’re lucky, you might even spy a beaver or river otter in one of the surrounding streams.
Avalanche Lake – Montana
12-77 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Located within Glacier National Park, this lake is remarkable for its clear, clean water and mirror-like surface, reflecting the towering peaks above it.
Avalanche Lake is a bit of a walk in from the trailhead, taking roughly two hours each way, so be sure to be well prepared and take plenty of supplies.
Locals have recommended getting started earlier in the day to beat the crowds and have plenty of time to relax by the lake.
Lake Chelan – Washington
27-88 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Lake Chelan is the perfect getaway for kids and adults alike!
Enjoy the vineyards, breweries, and gourmet lakefront dining with live music after a day of hikes or kayaking. Or, make a splash at Slidewaters water park, go bowling, or ride along the lake on horses or ponies.
Plus, everyone’s sure to love the beach! Sit back with a good book, go for a fish, or comb the beach for pretty rocks and build an epic sand castle.
Lake Superior – Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin
7-78 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Lake Superior certainly lives up to its name: it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world. The lake covers 31,700 square miles and holds 10% of all the world’s fresh surface water.
With a lake this size, you could spend a lifetime exploring it and still have more to discover. To get really immersed in the lake, a good starting point is Isle Royale National Park.
Located on an isolated island in the middle of Lake Superior the park is a favorite for adventurers, nature lovers, and families.
Hike with incredible 360-degree lake views, and camp under unbeatable stars. You might even see one of the island’s most famous inhabitants: the gray wolf.
The lake is also home to many shipwrecks. While most are visible only to experienced scuba divers, you can learn the fascinating history of the lake’s more unfortunate travelers at many museums in the area and even see some of the shallower ones by kayak or snorkeling!
Yellowstone Lake – Wyoming
4-76 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Yellowstone Lake is a lovely feature of any trip to the famous Yellowstone National Park. The largest high-elevation lake in North America, the lake covers 132 square miles and sits at 7,733 feet above sea level.
The lake’s quiet beauty is in contrast to the dramatic geysers and multicolored bubbling mud pools also found in the region – but don’t let that deceive you!
Beneath the surface, the lake is just as volatile as everything else in the park, with underwater chimneys and geysers pumping water up to 252°F in temperature into the water.
Despite this, the lake almost always freezes over every winter with ice up to two feet thick, and remains too cold (and volatile) to swim year-round. You’ll just have to admire it from the shore!
Summersville Lake – West Virginia
24-88 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Summersville Lake is the biggest in the state, formed by a dam of the same name. It features clear turquoise water, striking sandstone cliffs, lush forests, and calm, pleasant beaches.
It’s a popular spot for fishing, picnicking, and going for a swim on a hot day. It’s also a popular rock climbing spot, with guided tours and whitewater rafting, too – though jumping off the cliffs is not allowed!
Echo Lake – New Hampshire
14-77 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Another great lake to do some rock climbing is Echo Lake! Echo Crag is a small, traditional climbing area that overlooks the charming lake from the top. You’ll have to bring your own gear for this one though, as it is unstaffed.
Other activities include going for a swim, or hiking around the lake or to the nearby Cathedral Ledge State Park which features amazing views and wildlife.
Lake Tenkiller – Oklahoma
17-85 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Also known as Tenkiller Ferry Lake, this gorgeous reservoir is beautiful to behold and features many recreation options as well.
Fish for stocked bass, crappie, catfish, bream, and walleye, hike around the lakeside, or scuba dive around the multitude of islands – including one that’s home to a colony of goats!
The area is also packed with full-service marinas, including four floating restaurants to fuel up after your day on the water.
Maroon Lake – Colorado
7-73 Degrees Fahrenheit Depending on Season
Under the stunning Maroon Bells, this lake is one of Colorado’s many scenic spots. The mirror-like lake reflects the season, appearing green and lush in the summer, showing snowy peaks in winter, or erupting in flaming fall color.
Get to the lake after a breathtaking hike through the mountains, or by catching a convenient shuttle. This is a popular attraction, so be sure to reserve a spot if you’re visiting in the on-season!
No matter where in the United States you are, there’s sure to be an amazing lake nearby for you to visit!
Whether you’re an avid hiker, adventurer, or just looking to relax by the water, you’ll find the lake destination of your dreams!