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18 Best Lakes to Visit in the USA

By Sixty and Me May 11, 2024 Travel

The United States is blessed with an abundance of breathtaking natural landscapes, and its beautiful lakes are no exception. From the quiet shores of the East Coast to the majestic expanses of the West, the USA offers a diverse range of lakes that cater to every taste and preference. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or simply an escape, here’s a curated list of the 20 best lakes to visit in the USA.

  1. Crater Lake, Oregon – Located in the Cascade Range, Crater Lake is renowned for its deep blue waters and stunning clarity. Formed within the caldera of Mount Mazama, this national park offers hiking trails, boat tours, and unmatched scenic beauty.
  2. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada – Straddling the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, it’s a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering skiing in the winter and water sports in the summer.
  3. Lake Powell, Arizona/Utah – Formed by the Glen Canyon Dam, man-made beauty meets natural wonders at Lake Powell. Offering stunning red-rock canyons and crystal-clear waters, it’s a haven for boating, fishing, and exploring slot canyons.
  4. Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho – Located within Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-altitude lake in North America. Visitors can enjoy fishing, kayaking, and the awe-inspiring scenery that defines this iconic national park.
  5. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont – Bordering the states of New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain offers a mix of history and natural beauty. Explore historic sites, enjoy water activities like sailing, and savor the charming towns that dot its shores.
  6. Flathead Lake, Montana – Found between Glacier National Park and the Mission Mountains, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. With crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain backdrops, it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Read on to discover more USA lakes worth visiting.

USA Lakes to Visit

The USA’s diverse landscape is beautifully reflected in its numerous lakes, each offering a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural experiences.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon

Surrounded by the rugged terrain of the Cascade Range, Crater Lake stands as a testament to the sheer natural beauty of Oregon. Formed within the caldera of Mount Mazama millennia ago, this iconic lake captivates visitors with its mesmerizing deep blue waters and unparalleled clarity.

Situated within a national park, Crater Lake offers a variety of outdoor adventures for enthusiasts of all kinds. Hikers can explore a network of trails that wind through old-growth forests and offer breathtaking vistas of the lake and surrounding peaks. Boat tours provide an opportunity to glide across the pristine waters, enjoying the serene ambiance while learning about the lake’s geological history.

Crater Lake’s allure extends beyond its scenic grandeur; it also serves as a sanctuary for diverse flora and fauna, adding to its ecological significance.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Bordering California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is North America’s largest alpine lake. Embraced by the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, it attracts outdoor enthusiasts year-round.

Winter transforms its surroundings into a haven for skiers, while summer invites water sports enthusiasts to its crystal-clear waters. Whether navigating the slopes or gliding across the lake’s surface, Lake Tahoe offers an abundance of recreational opportunities amidst its stunning natural backdrop.

Lake Powell, Arizona/Utah

Lake Powell, Arizona/Utah

Lake Powell, a striking convergence of human ingenuity and Mother Nature’s artistry, owes its existence to the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam. Framed by majestic red-rock canyons and adorned with waters of exceptional clarity, it emerges as a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts.

Adventurers can explore the intricate network of slot canyons carved into the surrounding terrain, revealing hidden marvels at every turn. Lake Powell’s allure lies not only in its breathtaking vistas but also in the variety of recreational opportunities it presents.

Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho

Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho

In the expansive wilderness of Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake stands as a testament to the park’s natural splendor. As the largest high-altitude lake in North America, it offers visitors a calm escape into the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Against the backdrop of Yellowstone’s iconic scenery, from steaming geysers to lush forests, the lake’s immaculate waters reflect the park’s unrivaled grandeur.

Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont

Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont

Spanning the border between New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain is inviting with its historical significance and natural beauty. This expansive body of water offers exploration into its storied past, with historic sites dotting its shores recounting tales of battles and exploration.

Its tranquil waters welcome adventurers to indulge various water activities, from sailing and kayaking to swimming and fishing. Along the lakeshore, charming towns offer a glimpse into quaint New England life, with bustling waterfronts and cafes inviting travelers to linger and savor the laid-back atmosphere.

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

Between Glacier National Park and the Mission Mountains in Montana, Flathead Lake is a shimmering gem of natural beauty. As the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, its expansive waters stretch across the landscape, offering a peaceful escape into the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Crystal-clear and inviting, the lake provides the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking are just a few of the activities visitors enjoy year-round.

Lake George, New York

Lake George, New York

Located amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Adirondack Mountains, Lake George earns its title as the “Queen of American Lakes.” With its waters glistening under the sun, it invites visitors to indulge in a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Steeped in history, the lake’s shores are adorned with historic sites, welcoming exploration and discovery. Surrounding villages exude charm and hospitality, offering a warm welcome to travelers seeking a peaceful retreat.

Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake, Colorado

Situated adjacent to the majestic Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake holds the distinction of being Colorado’s largest natural lake. Enveloped by towering peaks and verdant forests, it serves as a gateway to the wilderness, offering a ton of outdoor adventures for enthusiasts of all ages.

Hikers are drawn to the surrounding trails, which meander through pristine wilderness and offer stunning vistas at every turn.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Referred to as Florida’s “Inland Sea,” Lake Okeechobee stands as the state’s largest freshwater lake, encompassing a sprawling expanse of natural wonder.

Its shores teem with abundant wildlife, creating a haven for birdwatchers eager to catch glimpses of herons, egrets, and countless other avian species.

Surrounded by vast wetlands, the lake serves as a central hub within the intricate ecosystem of the Everglades, offering visitors unparalleled opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Anglers flock to its waters in pursuit of bass, crappie, and other prized catches, while adventurers set out to navigate its labyrinthine waterways by kayak or airboat.

Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes, New York

Stretching across upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region is renowned for its distinctive charm and natural beauty. Comprising a group of eleven long, narrow lakes, this beautiful area of the USA offers an idyllic blend of vineyards, cascading waterfalls, and quaint towns.

Each lake possesses its own unique character, from the shores of Seneca Lake to the rugged beauty of Cayuga Lake, making it a perfect destination for travelers seeking diverse experiences.

Wine enthusiasts flock to the region’s renowned vineyards, where they can savor award-winning wines amidst breathtaking lake views. Nature lovers are drawn to the area’s scenic trails, which wind through lush forests and past captivating waterfalls.

Lake Superior, Multiple States

Lake Superior, Multiple States

As the largest and northernmost of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior stands as a majestic symbol of natural magnificence. Its rugged coastlines and expansive waters are complemented by wilderness, creating an environment teeming with untamed beauty.

Iconic landmarks like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore add to the allure, offering towering cliffs and colorful rock formations that mesmerize visitors from around the world.

Along its shores in states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Lake Superior offers a unique charm that captivates all who venture there.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Situated in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Lake Winnipesaukee reigns as the state’s largest and most beloved lake. Its expansive waters stretch across the landscape, dotted with numerous islands that add to its scenic splendor.

Surrounding the lake, charming towns welcome visitors with their quaint charm and warm hospitality. From busy waterfronts to quiet coves, Lake Winnipesaukee offers endless opportunities for boating, swimming, and other water-based activities.

Whether cruising along its tranquil waters, exploring secluded beaches, or indulging in lakeside dining, visitors are sure to find ample opportunities for summer fun and relaxation.

Lake Havasu, Arizona

Lake Havasu, Arizona

Created by the construction of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River, Lake Havasu emerges as a shimmering desert oasis amidst the arid landscapes of Arizona.

Renowned for its warm waters and vibrant atmosphere, it welcomes boating, fishing, and watersports enthusiasts alike to its shores for year-round enjoyment.

Lake Havasu is famously adorned with the iconic London Bridge, adding a touch of Old World charm to its modern desert setting. With its inviting waters and diverse recreational offerings, Lake Havasu stands as a premier destination for those seeking sun-soaked adventures in the heart of the American Southwest.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Stretching across central Missouri, the Lake of the Ozarks is a sprawling reservoir renowned for its recreational opportunities and scenic beauty.

Offering miles of interesting shoreline, it welcomes visitors from near and far to indulge in boating, fishing, and lakeside relaxation. The lake’s calm waters provide the perfect setting for leisurely cruises or thrilling water sports, catering to the preferences of all water enthusiasts.

Numerous marinas and waterfront attractions dot the shoreline, offering convenient access to boat rentals, dining options, and lakeside entertainment.

Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid, New York

Nestled amidst the majestic Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid stands as an alpine jewel steeped in history and natural beauty. Known for hosting two Winter Olympic Games, the lake offers an aura of athletic prowess and sporting tradition.

Its allure extends far beyond the realm of winter sports, offering visitors various outdoor activities year-round. From hikes through lush forests to leisurely boat rides on its crystal-clear waters, Lake Placid invites exploration in every season.

Charming lakeside villages dot the shoreline, each offering a unique blend of quaint charm and modern amenities. In every season, this alpine lake welcomes adventurers and nature enthusiasts to discover the magic of the Adirondacks in all its splendor.

Big Bear Lake, California

Big Bear Lake, California

Perched amid the rugged beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake emerges as a cherished year-round retreat for Southern Californians seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Its calm waters and towering pines provide a perfect place for a multitude of outdoor adventures. In winter, the lake transforms into a snowy wonderland, drawing skiers and snowboarders to its slopes. As temperatures rise, hikers wander amidst fragrant pine forests and panoramic vistas. Water activities abound during the summer months, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and lakeside relaxation.

Lake Washington, Washington

Lake Washington, Washington

Embraced by the vibrant cityscape of Seattle and the lush landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, Lake Washington stands as a tranquil oasis amidst the urban bustle. This expansive body of water offers a peaceful escape for locals and visitors alike, providing a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Stretching across the horizon, the lake offers easy exploration with its inviting shores and scenic vistas. Parks and waterfront neighborhoods line its perimeter, offering leisurely strolls and picnics along the water’s edge.

Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

Situated in the heart of the Bluegrass State, Lake Cumberland is an expansive reservoir known for its clear blue waters and beautiful surroundings. With over 1,200 miles of shoreline, it offers ample opportunities for boating, fishing, and exploring the landscapes of southern Kentucky. Guests can enjoy houseboat vacations, lakeside camping, and the charm of nearby communities, making Lake Cumberland a hidden gem in the diverse array of American lakes.

Whether you seek the tranquility of a mountain retreat, the excitement of water sports, or the charm of lakeside communities, the lakes mentioned above are sure to provide unforgettable experiences.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you been to any of the lakes mentioned on our list? Are you planning a trip to a lake soon? What are your favorite things to do when visiting a lake in the USA? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Roxanne

Don’t die before you visit Crater Lake. You won’t believe it. Take the boat tour. I’ve visited the first five of these lakes.

Wendy

After 46 years in Northern CA, I moved to the East Coast and never looked back. But there is one thing I miss so much: Lake Tahoe.To be fortunate enough to live in Reno means you’re forty minutes from Tahoe. Mark Twain was encourage by co-workers to trek into the mountains to check out the lake. He rounded a corner and said, ” the fairest picture the whole earth affords.” Every season in Tahoe is bustling! Thanks for bringing back such good memories!

The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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