15 of the Most Beautiful Lakes to Visit in the United States
Whether you're looking for a waterfront getaway, a spot to fish or kayak, or the ultimate swim spot, from coast to coast, these bodies of water all make a splash.
Venturing into the outdoors is one of the simplest ways to improve mood and overall health. According to UNC Health, walking outside benefits both your mental and physical health. The sunshine, breeze, and sounds of nature can have a soothing and motivating effect on us. And taking a walk along the lakeside shore has the same effect.
In fact, researchers from the University of Exeter found that coastal living reduces depression and anxiety. "This kind of research into blue health is vital to convincing governments to protect, create ,and encourage the use of coastal spaces," said Dr. Mathew White, environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, in the report. But you don't need to live near water to get the benefits. You can start by visiting lake areas. The United States has many scenic lakes that you can visit and some of them may even be close to home. Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, for example, has several sandy beaches that may remind you of the Florida coast on a warm sunny day. Other lakes near or within national parks like Lake Tahoe, which spans parts of California and Nevada, have expansive mountain views and hiking trails. You can visit these lakes all year round but the spring, summer, and fall are the best times to go for outdoor sports like boating, fishing, and swimming. Winter can also provide some beautiful views, especially if you love snow and ice fishing.
Head out to your nearest lake to enjoy any of these outdoor activities, or opt for one of our suggested best lakes in the country.
Moosehead Lake, Maine
It's no wonder that Maine would be an ideal getaway for vacationers, including Martha herself: In the heart of the Highlands, Moosehead Lake is the largest of all in this northernmost state. It cover 75,000 acres of forestland and has been a mecca for those seeking an immersive outdoor experience amid salmon, beavers, white tailed deer, and snowshoe hares. Plus, as the name would suggest, moose sightings are not uncommon along its shores.
Echo Lake, New Hampshire
In the neighboring state of New Hampshire, is the Lakes region including Echo Lake. It's accessible to the White Mountains wherein the trees look stunning in the fall as the leaves change colors but the area is gorgeous all year-round. You can go rock climbing in the mountains or hike the numerous trails that span the park.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York is the crystal-clear Lake Champlain. Bordering both states, it offer activities such as waterfront biking, tours via ferry, and all the enjoyments of agritourism—organic produce, pasture-raised local meats, and artisanal baked goods in the charming town of Burlington.
Lake George, New York
The so-called "Queen of American Lakes" was a playground for Gilded Age robber barons, many of whose original waterfront stone mansions still line a 10-mile stretch known as Millionaire's Row. Visit Lake George's Sagamore Resort, which dates back to the 1880s, still welcomes guests today. Beyond that, there are more hotels, events, restaurants, and attractions.
Deep Creek Lake, Maryland
In the mountains of west Maryland, Deep Creek Lake is a four-season destination where you can walk along the shoreline, go for a swim, or explore the hiking or biking trails. It's the largest inland body of water in its state, encompassing over 1,800 acres.
Lake Erie, Midwest
Lake Erie is the fourth-largest lake, by surface area, of the five Great Lakes. Edgewater Beach is a hidden gem that offers sandy beaches, an ice cream stand, swimming, boating, and more. It's a vacation for nearby city-dwellers or anyone who just wants to experience Cleveland and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Lake Superior, Michigan
As its name would imply, Lake Superior one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and part of the Great Lakes region. The water's surface covers 31,700 square miles and its cold waters reach a depth of 1,332 feet. Historically, its strong winds have even known to sink ships. The shoreline is dotted with lighthouses including the lake's oldest operating lighthouse, Whitefish Point Light Station.
Kentucky Lake, Kentucky
Connected to Lake Barkley by a free-flowing canal, Kentucky Lake creates the largest body of water between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. It has 2,300 miles of shoreline and plenty of ways to enjoy the natural beauty of its landscape. Visit 48 public access areas or go for boat rides and hiking in nearby state parks.
Lake Martin, Alabama
Formed by the construction of Martin Dam in 1926, Lake Martin was the largest man-made lake in the world at time. Today, it's still of a considerable size: it's a 44,000-acre reservoir with over 750 miles of forested land dotted with campgrounds and RV parks to allow for overnight camping, horse trails for riding, hiking trails, and fishing.
Caddo Lake, Texas and Louisiana
Paddle out to Caddo Lake: Mystery seems to shroud its 27,000 acres, where Spanish moss hangs like drapery from tree limbs in the world's largest cypress forest. This lake is an interconnected maze of bayous, swampy marshes, and backwaters. (Beer boats hid out here during Prohibition.) Alligators lurk under barely-submerged tree roots, frogs pull up on lily pads, and the only way to appreciate Caddo Lake's primordial beauty is by boat or canoe.
Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming
In its national park by the same name, Yellowstone Lake is found in one of the world's most geologically active areas. More than two million visitors pour into the national park every summer, but winter could arguably be the best time to take in its views. Bubbling geysers along the West Thumb shoreline appear as colorful cauldrons in the snow, steam rising eerily from the icy landscape.
Flathead Lake, Montana
Flathead is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, cradled between the Mission Mountains to the east and the Salish Mountains to the west. Residents enjoy unusually mild climate for an area so far north and inland, which produces fruit orchards and vineyards. You may even spy wild horses roaming the state park.
Redfish Lake, Idaho
Redfish Lake is nestled in central Idaho, high up in the Sawtooth Mountains. While there, you can stay in one of the comfortable cabins at Redfish Lake Lodge. It'll be like stepping back in time when the world moved at a slower place and you can enjoy the pristine lake waters and fresh mountain air.
Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona
It's not often that mankind creates something of such extraordinary natural beauty, but that's Lake Powell. This man-made lake's warm blue waters wind through red sandstone cliffs, filling more than 90 side canyons. Nearby, take view of one such canyon with the sandstone Rainbow Bridge, regarded as the world's longest natural arch.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada and California
The famous Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America at 1,645 feet deep, 22 miles long, and 12 miles wide. Go north or south to get different experiences of this beautiful lake: North Lake Tahoe is perfect for skiing, while Tahoe South also offers a view of the most stunning waterfalls you'll ever see.