The United States is home to a whopping three million lakes. So chances are pretty high that you’re no more than a full tank of gas away from a pristine natural wonder.
Granted, the U.S. is often hailed for its spectacular landscapes, from striking red canyons in Utah to the alpine glaciers of Alaska. The most beautiful lakes in the United States offer something quite extraordinary.
Finding these marvellous lakes may be pretty challenging. And that’s why I’ve done all the work for you. With my insights and tips about these stunning lakes, you’ll be visiting some of the most beautiful states in the U.S. and their picturesque lakes in no time.
29 Most Beautiful Lakes in the United States
Table of Contents
- 29 Most Beautiful Lakes in the United States
- 1. Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona
- 2. Lake George, New York
- 3. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
- 4. Lake Havasu, Arizona
- 5. Crater Lake, Oregon
- 6. Hanging Lake, Colorado
- 7. Diablo Lake, Washington
- 8. Summersville Lake, West Virginia
- 9. Lake Katherine, New Mexico
- 10. Lake Jocassee, South Carolina
- 11. Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina
- 12. Lake Eklutna, Alaska
- 13. Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming
- 14. Mono Lake, California
- 15. Lake Superior, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin
- 16. Lake Willoughby, Vermont
- 17. Flathead Lake, Montana
- 18. Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma
- 19. Caddo Lake, Texas and Louisiana
- 20. Lake Lanier, Georgia
- 21. Echo Lake, New Hampshire
- 22. Geneva Lake, Wisconsin
- 23. Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois
- 24. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
- 25. Avalanche Lake, Montana
- 26. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
- 27. Lake Chelan, Washington
- 28. Finger Lakes, New York
- 29. Maroon Lake, Colorado
- United States Most Beautiful Lakes | Wrapped Up
Ranging from blackwater estuaries surrounded by snow-capped mountains to turquoise lagoons tucked into lush forests, the United States boasts incredible lakes you should see.
With this extensive list of the most stunning lakes in the United States, you can turn a boring weekend into a fun adventure. This includes scenic hiking, camping, swimming, or just admiring the wonder of nature.
So without further ado, let’s dive into this list of 29 stunning lakes in the U.S. that you’ll love.
1. Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona
One of the largest man-made lakes in the U.S., this striking natural beauty flows between gorgeous red-orange sandstone cliffs between Utah and Arizona. While the damming of Glen Canyon led to the formation of this lake, the Colorado River made it what it is today.
Water sports, fishing, hiking, and the red-sand beaches are some activities that attract millions of visitors to this ethereal, rocky landscape each year.
2. Lake George, New York
Image by Joel Rollins from Pixabay
Lake George should quickly spring to mind when you think of upstate New York. Nicknamed the “Queen of American Lakes”, this clear-water lake is famous for its lakeside luxe resorts, fine dining, and shopping opportunities.
Spanning over 45 square miles, Lake George sits comfortably in the vast Adirondack Mountain range, which has attracted many visitors to northeastern New York for centuries.
3. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Photo by Tim Peterson on Unsplash
Sitting along the California-Nevada border and surrounded by the scenic snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks, Lake Tahoe is one of the prettiest lakes in the United States.
This gorgeous alpine lake boasts a 75-feet average clarity, which may have you thinking you’re somewhere in the Caribbean.
Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination offering sparkling blue waters for swimming or paddle boarding in summer. And plenty of ski resorts and surrounding national parks for a winter holiday.
4. Lake Havasu, Arizona
Image by Eric Simon from Pixabay
Arizona landmarks like Lake Havasu often go under the radar. But this pristine turquoise lake is easily one of the most beautiful in the U.S.
Not only does it feature stunning vistas of blue waterfalls against green vegetation and striking red cliffs, but the lake is also famous for its massive London Bridge (a historical point of interest in its own right).
Visitors often enjoy boating, fishing, and wildlife spotting around the lake.
5. Crater Lake, Oregon
Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash
Arguably the most stunning lake in the United States, Crater Lake in Oregon was uniquely formed by the eruption of Mount Mazama nearly 8,000 years ago.
Today, America’s deepest lake, Crater Lake, is cut off from incoming rivers, only getting filled by rain and snowmelt — keeping it clear all year round.
And the wonders don’t end there. For dramatic effect, Crater Lake hosts the lush Wizard Island and the “Old Man”, a 30-foot mountain hemlock log floating in the lake for over a hundred years.
6. Hanging Lake, Colorado
Photo by Steve O on Unsplash
Straddling the edges of the Glenwood Canyon Cliffs, Colorado’s Hanging Lake is a spectacular hidden gem. This aquamarine lake is fed by a series of waterfalls and is surrounded by towering forested peaks.
While swimming is not permitted, the payoff is one of Colorado’s most famous hikes. A short detour along the Hanging Lake Trail will lead you to the water-sluiced Spouting Rock, which offers sweaty hikers a great place to cool off.
7. Diablo Lake, Washington
Photo by Margo Schmiederer from Pexels
Tucked between the rugged terrains and snowy peaks of North Cascades National Park, Diablo Lake offers deep turquoise waters with stunning green backdrops.
The seven-mile trail to Diablo Lake is filled with plunging gorges, switchbacks, and a 600-foot suspension bridge, making it quite challenging. But once you reach this emerald lagoon, the verdant scenery makes it all worth it.
8. Summersville Lake, West Virginia
Image by David Frampton from Pixabay
Popular for its protruding green-capped sandstone cliffs and clear freshwater, Summersville Lake gets nearly a million visitors each year. Located just north of the Gauley River, this lake is great for swimming, rock climbing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding.
Summersville Lake’s impressive depth of about 327 feet is the main attraction for scuba divers. The lake is also great for fishing. You can catch various fish species like walleye, catfish, and panfish.
9. Lake Katherine, New Mexico
Photo by Sergei A on Unsplash
Landlocked by the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Lake Katherine’s emerald waters and the surrounding Pecos Wilderness make for a great backpacking and camping getaway.
While many have heard of the hot springs of New Mexico, this gleaming lagoon should be top on your itinerary as it offers excellent opportunities for activities like fishing and hiking.
Lake Katherine is quite isolated and only accessible by a gruelling hike. The 15-mile trek along Winsor Trail takes you through deep forests and rugged terrains, but in the end, it awards you with stunning vistas of one of the clearest lakes in New Mexico.
10. Lake Jocassee, South Carolina
Photo by Brennon Williamson on Unsplash
Another stunning man-made reservoir, Lake Jocassee near Devils Fork State Park, is kept cool all year round by the cold Appalachian Mountain rivers that flow into it.
This 7,500-acre lake is a popular spot for swimming in the clear, shallow waters and boating through lush tributaries with cliffside waterfalls. The three-tiered Wright’s Creek Falls is popular for swimming under the cascade and cliff jumping.
To rent a boat or kayak, the Jocassee Outdoor Center will sort you out.
11. Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina
Image by David from Pixabay
Formed in 1928 by the damming of the Cheoah River, Lake Santeetlah boasts nearly 76 miles of shoreline and 200 miles of hiking trails, making it a remarkable oasis of solitude.
The pristine lake is a must-visit recreational facility offering jet-skiing, tubing, camping, and swimming or laying out at Cheoah Point beach.
While venturing into the verdant Nantahala National Forest, keep an eye out for the local wildlife like bald eagles, hawks, otters and beavers.
12. Lake Eklutna, Alaska
Photo by Andrew Hanson from Pexels
Less than an hour from Anchorage, Lake Eklutna is a hidden gem in Chugach State Park. It’s surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains and boasts a 15-mile shoreline that can be explored by hiking, kayaking, and ATV riding.
This lake stays clear all year round thanks to its proximity to the Eklutna Glacier. Trout and salmon fishing are popular activities here, as are camping and picnicking.
13. Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming
Image by Steve from Pixabay
While many lakes in the U.S. are great for summer destinations, Yellowstone Lake is deep, cold, and one of the most geographically active areas in the world.
In the winter, the lake freezes over except for the steaming geysers along the West Thumb shoreline. These bubbling hot springs create colourful round layers of snow as the steam eerily rises from the icy landscape — a unique sight you’ll love to experience.
14. Mono Lake, California
Photo by Mick Haupt from Pexels
Speaking of eerie landscapes, Mono Lake is famous for its strangely-formed tufa towers and calcium-carbonate spires. The saline lake is about 760,000 years old and tucked between the eastern edges of the snowy Sierra Nevada and arid endorheic basin.
While swimming is out of the question, Mono Lake is an excellent place for birdwatching as they feed on the trillions of brine shrimp that flourish in salt water.
15. Lake Superior, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin
Photo by Nong V on Unsplash
Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in North America. Tucked between three U.S states and Ontario, it’s also one of the most stunning lakes in Canada.
Superior Lake has a lifetime’s worth of views, from the scenic 2,900-mile shoreline and sublime beaches to towering sandstone cliffs and tumbling waterfalls.
Some exciting finds in Superior Lake include the clifftop Split Rock Lighthouse, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
16. Lake Willoughby, Vermont
Image by NT Franklin from Pixabay
Nicknamed the “Lucerne of America” for its dazzling fjord-like appearance, Lake Willoughby boasts gorgeous turquoise waters surrounded by lush mountains. These verdant hills turn into colourful golden bronze, red, and orange foliage in fall.
Lake Willoughby is famous for its hiking, swimming, and boating opportunities. In the winter, ice fishing for trout, chub, and yellow perch attracts visitors in numbers.
17. Flathead Lake, Montana
Image by whoabgflla from Pixabay
Famous for its transparent waters and forested shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Surrounded by a plethora of state parks, Flathead Lake is a national wildlife refuge.
Boating and fishing attract many visitors annually. But the stunning peddle-stoned beach, ponderosa pine-filled campgrounds, and fruit orchards and vineyards on its west side are also significant attractions you’ll love to explore.
18. Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma
Image by Roger Wade from Pixabay
Nestled at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Lake Tenkiller boasts clear waters perfect for fishing, scuba diving and swimming. The surrounding cliff edges often attract thrill-seeking adventurers who love jumping from high places. From spring to fall, the surrounding dogwood forests transform into mesmerizing foliage.
19. Caddo Lake, Texas and Louisiana
Photo by Bearded Texan Travels from Pexels
A waterbody like none other, Caddo Lake features bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss towering over a maze of bayous, sloughs, and frog-inhabited ponds.
The scenery at Caddo Lake is like something from a movie, it’s riddled with alligators, and if that’s not scary enough, the fictional character Bigfoot has allegedly been spotted here.
While swimming is not advisable, you can explore these other-worldly waterways and surroundings by paddling in a kayak, hiking or camping. You can also search for a geocache or try your luck fishing, with over 70 species of fish on the menu.
20. Lake Lanier, Georgia
Image by Chanh Nguyen from Pixabay
Another stunning U.S lake that’ll have your back and neck hair standing is Lake Lanier. But before we get to that, this clear lagoon boasts crystal blue waters, ideal for kayaking, boating, and swimming.
This lake is home to over 20 beaches perfect for sun lounging, while the forested islands dotted across the waterway also boast a few beaches of their own.
While it’s hard to verify that Lake Lanier is haunted, it does make for an interesting story. The spooky tales mention a ghost of a long-dead woman roaming this lake in a flowing blue dress and displeased spirits calling people down to the submerged graves.
21. Echo Lake, New Hampshire
Photo by James Khashchuk on Unsplash
Surrounded by a lush mountainous landscape in Echo Lake State Park, this gorgeous lake is popular for its swimming beach and abuts. Echo Lake is also known for its thrilling rock climbing and hiking trails.
The lake rests under White Horse Ledge, which casts a shadow on about 16 acres of water. White Horse Ledge and the 700-foot cliffs of Cathedral Ledge nearby are a rock climber’s haven, both providing sprawling views of the lake and the surrounding peaks.
22. Geneva Lake, Wisconsin
Image by Joshua Schmidt from Pixabay
Spanning over 500 acres of prime U.S. land, Geneva Lake is a deep blue lake surrounded by posh shoreside mansions lined with boats at the dock. The lake has a 23-mile-long public path around its shoreline, perfect for biking, walking, and cute lakeside picnics.
Outside of boating and swimming, visitors can enjoy kayaking in the azure water or take a fancy dinner cruise on the lake.
23. Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois
Image by Mike Griffin from Pixabay
Famous for its soft, off-white sandy beaches and nearby national parks, Lake Michigan is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in the United States. It spans over a massive 307 miles and has many cities hugging its shores.
Lake Michigan is the only great lake located entirely in the U.S. Thus; it’s often referred to as America’s “Third Coast”. Surfing, sport fishing, and recreational boating are popular activities here.
24. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
Photo by Oliver Graham on Unsplash
Created by the damming of the Ouachita River to build the Blakely Mountain Dam, Lake Ouachita is a reservoir spanning over an impressive 40,000 acres.
Thanks to the prohibition of development around the lake, it’s entirely surrounded by verdant scenery.
Lake Ouachita’s clear waters are ideal for swimming, scuba diving, and kayaking. Bass and other fish species can be found here, making it an excellent place for fishing.
25. Avalanche Lake, Montana
Photo by Robert Schrader from Pexels
Surrounded by forested mountains with glacial peaks, the aptly named Avalanche Lake gets its icy water from the melting of surrounding glaciers.
A short two-mile hike along the Trail of the Cedars gets you to this stunning natural amphitheater. With the towering mountains reflected on the glistening waters, Avalanche Lake is one of Montana‘s prettiest sights.
While many photographers flock to this lake to capitalize on the natural splendor, the lake also attracts hikers and cold-water swimming enthusiasts.
26. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
Photo by Jonathan Ng on Unsplash
Spanning over 20 miles at the foothills of the White Mountains, Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire. The lake boasts beautiful colonial-style homes and about 275 islands dotted along its waters.
Hiking and picnicking are popular ways that visitors enjoy the lake. You can also take a scenic train around the lakeshores, as well as go boating and kayaking.
27. Lake Chelan, Washington
Photo by Jesse Collins on Unsplash
Lake Chelan may be a narrow, 50.5-mile-long lake, but it is jam-packed with adventure and fun times. Aside from the stunning lake vistas flagged by scenic mountains, Lake Chelan is great for adrenaline-pumping water sports like paragliding and parasailing.
You can also take hikes along beautiful flower fields and trails. The Lake is also quite popular for its stunning orchards, vineyards, and gourmet restaurants. Lake Chelan’s glacier-fed waters are very inviting and a true hidden gem in Chelan County.
28. Finger Lakes, New York
Image by Oscar Portan from Pixabay
The Finger Lakes are a network of eleven long, narrow lakes in upstate New York. The Finger Lakes are the epitome of exploring New York State off the beaten path, thanks to their gorgeous tumbling waterfalls, public parks, and beaches along the shores.
These magnificent lakes also have fascinating one-of-a-kind museums and lakeside resorts ideal for a splendid getaway.
29. Maroon Lake, Colorado
Photo by Mike Scheid on Unsplash
Sitting at the base of the gorgeous Maroon Bells peaks, Maroon Lake’s highly reflective surface makes it a photographer’s dream destination. Completely surrounded by mountains, Maroon Lake offers solitude and tranquillity in Colorado’s alpine region.
Camping here is a popular tourist attraction, as well as hiking and kayaking. While the trails don’t go around the lake due to the towering mountains, you will still get stunning views of this majestic lake.
United States Most Beautiful Lakes | Wrapped Up
There you have it! Twenty-nine of the most gorgeous lakes in the United States. While this extensive list barely scratches the surface when it comes to all the U.S. lakes, it gives you a plethora of nearby options to explore.
So pack a picnic basket, get your swimsuit ready, and fill the tank. You’re about to experience landmarks in the United States that are not made of concrete and glass but are a spectacular result of Mother Nature, with a little bit of help from us.
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