Top 10 lakes in America
As you’ll no doubt be well aware, North America is packed full of such lakeside locations and from the Great Lakes of Canada (Erie, Ontario etc.) to America’s finest (Mirror, Tahoe et al) there’s always an excuse to head off into the wide blue yonder in search of reflective tranquillity.
Of course, for many, finding a lake is just part of the experience and there are a million and one different ways to have fun, relax and keep fit in, on and around the water.
Water sports, such as: kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing and water skiing, are all awesome activities to help you see the water’s edge from a whole new perspective and if you’re hoping to exercise in some truly majestic surroundings then just look for your nearest lake and dive right in.
A more gentle approach to exploring a lake area is to pack a picnic and take a stroll around the perimeter until you find the perfect spot to sit down, relax and unwrap your goodies. There’s just something about taking a picnic by a lake that adds to the whole experience and if you can combine a good old circular walk prior to diving into your grub then you’ll no doubt find the food all the more enjoyable (even the egg sandwiches).
If you prefer to catch your own picnic then lakes are the ideal place for fishing no matter whether you’re on the bank or taking a boat out onto the water, and there’s no better way to end the day than with a freshly caught fish barbecue on the beach.
Fishing, water sports, exploring or just chilling with a good book as the sun sets, whatever floats your boat, lakes go hand in hand with pretty much every relaxing pastime and if you’re thinking of heading to the USA then check out the top 10 lakes in America below and dive right in.
Quick note: As this particular article focuses on the top 10 lakes in America it’s only correct to point out Lake Superior which, although doesn’t make the list (as it’s not solely residing in the USA), is the largest lake in North America (over 30, 000 square miles) and therefore deserving of a mention.
Lake Superior superlatives aside, the top 10 list below can be found just in America and if you’re hoping to travel to any one of the highlighted lakes then make sure you pack your camera, cozzie and picnic hamper as these stretches of water are as good as it gets.
Lake Chelan, Washington State
Not all lakes are created equal and the ranging length of Lake Chelan stretches for over 50 miles and provides plenty of fascinating points to visit, including: Lake Chelan State Park, Domke Falls and the lakeside town of Stehekin. This is an absolute magnet for anyone interested in hiking, fishing or nature photography and the local vineyards always promise some extra special treats if you’re thinking of dining al fresco. With a surface area just topping the 50 square mile mark and a shore length of over 100 miles, it’s no surprise that this is where friends and families head to on a warm day in Washington state and you’d be well-advised to join them if you’re passing.
Mirror Lake, California
This small yet perfectly formed lake can be found in none other than Yosemite National Park which will probably give you some indication as to the beauty of the surrounding environment. Pine trees, snow-capped mountains and glacial sharp definition all go towards making Mirror Lake live up to all of your wildest wilderness expectations and anyone interested in natural photography need look no further for some sensational scenery to capture, print and hang on the wall. Unfortunately, thanks to erosion and the consequent build up of sediment, Mirror Lake won’t be around forever so best advice is to go see it while there’s still time.
Crater Lake, Oregon
As the name suggests, Crater Lake can be found within the depths of a startling lunar landscape that was first produced when the volcano Mount Mazama collapsed and in so doing created a vast caldera well over 2000 feet in depth. The lake is about as wide as it is long (6 miles in length and 5 miles in width) and once the snow has finally thawed around June time it’s possible to walk, cycle and drive around the rim to take in some magnificent views. Old growth forests, flower-covered meadows and back country camping areas make Crater Lake an ideal place to get away from it all and there’s no better option for cooling down in the summer than diving in to the deep blue waters and marvelling at how life got to be so darn great.
Note: There is only one place where it is safe and legal to get down to the lake shore. It is the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which usually opens mid to late June. The trail is 1.1 miles long and drops nearly 700 feet down to the lake shore. Visitors are welcome to swim in the lake from the shoreline at the end of this trail.
Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana & Michigan
Although the area commonly known as North America’s Great Lakes resides mainly on the Canadian side of the border, there is one of the collective which is located solely in America and that’s Lake Michigan. As the second largest of the five Great Lakes, Michigan more than holds its own in the Top Trumps’ stakes with a surface area stretching for an impressive 22,300 square miles. Supplying the locals and visitors to Chicago with more than their fair share of shoreline and water-based things to do during the summer, Lake Michigan is a real Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and certainly not to be missed if you’re heading to the Windy City.
Redfish Lake, Idaho
Ideally situated at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, which are part of the Rocky Mountains, Redfish Lake boasts some really impressive snow-capped backdrops and there’s no better spot in Idaho for dipping your hook, line and sinker. If you’re looking to walk the entirety of the 11 mile shoreline then it can be completed in a day however, the actual trail is more like 18 miles so make sure you set off early to allow you to take a few rest stops. A number of lodges and camping grounds make Redfish a great place to spend a few days and once you’ve completed the circular Alpine Way trail then why not think about climbing Mt Heyburn or Grand Mogul both of which peak at around 10,000 feet and have some simply spectacular views at the summit.
Note: it’s not possible to walk to the top of the mountains however, experienced climbers will be in their element and there are plenty of trekking trails around the lower foothills.
Flathead Lake, Montana
If you find yourself in the northwest of Montana then you’ll no doubt be more than inclined to check out the crystal clear waters of Flathead Lake which is well-known for its clarity and its well-kept shoreline. As one of the largest freshwater lakes in America (just under 200 square miles in area) anglers will find no rest from the pull of their quarry with trout, including: bull, cutthroat and yellow perch, all providing infinite opportunities to get out onto the lake with the elusive ‘Flathead Monster’ also adding to the appeal. Finally, as Flathead is only 30 miles from the awesome Glacier National Park it would be rude not to pop in for a visit if only to compare and contrast the 130 alternative lakes that can be found within the park’s 1,500 square mile borders.
Mystic Lake, Montana
Without leaving the state of Montana another lake which is always in need of a mention is Mystic Lake which can be found towards the central south region within the fabulous Beartooth Mountain range. Boasting a huge sandy beach and several short trekking trails this is the ideal spot to soak up some rays on a summer’s day and if you’re into your fishing then rainbow trout always make for a great bbq feast once the sun finally begins to set.
Note: There is a dam contained within Mystic Lake which makes the most of its hydroelectric properties however, this has been constructed with as minimal consequence to the natural environment as possible and does little to detract from what is essentially a really beautiful natural area.
Mono Lake, California
East central California is not just the setting for the state’s world-famous gold rush ghost town of Bodie it’s also where you’ll find Mono Lake which offers a unique chance to see migratory birds within a desert oasis environment. Other than the bird watching there are no end of expert-led guided tours to help visitors find out more about the lake and the surrounding habitat with wild flowers, natural history and hydrology all covered within a fascinating hour long programme. Don’t expect to spend a hazy day at the beach as the wind can whip up but, if you fancy a spot of canoeing, natural photography or even cross-country skiing, you’ll be more than happy that you made the trip.
Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
As North America’s largest alpine lake, Tahoe forms a natural divide between California and Nevada which means plenty of sunshine and casinos depending on which side you find yourself. As an all-round entertainment resort, Lake Tahoe is world famous for both its winter sports and summer activities with a whole host of ski, trek, bike and water-based fun providing endless excuses to get outdoors and active no matter when you’re visiting. One of the best and longest trails around the lake is called the Tahoe Rim trail which skirts the lake for just over 160 miles and promises some exceptional views as well as a fair old challenge for your calf muscles.
Lake Powell, Utah, Arizona
Overlapping the two mid-west states of Utah and Arizona entitles Lake Powell to be considered as one of the most popular spots for a summer holiday along the Colorado River and regularly attracts a couple of million visitors every year. Thankfully, as the lake is almost 200 miles in length and 25 miles in width, there’s plenty of Powell to go around and if you’re into your Oscar winners then you may be interested to hear that this is where the landing sequence for the film Gravity was shot. Space exploration aside, Lake Powell also boasts plenty of other reasons to visit with Glen Canyon Dam, Hite Crossing Bridge (man-made) and Rainbow Bridge (natural) all well-worth a photograph in between a day spent messing about on the water.
Further reading: Lake Powell is one of the most captivating holiday spots in the country. Until you have seen the contrast of Lake Powell’s blue-green water lapping against the lunar backdrop of her burnt orange rock, you truly haven’t seen all the beauty of the American Southwest.
Enjoy holidays exploring America's magnificent lakes and mountains parks with these recommended tours
National Parks Explorer Escorted Tour (13 nights)
National Parks of America Escorted Tour (11 nights)
Self-Drive Washington & Oregon (12 nights)
Self-Drive American Grandeurs (14 nights)
Western Jamboree - Family Self-Drive (12 nights)
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