Summer is the perfect time for a lakeside getaway – days are long, warm and inviting you to kick back and relax in the surroundings of natural scenery and water views.
There’s nothing like posting up on the lake and wasting the day away. Take to one of these amazing lakes for a memorable U.S. vacation. Every U.S. state has that go-to lake for sun lovers and water worshipers. Of course, some stand out more than others, and we wanted to share the details on some of the coolest lake vacations that America has to offer for travelers of every kind. Whether you’re staying local or gearing up for a road trip, you’re sure to find the destination that does the trick. Grab your swim trunks, because we’re going lake hopping.
Grand Lake, Colorado
Founded in 1881, Grand Lake is unique in its location, with blue waters along the shoreline reflecting the mountains of the nearby park. Outdoor recreation takes precedence in Grand Lake. The lakeside scenery is unmatched with breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, everything a postcard experience could possibly be. Go fishing or rent a set of kayaks for the day to spend some time on the water. Spend a relaxing afternoon on the sandy shores of the Grand Lake beach, where you can kick back and watch sailboats glide to and from the nearby Grand Lake Yacht Club. Mountain-style lodging abounds here, with unparalleled options like C Lazy U Ranch and Daven Haven Lodge. On the east side of Grand Lake, less than a mile from the middle of the village, a short walk brings you to Adams Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the edge of the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Minnesota, known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, actually counts nearly 12,000 — the most named lakes among the lower 48 states. Wild wilderness, delicious eats and cozy accommodation — Ely, Minnesota has it all. A mere 12 miles from Canada, it’s also home to a handful of lakes, including Burntside Lake, Shagawa Lake, White Iron Lake, Farm Lake and Miners Lake. Many travelers love the relaxed atmosphere of smaller-town living yet many of the advantages of big-city living here in Ely. You can stay at a resort or camp on the edge of one of these scenic lake systems. Ely’s world-famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is reason enough to head to this destination for a paddling good time.
Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes of upstate NY have 11 freshwater lakes that are shaped like a handprint. They’re nestled between Lake Ontario and the Pennsylvania border. In the winter, you can ski. In the summer, you can hike, bike and boat. All year long, you can eat farm-to-table cuisine and enjoy delicious wines. With more than a hundred vintners, the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is the prime wine region of the Eastern U.S. The largest concentration of tasting rooms is along Highway 414 on the east side of Lake Seneca. Consider staying in Victor or Sodus Point for some fresh air for your vacation. Whatever you do, the Finger Lakes National Forest is not to be missed. Make time to check out Watkins Glen State Park, the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, that features a series of waterfalls and gorges that are sure to amaze anyone.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
In the summer this popular resort town of around 7,500 swarms with Chicagoans and Milwaukeeans who pack the shops and restaurants of its downtown quarter. A no-stress resort town, Lake Geneva houses visitors all year round. The Geneva Lake beach is seven miles long, so there’s no shortage of spots to lay your towel and soak up the sun. Take a hike around the 21-mile lake perimeter or hop on a boat and experience it from within. Ski in the winter and ride horseback in the summer. Take your kids to the local water park and finish the day at one of many impeccable restaurants (Joni’s Diner and Medusa’s Grill are a couple of local faves) to tie it all together.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park is remote, wild and awe-inspiring, to say the least. The intense blue water of Crater Lake can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. Oregon’s only National Park, Crater Lake is busiest from July through mid-September when the weather is favorable and the entire park is open. From hiking to the tops of peaks with 360 degree views in all directions to pedaling down pleasant bike paths without a care in the world, this trip is sure to challenge yet relax you at the same time. Stay at a campground or cabin right within the area (if you can snag a spot, the redesigned classic Crater Lake Lodge is not to be missed).
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Mount Desert Island is home to Acadia National Park. Ponds and lakes are all along the mountains, and you can find them by hiking one of the dozens of peaks. The park is the country’s second busiest National Park, only behind the well-known Yellowstone National Park. Mount Desert Island offers an endless array of activities for everyone. Some of the things to do in Acadia National Park include: a visit to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. Bar Harbor is adorable and busy. It offers the perfect blend of a seashore community, Down East vibe, and the famous Maine Lobster. Don’t miss sunrise on Cadillac Mountain (don’t worry, you can drive to the summit). You can bike through 55 miles of carriage trails around numerous lakes and mountains while you’re there. Try walking around the pond loop at The Bubbles, too.
Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
This northwest Idaho town on Lake Coeur d’Alene is just about 40 minutes from Spokane, Washington, but it’s worlds away from city living. This lake is big, bold and beautiful and is over 26 miles long with some 135 miles of shoreline, dotted with numerous parks, campgrounds, beaches, trails and recreational facilities. Lake Coeur d’Alene is both the name of the city and the lake. You can rent a boat and spend the day on the water with your family, take a lake cruise, go parasailing or try your hand at jet skiing. Challenge yourself at The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, home to the world’s only floating green and offers stunning lake views from nearly every hole. Surrounding forests, parks and city destinations only add to the amazing nature of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
The Lake of the Ozarks is one of Missouri’s premier vacation destinations. The Ozark Mountain region has the most amazing sunsets as well as plenty of outdoor fun. Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo are a couple of the most popular destinations. A visit to the Lake of the Ozarks area isn’t complete without a visit to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. High on a bluff overlooking Ha Ha Tonka Spring and Lake of the Ozarks sits the ruin of a stone mansion built in the early 1900s, adding an air of mystery to the richly wooded area. Overlooks in the castle area provide great views of the lake and the spring. But there’s more than just water. Come for comfort food, caves and local distilleries, too.
Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia’s most popular lake, offers a variety of recreational activities and water sports on its 20,600 acres. Known locally as “SML,” it is the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” and expands for 40 miles and offers 500 miles of shoreline. And if that isn’t enough, it’s surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, making it one of the most popular and scenic destinations in Virginia. Smith Mountain Lake also stocks striped bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and blackmouth bass. Other fish include crappie, catfish and muskellunge. Walleyes breed naturally.
Flathead Lake, Montana
Flathead Lake is undoubtedly relaxing and expansive. Locals and visitors alike treasure Flathead Lake for its spectacular beauty and endless opportunities for water recreation, including fishing, sailing or paddle boating, hiking, camping and swimming. The 185 miles of shoreline and 200 square miles of natural freshwater mean summertime is everything around here. Big Arm and Finley Point are public state parks worth a trip. Big Fork, Lakeside and Polson are neighboring communities that put you in close proximity to Flathead Lake. Adventurous visitors to Flathead Lake looking for one-day activities will enjoy Wildhorse Island, located on the west shore of the lake and spans over 2,000 acres, only accessible by boat. This makes it an ideal day-trip activity to Flathead Lake for visitors looking for a serene, relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
Lake Oconee, Georgia
Located in Greensboro, Lake Oconee expands for more than 19,000 acres. Whether you choose a resort or lodge, you’ll still find nature to be at the forefront of your experience. Wake boats and pontoon boats, jet skis and ski boats, paddle boards and canoes — you name it, Lake Oconee has got it. Along the shores of Lake Oconee is an opportunity to escape from the noise of Georgia’s capital city. Stay at top resorts, including The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, for a tranquil getaway. Lake Oconee is home to eight of the finest golf courses located all within a 10 mile radius. Each has its own distinct style and offers challenges to the serious golfer.
Lake Tahoe, California
When it comes to the California’s best lakes, Tahoe is it. It’s North America’s largest alpine lake, famous for its year-round tourist attractions including swimming, boating, skiing, hiking, fishing, biking, and adventure sports, as well as indoor draws like casinos, lavish hotels, and museums. Hop on your board to shred the slopes in the winter. In the summer, visitors and locals alike love to boat, float and camp their days away. Tahoe has 72 miles of shoreline, so there’s literally no shortage of activity space. International and American cuisine dapples the south shore, and you’ll also find beer from spots like Alibi Ale Works and Fifty-Fifty Brewing.
Nothing beats the summer heat quite like a cool, refreshing dip into the divine waters of a picturesque freshwater lake.
Lake towns offer a special kind of sanctuary. From relaxing retreats to bustling hubs for boating and water sports, lake vacations are an ideal destination for just about every kind of traveler. Whether your style of lake living involves curling up with a good book on a hammock or water skiing from the back of a speedboat, these lake towns won’t disappoint.