There’s something calming about the sound of water, gently lapping at a shoreline. And when the splendor of a breathtaking natural landscape surrounds a body of water, it’s even better. America is home to a long list of stunningly beautiful lakes, beckoning to those who need to take a breather from their daily lives. The ones that make the top of the list are not just some of the most well-known but also lake destinations that travelers shouldn’t miss experiencing.
At 1,949 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and the ninth deepest lake in the world. It formed as a volcanic crater more than 7,700 years ago. Remarkably, rivers and streams don’t feed this body of water, so there are no sediment deposits. The lake’s pristine, deep-blue water is amazingly clear and among the cleanest lake water in the world, fed only by rain and snow. Crater Lake sits within the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park, southeast of Eugene and Northeast of Medford, Oregon.
The largest freshwater, alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe, lies majestically in the Sierra Nevada mountains, straddling California and Nevada and stretching across five counties. Its shimmering, crystal clear waters beckon to swimmers in the summer months and provide year-round inspiration for those seeking some alone-time with nature. With 72 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of areas around the lake to explore, so it’s no surprise that hiking and kayaking are popular activities here. Lake Tahoe is west of Carson City, Nevada.
Mother Nature may not have created this fascinating lake, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Covering more than 7,550 acres, Lake Jocassee is in the northwestern part of South Carolina, created by the state in 1973 to support electricity generation in the area. Its pristine shores, clear, cold waters, and crystalline lagoons are a year-round destination and a popular site for scuba diving and other water sports. Waterfalls are among the main attractions here. For public access to the lake, visitors enter through Devils Fork State Park in Salem.
On the north end of the Alaska Peninsula, in the southwest part of the state, are some of the most spectacular views in the country. Lake Clark is a 40-mile long river-and-glacier-fed body of water that sits in the center of the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Humans have lived here for centuries, yet the only way to reach the rugged area is a one-to-two-hour flight on a small airplane. This is true American wilderness. Bears, caribou, wolves, moose, lynx, and wolverines make their homes here. Two of the largest mountains in the park are active volcanoes. Hiking, fishing, and kayaking opportunities are plentiful.
Getting to this breathtaking little slice of heaven requires a bit of hike — one mile to get there and one mile to get back — on an unpaved trail. It’s a steady climb, and it tends to be a bit crowded, but it’s well worth the effort. Ponderosa pines and aspen groves fill the landscape, and the vistas are incredible, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing. You can also follow the trail to other lakes nearby. Get there early enough to catch a sunrise. You won’t be disappointed.
The largest of the five great lakes, Superior touches Ontario, Canada on its east and north sides, Minnesota on its west side, and Wisconsin and Michigan on its south end. People say that when you gaze out over the lake, it looks more like an endless sea. The shoreline of this massive lake stretches across 2,726 miles, creating a plethora of recreation opportunities.
Artist Georgia O'Keeffe loved this part of northern New Mexico. The colorful landscape inspired her so much that she moved here in 1949 and never left. Abiquiu Lake is a 5,200-acre reservoir 53 miles north of Santa Fe. High cliffs and intriguing, colorful geological features form its borders. Pinon, juniper, and sage trees surround the area, and the vistas are some of the most unique in the country. Sustainable hiking trails around the lake were created through community projects and partnerships.
Situated in a state park about eight miles south of Nashville, Radnor Lake covers a 1,367-acre area. The park came into being following a public outcry to save the area from development. Radnor Lake is home to a huge variety of wildlife. There are also hundreds of species of wildflowers, fungi, ferns, mosses, and lots of other flora. It’s the perfect destination for people who love nature or enjoy capturing and posting photos on their social media.
Each year, more than two million people travel here to capture the grandeur of this artificial reservoir. It sits along the Colorado River, spreading across the Utah-Arizona border in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The only way to travel into the backcountry or explore the extensive, 2,000-mile coastline is by boat. The sunsets here are second-to-none, and the massive ombré red cliffs that border the snake-shaped waters are incredible to behold.
Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-elevation lake in North America. Snow-capped mountains rise and cast reflections across the water. Moose and other wildlife wander through the marshes nearby. Don’t plan on swimming here. The water is way too cold. Some say as the sun begins to rise, you can hear eerie sounds resembling ethereal organ music or a swarm of humming bees emanating from the lake, a decades-long mystery that has never been solved.