25 Best Swimming Lakes
There are few better ways to spend a summer day than playing in a lake with family and friends, picnicking and sunbathing on the shore, or boating around and soaking in nature. A favorite summertime pastime for many and a great way to cool off, swimming holes are the next best thing to a beach vacation. We’ve chosen some of the best swimming lakes from North America in this list. Ranging from quiet mountain lakes to the massive Great Lakes and popular city swimming areas, we’ve got something for everyone and plenty of options spread geographically around the US and Canada. Peruse, be inspired, grab your swimsuit and jump in. Photo: mariiaprokopenko/Fotolia
» Crater Lake
Crater Lake is the namesake lake of Crater Lake National Park. This impressive, awe-inspiring lake sits in the crater of a volcano where it was formed when a violent volcanic eruption caused the peak to collapse nearly 8,000 years ago. The lake is the deepest in the United States and has an unparalleled purity. Due to its location high in the Cascade Mountains, views of the lake are sometimes obstructed by clouds so it is advisable to check the park website or ranger station before heading to the lake. Summer activities include hiking and boat tours of the lake whereas in wintertime, many guests explore the park on ranger-led snowshoe trails and by cross-country skiing.
Walden Pond is a famous lake in Concord, Massachusetts. The lake was formed by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago and today is preserved on protected land in the Walden Pond State Reservation. The lake is well known in popular culture because writer Henry David Thoreau lived on its northern shore for two years where he wrote Walden, which subsequently made the pond famous. During the summertime, the lake is a popular swimming destination with sections of beach around the lake, including one that is quite popular. Other activities on offer include boating, picnicking, fishing, and hiking. There is also a reproduction of Thoreau’s cabin available for touring.
Photo: Alizada Studios/Fotolia
»Swimming lakes near me: Horseshoe Lake
Horseshoe Lake is a stunningly clear lake with beautiful, turquoise water. The lake is accessible via a trail that begins at the Horseshoe Lake parking lot near Jasper National Park. The hike is a relaxing 1.5 km loop that features interesting views, striking cliffs, and several small bridges. The entire circuit can be done in about 25 minutes but you will want to leave more time to enjoy the lake. Horseshoe Lake is the best natural swimming spot in the area, however the water is quite chilly so it’s best enjoyed on a hot day. Swimming is allowed at your own risk and no lifeguards are on duty. Other activities include fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Cascade Ponds is a popular lake system in Banff National Park that is known for picnicking, hiking, and swimming. The pond is a day use area with picnic facilities, bathrooms, and fire pits. Days spent at Cascade Ponds take the form of strolling around the lake and having a little lakeshore picnic with your friends or family. There are a variety of hiking trails in the national park near the ponds. Hiking to the base of Cascade Waterfall is a nice way to spend time, and you’ll get great opportunities for wildlife viewing. Hiking, picnicking, and taking a dip in the pond are fabulous ways to make a relaxing and memorable day.
Minnesota is known for its many lakes, and among them Deer Lake stands out as a true gem. The lake is nicknamed the “Lake of Changing Colors” due to its colorful water that can shift from blue to green depending on mineral concentration. It sits in the state’s popular northwoods area. The lake is known for having deep, clear water and a particularly secluded location offering a retreat from the everyday. It is popular among boaters and paddlers who can be found hopping from island to island as there are 25 islands scattered throughout the lake. Other activities include wildlife watching, swimming, exploring the forest surrounding the lake, camping, and more.
Echo Lake is a glacial lake near Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County, California. The lake is just minutes away from Lake Tahoe and is one of the top places to go swimming in the area. Here, you’ll find a gorgeous, peaceful, mountain setting, beautiful scenery and crystal-clear lakes surrounded by granite mountains. Echo Lake is composed of an Upper and Lower section, each of which is a great destination for swimming, boating, picnicking, and fishing. There are a number of trails surrounding the lake for hiking in the summertime and cross-country skiing in winter. If you’d really like to set off on an adventure you can head off on an overnight trip in the nearby Desolation Wilderness.
»Swimming lakes near me: Fallen Leaf Lake
Fallen Leaf Lake is a mountain lake in the Lake Tahoe area of California, near the border with Nevada. The oval-shaped lake is approximately three miles long and a mile wide. The lake is quite deep and drops off quickly as you move away from the shoreline. Much of the lakeshore is privately owned, but there are public access points available. There is little commercial development nearby with the exceptions being the small marina and store at the lake’s southern tip. Popular activities include boating, fishing, kayaking, rowing, and sailing although high winds can often make the latter difficult.
Photo: Sarah Jane/Fotolia
Flathead Lake is, by surface area, the largest naturally formed freshwater lake located west of the Mississippi River in the Lower 48 U.S. states. It is situated in northwest Montana near the town of Kalispell. It is some 30 miles long and 16 miles across and has over 191 square miles of surface area. The lake is located near Glacier National Park, and many combine it with a visit to the park. Scenic drives also bring many to the area as there are two scenic highways that pass along the lake’s shores. Popular activities on and around the lake include sailing, boat tours, horseback riding, hiking, and much more.
Photo: Shane Cotee/Fotolia
Lake Carlos is the namesake lake of Lake Carlos State Park in Douglas County, Minnesota. The park has a number of recreational activities that center around Lake Carlos. The lake is deep and clear, making it a popular spot for swimming in the summertime. Other activities include fishing, boating, hiking, camping, and horseback riding. The park also has a number of interesting wildlife species and park visitors frequently encounter deer, beaver, heron, loons, and ducks during their visit. The park is also active in wintertime when cross-country skiing is a popular activity. During winter the water is likely to be turned off in the park so be sure to carry in enough drinking water for your visit.
Lake Chelan is a long, narrow lake winding more than 50 miles through north-central Washington State. The lake is easily the largest in the state by any way you measure it. The lake is fairly isolated, especially in its northern reaches. As such, the shoreline is sparsely populated. The city of Chelan is the largest and while it is fairly small, it does offer some services for tourists. Popular activities include swimming, fishing, visiting local vineyards, camping, hiking, exploring the wilderness, and much more. If you are looking for a swimmable lake, you will certainly want to visit in the summer, but the lake is a year-round attraction.
Lake Crescent is a deep, glacial lake located near Port Angeles, Washington, within the confines of Olympic National Park. The lake is known for having extremely clear water that takes on a brilliant blue shade. The area that surrounds the lake has a wealth of recreational opportunities. Hiking is especially popular in the area and a number of trails are available, including hiking to Marymere Falls on the Barnes Creek trail as well as the Pyramid Mountain and Spruce Railroad trails. Other activities include boating, kayaking, sailing, relaxing on the beach, and swimming. There is a campground on the lake’s west end as well as a couple of lodges offering cottages and rooms for rent.
Lake Erie is one of the smaller of North America’s Great Lakes but still ranks fairly high among freshwater lakes worldwide for size. During summer there are a number of popular swimming areas. Diving for shipwrecks is another popular activity as there are a number of discovered and undiscovered shipwrecks in the lake. Fishing is also popular, and Lake Erie is the best of the Great Lakes for quality fishing as it contains a large number of well-established species and reaches warmer temperatures than some of the other lakes. Ice fishing is also a frequent pastime in winter. Other activities include water sports, boating, visiting islands, biking along the lakeshore, visiting lighthouses, and more.
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Lake George is a town in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains known for its beautiful mountain scenery and abundance of lakes. There are sandy beaches on virtually every lake in the surrounding region, making it a perfect destination for beach lovers. There are large beaches with many attractions and visitors as well as smaller stretches of sand that make the perfect quiet retreat. The lakes have clean water and many have lifeguards on duty for an extra measure of safety. There are a number of waterfront restaurants and hotels within walking distance of some of the beaches. Some of the most popular are Loon Lake Town Beach, Brant Lake Beach, Hague Town Beach, and of course, Lake George Beach.
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»Swimming lakes near me: Lake McConaughy
Lake McConaughy is a reservoir located near Ogallala, Nebraska. The lake is situated on the North Platte River and is the state’s largest lake. The lake offers natural, sandy beaches for swimming, camping areas, boating, and other types of outdoor activities. People especially come here for the fishing, which is rumored to be the best in a several state area. It’s possible to see eagles in the park, and there is an on-site heated eagle viewing facility that offers opportunity to view the majestic birds even in the wintertime. The park naturalist often hosts fun, family-friendly activities such as a “reindeer and cocoa” day in the wintertime, painting workshops, and nature walks.
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Lake Michigan is one of North America’s five Great Lakes. It has the distinction of being the only lake that is located completely within the USA as the other four are shared between Canada and the United States. Four US states border the lake, and a number of major cities are located on its shores including Chicago and Milwaukee. There are many beaches that offer swimming if you can handle the lake’s cool temperatures. The lake is also flanked with the largest freshwater sand dune system in the world on its east coast. Around the lake’s large shoreline you will find virtually every type of recreational activity that you might be after with both rural and urban settings, state parks, tour companies, and much more all at your fingertips.
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Lake Ontario is another one of the five Great Lakes. The lake is partially located in Canada and the United States and is the last in the chain of lakes. By way of the Saint Lawrence River Lake Ontario has an outlet into the Atlantic Ocean. A number of cities border the lake, especially on the Canadian side where it is quite developed. The American side is somewhat more rural except for the area around Rochester, New York. There are several beaches on the lakeshore that offer plenty of opportunities for sunbathing or taking a dip in the lake. Boat tours are available as is fishing and other recreational activities.
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Lake Powell is a large, man-made reservoir on the Colorado River straddling the border of Arizona and Utah. The lake is a popular vacation destination owing its popularity to its natural beauty, warm weather, and wide range of recreational activities available. There are a number of hiking trails in and around the surrounding canyons. Boat tours and companies offering watercraft rentals are also abundant and include tours of Antelope Canyon as well as tours of Rainbow Bridge. Fishing, golfing, boating, swimming, and shopping are also popular activities. Overnight accommodations include camping and houseboat rentals which both make for a memorable family vacation.
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»Swimming lakes near me: Lake Red Rock
Lake Red Rock is a reservoir on the Des Moines River and the largest lake in the state of Iowa. The lake was formed by flooding the former town of Red Rock. It is a recreational hot spot with a number of activities such as boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, and camping. Two sides of the lake are operated as Elk Rock State Park and a couple of other parks also line the shore. Several campgrounds are available for those who would like to spend the night. The lake’s so-called “water trail” is a float path popular among paddlers where you can travel on the Des Moines River from Polk County’s southeast corner to Red Rock Dam.
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Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire. The area surrounding the lake is a very popular tourist destination, meaning that a number of attractions and activities have popped up on the lakeshore. In recent years multiple companies have begun offering zip lining, high ropes courses, segway tours, and boat cruises on the lake. Touring the Castle in the Clouds estate is also a popular activity. Of course, if you are looking to swim, Lake Winnipesaukee won’t disappoint. Several beaches offer swimming in the lake and sand for playing and sunbathing including Wiers Beach, Ellacoya State Beach & Park, Opechee Park, and Bartlet Beach.
Photo: Jo Ann Snover/Fotolia
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»Red Fish Lake
Red Fish Lake is an alpine lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in central Idaho. The lake is named for a species of fish, the sockeye salmon that once frequented the lake in such quantities that the lake would shine with a red glimmer during the salmon spawning season. These days the salmon are much fewer in number due to a number of dams along the route that once brought them to the lake. If you’ve come to swim, there are sandy lakes along the shoreline that are popular for wading, swimming, and sun bathing. However, the lake is quite cold most of the year with temperatures reaching a high of only about 62 degrees in late summer, and the lake completely freezes over in the winter.
Photo: Gregory Johnston/Fotolia
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»Saint Mary Lake
Saint Mary Lake is Glacier National Park’s second largest lake. The lake has a perfect teal hue that is typical of lakes formed by glaciers. A number of species come to Saint Mary Lake for water, making it a prime spot for seeing wildlife such as mule deer, elk, and both grizzly and black bears. Visitors can take a scenic boat tour offered by Glacier Park Boat Company during the warmer months. Picnicking on the lakeshore is also a popular way to spend time here. Those who wish to swim will find the water quite cold, but the views of the surrounding scenery are unforgettable.
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Spring Lake is a 72-acre lake fed by underground spring that is located inside Spring Lake Regional Park in Sonoma County, California. The park is a popular local spot for swimming during the summer months and is open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are marked swimming areas and a very popular floating, inflatable playground that is suitable for ages 6 and up. Boating is permitted year round with the exception of the swimming lagoon area. Fishing, camping, picnicking, biking, and hiking are all popular activities within the park as well. The park is also home to a small natural science museum called the Environmental Discovery Center where kids can learn about natural history and the habitats that exist in the park.
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Torch Lake is the longest inland lake in the state of Michigan and the state’s largest. The lake is popular among fishermen, and a number of fish species may be caught there. It is known among locals and tourists for the quality and number of nature activities such as boating, hiking, canoeing, SCUBA diving, and fishing. Boat activity is relatively low, and private individuals and resorts own much of the shoreline, making it a quiet place to relax and enjoy nature. The waters at Torch Lake are notably clear and give off a bright, turquoise color that causes some to call it the “Caribbean of Michigan.”
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Santa Rosa New Mexico’s Blue Hole is one of the most popular SCUBA diving destinations in the United States. This small lake sits in the middle of the desert to the east of the town of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The lake is known for it’s incredibly clear, sapphire blue water. Visibility is a striking 100 feet and the water is always a steady 62 degrees. Those who wish to come and dive must purchase a permit. The on-site Dive Center offers training and support to divers as well as hot showers, which you will appreciate after taking a dip in the chilly water.
Photo: Sue Smith/Fotolia
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25 Best Swimming Lakes
- Crater Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Harrison - Fotolia.com
- Walden Pond, Photo: Courtesy of Alizada Studios - Fotolia.com
- Swimming lakes near me: Horseshoe Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Dominic - Fotolia.com
- Cascade Ponds, Photo: Courtesy of Jenifoto - Fotolia.com
- Deer Lake, Photo: Courtesy of schankz - Fotolia.com
- Echo Lake, Photo: Courtesy of adonis_abril - Fotolia.com
- Swimming lakes near me: Fallen Leaf Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Jane - Fotolia.com
- Flathead Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Shane Cotee - Fotolia.com
- Lake Carlos, Photo: Courtesy of renamarie - Fotolia.com
- Lake Chelan, Photo: Courtesy of Patti - Fotolia.com
- Lake Crescent, Photo: Courtesy of alpegor - Fotolia.com
- Lake Erie, Photo: Courtesy of rgbspace - Fotolia.com
- Lake George, Photo: Courtesy of Tomtsya - Fotolia.com
- Swimming lakes near me: Lake McConaughy, Photo: Courtesy of bonniemarie - Fotolia.com
- Lake Michigan, Photo: Courtesy of 14ktgold - Fotolia.com
- Lake Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of bruno135_406 - Fotolia.com
- Lake Powell, Photo: Courtesy of lemanieh - Fotolia.com
- Swimming lakes near me: Lake Red Rock, Photo: Courtesy of mycteria - Fotolia.com
- Lake Winnipesaukee, Photo: Courtesy of Jo Ann Snover - Fotolia.com
- Red Fish Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Johnston - Fotolia.com
- Saint Mary Lake, Photo: Courtesy of tusharkoley - Fotolia.com
- Spring Lake, Photo: Courtesy of mammute - Fotolia.com
- Torch Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Sean - Fotolia.com
- Blue Hole, Photo: Courtesy of Sue Smith - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of mariiaprokopenko - Fotolia.com
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