11 Dreamy Lakes In West USA That Will Take Your Breath Away (2024)

11 Dreamy Lakes In West USA That Will Take Your Breath Away (1)

There’s nothing like opening your tent door to some of the most beautiful lakes in the US, firing up the BBQ, and having a picnic watching the snow-capped mountain range reflected on the water’s surface.

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to the blue of aquatic gems.During my two years ofvanliving, my love for water and adventure took me to some of the most incredible lakes in the western United States.From glacier-carved basins to hidden, sparkling oases in deserts, I’m excited to sharewith yousome of my favorite lakes across the United States that completely took my breath away.

11 Dreamy Lakes In West USA That Will Take Your Breath Away (2)

1. Crater Lake, Oregon

Location:Crater Lake National Park, South Oregon

Crater Lake is a mesmerizing natural wonder formed over 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed.At 1,943 feet deep, it is the deepest lake in the United States and one of theclearestand most pristine lakesin the world.

The captivating blue color of Crater Lake is due to its incredible depth and clarity, which allows most of the sunlight to be absorbed by the water, reflecting only the blue spectrum back to our eyes. This lake is not fed by rivers or streams but relies on rain and snowfall, making its waters remarkably clear.

How to Visit:From mid-June to late-September, visitors can drive around thefull rim road of the laketo all the viewpoints.It’s also possible tohike or take a boat tour to Wizard Island, a cinder cone in the middle of the lake. In the winter months,youcan partially drive around the lake and participate in activities such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

📖 Read Also: Perfect One Day in Crater Lake Itinerary for First-Timers

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2. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Location:California-Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Straddling the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular destinations on the West Coast. With its sparkling blue waterscompletelysurrounded by snow-capped mountains, it is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepestlakein the United States.

How to Visit:This year-round paradise offers everything from skiing and snowboarding at some of the best ski resorts in the country in the winter to hiking, kayaking, and beach lounging in the summer. Take a helicopter tour to see afullpanorama or a Tahoe boat tour for thefullexperience.

You can access the lake fromeitherCalifornia or Nevada, with numerous resorts and campsites dotting its shores.

📖 Read Also: Day Trip to Lake Tahoe: One Day Itinerary for All Seasons

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3. Lake Powell, Arizona/Utah

Location:On the Colorado River between Arizona and Utah

Set among the Arizona desert, Lake Powell isa man-madereservoir that stretches for 186 miles with a total shoreline of 1,960 miles. Created by the damming of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, Lake Powell has become a premier destination for its clear, blue waters and unique geological formations. The waters in this vast reservoir weave through the rugged rock canyons, creating a labyrinth of hidden coves and secluded inlets.

How to Visit:Accessible frombothArizona and Utah, the best way to experience Lake Powell is by boat. You can rent a kayak or a boat trip to paddle through canyon walls to hidden beaches.I reallyrecommend going to the lower section of Antelope Canyon or Labyrinth Canyonfor a longer trip. And if you’re here, you have to go see Antelope Canyon, one of the most famous slot canyons in the world!

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4. Mono Lake, California

Location:Eastern Sierra, near Yosemite National Park

Amidst the volcanic peaks and otherworldly terrain, California’s Eastern Sierra is filled with ancient lakes, but none as unique as Mono Lake. This saline lake is over 1 million years old and has no outlet, which means the water here is five times saltier than the ocean. The highlevels of saltcreate unusual formations known as “tufa towers” that jut out from the surface like alien sculptures. The lake also supports a unique ecosystem, making it an important birdwatching site.

How to Visit:You can access the lake via state highway 395 and take a scenic drive around its shores or hike through the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve for a closer look at the Tufa towers. Note the closer you get, the lake is filled with bugs and can smellnotthe most pleasant.

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5. Ross Lake, Washington

Location:North Cascades National Park, Washington

In the rugged mountains of Washington’s North Cascades National Park is Ross Lake, a longand narrowlake stretching for 23 miles with over 300 small islands scattered throughout.As a glacially-fed lake, its waters have a beautiful blue-green huethat contrastsbeautifully with the deep green forests and rocky peaks surrounding it.

How to Visit:With only one road bisecting the lake, the best way to experience Ross Lake is by boat. You can rent a kayak, take a scenic boat tour, or goout intothe backcountry to its secluded islands and hidden coves. You can also hike part of the Pacific Northwest Trail that runs along the lake’s eastern shore.

📖 Read Also: Perfect One Day in North Cascades National Park Itinerary

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6. Great Salt Lake, Utah

Location:Salt Lake City, Utah

Located in the desert of northern Utah, the Great Salt Lake is an impressive body of water that covers over 1,700 square miles. As the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, it’s known for its high salinity levels and unique pink hue. Many peoplegoingon a Salt Lake City itinerary visit the lake regularly for its recreational opportunities, including swimming, boating, and birdwatching.

How to Visit:The Great Salt Lake is easily accessible from Salt Lake City and offers various activities such as swimming, kayaking, and hiking around the lake’s shoreline. You can also take a trip to visit Antelope Island State Park, located within the lake and home to diverse wildlife such as bison, pronghorn antelope, and over 250 species of birds.

📖 Read Also: Perfect One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary for First Timers

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7. Bear Lake, Utah/Idaho

Location:Along the Utah-Idaho border

Known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” Bear Lake is a popular summer destination for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and sandy beaches. As one of the largest natural lakes in Utah, it stretches into Idaho and has stunning views of both states’ mountain ranges. The lake’s unique color comes from limestone deposits suspended in its waters, creating a beautiful blue-green hue, especially on a sunny day.

How to Visit:Bear Lake State Park is the perfect place to access the lake and all its recreational activities, including swimming, boating, and fishing. You can also drive around the lake or visitnearbyattractions such as Minnetonka Cave or Garden City’s Raspberry Days festival.Anddon’t forgetto try the famous raspberry shakes from local shops!

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8. Glacier National Park Lakes, Montana

Location:Glacier National Park, Montana

Tucked away in the rugged wilderness of Montana’s Rocky Mountainsis Glacier National Park, home to over 700 lakes and countless waterfalls.Many of these glacially-fed lakes have an incredible turquoise color and breathtaking mountain backdrops.Some ofthe most popular lakes to visit include Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, and Swiftcurrent Lake. I hiked to Avalanche Lake and had a hard time leaving!

How to Visit:The best way to experience Glacier National Park’s lakes is by hiking or taking a scenic drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to take you to its 200+ glaciers and numerous lakes. This road is only fully open in the summer months. You can also rent a kayak to some of the more remote lakes in the park or take a whitewater rafting float trip.

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9. Hanging Lake, Colorado

Location:Glenwood Canyon, Colorado

Within the landscape of Glenwood Canyon,Hanging Lake is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.This small lake is fed by a waterfall that cascades into the emerald-green waters below. The lake’s unique geological features have made it a National Natural Landmark, and visitors can also explore the nearby Spouting Rock Falls. It’s also home to unique species of fish and plants found nowhere elsein the world.

How to Visit:You can access Hanging Lake by hiking a steep and somewhat1.2 mile challengingtrail. To preserve its delicate ecosystem, only 615 visitors are allowed per day during peak season (May through October), so reserve your permit ahead of time. Additionally, no dogs or swimmingis allowed in orderto maintain the lake’s pristine condition.

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10. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana

Location:Texas/Louisiana border

Straddling the border of Texas and Louisiana isCaddo Lake, a massive 25,400-acre bayou featuring swamps and ponds.Filled with towering bald cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, the area is alive with the sounds of birds and frogs while alligators patrol the waters.

In 1910, Caddo Lake was the center of a pearl rush. Freshwater pearls were discovered in the local mussels, sparking a frenzy that lasted three years until rising water levels hindered access to the mussels.Today,the pearl hunters have vanished, but visitors still enjoy boating and spotting alligators in the water.

How to Visit:Take a guided boat tour or rent a canoe or kayak for a self-guided adventure. You can also visit nearby historic towns such as Jefferson, Texas, and see remnants of the steamboat era.Anddon’t forgetto try some Cajun cuisine while you’re in the area!

📖 Read Also: 21 Unexpected Day Trips in East Texas That’ll Surprise Even Long-Time Texans

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11. Jenny Lake, Wyoming

Location:Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Jenny Lake is generally considered the centerpiece of Grand Teton National Park. This glacially carved lake reflects the dramatic Teton peaks and dense forests, and it’s one of the most scenic lakes in the United States. You can also hike to Hidden Falls or Inspiration Point for a better view of the lake.

Aside from Jenny Lake, hiking trails lead to other beautiful lakes in the park, like Leigh Lake and String Lake.

How to Visit:To access Jenny Lake,you cantake a shuttle boat, kayak yourself, or hike the 7-mile Jenny Lake Loop trail. The lake is alsopopularfor fishing and boating, with various boat rentals available on-site.

📖 Read Also: Perfect One Day in Grand Teton Itinerary for First-Timers

Final Thoughts: Beautiful Lakes in the US

There’s something so peaceful about boating acrosssome ofthe country’s most stunning lakes and watching the sunset beyond the horizon. Eachof these lakesis the perfect place for such relaxation, from Mono Lake’s high salinity to Glacier National Park’s glacial beauty.

Add these surreal lakes to your travelitinerary,and for those looking to uncover more hidden gems across the country, check out our national park guides to inspire your next adventure.


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🏘️ Plan ahead and secure your accommodation with Booking.com in advance.

🧾 Rent a carwith Discovercars in advance and get the best prices for your day trip adventures.

11 Dreamy Lakes In West USA That Will Take Your Breath Away (2024)


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