1. Table Rock Lake, Missouri and Arkansas
This crown jewel of natural beauty is a paradise for boaters, scuba divers, campers, and fisherman. With over 50,000 acres of surface water there will be plenty to keep you busy whether you’re fishing, water skiing, or simply just relaxing. Miles of trails surround the lake as well for the biking and hiking enthusiasts, offering different vantage points to take in the scenery. The nearby town of Branson offers up some of the best country music and is home to the world’s biggest spinning roller coaster.
2. Lake Chelan, Washington
One of the most stunning lakes in the world and the third deepest lake in the United States, Lake Chelan can be found in a glacier carved valley of the Cascade Mountains. Abounding wineries and tasting rooms dot the shores mixed in with orchards full of delicious apples. Numerous state parks and forest service campgrounds allow you to plan multi-day boat trips and dozens of trails lead your way around the 55-mile-long lake. For an ultimate road trip adventure visit Lake Chelan as part of the 400-mile Cascade Loop.
Camping Tips: A Beginners Guide to their First Trip
3. Crater Lake, Oregon
Though there aren’t many recreational water activities to be had (swimming is limited), Crater Lake simply inspires awe. Artists, photographers, and sightseers stare in wonder at its sapphire blue waters and stunning setting. Take in the beauty of this geographic masterpiece by hiking the forested trails, such as Garfield Peak, to untouched views and fields of alpine wildflowers. From July to October the full 33-mile loop of the Rim Drive is accessible offering 30 pull outs to view the awesome volcanic scenery.
4. Lake Kabetogama, Minnesota
A true fisherman’s favorite located in Voyageurs National Park this lake is an enchanted combination of blue sky waters and majestic forests. The lake offers more than two dozen wilderness campsites that can only be reached by boat, though there are numerous resorts along the shoreline and plenty of outfitters to set you up for your preferred adventure. Anglers who long for wide open spaces and good fishing will revel in the cool, clean waters and solitude of Kabetogama, while there are plenty of hiking and biking trails to suit a land as well. If you are looking for a winter adventure, Kabetogama also boasts some spectacular snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails too.
Essential Camping Gear Checklist
5. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Exploring this clear, cobalt blue lake tucked into the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a bucket list essential for any adventurer. Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail, bask on the beaches in South Lake Tahoe, or pedal along paved bike paths encompassing the lake. Explore Emerald Bay and if you don’t mind crowds, head up to Inspiration Point for one of the best overlooks in the region. Water sports include kayaking, boating, paddleboarding, and water skiing. Oh yeah, you can also tee up on the green if you need a break from the water. Join Under30Experiences to experience Lake Tahoe with other like-minded travelers!
Check out our 6 Must-do Hikes in Lake Tahoe when planning your next camping and hiking adventure.
6. Finger Lakes, New York
Navigate scenic mountain drives and uncover miles of spectacular shorelines of the 11 glacier lakes in New York’s wine country. Head over to Keuka Lake, named after the Iroquois word for canoe landing, and cast your line for trout, bass, and salmon. Skaneateles Lake is said to be one of the purest lakes in the state with plenty of fish and is popular for boaters. However, if you are more interested in chasing waterfalls than fishing, take a quick trip out to the massive 90-foot Carpenter Falls. But don’t forget, if you are visiting the Finger Lakes then you might as well enjoy vineyards and the numerous wineries that offer up some spectacular lakefront views on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.
24 Must-see Parks in the Northeastern United States
7. Rangeley Lakes, Maine
Rangeley, a quaint New England town with antique shops, seafood restaurants, and cute little bed and breakfasts is a perfect place to call home as you discover the 6 lakes that make up the Rangeley Lakes Region. These lakes offer up the best of outdoor fun – hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and plenty of swimming. Take a scenic cruise to observe bald eagles and set up your tent at Rangeley State Park. For you foodies out there, make sure you divulge in The Red Onion’s famous chili and scarf down a homemade pizza.
Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Maine
Lakes and the towns that dot their shorelines are filled with the stuff that dream vacations are made for. Best of all, they can typically be explored over a weekend or a weekday hiatus from work. So grab your swimsuit and hiking boots, rally up your friends, and take off to a freshwater destination near you. We assure you that discovering one of these lakes is just what your soul needs.
For more great travel guides and all of our best content make sure you are signed up to our travel blog newsletter.