Hop from state to state to experience the most beautiful American lakes up close. From expansive blue lakes that stretch as far as the eye can see to spectacular waterfalls feeding aquamarine lagoons, pop these must-see lakes in the USA on your travel bucket list.
The US is such a big country with incredibly diverse nature and wildlife to explore closer to home. Whether you want to see cool-climate lakes that freeze over in winter, or cruise across America’s second-largest reservoir in the desert, these must-see American lakes will leave you dazzled with their natural beauty.
1. Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona
This lake might be man made, but the beauty here is nature’s finest work making Lake Powell one the most beautiful American lakes to explore. In 1963 Glen Canyon was dammed and the Colorado River filled the space, creating the second-largest reservoir in the United States of America. The best way to experience the long blue lake is from the water, where it’s hard to take a bad photo of the stunning vibrant red sandstone cliffs contrasting the warm blue water.
GET INSPIRED: Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks
2. Lake McDonald, Montana
Once upon a time, massive glaciers carved this area into the valley of Glacier National Park. Here Lake McDonald is 16 kilometres (10 miles) long and 150 metres (500 feet) deep, making it the biggest lake in the area. With pristine water, visitors love to take photos of the rainbow rocks that line the bottom of the lake. Of course, the only thing better than experiencing Lake McDonald up close is staying the night on her shoreline in a rustic historic hunting lodge. Inspired by Swiss architecture, curling up around the fire is the perfect end to a day exploring and something you can experience on Trafalgar’s Secrets of the Rockies and Glacier National Park tour.
GET INSPIRED: Secrets of the Rockies and Glacier National Park
3. Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is definitely one of the must-see American lakes. The clear blue alpine water throws back every shade of blue, while the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains rising up behind it make it hard to take a bad photo. While it’s always too chilly to dive into the tempting clear water, the best way to experience Lake Tahoe is with a cruise. When you join Trafalgar, you’ll glide across the stunning Lake Tahoe, soaking in alpine splendour over dinner.
GET INSPIRED: Northern California
4. Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming
This deep lake is clear, cold and in a super geologically active area. In the centre of one of America’s most famous National Parks, Yellowstone Lake changes with every season. If you visit the colder half of the year, you might find the big lagoon frozen over. While the summers are lovely, the winters are magical. Geysers burst from the icy landscape as colourful cauldrons or bubbling water and mud, with misty steam rising from the earth.
GET INSPIRED: Scenic Parks Explorer
5. Hanging Lake, Colorado
If you’ve visited the incredible Plitvice Lakes in Croatia (or have it on your bucket list) then you’ll understand why this is one of the must-see lakes in the US. A little harder to reach, this aquamarine lagoon fed by cascading waterfalls is worth the trek. Over time mineral deposits have built up to create a rare example of a travertine geological formation. To reach the lake, one must hike a steep, rocky 1.9 kilometre (1.2 mile) trail into the heart of Glenwood Canyon on the White River National Forest.
6. Crater Lake, Oregon
Almost 8000 years ago the volcanic Mount Mazama exploded, losing its top and leaving a bowl-shaped caldera that soon filled with rainwater and snow. At nearly 600 metres (1943 feet) deep, this makes the list of must-see American lakes as it is the deepest in the country. Interestingly no rivers or streams flow into the giant lake so the water is super clear with great visibility for scuba diving. The two islands rising from the depths are called Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.
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7. Mono Lake, California
Set in the dry dusty desert near Sierra Nevada, the city of Los Angeles’ nearly destroyed Mono Lake. As water levels dropped, other-worldly limestone columns appeared from beneath the water. This is not only one of the most beautiful American lakes, it’s also one of the most unusual. Apparently, when calcium-rich springs react with carbonate-heavy lake water it creates the structure underwater. The water in this lake is three times saltier than the ocean. It’s also one of North America’s most important migratory stops for millions of birds.
Do you agree that these are the most beautiful American lakes? Let us know in the comments…