From a deep turquoise colored lake surrounded by wooded hills to a dark blue lake that is a perfect mirror reflecting the surrounding mountains, or a crystal-clear lake backed by pale granite peaks, the best lakes in the USA are in its national parks.
You can take a boat trip on the deepest lake in the US, watch steam rising from the shores of the largest high-altitude lake in the country, walk on the salt flats of the lowest lake on the continent, hike around the most beautiful lakes in the USA, or just sit back and soak in the views of the prettiest lakes in the US.
Here are the most beautiful lakes in America to inspire your national parks wanderlust.
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Bear Lake | Rocky Mountain National Park
What Makes it Special: Bear Lake is one of the most beautiful and best lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park – and in a national park dotted with beautiful lakes, that’s saying something. On still early mornings, the dark blue lake creates a perfect mirror reflection of the surrounding hills.
Fun Fact: The lake can be visited all year round and is the starting point for several hikes in the park. Read about this and more hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Read More: Rocky Mountain National Park Travel Guide
Lake Clarke | Lake Clarke National Park
What Makes it Special: Another of the most beautiful lakes in the United States, Lake Clark is surrounded by snow-topped craggy peaks with waterfalls cascading down their side. However, it is not only 40 miles of pristine Alaskan beauty. It is also one of the main salmon spawning grounds in Alaska, and therefore one of the best lakes in the US to see grizzly bears as they feast on the fish.
Fun Fact: There are no roads to Lake Clark – you need to take a boat or sea plane to get there.
Read More: Best National Parks to Visit in Summer
Crater Lake | Crater Lake National Park
What Makes it Special: The dark blue lake is inside the caldera of a volcano. The steep sides of the caldera, and the beautiful Wizard Island are truly breathtaking.
Fun Fact: Crater Lake is not only one of the most beautiful lakes in US national parks, at 1,949 feet / 594 meters deep, it is also the deepest lake in the United States.
Read More: Best National Parks to Visit in Summer
Badwater Basin | Death Valley National Park
What Makes it Special: Badwater Basin may seem like an odd choice for one of the best lakes in US national parks because it doesn’t usually have any water in it, but after it rains, the salt flats do form a lake. The water doesn’t last long, as it evaporates quickly in the dry desert heat. Despite the lack of water, the salt crystals form patterns that have a haunting and unusual beauty.
Fun Fact: This is the lowest point in North America (282 feet / 86 m below sea level) .
Read More: Death Valley National Park Travel Guide
Diablo Lake | North Cascades National Park
What Makes it Special: Nestled among steep forest hills and dotted with small islands, Diablo Lake is a brilliant turquoise color that almost seems to glow. The color is a result of sediment carried down from the surrounding glaciers.
Fun Fact: The lake is arguably the most beautiful lake in USA, but it is not natural. It’s actually a reservoir, created by the Diablo Dam.
Read More: Most Scenic Drives in US National Parks
Echo Lake | Acadia National Park
What Makes it Special: Echo Lake is the most beautiful of all the Acadia National Park lakes. The picturesque lake is nestled at the foot of the rugged Beech Mountain and is especially beautiful in the fall, when the surrounding woods are ablaze with fall color.
Fun Fact: There is a (man-made) beach on the southern shore of the lake that is a popular place to swim in summer (it’s a lot warmer than swimming in the ocean at the nearby Sand Beach!)
Read More: Acadia National Park Travel Guide
Jenny Lake | Grand Teton National Park
What Makes it Special: One of the best lakes in USA for vacation adventures, Jenny Lake is one of two lakes in Grand Teton National Park that have boats on them. The lake also frequently provides a perfect reflection of the surrounding hills. The lake lies at the foot of the stunningly beautiful Cascade Canyon, which can be reached on a hike from the lake.
Fun Fact: The lake is named after a Shoshone native American woman who married an Englishman, Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh. She died of smallpox in 1876, along with their six children.
Read More: Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide
Lake McDonald | Glacier National Park
What Makes it Special: Lake McDonald is the largest, and one of the most beautiful and best lakes in Glacier National Park. Carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, the 10-mile-long lake is surrounded by the snowy alpine peaks of the Lewis and Clark Range. The water is crystal clear and often provides perfect reflections of the surrounding mountains.
Fun Fact: The historic Lake McDonald Lodge, dating from 1914, sits on the shore of the lake.
Read More: Read about Lake McDonald Lodge and other legendary historic inns and lodges in US national parks and the Glacier National Park Travel Guide
Tenaya Lake | Yosemite National Park
What Makes it Special: Tenaya Lake is the most beautiful of Yosemite’s lake. It’s bordered on three sides by the quintessential Yosemite pale granite peaks and domes.
Fun Fact: The lake can only be reached in June to October when the Tioga Road is open.
Yellowstone Lake | Yellowstone National Park
What Makes it Special: Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal hot spot and it is possible to see steam rising from several points on the shore of the lake. The enormous lake is surrounded by woods and hills.
Fun Fact: Yellowstone Lake is the largest high elevation (defined as those more than 7,000 feet / 2,134 m above sea level) lake in North America. Despite the steam you may see on the lakeshore, the water is actually very cold all year and freezes over completely from late December to late May.
Read More: Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide
Enjoy the lakes!
Do you have any other top pick for the most beautiful lake in US national parks? I’d love to hear what it is. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know.
Get more national parks inspiration:
- The 12 Best US National Parks
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Winter
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Spring
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Summer
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Fall
- Best Lodges in US National Parks
- Most Scenic Drives in US National Parks
- Best Beaches in US National Parks
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James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.
He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks.
Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.
As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.
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