If you are thinking about a waterside holiday, you might have one of America’s gorgeous beaches in mind. But there are so many ways to enjoy the water that goes beyond sun and surf. Skip the sand in your swimsuit and the salt in your hair. Avoid sunburn from the shade-less beaches and having your water sport plans undermined by heavy rips. Skip the ocean and head to one of the more than one hundred thousand lakes that can be found across the mainland United States.
Lakes offer the perfect waterside vacation alternative. Not only will you find fresh, calm waters, that are shark-free. Lakes also offer more diversity than the beach when it comes to planning your holiday activities. Combine your water sports with hikes in the surrounding mountains, or horseback riding and Yeti hunting. Some lakes are even ideal for visiting in the winter months when they transform from swimming hole into winter sports haven.
The sheer number of lakes in the U.S. means that you should have little trouble finding one nearby that offers the right mix of water, relaxation, and adventure. But to help you out, we have compiled a list of ten of the best lakes to visit on your next vacation.
1. Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is the perfect vacation spot in both summer and winter. In summer, pretty much every day is warm and sunny, perfect for camping, cycling, or just floating on the blue water. An extensive trail system surrounds the area, including the Tahoe Rim and Pacific Crest. The lake itself has 72 miles of shoreline.
In winter the lake becomes ideal for winter sports. At an altitude of 6,225 feet, the lake freezes over and the snow descends on the surrounding peaks. As a result, the area is fantastic for skiing, snowboarding, and skating. There is a reason why the 1960 Winter Olympics were held here. The event has left the area very well-equipped for winter sport holidaymakers.
Whenever you visit, the area is packed full of hotels, bars, and restaurants, and there are even a number of breweries in the area. Pop into the Alibi Ale Works of the Fifty-Fifty breweries on the north shore of the lake.
2. Moosehead Lake, Maine
Moosehead Lake covers 75,000 acres and is ideal for fishing, throughout the year. The lake is full of landlocked salmon, brook trout and lake trout, head out by boat in the warmer months, of try ice-fishing in the winter. The colder months see the deep lake freeze over with two feet of thick ice, making it ideal for skating and ice-racing. In addition, the surrounding area also offers 160 miles of daring snowmobile trails, that loop around the lake, and also cut straight across the ice.
In the warmer months strap on your hiking boots and conquer any of the six peaks that surround the trail including Mount Kineo, Borestone Mountain, and Bog Moose Mountain. While all are challenging climbs, they are still accessible and offer spectacular views of the surrounding area. When on the trail you are also likely to spot some of the handsome Moose that give the area its name.
While in the area make sure to stop at the B-52 crash site, where you can still see the remains of the fighter jet that crashed therein 1963. It is also an excuse to visit the nearby Spotted Cat Winery, which features organic wines made not only from grapes but other local fruits and berries.
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3. Priest Lake, Idaho
Just fifteen miles from the Canadian border, Priest Lake is surrounded by an endless canopy of Douglas firs that make the 19-mile freshwater lake seem pleasantly secluded. You can explore the area by hiking that trails that hug the 80 miles of the lake’s shoreline, dipping in for a swim when you find a secluded cove all to yourself.
Enjoy camping, fishing, boating and hunting the lake area, which is overlooked by the Selkirk Mountains. In winter, try cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Despite not feeling like a tourist trap, you will find all the services you need nearby to make the most of your time in the area.
Don’t forget to ask one of the locals for directions to Indian Rock, where you can see prehistoric pictographs created by Native Americans, while also taking a dip. Watch out for black bears, wolves, mountain lions and bobcats among the wildlife that thrive in the adjacent backcountry.
4. Placid Lake, New York
Not let the association with the horror movie put you off. Lake Placid is one of the country’s most tranquil places to visit in America. In the warmer months, the area offers hiking, rock-climbing, water sports, fishing, and several top-notch golf courses.
In the winter, which seems to last from November to April here, the whole area transforms into a fabulous ski resort. There is a reason that the area has hosted the Winter Olympics not once, but twice! Don’t forget to add visiting the Olympic Centre, Museum, Jumping Complex and Sports Complex to your list of things to do, along with bobsledding, downhill skiing, ice climbing, and much more.
When you are looking for a more relaxing time, the town itself feels like a Colorado resort in the heart of New York. It is full of great dining and drinking spots for unwinding and meeting people.
5. Havasu Lake , Arizona
Lake Havasu will appeal to anyone seeking the sun and heat. It enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year. There are days when temperatures sit comfortably above 120. It is the ideal destination for anyone looking for a party. Lake Havasu is an extremely popular spring break destination for college students. During the break, the party scene is unstoppable.
But don’t let that put you off! You are unlikely to see naked water skiing outside of the spring break period. At other times of the year, the lake becomes a more tranquil, but still exciting place to be. It has 60 miles of uninterrupted navigable waterways ideal for kayaking or relaxing on a luxury boat. Classic Arizona desert surrounds the lake basin, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and off-roading.
Also, we can’t forget the Lake Havasu is home to London Bridge, which Robert P. McCulloch purchased in 1967 and relocated from England.
6. Grand Lake, Colorado
Grand Lake is a 50-acre lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It is serviced by a small town that will make you feel like you are back in frontier days. Stay in one of the cabins and summer homes that like the shores, and spend evenings on the historic boardwalk that is home to over 60 shops, restaurants, and other venues.
In the summer, enjoy sailing, fishing, hiking, and biking, or explore the nearby Rocky Mountains. Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing are popular in the winter. And be sure to jump on a snowmobile, as Grand Lake is often called the snowmobiling capital of Colorado.
7. Flathead Lake, Montana
If you are a fan of horses, you will love Flathead Lake in Montana. Wild horses roam the surrounding state park. Businesses near the lake are equipped for horse lovers. They offer equestrian lessons, trail rides, barrel racing competitions and much more. You can also go on a multi-day packhorse camping trip into the surrounding mountain range.
Flathead Lake is relatively uncrowded, thanks to the various other great spots nearby, in particular, Glacier National Park. You can sometimes feel like you have the place to yourself. This may also be a contributing factor to the quality of the water, considered among the world’s best. The water is clear wherever you look and offers great fishing and an invigoratingly chilly swim.
8. Rangeley Lake, Maine
Rangeley is actually a collection of six lakes, ideal for boating, canoeing and kayaking in the summer. But the best think about the lake maybe fishing. This is actually where fly-fishing was born. Trout, landlocked salmon and other popular fish call these waters home. You won’t get bored spending a day on the water with your line.
Done with the water? Hike up the overlooking Saddleback Mountain. It is a fun walk, and you will discover panoramic views of this corner of heaven. You might also come across some interesting wildlife, including loons and bald eagles. Next make your way into the quaint New England town, which is full of antique shops, seafood restaurants, and old-style bed and breakfasts.
In the winter, the area sees around 200 inches of snow. This converts the lake basin into the ideal place for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The area also hosts an annual three-day Snodeo.
9. Caddo Lake, Texas and Louisiana
If you are looking for a more untouched wilderness, rather than water sports, make your way to Caddo Lake, the home of Bigfoot. The lake is surrounded by primeval swamps, sunken cypress trees, and thick forest. It is not hard to believe the stories of strange ape-like creates that dwell there. Whether you are a believer of not, the result is an eerily beautiful place that feels untamed by man.
Grab a boat and head out for some fishing. You will find 71 species of fish in the water, including trophy-size Largemouth bass. There is also white bass, crappie, sunfish and catfish at the right time of year. You may also spot some gorgeous gazelles and terrifying alligators.
10. Oconee Lake, Georgia
Anyone into golf and lakes should head to Lake Oconee in Georgia. The areas first course opened there in 1986, and now nine world-class golf courses frame the lakeshore. A lake is also a great place for fishing (the lake holds 433 pounds of fish per acre), swimming, boating, and water-skiing, and the surrounding countryside offers great camping and picnicking.
No trip to this lake is complete without dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants that overlook the water. These include Gaby’s by the Lake, the Bone Island Grill, and The Boathouse at Harbor Club. Eat fresh seafood brought in direct from the lake.
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