From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

The Best Lakes in the U.S. to Visit This Summer

Book a lakeside house in one of these 10 scenic towns across America.

Hill Country Is Redefining Texan Hospitality


Hill Country Is Redefining Texan Hospitality

A new wave of hotels, wineries, and restaurants is transforming this rural region...

Puerto Rico Through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Eyes


Puerto Rico Through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Eyes

Multihyphenate Lin-Manuel Miranda on his family's home country, singing in...

Our Favorite Stays of the Year


Our Favorite Stays of the Year

Our editors’ picks for the most restful, memorable, and invigorating hotel...

There are few things more essential to the American summer experience than a lakeside vacation. From the crystal-clear waters out west to the Great Lakes alternatives in the Midwest and tree-lined lakes in the Northeast, there’s something about sipping your coffee on a waterfront terrace that brightens any morning. These are the towns where you’ll undoubtedly want to rent a lakefront house for the week, preferably with direct water access for boating excursions and morning swims. Here, the 10 best lakes in the U.S. for your next getaway:

Flathead Lake, Montana

Boasting 185 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the contiguous western states. What sets this lake apart is its crystal-clear waters that are fully see-through in the more shallow areas. The 200-square-mile lake is 375 feet at its deepest point and is a western hotspot for boating, swimming, and outdoor fun—it doesn’t hurt that it’s not far from Glacier National Park, either. The boating enthusiasts can rent from Howe’s Fishing and Boat Charters, while the non-nature lovers head to Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits and Kalispell Brewing Company to sample the local wares.

Lake Tahoe, CA

Also a western freshwater lake, Tahoe is nestled into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The emerald waters are accessible from both California and Nevada. Vacationers from all over the west flock to Tahoe, and typically either stay in Tahoe North or Tahoe South. South Lake Tahoe is home to resorts like Heavenly Mountain Resort and Timber Cove Marina, where you can rent boats. North Lake Tahoe is home to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail—here, it’s the165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. Those looking for a luxe lake house can rent through Inspirato, known for their stunning Tahoe listings.

Blue Lakes, Colorado

In southwestern Colorado is Blue Lake, a must-see U.S. sight. The vibrant turquoise lake, nestled into a flora-filled valley, has a captivating beauty reminiscent of Banff National Park. There is actually a lower and upper Blue Lake, and visitors can hike between the two on an eight-mile (roundtrip) trail. The Blue Lakes are not far from Telluride, so many visitors opt to stay at luxury Telluride hotels—like American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection—and travel to the Blue Lakes for a day trip.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida

This 750-square-mile lake is known for largemouth bass, speckled perch, and Okeechobee catfish, for all the fishermen and women out there. If fishing isn’t your sport, hikers can do a day-long hike on Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, which runs for 110 miles. Visitors to the area typically stay in luxe houses or resorts in the lake-adjacent towns of Clewiston, Pahokee, Belle Glade, or Moore Haven.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

In western Maryland, Deep Creek Lake is a nature lover’s dream, with boating and hiking opportunities a-plenty. Rent luxe lakefront property with Railey Vacations and make sure you reserve boating equipment at Deep Creek Marina. If you’re visiting Deep Creek Lake with the whole family, make sure to take the kiddos to Lakeside Creamery. And on an overcast day, wait out the cloudy skies at Deep Creek Pottery—once the sun peeks back out, rent paddle boards at Wisp’s Beach Hut.

Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota

In a state known for Lake Superior, we have an alternate pitch: Lake Mille Lacs, a perfect fishing and boating destination. Fishermen are partial to the 132,500-acre lake’s vast selection of walleye, muskie, northern pike, and bass. Beach-goers can head to Lake Mille Lacs’ southeast shore and spend the day at Father Hennepin State Park, or the whole family can head out on kayaks or jet skis courtesy of Randy’s Recreational Rentals. There are also miles of great hiking trails—including the 11-mile Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail—and the Lake Mille Lacs 68-mile Scenic Byway for the roadtrippers.

Lake George, New York

One of the premier destinations in the Adirondacks, Lake George offers an endless supply of activities for the whole family. Hikers can visit Hudson Pointe Nature Reserve, anglers can cast their lines in any season, and golfers can grab a tee-time at Sagamore Golf Club, whose course is in full view of the lake. From properties like The Villas on Lake George to secluded cabin rentals on the water, it’s the perfect place to post up for a week in the summer.

Summersville Lake, West Virginia

The largest lake in West Virginia, with more than 2,700 surface acres of emerald-colored freshwater, Summersville is an inviting lake in the southeastern part of the country. For those keen on getting in the water, Summersville is actually a diving destination—experienced divers can visit Sarge’s Dive Shop for all the equipment and necessary instruction. Alternately, if you’d prefer to stay on the surface of these pristine waters, take the whole family pontoon boating, then for dinner at Long Pointe Grille & Bar.

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Welcome to 72 square miles of lake in New Hampshire’s lakes region. From waterfront seafood dinners at Wolfetrap Grill & Raw Bar to renting a boat on Lake Winnipesaukee, this is a summer refuge for Northeasterners looking to escape the major cities’ heat waves. Take the whole family mini golfing or on a hike through Ellacoya State Park or the White Mountain National Forest. Most visitors choose to stay in the lake-adjacent towns of Ashland, Plymouth, Wolfeboro, or Holderness. We recommend booking a suite at Mill Falls at the Lake or The Manor at Golden Pond.

Trophy Lakes, SC

Trophy Lakes—an area not far from Charleston—is a water skiing haven. In fact, the lake was built in 1988 especially for water skiing and other aquatic sports. On the water surrounding John’s Island, families can actually book private water skiing and wakeboarding lessons. If you don’t feel a need for speed on the water, slow it down with paddle boarding (rent from Water Dog Paddle Company) or kayaking instead. While families might opt to stay within Charleston, you can also rent luxurious and historic waterfront properties on John’s Island.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.