There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than cooling off in a lake. There are lakes scattered across the country that offer a variety of experiences to take the heat off when temperatures soar. These 10 cool lakes feature plenty of amenities to please everyone in the crowd, while also providing a scenic backdrop to enhance your lake vacation experience and photos.
While you enjoy these outdoor lake adventures, please be safe in and around the water. Check out these water safety tips from our friends with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which is one of the nation's leading federal providers of outdoor recreation with more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states. Life jackets save lives!
Use our Trip Builder tool to find local lakes and help plan for your next trip!
A cool way to beat the summer heat – go jump in a lake!
Lucky Peak Lake State Park (US Forest Service)
Just minutes from Boise, Lucky Peak Lake is a popular destination to enjoy all kinds of water sports like fishing, jet skiing, wakeboarding/surfing, waterskiing and more. Camping, picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, beach areas, playgrounds and five boat ramps offer plenty of access and options beyond lake fun. The lake is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is flanked by federal and state-owned land along this 12-mile (19 km) lake. Lucky Peak State Park features three separate day-use areas with a variety of amenities and include Discovery Park, Sandy Point and Spring Shores Marina. Check out this fun video!
Carlyle Lake (US Army Corps of Engineers)
The largest lake in Illinois, Carlyle Lake is a sailor’s paradise and mecca for a myriad of lake and land activities. Small boat access ramps can be found in hunting/fishing parking lots. A great place to cruise for pleasure, water ski, or spend the day fishing. There are six developed campgrounds for camping, four beaches for swimming, several trails for hiking, 13 picnic shelters for gatherings, oh, and geocaching.
Lake Red Rock (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Why travel to the ocean when you can visit the largest sandy beach in the state of Iowa? It’s located at the North Overlook Beach Facility at Lake Red Rock, located along the very popular Volksweg Trail for hikers and bicyclists (the People’s Trail). The lake’s beach designers brought in 10,000 tons (9,071 tonnes) of sand to create the impression of a spacious ocean beach. Visitors can bicycle to the beach from other Lake Red Rock recreation sites, or even nearby Pella, they can also play volleyball at two courts and rinse off at indoor and outdoor showers. Campers can book sites in advance at four campgrounds on the lake.
Enid Lake (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Boaters and swimmers seeking relief from the Mississippi summer heat head for Enid Lake, 150-miles (241 km) north of Jackson. Discover the lake’s four designated lake beaches and four reservable campgrounds—ideal for a family get-away. Enid is also home to the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery Visitor Education Center, operated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Park. A 10,000 gallon (37,854 liters) aquarium, displays, interactive exhibits, artifacts and wall murals promote freshwater sport fishing while encouraging the conservation and stewardship of aquatic resources.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Kathi Bishop, Share the Experience)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is 40 minutes southeast of Las Vegas and offers a myriad of water recreation opportunities. Formed by Hoover Dam, one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. Five marinas offer access to Lake Mead (and Lake Mohave formed by Davis Dam, below Hoover), with year-round activities including boating, water skiing, canoeing, kayaking and scuba diving. Along the shores you’ll find opportunities to camp, bike and hike.
Black Butte Lake (Jayna Finney, Share the Experience)
Located on the west side of the Sacramento Valley, Black Butte Lake has a shoreline of 40 miles (64 km) making it an inviting and accessible recreation area. The lake also includes over 20 miles (32 km) of hiking, mountain biking, and nature trails with scenic vistas and wildlife viewing. There are two campgrounds Buckhorn and Orland Buttes, both with drinking water, picnic tables, fire pits, launch ramps, trailer dump stations, and restroom facilities with showers. The best time for fishing is during the spring and early summer. With a valid State of California fishing license, you may catch a crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and channel catfish.
Dale Hollow Lake (Tanya Raef, US Army Corps of Engineers)
Dale Hollow Lake is an oasis in Tennessee — an idyllic retreat for water and land activities. The lake’s long recreation season allows visitors to have many opportunities to fish, hunt, camp, boat, canoe, hike, scuba dive, ride horseback, and enjoy the outdoors. Picnic areas and campgrounds offer a chance to reconnect with family and friends. Four developed campgrounds provide for a more modern camping experience with water-front views!
Whitney Lake (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Located in central Texas, 65 miles (104 km) southwest of Fort Worth, Whitney Lake, features a picturesque scene of the rolling hills and woods. Find out all there is to do here when you plan your visit and enjoy everything from boating, to swimming, to fishing and backcountry hiking. Enjoy an equestrian escape on multiple designated trails. There are various boat ramps available. A large variety of fish include, largemouth and smallmouth bass, spotted and striped bass, white and black crappie, and blue and channel catfish.
Located in northeastern Ohio, Berlin Lake is a destination offering various water-based recreation opportunities. Ideal for a day trip to the lake or a planned overnight stay! Multiple picnic areas are provided with tables and charcoal grills. There is a diverse amount of fish available including largemouth and smallmouth bass, muskie, crappie, and bluegill. Various boat launches are also available for the convenience of boating enthusiasts!
Baker Lake (John Schroeder, Share the Experience)
Baker Lake in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a nine mile (14 km) reservoir featuring swimming, boating and fishing. Sockeye season brings fishing enthusiasts from near and far. Swimming is a must at Baker Lake with excellent locations from several campgrounds.