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!
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.
Carlyle Lake (US Army Corps of Engineers)
The largest lake in Illinois, Carlyle Lake is a mecca for a myriad of lake and land activities. There are six developed campgrounds for camping, four beaches for swimming, open waters for all sorts of boating, 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.
Nevada and California
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (Bachir Badaoui, Share the Experience)
Situated between Reno, Nevada, and Sacramento, California, with 72 miles (116 km) of shoreline and over 1,600 feet (487 m) deep, outdoor enthusiasts can escape the city heat to the cool elevations of Lake Tahoe in over an hour’s drive. Whether paddle boarding from south shore, relaxing on the beach and swimming in the clear blue waters off west shore, waterskiing or sailing from north shore, or even catching a Shakespeare play with Tahoe as your back-drop from the east shore – the Lake Tahoe area has something for everyone.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area (National Park Service)
Chickasaw National Recreation Area is an oasis in Oklahoma — an idyllic retreat just 90 miles (144 km) from Oklahoma City or 140 miles (225 km) north of Dallas, Texas. The lake is divided into two districts: the Platt Historic District and the Lake of the Arbuckles District where visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like swimming, boating, hiking and bicycling. Picnic areas and campgrounds offer a chance to reconnect with family and friends.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Craig Rowtham, Share the Experience)
It’s hard to say whether Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is better known for its waters or for its spectacular red rock shoreline and canyons. 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. Join a guided boat trip to Rainbow Bridge, tour Glen Canyon Dam, rent a houseboat or just relax and enjoy the scenery. Visit the park’s YouTube channel to watch videos about all there is to see and do at Glen Canyon.
Utah and Wyoming
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area (Robert Buman, Share the Experience)
Located in the northeast corner of Utah and the southwest corner of Wyoming, Flaming Gorge is a mecca for a variety of water sports. The Flaming Gorge Dam was built in the early 1960's to form this area of colorful deep canyons cut by the Green River, and is co-managed by the Ashley National Forest and Bureau of Reclamation. Five full-service marinas on the lake offer plenty of opportunities for boating, skiing, jet skiing, house boating and more. Plenty of campsites are available (more than 700) along with 27 group sites spread over nearly 91 water miles (146 km).
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.