10 Lakes for Summer Fun

Home / Articles / 10 Lakes for Summer Fun

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!

Jenny Lake

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Two people in a red kayak stop to rest in the middle of a glassy green lake with rocky mountains ris

Jenny Lake (Sally Baughman, Share the Experience)

Nestled in Grand Teton National Park, Jenny Lake is a popular summer destination, and it is not hard to see why: boating, cycling, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities abound. Black and grizzly bears, moose, deer, and other animals love Jenny Lake as much as you will, so be bear aware and respectfully share their home. If you can’t get enough of Jenny Lake in one day, reserve a tent site at Jenny Lake Campground and immerse yourself in some of the best views and recreational opportunities in the park.

Lake Superior

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

A group of boaters recreate in the shadow of a unique rock formation jutting out into the still gree

Lake Superior (David Caldwell, Share the Experience)

One among only three National Lakeshores, Pictured Rocks is one of the most unique lakeside destinations in the country. Rustic and remote, Twelvemile Beach Campground offers direct access to the wild, sandy beaches of Lake Superior. While you are there, hop in a kayak and paddle below Miners Castle, Grand Portal Point, and miles of towering sandstone cliffs. It’s not called Lake Superior for nothing!

Salt Springs Recreation Area

Ocala National Forest, Florida

Golden rocks and vegetation lie at the bottom of a tropical green and turquoise mineral spring.

Salt Springs Recreation Area (US Forest Service)

When you just can’t escape the Florida heat, escape to Ocala National Forest and take a dip in the refreshingly cool and unbelievably blue waters of Salt Springs. An hour and a half drive from Orlando, swimming, fishing, canoeing, motorized boating, and freshwater snorkeling await you in this cypress-lined oasis. Landlubbers will also love this destination, with opportunities to camp, hike, and birdwatch among classic Florida sand live oak, Chapman oak, myrtle oak, southern magnolia, and saw palmetto.

Lake Havasu

Arizona

A jet skier cuts into the waves of Lake Havasu at sunset.

Lake Havasu (Bureau of Land Management)

On the Arizona-California border, Lake Havasu has endless water-based activities to alleviate the southwestern summer heat. Along the 20-mile (32 km) Arizona side of the lake, there are 73 boat access campsites from which to choose! Play on the beach, soar across the smooth, refreshing water, and serve up a dinner to remember with your friends and family at a picnic pavilion. Pick up your day use pass and get ready for an adventure-filled day on the water!

Silver Lake

Inyo National Forest, California

Sapphire blue Silver Lake nestled between wind-swept mountains and yellow wildflowers.

Silver Lake (Phyris Tobler, Share the Experience)

At the base of dramatic mountains in the eastern Sierra Nevada, Silver Lake is a high-elevation (7,200 ft/2195 m), 97-acre lake that has long been popular with anglers in quest of rainbow trout. You may also want to make Silver Lake Campground your home base, with 63 sites, a boat ramp, drinking water, restrooms, and trail access to Ansel Adams Wilderness. Before you go, check out these bear facts and safety tips to learn how to best share this idyllic spot with your furry neighbors.

Tenkiller Ferry Lake

Oklahoma

Vegetated rock outcropping in an azure blue lake.

Tenkiller Ferry Lake (Recreation.gov)

With 10 marinas and over 20 boat launches spanning this 12,900-acre lake, it is no wonder Tenkiller Ferry Lake is regarded as "Oklahoma's Clear Water Wonderland." An hour and a half drive from Tulsa, the lake is a top destination for swimming, fishing, boating, and even scuba diving! Designated swimming areas and picnic areas with restrooms, shelters, and tables can be accessed from many of the 14 campgrounds around the lake. Be sure to take in the views from the Tenkiller Dam Overlook and Nature Trail during your visit!

Melvern Lake

Kansas

A pastel sunset reflected on a glassy lake with a silhouette of low trees on the horizon.

Melvern Lake (Sandy Sippel, Share the Experience)

Tucked away in America’s heartland, Melvern Lake beckons you to explore its 7,000 acres of water and 18,000 acres of publicly accessible lands. Visitors have many opportunities to fish, hunt, camp, boat, swim, hike, 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 waterfront views!

Lake Sherwood

Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Tall green grass frames the banks of Lake Sherwood.

Lake Sherwood (US Forest Service)

Even though West Virginia’s summers are short, why not cool off in the Monongahela National Forest’s largest lake? Load your family and friends in the car and head to Lake Sherwood for a destination jam-packed with outdoor activities. Hikers have several stunning trails to choose from, while boaters and anglers can explore the lake for tiger muskie, channel catfish, bullhead, bluegill, and largemouth bass. Pack a picnic lunch, go for a swim, or stay the night and do it all over again – the choice is yours!

Lake Santeetlah

Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina

A person stands on the banks of a mountain lake taking a photograph of the lake on a cellphone.

Lake Santeetlah (Thomas Lishing, Share the Experience)

It is no secret that western North Carolina is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly in the summer. If you are looking to beat the heat and the crowds, 2,800-acre Lake Santeetlah is a quiet and treasured getaway within Nantahala National Forest. Fill your day with scenic drives, swimming, boating, canoeing, fishing, and hiking, or make the most of your time by staying overnight in one of the two nearby developed campgrounds.

Paulina Lake

Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Oregon

A pair of kayakers paddling along the shore of a cerulean blue lake at the base of a mountain.

Paulina Lake (Anna Sereno, Share the Experience)

It’s not every day that you get to swim in the caldera of a volcano! Paulina Lake, located within Newberry National Volcanic Monument, is both a breathtakingly gorgeous and one-of-a-kind recreation experience. Can’t wait to see it for yourself? You can read more about this incredible relic of geologic history here.

Explore Related Trips

Bring Home a Story