America's best lake vacations
Lake Tahoe (Photo: MarkeLoper.com)
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America offers a lake vacation for every season, and no matter where you live, even in the Southwest desert, chances are there’s one near you. Satellite mapping has yet to yield a precise answer, but the best guess is that there are between 3 and 4 million lakes across the U.S., ranging from duck ponds to wonders like Oregon’s Crater Lake.
Lakes can inspire everything from intense activity to quiet reflection. Read on to find the lake vacation that’s right for you.
Lake Tahoe: California/Nevada
Best for Snow Sports: High-altitude Tahoe (6,225 feet) is nirvana for skiing, snowboarding, and other cold-weather sports. Seven major winter resorts ring the shore, including Squaw Valley, where the 1960 Winter Olympics took place. Hike along snowy forest trails, snuggle up beside a fire in a lakeshore café, or ride the Sky Express to the top of Heavenly’s highest peak for a snow-mantled panorama of the entire lake basin. skilaketahoe.com
Stay: The Shore House; shorehouselaketahoe.com.
Play: Heavenly Ski Resort; skiheavenly.com.
Lake Superior (Photo: Jeff Wiles / JeffWilesPhotography.com)
Best for Fishing: Lake Superior is so vast it could easily hold all of the water from all of the other Great Lakes. That means there’s plenty of room for fish to thrive: salmon, trout, walleye, smelt, whitefish, herring, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and many other game species can be caught in abundance along the lake’s tristate shores. No matter what time of year, some sort of fishing is in season; Duluth (MN) and Bayfield (WI) are among the charter hubs.
Stay: Lutsen Resort, MN; lutsenresort.com.
Play: Duluth Charter Fishing Captains; fishduluth.com.
Crater Lake: Oregon (Photo: Michele Falzone / Alamy)
Best for Scuba Diving: Other lakes have shipwrecks or sunken towns, but only Crater Lake offers the bragging rights of diving in a flooded volcano that also happens to be the deepest lake in the U.S. (and ninth deepest in the world). Without a deep-sea submersible you won’t be able to reach the absolute bottom (1,943 feet). But there’s plenty to explore in the crystal-clear shallows: lava formations, wildlife (trout and salmon), and underwater moss meadows. The catch is that you have to schlep your own scuba equipment up and down the Cleetwood Cove Trail—700 vertical feet. If that’s not your idea of vacation, try the Wizard Island boat cruises around the crater’s island on that clear, calm blue water. nps.gov/crla