The Most Beautiful Lakes in America for Swimming
Beyond their pristine settings and peaceful waters, lakes act like time machines, taking us back to carefree summer days spent swimming from shore to shore, racing to the swim platform, and watching a perfectly reflected moon rise over the smooth surfaces.
Clear Lake, Iowa
It's hard not to envy the residents of Clear Lake, Iowa because the town's namesake lake is so accessible that anyone with a hankering for a quick dip need only to stroll to one of the many public access points that line the shore and dive right in. Solitude-seekers in search of a more peaceful experience will find it just outside of town at dog-friendly McIntosh Woods State Park. Discover more of our favorite dog-friendly beaches around the country.
Echo Lake, Maine
Though located less than five miles from Maine's cliff-lined Atlantic coast, this small freshwater lake seems a world away. Set within the deep green of Acadia National Park, the lake often spends its morning hemmed in fog, which clears by the afternoon to reveal a wonderfully warm patch of blue that, due to a ban on boat engines larger than 10 hp, is blissfully quiet.
Lake Charlevoix, Michigan
Separated from Lake Michigan by a narrow spit of land, Lake Charlevoix is calmer, more temperate and less windy than its mighty next-door neighbor. Like these charming small towns around the country, the town itself is a dreamy slice of Americana complete with a general store, quirky architecture and curving cycle paths. Ernest Hemingway was so enthralled by the area that used it as the setting for his Nick Adams Stories.
Inks Lake, Texas
Not only is Inks Lake a gorgeous place for a swim—the azure water is surrounded by rocky hills, cool hardwood forests, and gentle rises—it hides the Devil's Waterhole, which is generally believed to be the best-known "secret" swimming spot in the region. Far from undiscovered, though, the swimming hole, which is surrounded by high cliffs, is still worth a visit if only to catapult into the water from above. Can't make it to the Lone Star State? Check out the best natural swimming pool near you.
Lake Conasauga, Georgia
Located near the summit of Grassy Mountain, Georgia's highest elevation lake is a spring-fed wonder surrounded by the tall pines and hemlocks of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. Swim at your leisure—no motorized watercraft are permitted—but bring your hiking boots as well so you can trek to the top of Grassy Mountain.
Rainy Lake, Minnesota
Two small beaches provide access to warm-ish water on this stunning lake, which is part of Voyageurs National Park's chain of large interconnected lakes: Lake Kabetogama, Namakan Lake, Sand Point Lake, and Crane Lake. The remote North Woods region is home to more than 50 species of mammals, including moose, wolves, bear, and otter, who can often be seen playing in the water surrounding the Lake Kabetogama Visitor Center. After sundown, watch for the Northern Lights dancing in the sky. Read on to find out the best beach in every state.