The United States is home to more than one hundred thousand lakes each boasting its own unique features and a variety of landscapes.
But with so many places to choose from, deciding on a lakefront vacation can seem like an impossible task.
Sometimes it’s better to look for that one thing that stands out amongst the rest, and what better way to judge a lake than by the clarity of its waters?
There are plenty of lakes out there, but how many of them are so clear that you can see hundreds of feet down or have reflective, turquoise waters that twinkle in the sun?
Each and every one of the United States’ clearest lakes offers this and much more!
So check out this list of the twelve clearest lakes in the U.S. to help you plan your ultimate vacation, and prepare to be amazed.
Table of Contents
1. Lake Tahoe
Nestled along the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a bucket list destination spot for many, and it’s only become more popular with time.
There are quite a few different characteristics that make Lake Tahoe such a prized place, but one thing stands out amongst the rest – just how clear the water is.
Created millions of years ago by volcanic activity and melting glaciers, Lake Tahoe has impressive turquoise waters with a clear view of the ground down below.
Chances are you won’t be able to see the bottom in every section, however, since Lake Tahoe can get pretty deep and has a whopping length of 1,645 feet.
Regardless, these crystal clear waters will tempt you for a swim but be prepared for cold temperatures even in the summer months.
Recent tests have been done to check the purity of the water, and scientists were shocked to discover that the waters of Lake Tahoe are actually cleaner than your average bottled water.
And because the water is so pure, it has a way of reflecting light, which creates its unique blue color.
There are seventy-two miles of shoreline to explore here, so you can spend all day lounging on its beaches, exploring its neighboring mountains, or floating out on the water.
It is here that you will find the famous Emerald Bay State Park with things to do like visiting the historic Vikingsholm castle, camping in either of its two picturesque campsites, and taking in the wide, sweeping views from Inspiration Point.
South Lake Tahoe offers just as many goodies, with a plethora of iconic hiking trails like the two-mile trek that takes you to the beautiful Cascade Falls and the peaceful lakeside views waiting for you along the Fallen Leaf Lake Trail.
Another popular location along the waterfront is D.L. Bliss State Park, which has a tranquil beach that never sees too much of a crowd thanks to the hike it takes to reach it.
You are bound to see people exploring the surrounding area, however, with plenty of scenic picnic tables and quiet groves that tend to draw visitors in.
2. Crater Lake
With a national park completely dedicated and named after it, there is no denying that Crater Lake is something to rave to home about, and its crystal-clear waters are some of the most pristine you’ll find in the country.
The lake itself formed nearly ten thousand years ago when Mount Mazama caved in on itself and left a volcanic basin in its place.
Then, after centuries of rainfall and the melting of nearby glaciers, this gaping hole filled up to become what we know it as today, Crater Lake.
For those unfamiliar with Crater Lake, it is actually the deepest lake in all of the United States with an impressive depth of 1,943 feet.
It is believed by the Klamath people that this lake holds strong spiritual energy and at one time only the worthy were able to view it in all of its glory.
Today, the lake sees more than half a million visitors each year who marvel at its shocking-blue color and pristine shoreline.
This is a huge number of people if you consider the fact that conditions are only really enjoyable for a few months a year.
Crater Lake sees a high average snowfall from October through June, which can make it difficult to navigate and limits the views of the national park.
Therefore, most of its visitors come between July and September in order to see Crater Lake in its entirety.
These extreme weather conditions are also part of the reason that the lake remains so crystal-clear as it is constantly being fed by snowmelt.
Aside from the beauty of this pristine lake, you will also get to enjoy the many unique geological features nearby that have formed throughout the years like the Pinnacles and Phantom Ship Island.
One of the most popular things to do when visiting Crater Lake is to go for a boat tour in order to get up close and personal with its many formations and admire the clear views 100 feet down into the water.
You’d probably guess that the water at Crater Lake is pretty cold all year round, but this doesn’t stop visitors from taking a quick dip just to be able to say that they did it.
With that being said, swimming in Crater Lake can only be done in specified areas like Cheetwood Cove and should be done with caution due to its freezing temperatures.
3. Lake Coeur d’Alene
Located in the underrated state of Idaho, most people don’t realize that Lake Coeur d’Alene exists, let alone that it is one of the clearest lakes in the country.
Fed by the famous Spokane River, there are a lot of things people don’t realize about Lake Coeur d’Alene, but once you lay your eyes on it, it is impossible to deny the beauty of its pristine, blue waters.
For starters, the lake runs for about twenty miles and offers a whopping 109 miles of shoreline for visitors to enjoy at their leisure.
The lake is named after its native people, and much of the lake is still part of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.
This is one of the many reasons that the people of the state fight so hard to keep the waters clean, even providing a dedicated water keeper that frequently measures its quality.
With that being said, the cleanliness of the water is scientifically proven, although it is at risk of losing its clarity due to pollutants like engine fuel.
This is caused by the many recreational activities that are held on the water throughout the seasons, the most popular being boating and fishing.
The lake tends to fill up with boaters in the summer months and there are twelve separate launch sites to accommodate the large influx of people.
You will also find plenty of establishments offering watercraft rentals like fishing boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards to make it easy for everyone to get out on the water.
City Park is the place for family fun, providing a picturesque location along the lake filled with picnic tables for scenic lunches, volleyball courts for some friendly competitions, hiking trails to stretch your legs, and sandy shores to lay on.
Another great option is Tubbs Hill, with more than 150 acres to explore right along the water and some pretty spectacular hiking trails that offer even better views of this incredible lake.
4. Lake Chelan
One visit to Lake Chelan shows you why it’s one of the most popular lakes in Washington, and once you step along its shoreline, you will be mesmerized by the clarity of its waters.
This lake was created and continues to be fed by melting glaciers, which seems to be common when it comes to many of the clearest lakes in the country.
We can thank the Cascade Mountains for its endless supply of crystal-clear waters, and the views of the mountain range surrounding the lake are the furthest thing from an eyesore.
The lake stretches a little over fifty miles and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation like boating on its beautiful waters, hiking its many trails, and relaxing on any of its beaches.
Plus, since the area sees very little rain and mild winters, Lake Chelan is a popular hangout destination all year round.
Everything about the lake offers ideal conditions for agriculture, so don’t be surprised when you see apple trees and grapevines growing in abundance here.
With that being said, you will find many wineries located in the surrounding area. In fact, the Lake Chelan Valley is home to over thirty wineries that each boast their own unique features and treat guests to some flavorful tastings.
5. Lake George
Located at the foot of the Adirondack Park, Lake George is one of the most sought-after destinations in New York thanks to its crystal-clear waters and bustling tourist town.
For some background, this part of the country was once completely covered in glaciers before temperatures began to rise an average of 10,000 years ago.
When this happened, the glacier began to melt, filling in every hole and groove they formed along the way, and this is how Lake George was formed.
So, yet another of the country’s clearest lakes is a result of thousand-year-old glacier melt that continues to be fed by natural occurrences such as snowmelt and rainfall.
But unlike many of the other glacier-carved lakes in the country, Lake George is only 196 feet at its deepest point.
What it lacks in depth it definitely makes up for in size, as it stretches out over thirty miles and is made up of almost two hundred islands available for camping.
This makes it the perfect place to enjoy days in the sun, boating on the water, relaxing on its beachfront, and spending nights on your own private island.
If you don’t have a watercraft of your own, there are plenty of places to rent things like pontoon boats for big groups or kayaks for laid-back adventurers.
But if you’d rather not steer a watercraft yourself, you can always opt for the Lake George Shoreline Cruises, which offers sunsets cruises, meals, and even a firework show.
You will also find the Fort William Henry Museum located right along the water’s edge, which makes for a great way to learn about the history of the area.
While you are here, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Lake George’s charming Canada Street filled with classic tourist attractions.
Grab a drink with waterfront views at the Boat House, aim to win a prize at any of the multiple arcades, eat a tasty slice of pizza from Capri’s, and test your bravery at the Haunted House.
In between activities, you can enjoy a plethora of shops offering up every Lake George keepsake you could ever need.
But if busy tourist towns aren’t your style, you can always choose to hike one of Lake George’s impressive mountains.
In fact, there is a local challenge known as the Lake George 12ster that is made up of the twelve iconic mountain peaks overlooking the lake.
There is something for all experience levels here, but to get the most bang for your buck, consider doing the Buck Mountain Trail that offers four unique viewpoints of Lake George from its summit.
6. Flathead Lake
Known as the largest freshwater lake in Western America, people travel far and wide for a chance to admire the waters of Montana’s Flathead Lake.
This is one large lake, with a whopping mileage of 195 offering its visitors all kinds of fun, whether it be on the water or along its edges.
And while it isn’t the deepest lake in the country, the addition of the Kerr Dam has really done wonders for Flathead as it has added an additional 10 feet in depth since its installation.
This doesn’t compare to its original depth, however, when fresh melting glaciers raised it to over 500 feet.
Regardless, you won’t find a more ideal location for fishing, with the last tournament in this area reeling in more than four hundred thousand trout alone.
The lake itself has an irregular shoreline and 12 islands, some as large as 2,164 acres (Wild Horse Island), which really add to the fun of hiking in the area.
In fact, Wild Horse Island is one of the most popular attractions here, as it is made up of untouched nature, can only be visited during set hours via watercraft, and is home to wild horses and a variety of other wild creatures.
But that’s not the only exciting place in this area. Glacier National Park is just a day trip away and makes for a great addition to any trip to Montana.
Not to mention, Flathead National Forest wraps around the lake’s edges and boasts features like the Jewel Basin and Mt. Aeneas.
When you are not exploring the untouched parts of the lake, you can be checking out the many lakeside towns like Bigfork and Polson.
These places are designed with tourists in mind, offering everything you need from shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, local attractions, and so much more.
Plus, you’ll have quick access to all kinds of watercraft so you can get out on the crystal-clear waters with ease.
7. Hanging Lake
Tucked away in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Hanging Lake is an absolute gem of pristine waters that need to be preserved at all costs.
Hanging Lake is one of the most fragile lakes in the country, but because of this, it is also one of the clearest.
Human interaction has a way of altering many of the beautiful places we know and love, so it is a good thing that Hanging Lake can’t be easily accessed by all.
This brilliantly turquoise lake has insanely clear water, is perched up on the edge of a mountain, and requires a little over a mile of climbing up nearly 1,200 feet in elevation to get to it.
So even though the hike to reach this beauty is short, its extreme incline is enough to stop many people in their tracks.
But once you reach the top of this trail, you are rewarded by stunning views of the lake as you walk along its boardwalk and admire the many fish, roots, and organisms that live in the water.
You can also continue a bit further up to Bridal Veil Falls where you can stand behind its gushing waters and marvel at the fact that this is what feeds the iconic lake down below.
Just keep in mind that this is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so chances are you will be experiencing this wonder with tons of other people.
It is also important to note that because of its fragile condition, swimming or interaction with the lake in any way is completely off-limits.
And of course, always remember to clean up after yourself to ensure the beauty of this lake for years to come.
8. Newfound Lake
The people of New Hampshire are proud to say that Newfound Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in all of the country.
The lake stretches seven miles offering over twenty miles of shoreline and more than four thousand acres of waterfront for people to enjoy.
Part of what makes this lake so pristine is the fact that it is constantly being fed by eight natural springs, and these also have a way of altering its depth.
But most of the time, Newfound Lake has an average depth of 180 feet which makes it one of the largest of its kind in the state.
Dotted along the edges of the lake, you’ll find four vibrant towns known as Bridgewater, Bristol, Hebron, and Alexandria.
Each boasts its own unique style, but all are fully equipped to suit your needs, with things such as restaurants, shops, bars, and much more.
But chances are, you will want to spend most of your time out on the water, whether it be exploring on a jet ski, paddling on a kayak, or hanging with friends on a pontoon.
There are three launch sites, the most popular being at the West Shore Marina, where you can find everything you need from fishing bait to a place to grab a quick bite before setting out on the water.
Hiking trails are in abundance here, and many provide unique views of the lake, like the Elwell trail that takes you up Sugarloaf Mountain for a view overlooking it all.
Just don’t forget to check out the Sculpture Rocks Natural Area for some pretty amazing rock formations and exciting exploration.
9. Torch Lake
Named by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful lakes on the globe, Torch Lake has the epitome of crystal-clear waters.
Torch Lake is one of the many lakes that make up a chain of lakes across Michigan but is known for being the clearest and largest of them all.
And while many think that the lake is named after its comparable shape, its name actually derives from the method that was once used by Native Americans to hunt amongst its waters.
The water is so clear that you can easily spot fish, and the natives used flaming torches to guide the fish to the light before snagging them up for dinner.
Today, fishing remains a popular hobby and offers some of the best opportunities in the state thanks to its clear waters.
Keep your eyes out for Petoskey stones along your travels, as these fossilized corals have become buried along the shoreline thanks to traveling glacier melt.
Plus, the abundance of sandbars will make you feel like you have been transported to the Caribbean with clear, turquoise waters all around.
Although much of the shoreline is made up of luxury housing developments, it is still large enough to offer nearly fifty different public access points so you can make the most of your time here.
And even though it holds the title for one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, it surprisingly doesn’t see many tourists.
So, you can enjoy peaceful seclusion as you boat around the lake or enjoy the freedom of the open waters while partaking in activities like water skiing.
After a long day on the water, head over to the Dockside for a waterfront meal and impressive sunset from the outer deck.
10. Lake Champlain
Located on the border of New York and Vermont, both states benefit from the popular tourist attraction that is Lake Champlain.
Lake Champlain has earned a place on just about everyone’s bucket list for a number of reasons, but the main one is its impressively clear waters.
As soon as you get up close and personal with the lake and its surrounding mountains, you won’t help but fall in love with the scenery.
But there are some things that you may not realize about this wonderful place.
For example, did you know that Lake Champlain was once considered one of the country’s Great Lakes? Although it only held this title for eighteen days, it gives you a pretty good idea of just how large this lake is.
The reason it lost this title just further emphasizes the beauty and importance of this stunning lake.
The local people fought to have Lake Champlain removed from the list of Great Lakes because they felt that it shouldn’t be associated with a group of lakes, but rather should earn its own praise altogether.
So while Lake Champlain is no longer one of the Great Lakes, it is still considered a Great Lake all on its own and clocks in as the sixth largest lake in the country.
And thanks to a variety of channels, you can easily travel from Manhattan up to Montreal and back again without ever leaving your boat!
This impressive lake covers 125 miles, offers nearly 600 miles of shoreline, and has more than seventy small islands for camping.
Plus, clear waters make for easy scuba diving, and there is no place quite like Lake Champlain to explore the hundreds of shipwrecks located along its floor.
Throw in the fact that the lake is one of the best places in the country to fish for small and largemouth bass and you may never want to leave.
Not to mention the ferry that has been taking people and their vehicles across the breathtaking waters to make for quick trips from New York to Vermont and vice versa.
11. Lake Michigan
Speaking of Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is the clearest of them all with pristine, turquoise waters that draw thousands of people to its impressive shoreline each year.
For starters, this lake has been around as far back as the ice age when melting glaciers carved their way into the land.
Although it is the third-largest of the Great Lakes, it is still a crowd-pleaser with over 22,000 miles of surface water to explore.
Sections of this lake can get as deep as 925 feet, which also gives it the title of second largest Great Lake volume-wise.
Another feature that sets this Great Lake apart from the rest is that it’s the only one of its kind that is located completely within the United States’ borders.
You can enjoy its wonderful views and quick access to outdoor recreation in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
It has earned the nickname of the “Third Coast” thanks to its endless sandy shore with nearly 300,000 acres of dunes surrounding its edges.
This means that you are never too far away from a beach to lay on or an easy place to go for a cooling swim.
There is plenty to do on Lake Michigan for all kinds of travelers, such as shopping in the nearby towns, boating on the water, hiking in the sand dunes, or picnicking on the beach.
12. Lake Powell
One of the most interesting places on this list is Lake Powell, and that’s because it’s actually located in the middle of Arizona’s desert.
To be fair, the lake can get pretty shallow in the dry season, but with enough rain, Lake Powell can get as deep as 560 feet with an astonishing two thousand miles of shoreline.
And because the lake is fueled solely by rainfall and the flow of rivers, it maintains the title as one of the clearest lakes in the United States.
This is pretty amazing considering the fact that the lake is located within the borders of nearly one hundred major canyons.
This makes for a truly unusual sight that you won’t find anywhere else, but this also means you’ll find large crowds here during the peak season.
Lake Powell only has a few months of good depth before the high temperatures dry out the surrounding area and leave this place pretty shallow.
During those peak months, Lake Powell is flooded with boats, kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis, and people excited to explore nearby canyons.
You can even have a seat at its marina and enjoy a tasty lunch with views of the boats coming and going on the water.