15 of the Clearest Lakes on America’s West Coast

Clear Lake Oregon
© iStock.com/mattalberts

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: July 6, 2023

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America’s West Coast is vibrant and full of life. There are hundreds of mountains and hills surrounding lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout California, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada. Out of the thousands of lakes on America’s West Coast, there are some with the clearest water you will ever see. Keep reading to find out more about the 15 clearest lakes on America’s West Coast.

Infographic of 15 Clearest Lakes on the West Coast of the U.S.
Silverwood Lake and Lake Crescent have some of the clearest waters in the West.

1. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Sierra Nevada, California, USA

Lake Tahoe is more than two million years old and never completely freezes.


Over two million years ago, a volcano erupted, creating a natural dam that formed Lake Tahoe. Its crystal clear water and rich history bring in hundreds and thousands of visitors annually. It is surrounded by the Sierra Mountains straddling the border of California and Nevada, and the lake itself has an elevation of 6,225 feet. An interesting fact about this pristine lake is that it never completely freezes. While the top layer of parts of the lake freeze, it is 1,645 feet deep, and that makes the chilly temperatures not reach the bottom. Interestingly, Lake Tahoe has clean and pure water that can be distributed directly.

2. Silverwood Lake

Silverwood Lake California

Acres of old black oak trees and Douglas firs surround Silverwood Lake.

©inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Located in San Bernardino County, California, Silverwood Lake is a three-mile stretch of water with many recreational activities and unique wildlife. For example, surrounding Silverwood Lake is acres of old black oak trees and Douglas firs. It is a popular destination for fishing, especially since the water is so crystal clear. In this reservoir, you can fish for rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish.

3. Convict Lake

Convict Lake

Convict Lake is known for its large supply of trout.

©Kinerath Studio/Shutterstock.com

Don’t let the strange name of Convict Lake scare you. It is a safe lake that is located in the Sherwin Range of the Sierra Nevada. It got its name in 1871 when a group of convicts escaped and fled to the lake for refuge. All of them, though, were eventually caught. California has multiple breathtaking crystal clear lakes, and this is one of them! Convict Lake is known for its large supply of trout, and fishermen from all over the country visit this lake to look for large fish.

4. Whiskeytown Lake

images of several of the waterfalls and streams of Whiskeytown

The 220-feet high Whiskeytown Falls is a short hike from Whiskeytown Lake.

©iStock.com/jim Schlett

Whiskeytown Lake in California’s Shasta County is home to a vibrant population of kokanee salmon, smallmouth bass, and brown trout. It is a popular tourist destination because of its clear water and lots of chances to spot wildlife. For example, in the areas surrounding Whiskeytown Lake, visitors may be able to spot black bears, mountain lions, and raccoons. By walking a short 1.7-mile hike to Whiskeytown Falls, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the rushing water. Overall, the waterfall is 220 feet high with multiple tiers.

5. June Lake

june lake, california, USA

The best place to swim in June Lake is June Lake Beach.


Most of the clear lakes are in California, and another one makes this list. June Lake is a 320-acre lake in Mono County, California. It has turquoise water and lots of recreational activities. When visiting, you have the option to kayak, canoe, boat, fish, swim, and dive. There are even lodges and shops just a few feet away from the shore. The lake is surrounded by old trees and sits at an elevation of 7,654 feet.

6. Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

Crescent Lake’s waters are crystal clear due to the lack of nitrogen.

©iStock.com/libre de droit

Lake Crescent is a beautiful deep lake within the Olympic National Park in Clallam County, Washington. Interestingly, the water is crystal clear because of the lack of nitrogen. Without the presence of nitrogen, there is a lack of algae growth. The lake’s maximum depth is 624 feet.

7. The Enchantment Lakes

Enchantment Lakes Washington

Technically, the Enchantment Lakes are multiple lakes within a region in Cascade Mountain Range.

©iStock.com/Lena Stones

To get to the Enchantment Lakes, you will need to hike Washington’s Cascade Mountain Range. During the hike and before you reach the lakes, you may run into mountain goats. The waters are clear because they are glacial and perfectly reflect the snowy mountains surrounding the lake.

8. Little Cranberry Lake

Little Cranberry Lake Washington

Little Cranberry Lake can be reached via a 2.5-mile loop trail.

©Walter Siegmund / CC BY-SA 3.0, , via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

In the Anacortes Community Forest Lands of Washington, there is a trail that leads to Little Cranberry Lake. Despite its name, the water is crystal clear. It offers breathtaking views with rare wildlife and flora, such as a rare variety of orchids wildly growing near the coast of the lake. This lake is also home to an annual music festival that attracts thousands of visitors. Coyotes are also common in the area.

9. Lake Chelan

Native fish species found in Lake Chelan include longnose sucker, bridgelip sucker, and bull trout.


Lake Chelan used to be the largest lake in the state of Washington. The lake comprises two large basins and is close to many cities and protected lands. It is also a great lake for fishing. Native fish in Lake Chelan include longnose sucker, bridgelip sucker, and bull trout. The state park that Lake Chelan sits in has a sandy area made for swimming. The maximum depth of Lake Chelan is 1,486 feet.

10. Clear Lake

Clear Lake Oregon

At the bottom of Clear Lake is a 3,000-year-old forest.


Clear Lake is in Oregon and is fed by snow from Mount Washington. Most people come to Clear Lake because of how pristine and clean it is. It is also a great diving spot with many things to see. An interesting fact about Clear Lake is that at the bottom of the lake is a 3,000-year-old forest.

11. Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park, National Park, Oregon - US State, USA, Wizard Island

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S.


Crater Lake was formed in south-central Oregon more than 7,700 years ago. Native Americans witnessed it and lived near the lake. It is also the deepest lake in the United States, at a maximum depth of 1,943 feet. Interestingly, there are no inlets from water sources since Crater Lake receives water from snow and rain. Bacteria and moss also thrive at the bottom of Crater Lake, although there is a lack of nutrients.

12. Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake is a 6,700-acre alpine lake in the Cascade Mountains.

©Amy Bradley MNR/Shutterstock.com

Waldo Lake, like many other lakes in this list, formed because of glaciation and volcanic explosions. It is filled with pure water. While there are limited fish in the lake, you can still look for brook trout and kokanee salmon. Many people travel to Waldo Lake in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to marvel at its beauty. The water is cold, so swimming is rare until the warmer months of the year. When the temperature is right, you can partake in recreational activities like boating, swimming, and kayaking.

13. Buck Lake

Buck Lake is situated deep within Mount Hood National Forest, which contains Mount Hood, above.

©Real Window Creative/Shutterstock.com

Buck Lake in Oregon is difficult to find as it is located deep within Mount Hood National Forest. The trail to reach the lake is a short one-mile round-trip. The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming, but only suitable for warm temperatures from May to September. There are many rocky perches to enjoy the sun and views.

14. Ice Lake

Ice Lake Oregon

Ice Lake is at an elevation of 7,900 feet.

©mountainamoeba / CC BY 2.0, , via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Ice Lake is not very well known, but its crystal clear waters are jaw-dropping. It is a hidden treasure and a perfect place for fishing. You can access Ice Lake by hiking the Ice Lake Trail in Oregon. The trail is 15.6 miles long and is best for intermediate to advanced hikers. Within the lake are multiple waterfalls, including the Ice Falls.

15. Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Lake is near Wallowa Mountains.

©Tyler Rondo/Shutterstock.com

Oregon’s Wallowa Lake, near Wallowa Mountains, is a great place for camping and known for its amazing beauty. Boating and water sports are especially popular during the warm months. As beautiful as Wallowa Lake is, it is not one of West Coast’s best-known crystal lakes.

Summary of 15 of the Clearest Lakes on America’s West Coast

Here’s a recap of 15 West Coast lakes known for their clear waters.

1Lake TahoeCalifornia, Nevada
2Silverwood LakeCalifornia
3Convict LakeCalifornia
4Whiskeytown LakeCalifornia
5June LakeCalifornia
6Lake CrescentWashington
7The Enchantment LakesWashington
8Little Cranberry LakeWashington
9Lake ChelanWashington
10Clear LakeOregon
11Crater LakeOregon
12Waldo LakeOregon
13Buck LakeOregon
14Ice LakeOregon
15Wallowa LakeOregon

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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