10 Reasons Utah Has the Best Lakes in the U.S.

Written by Shreya Agrawal
Updated: November 1, 2023
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10 Reasons Utah Has the Best Lakes in the U.S.
Utah is home to many beautiful lakes surrounded by stunning landscapes.

Utah, celebrated for its stunning national parks and iconic red rock landscapes, is also home to some of the most captivating lakes in the United States. From pristine alpine lakes nestled in the mountains to oases in the vast desert, Utah’s lakes have a diverse range of natural wonders and recreational opportunities.

1. Natural Beauty

Stunning Mountain View over Utah Lake at Utah Lake State Park Provo Utah February 2021

Stunning Mountain View over Utah Lake at Utah Lake State Park in Provo, Utah. Utah has many stunning lakes exactly like this one.


Utah’s lakes are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. Many of these lakes lie within the rugged Rocky Mountains or the red rock canyons of the desert Southwest. The juxtaposition of crystal-clear waters against the backdrop of towering peaks or crimson cliffs creates a beautiful visual spectacle.

Notable examples include the surreal blue waters of Bear Lake, which sits on the Utah-Idaho border. The mirror-like reflections in the calm surface of Silver Lake high in the Wasatch Mountains are also great.

2. Size and Depth

Aerial View of Swimming Beach on the Great Salt Lake, Utah

An aerial View of Swimming Beach on the Great Salt Lake, Utah shows the massive size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

©Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

Utah has a diverse range of lakes, varying in size and depth. While some lakes are small and secluded, others are expansive and deep. They create options for various recreational activities. The Great Salt Lake, for instance, is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. It covers over 1,700 square miles and reaches depths of up to 34 feet.

On the other end of the spectrum, mountain lakes like Lake Blanche and Lake Mary offer a more intimate experience. Their depths vary depending on the season and precipitation.

3. Water Quality

Photo of fish lake in Utah

Fish Lake in Utah is one of the most pristine lakes in the state.


One of the remarkable features of Utah’s lakes is their exceptional water quality. Many of these lakes, particularly those in the mountainous regions, are fed by freshwater springs or snowmelt. This contributes to their clarity and purity. You can often see all the way to the lake bottom.

Utah’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty extends to its lakes, with strict regulations and conservation efforts in place. These measures help maintain the high water quality. It also ensures that residents and visitors can enjoy safe and clean environments for swimming, boating, and other recreational activities.

4. Biodiversity

Brown bird with long sharp beak in Lake Utah

Brown bird with long sharp beak in Lake Utah. A brown bird with long sharp beak perched on the surface of Lake Utah in Provo. Green algae and tall grasses grow on the surface of the freshwater lake.

©Jason Finn/iStock via Getty Images

Utah’s lakes also support a remarkable diversity of aquatic life. From the fish that thrive in the cold waters of high mountain lakes to the unique species that have adapted to the briny conditions of the Great Salt Lake, these ecosystems are teeming with life.

Fishermen flock to lakes like Flaming Gorge, which is renowned for its trophy-sized trout. Meanwhile, birdwatchers are captivated by the myriad of waterfowl that call the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge home. Utah’s lakes, therefore, provide vital habitats for both resident and migratory species, contributing to the state’s rich biodiversity.

5. Recreational Activities

Marina Sunset

This is a fall sunset at a marina on Utah Lake in Provo, UT.

©Ray David/iStock via Getty Images

Whether you’re an avid boater, a paddleboard enthusiast, or a beachcomber, there are all kinds of lakes and activities to suit your preferences. The diversity of landscapes means you can experience everything from adrenaline-pumping water sports on Lake Powell to serene kayaking on Mirror Lake.

Additionally, many lakes have well-maintained campgrounds and picnic areas, making them ideal destinations for family outings and overnight stays. Thus, with numerous recreation options, Utah’s lakes are a year-round playground for adventure seekers and nature lovers.

6. Fishing Opportunities


Surfacing and in a frenzy for food in Utah Lake

©Fotoneurotic/iStock via Getty Images

The state’s waters are teeming with a variety of fish species, making it a prime destination for fishing enthusiasts. From rainbow trout in the crystal-clear mountain lakes to catfish in the warm, desert reservoirs, there’s something for every type of angler.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir is famous for its trophy lake trout, while Strawberry Reservoir has fantastic fly fishing opportunities.

7. Scenic Trails and Parks

Dusk at Utah Lake

A gravel path runs along the side of Utah Lake, trailing off into the distance as dusk settles coloring the sky with the after glow of the sunset.

©craigpickup/iStock via Getty Images

Many of Utah’s lakes are surrounded by scenic trails and parks that allow visitors to explore the stunning landscapes on foot. Hiking trails like the Bear Lake Overlook Trail also provide sweeping vistas of the lake and its surroundings. Meanwhile, the Silver Lake Trail takes you through lush alpine meadows to a picturesque mountain lake.

Additionally, state and national parks like Antelope Island State Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area also have outdoor activities, including hiking, wildlife viewing, and camping, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of Utah’s lakes.

8. Accessibility and Amenities

Utah Lake against mountain seen from Highway 68

Utah Lake against mountain seen from Highway 68. The peaceful Utah Lake seen from Highway 68 with a blurred foreground. Majestic mountain against sky with an orange glow can be seen in the distance.

©Jason Finn/iStock via Getty Images

Utah’s lakes are also conveniently accessible, with well-maintained roads and ample parking at many of the popular destinations. Whether you’re seeking a remote, off-the-grid experience or prefer the convenience of amenities like restrooms, boat ramps, and visitor centers, you can find it at Utah’s lakes.

Popular lakes like Bear Lake and Lake Powell are equipped with resorts, marinas, and restaurants. Thus, they provide visitors with all the comforts they need to enjoy their stay.

9. Cultural and Historical Significance

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA at the Great Salt Lake

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA barren landscape at the Great Salt Lake.

©Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images

Utah’s lakes have cultural and historical significance for the state’s indigenous communities and early pioneers. Many lakes have names with roots in Native American languages, reflecting their importance within indigenous cultures.

The Great Salt Lake, in particular, has played a crucial role in Utah’s history, serving as a vital resource for early settlers. The lake’s high salt content contributed to the state’s economic development through salt production. It still remains an iconic part of Utah’s cultural heritage.

10. Community Engagement

Sunrise Over the Bear Lake Marina

This is the morning view from our “cabin” in Garden City, Utah which overlooked Bear Lake. Cabin is kind of a misnomer. It was actually a three-level condo which fit twelve of us. It seems Bear Lake tradition calls for lots of people to share large rental houses and condos and call them cabins. Our rented cabin had some gorgeous views of the lake from our balconies, including the marina from which most of the sailboats launched. Very calm waters early in the morning.

©Aaron Hawkins/iStock via Getty Images

Utah’s lakes are more than just natural wonders; they are hubs for community engagement and recreation. People also host annual events and festivals near lakes that bring communities together. The Bear Lake Raspberry Days, for example, is a beloved tradition that celebrates the region’s raspberry harvest.

Community engagement extends to volunteer efforts as well, with locals and visitors participating in conservation and cleanup initiatives to protect the state’s natural treasures.

Must-Visit Lakes and Reservoirs in Utah

Utah is blessed with a multitude of stunning lakes, each offering a unique experience for visitors. Here’s an expanded look at some of the must-visit lakes in Utah:

1. Bear Lake

Often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” Bear Lake is known for its striking turquoise-blue waters, which are a result of suspended limestone deposits. Bear Lake is also a water sports paradise, with opportunities for boating, jet skiing, paddleboarding, and swimming. The lake is also famous for its raspberry harvest and annual Raspberry Days festival.

2. Lake Powell

Lake Powell is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the United States, stretching over 180 miles and reaching depths of up to 560 feet. It is also spot for houseboating and water skiing. It is also an ideal spot for fishing and stargazing due to its remote location.

3. Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, with a salinity level that’s even saltier than the ocean. Floating in the Great Salt Lake is a unique experience due to its high salinity, which makes it nearly impossible for swimmers to sink. The lake is also home to brine shrimp.

4. Strawberry Reservoir

Strawberry Reservoir is a renowned fishing destination, particularly for its cutthroat and rainbow trout populations. It is often considered one of the best trout fisheries in the western United States.

5. Mirror Lake

Nestled high in the Uinta Mountains, Mirror Lake gets its name from its crystal-clear waters that create mirror-like reflections of the surrounding peaks. Mirror Lake is also a gateway to countless hiking and backpacking trails, including the Highline Trail. It is a popular spot for camping, picnicking, and trout fishing.

6. Flaming Gorge Reservoir

Flaming Gorge is a renowned fishing destination, known for its trophy lake trout and kokanee salmon. The reservoir is also home to numerous fish species, making it a favorite among anglers. The area around Flaming Gorge also has scenic trails like the Red Canyon Rim Trail, which has breathtaking views of the reservoir as well as the surrounding red rock landscapes.

7. Lake Blanche

Lake Blanche is an alpine lake located in the rugged terrain of Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is surrounded by dramatic granite cliffs and lush meadows. The hike to Lake Blanche is a popular trail that rewards hikers with stunning views. It is especially popular during the wildflower season.

8. Lake Mary

Lake Mary lies deep in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains. It is a popular destination for both locals and tourists seeking a high alpine experience near a lake. In addition to hiking, Lake Mary is also known for its fishing opportunities, with brook, cutthroat, and rainbow trout available to fish. The trail around the lake also has beautiful views of the surrounding peaks.

9. Utah Lake

Utah Lake, located near Provo, has a wide range of amenities, including campgrounds, marinas, and picnic areas. It is easily accessible, which makes it a favorite among locals for day trips. The lake is a hotspot for boating, water skiing, and birdwatching.

In conclusion, Utah has some of the best lakes in the United States, because of their rugged beauty, opportunities for fishing, boating and hiking in scenic spots, as well as their economic value, such as that of the Great Salt Lake. If you are considering a vacation in Utah, you should definitely go explore some of the lakes out there.

Summary of 10 Reasons Utah Has the Best Lakes in the U.S.

1Natural BeautyUtah’s lakes are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes
2Size and DepthUtah has a diverse range of lakes, varying in size and depth
3Water QualityMany of Utah’s lakes are fed by freshwater springs or snowmelt
4BiodiversityUtah’s lakes support a remarkable diversity of aquatic life
5Recreational ActivitiesUtah’s lakes are diverse in landscape and equipped with marinas, campgrounds, etc. to offer something for everyone
6Fishing OpportunitiesLakes are teeming with a wide range of fish species
7Scenic Trails and ParksMany of Utah’s lakes are surrounded by scenic trails and parks that allow visitors to explore the landscapes on foot
8Accessibility and AmenitiesLakes are conveniently accessible, with well-maintained roads and ample parking
9Cultural and Historical SignificanceUtah’s lakes have cultural and historical significance for the state’s indigenous communities and early pioneers
10Community EngagementLakes are hubs for community engagement and recreation through annual events and festivals

The photo featured at the top of this post is © LenzTherapy/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Shreya is a climate scientist. She also studies paleontology and evolutionary biology. She enjoys reading all kinds of literature and listening to rock music in her free time.

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