The 10 Best Swimming Lakes in the United States

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: June 6, 2023
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Key Points:
  • Lakes are bodies of water surrounded by land, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the largest lakes in the world include Lake Superior, Lake Victoria, and Lake Baikal.
  • Lakes play a crucial role in the Earth’s water cycle, as they store and distribute water, regulate the climate, and provide a habitat for a diverse array of plant and animal species.
  • The formation of lakes can be attributed to various geological processes, including glacial erosion, volcanic activity, tectonic movements, and river or stream damming.

Each year, millions of people across the United States seek out summer adventures at rivers, lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water to swim and relax in.

There’s no doubt that beautiful large lakes look inviting – clear blue waters surrounded by gorgeous sands, sometimes with picturesque mountainous backdrops. They make the perfect swim spot for people looking for that calm, relaxing experience. Unfortunately, some lakes are much deadlier than you think.

They may contain harmful algae or be contaminated with animal waste, or worse, they move with a current too fast to keep up with. So before you jump into any lake to swim, you have to be sure that it is safe for you to do so. 

Hence, we bring to you our carefully selected list of the best swimming lakes to visit in the United States: every lake on this list promises you nothing but the best swimming experience!

Infographic of Best Swimming Lakes in the U.S.
Crater Lake, Lake Chelan, and Lake of the Ozarks are top swimming spots in the U.S.

1. Lake Tahoe, California 

Lake Tahoe Sierra Nevada, California, USA

Lake Tahoe is the largest Alpine lake in North America.


The largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is not just another picturesque destination, it is also a perfect spot for a relaxing swim. Covering over 120,000 acres of land between California and Nevada, its crystal clear deep blue waters, waterfront cities, and snowy mountain peak backdrops make it an ideal vacation destination for every fun-lover.

Though the water in this Californian lake stays cold most of the year, this has not stopped hundreds of tourists from trooping to swim in Sand Harbor Beach, up in northern Lake Tahoe.

2. Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is one of the clearest bodies of water in the world.


A crater created by a massive volcano that erupted thousands of years ago eventually formed the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake, which reaches a depth of about 1,943 feet. It is also one of Oregon’s largest lakes — covering a surface area of 13,180 acres.

With an island at its center which was once the area’s tallest peak, you can find this lake located within the Crater Lake National Park. The calm, cool waters are perfect for a relaxing swim during the summer heat.

The stunning Crater Lake is surrounded by Oregon’s mountain range and is considered to be one of the clearest bodies of water on Earth!

3. Newfound Lake, New Hampshire

Newfound Lake in New Hampshire

Newfound Lake is the deepest and clearest lake in New Hampshire.

©Alison Leyton/

New Hampshire’s deepest and clearest lake, Newfound Lake, offers amazing swimming opportunities with scenic views of the surrounding forest. Stretching over 4,000 acres and 22 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of other nearby attractions to explore on this beautiful lake, including lighthouses, nature preserves, and small waterfront towns.

On a visit to Newfound lake, you also get the chance to swim at Wellington State Park, the largest freshwater swimming beach in the state of New Hampshire.

4. Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake is the biggest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River.


With more than 185 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Because of its proximity to the cold climate, the best time to visit for a dip is usually late spring through early fall, when the temperature of the water is good enough for swimming.

Aside from being one of the best swimming lakes in Montana, Flathead Lake also offers recreational opportunities including boating, camping trail rides, horseback riding lessons, and many more.

5. Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina

Lake Santeetlah’s top spot for swimming is the Cheoah Point Recreation Area.


Lake Santeetlah is a freshwater swimming lake located near the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway, with about 80% of the 76 miles of its shoreline within the Nantahala National Forest.

If you’re looking for a free-entry swimming lake that’ll guarantee you a tranquil experience, then this lake should be on your to-do list. Keep in mind that the best area for swimming is the Cheoah Point Recreation Area, with clean waters and plenty of fun activities for tourists to explore. 

6. Lake Texoma, Oklahoma & Texas

Lake Texoma is one of the largest lakes in Oklahoma.


Grab the chance to swim in two states on the same day by visiting Lake Texoma, a large body of water that stretches from the southern edge of Oklahoma into the state of Texas. The lake covers about 89,000 acres, making it one of the largest lakes in Oklahoma offering enough room for everyone to enjoy a wide range of outdoor recreation. As far as fun lakes go, this lake is one to put on your list of best swimming lakes to visit with friends or family.

7. Lake Chelan, Washington 

Surrounded by thick forests, small towns, and mountains, Lake Chelan is one of Washington’s finest lakes.


The largest natural lake in Washington, Lake Chelan, is a beautiful swimming lake with an extensive shoreline stretching out over 100 miles. Undoubtedly one of Washington’s finest, Lake Chelan is surrounded by thick forests, small towns, and mountains.

Most tourists visit to swim in the pristine waters of the lake, as well as to explore the surrounding state parks, and spectacular views in every direction. You should also know that some sections of the lake can only be accessed by hiking.

8. Rainy Lake, Minnesota 

Rainy Lake, MN

Rainy Lake is located within the popular Voyageurs National Park.

©Jeffkantor / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Minnesota, “the land of lakes,” boasts of at least 10,000 lakes. One of the state’s most beautiful lakes is located within the popular Voyageurs National Park: the spectacular Rainy Lake. Rainy Lake is a popular tourist destination for swimming and other recreational activities. It has about 930 miles of shoreline that you can spend hours swimming along.

There are also hundreds of other small islands located amongst its waters perfect for swimming. Because you’ll find this lake right on the border of Canada, try to find out about border crossing rules if you’re taking boats. 

9. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri 

Lake of the Ozarks has more than 1,000 miles of shoreline that stretches in every direction.


The Lake of the Ozarks is the most popular warm-weather destination in the entire state of Missouri. It is a man-made lake located among the Ozark mountain range with over 1,000 miles of shoreline stretching out in every direction, which makes it an ideal swimming lake.

You can also enjoy the lake by visiting the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, which houses two long sandy beaches and a variety of amenities, hiking trails, and access to incredible views of the beautiful lake.

10. Lake Crescent, Washington 

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is located within Washington’s Olympic National Park.

© de droit

You can find Lake Crescent sitting pretty in the temperate rainforest of the Olympic National Park in Washington. The park has about 100 houses and there’s even a fairly flat trail for hikers to cool off when swimming. The waters of Lake Crescent are beautiful and blue; some swimmers report that it is so clear that they can see deep into the water!

Add visiting this lake, which has a surface area of 5,127 acres, to your bucket list and you can guarantee yourself an enjoyable experience.

Summary of 10 Best Swimming Lakes in the United States

Here’s a recap of the top 10 U.S. lakes for swimming that we took a look at.

1Lake TahoeCalifornia120,000 acres
2Crater LakeOregon13,180 acres
3Newfound LakeNew HampshireOver 4,000 acres
4Flathead LakeMontanaMore than 185 miles of shoreline
5Lake SanteetlahNorth Carolina76 miles of shoreline
6Lake TexomaOklahoma & Texas89,000 acres
7Lake ChelanWashingtonOver 100 miles of shoreline
8Rainy LakeMinnesota930 miles of shoreline
9Lake of the OzarksMissouri Over 1,000 miles of shoreline
10Lake CrescentWashington5,127 acres

Animals That Live in and Near Lakes

Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird

The male ruby-topaz



Chrysolampis mosquitus

) may be highly hostile while defending their territories from rivals despite only weighing 0.12 an ounce.

©Ondrej Prosicky/

Lakes are unique ecosystems that provide a variety of habitats for a diverse range of animals. From fish to birds, mammals to insects, lakes play host to a wide variety of species that have adapted to life in and around the water.

Here are some of the most commonly found animals that live in and near lakes:

  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Insects
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians.

Lakes are diverse ecosystems that provide habitats for a wide range of animals, from fish to mammals, birds to insects.

These animals play important roles in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem and make lakes one of the most fascinating and diverse environments in the world.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Colton lee garcia/

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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