Idaho borders six U.S states and one Canadian Province. The official state nickname of Idaho is “Gem State,” a phrase that references Idaho’s natural beauty. Known for its rugged landscape, it has some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States. In addition to this, Idaho is a Rocky Mountain state with abundant natural resources and scenic areas. The state has vast lakes, mountain ranges, steep canyons, and rapids. Idaho’s lakes are a sight to behold, making the state an outstanding destination for most fun lovers. These beautiful bodies of water offer numerous recreational activities to tourists from all corners of the world.
The Sawtooth Range within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is often considered Idaho’s most famous mountain range. There are hundreds of lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains, most of which were created by vanished alpine glaciers. The majority of mountain lakes in Idaho are within the Sawtooth Wilderness, but several are still not within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. In fact, there are over 2,000 lakes within the state of Idaho alone.
Visiting the breathtaking mountain lakes in Idaho is one of the best ways to explore the remarkable diversity of the state. Here’s our list of the top 10 most beautiful mountain lakes in Idaho you should definitely see!
10 Most Beautiful Mountain Lakes in Idaho
Redfish Lake is a large alpine lake in Custer County, Idaho, just five miles south of Stanley. Its name was derived from the red-colored sockeye salmon that frequently swims in this lake. Being part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, there are various facilities for camping, hiking, mountain biking, and watersports on Redfish Lake. With the natural landscapes of the Sawtooth Mountains, it is one of the most beautiful lakes in Idaho. Access is granted to visitors both around the lake and into the mountains, though permits may be required.
Another mountainous lake in Idaho, Alice Lake, sits beneath rugged mountain peaks in the Sawtooth National Forest. Although the area was previously used for logging until the 1920s, Alice Lake and the surrounding area are currently popular recreation destinations. Alice Lake is a popular swimming spot, as it boasts two beautiful sandy beaches and a nearby campground. There are multiple trails crossing the park, for tourists interested in hiking and mountain biking. Canoeing and fishing are also permitted in this beautiful lake.
Lake Pend Oreille
Surrounded by national forests and a few small towns, Lake Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho –covering a surface area of 148 square miles. It is also the fifth deepest lake in the United States, with a maximum depth of 1,150 feet. The words “Pend Oreille” are French for an ear-hanging or pendant, because when viewed from above or on a map, Lake Pend Oreille is shaped like a human ear. Much of the shore is lined by striking Rocky Mountain peaks, contributing to the breathtaking beauty of this large body of water. Fishing and other boating activities are popular on this lake.
Also a lake at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains in the Sawtooth Recreation Area, Stanley Lake is one of the most picturesque lakes in Idaho, with the stunning McGowan Peak as backdrop. Recreational facilities at the lake include three campgrounds with nightly fees, a day-use area, a boat launch, and hiking trails providing excellent views of the area. Visitors can access the serene landscape of Stanley Lake via public boat ramps.
Located in the Albion Mountains, Lake Cleveland can be accessed from paved forest road 549. Also a part of the Sawtooth National Forest, it is a popular mountainous lake in Southern Idaho. Several campgrounds line the east and west ends of the water. Formed in the basin to the north of Mount Harrison, Lake Cleveland is a beautiful spot for canoeing and kayaking. However, it is often inaccessible by vehicles for most of the year because of snow accumulation during the winter season.
One of the best lakes for vacation in Idaho, Priest Lake is surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains which add a rugged backdrop to the lake. Named “Idaho’s Crown Jewel”, there’s a pristine variety of wildlife both in and around the lake. There are several large campgrounds and private resorts on the lake, providing extra appeal for activities such as swimming, watersports, and boating. The area is known for its huckleberries which visitors are encouraged to hike in and pick.
In Eastern Idaho near the Montana/Wyoming border, you’ll find a small, high mountain lake called Henrys Lake. The western and eastern edges of the lake provide wetland/marsh habitats that serve as breeding areas for many birds in spring. Henrys Lake is a popular destination for boating, sports fishing, and high mountain activities. On the south shore of the lake, Henrys Lake State Park offers hiking trails, numerous camping facilities, and boat ramps. There’s also a platform for wildlife viewing and for enjoying other outstanding views of the lake.
Located in Blaine County, Idaho in the Sawtooth Valley, Alturas Lake is the second largest lake in Sawtooth National Recreation Area. This lake has easy access around its northern shore, several campgrounds, and private camps. A large scenic body of water surrounded by forest, activities such as motorized boating, fishing, water skiing, and canoeing are provided within the lake. Visitors often stroll along the lake’s stunning and serene shoreline, surrounded by the gorgeous Sawtooth Mountain Range.
Lake Coeur d’Alene
Lake Coeur d’Alene is a natural lake in North Idaho, located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is a popular tourist site for many people during the summer, offering great beaches and scenic views. This lake backdrops the beautiful city of Coeur d’Alene and provides plenty of fun activities in its clear blue waters. Visitors are allowed to also explore the public space near the shore of the lake.
At an elevation of 4,990 feet, Payette Lake is a natural lake in west-central Idaho near McCall, formed by glacial activity. Payette Lake has sparkling shores and long sandy beaches for boating and relaxation. There’s a huge peninsula across the lake run by the Ponderosa State Park that features plenty of campgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic facilities for visitors. Payette Lake is a great destination for a relaxing vacation.
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