The 10 Best Idaho Lakes For Swimming

Written by Patrick Sather
Updated: May 20, 2023
© PeskyMonkey/
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Josephine Lake is few miles southwest of Burgdorf Hot Springs

If you enjoy the great outdoors, Idaho has everything you could want and more. The Gem State boasts incredible natural beauty, including rugged peaks, steep canyons, and vast lakes. Speaking of lakes, Idaho has many natural and man-made swimming holes where you can swim to cool off during the heat of summer. Here is a list of 10 of the best swimming lakes in Idaho.  

#10: Stanley Lake

Stanley Lake is one of the best Idaho lakes for swimming and features several beaches.

©Josh Bores/

Situated at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley Lake resides in Custer County in central Idaho. This gorgeous alpine lake measures 1 mile long and half a mile wide. It shares its name with the town of Stanley, which lies 7 miles to the east.  

Stanley Lake resides within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The lake offers amazing views of the nearby Sawtooth Mountains, including McGown Peak and Elk Peak. The lake offers visitors plenty to do, including camping, boating, hiking, and swimming. 

You can find several beaches along the shore of Stanley Lake. While somewhat chilly, the water feels great in the warm Idaho sunshine. 

#9: Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Orielle Idaho.
Lake Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho and is excellent for swimming.

©David R.White/

Lake Pend Oreille lies between Bonner and Kootenai counties in northern Idaho. At 148 square miles, it ranks as the largest lake in the state of Idaho. Moreover, at 1,150 feet, it also ranks as the fifth deepest lake in the United States. 

National forests surround Lake Pend Oreille on all sides. These forests house numerous animals, including elk, moose, bears, cougars, and mountain goats. The lake itself is also home to myriad fish species, including trout, crappie, perch, bass, and walleye. Popular recreation activities at the lake include paddle boarding, hiking, sailing, wakeboarding, camping, and swimming

There are many places to swim along the shores of the lake. Some popular swimming sites include Beaver Bay Beach and Swimming Area, City Beach in Sandpoint, and Sunnyside Access. Visitors flock to Beaver Bay Beach for its warm, shallow water, while City Beach is easily accessible from the city of Sandpoint. Alternatively, you can visit some of the more remote swimming spots on the beach to avoid crowds, such as Garfield Bay or Green Bay. 

#8: Priest Lake

Priest Lake Idaho
Priest Lake spans 26,000 acres in the Kaniksu National Forest.

© Davis

Located in Bonner County, Priest Lake is a popular tourist spot in the Idaho Panhandle. This 26,000-acre lake lies on the Priest River within the Kaniksu National Forest, part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests system. People sometimes call Priest Lake Idaho’s “Crown Jewel” lake due to its cool, clear, and deep water.

Several large private resorts lie on the shores of Priest Lake. During the winter, tourists flock to the area for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Meanwhile, visitors come to the lake to hike, camp, boat, and swim in the summer.  

Priest Lake State Park lies on the eastern side of the lake and houses several popular public swimming beaches, including Indian Creek and Lionhead Units. Both sites feature picnic areas, restrooms, and grills. On the lake’s western side, you can find several public land beaches. These beaches are only accessible by boat, which means they are typically significantly less crowded and feature no amenities.  

#7: Coeur d’Alene Lake

Lake Coeur d'Alene Idaho
Lake Coeur d’Alene is popular for various recreational opportunities including swimming.

© Cabrera

Also known as Lake Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene Lake is a natural lake on the southern end of the city of Coeur d’Alene. This 49.8-square-mile glacial lake gets its name from the Coeur d’Alene people, one of Idaho’s five federally recognized tribes. 

In addition to scenic views, Coeur d’Alene Lake also offers visitors plenty of recreational opportunities. Popular activities include fishing, hiking, kayaking, sailing, and swimming. 

Numerous beaches dot Coeur d’Alene Lake’s 100 miles of shoreline. Sanders Beach lies on the eastern side of Tubbs Hill and features a sandy beach with great views of the Coeur d’Alene Resort golf course. On the hill’s western side lies City Beach, one of the most popular swimming spots on the lake. The park has a large playground, basketball courts, picnic shelters, sand volleyball courts, and a designated swim beach. 

#6: Hayden Lake

Beautiful Hayden Lake in Idaho surrounded by Spring colors.
Hayden Lake is brimming with beauty as one of the best Idaho swimming lakes.


Hayden Lake lies to the east of the city of Hayden, a suburb of Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho. This 3,800-acre natural lake is known for its natural beauty. 

Numerous homes lie along the shores of Hayden Lake, limiting public access to the lake. However, the city does operate one public beach, which also happens to rank as one of the best beaches in the state.  Just pay attention to any public swimming health advisories.

Established in 1992, Honeysuckle Beach features a designated swimming area and boat ramp where you can launch a canoe, kayak, or boat. Other nearby amenities include a volleyball court, restrooms, a concession stand, and picnic areas. Best of all, the city pays for lifeguards to monitor visitors at the beach during the summer. 

#5: Redfish Lake

Swimming or paddling in Idaho’s Redfish Lake offers great views of the Sawtooth Recreation Area.


Located in Custer County, Redfish Lake lies just 5 miles south of the city of Stanley. At 4.5 miles wide and .72 miles long, the lake ranks as the largest within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The lake gets its name from the sockeye salmon, which used to visit the lake in such numbers during the spawning season that the water in the lake appeared red.

Tourists flock to the lake’s northern shores to engage in various recreational activities year-round. Popular activities at Redfish Lake include fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and camping. The lake also features several public swimming beaches, including Orval Hansen Point Beach, Redfish Outlet, and the North Shore Picnic Area. 

The Redfish Lake Outlet offers incredible views and is usually less crowded than the Redfish Lake Lodge or North Shore Picnic Area. In addition to a designated swimming area, it also has a few picnic tables and diving platforms that visitors can use to jump into the water. Alternatively, you can visit Orval Hansen Point Beach next to the Point Campground. This sandy beach includes a boat ramp and offers stunning views of the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains.   

#4: Dierkes Lake

Lovely Lake Dierkes sparkling in the summer air in Idaho
Lake Dierkes is a popular spot for scuba diving in Idaho.


Dierkes Lake is situated to the northeast of Twin Falls in southern Idaho. This small 24.1-acre lake is located just south of the Snake River and functions as a popular swimming hole during the summer. 

The nearby city of Twin Falls operates a seasonal concession stand and posts lifeguards at the lake from June to August. Meanwhile, visitors can use the nearby playground and picnic tables year-round. In addition to swimming, the lake also attracts scuba divers who come to look at the sunken rowboats, metal shark cutout, and hidden treasure chest nestled at the bottom of the lake. 

#3: Josephine Lake

Josephine Lake is a small but beautiful lake, perfect for swimming.


A few miles southwest of Burgdorf Hot Springs lies Josephine Lake. This small, 13-acre lake lies within a granite cirque along the Josephine Lake Trail. The lake offers visitors stunning views of the surrounding mountains, including Squaw Point, just to the south. 

Josephine Lake features cool, clear, aquamarine-colored water. Swimming, hiking, and fishing are all popular activities at the lake, which is a quiet and relaxing spot to escape the heat of summer. 

#2: Alice Lake

A 5.5-mile trail reveals the picturesque Alice Lake.


Alice Lake ranks among the most picturesque lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains. You can access this 71.2-acre lake via the trailhead at the end of the campground near Pettit Lake. Just be prepared for a hike, as the trail measures around 5.5 miles long and rises around 1,600 feet in elevation. 

Despite the difficulty in reaching Alice Lake, visitors agree it’s well worth a visit. The lake’s cold water shocks the senses at first, but your body soon acclimates to the sensation. Swimming in the crystal-clear water of Alice Lake offers visitors the chance to fully enjoy one of Idaho’s most serene and stunning lakes. 

#1: Alturas Lake

Panoramic view of puffy white clouds reflecting on the surface of a tranquil Alturas Lake in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, USA
Altarus Lake is named after the former Altarus County.


Approximately 21 miles south of Stanley lies Alturas Lake, an alpine lake in the Sawtooth Valley. At 21 miles long, Alturas Lake ranks as the second-largest lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. 

The Alturas Lake Campground is one of the most popular sites along the lake. The campground features a designated swimming area and a section specifically for dogs. You can launch boats from the Smokey Bear Campground or visit the fire pits and picnic tables near the shore. 

Summary Of The 10 Best Idaho Lakes For Swimming

10Stanley LakeCuster County
9Lake Pend OreilleHope
8Priest LakeBonner County, beneath the Selkirk Mountains
7Coeur d’Alene LakeNorthwest Kootenai County
6Hayden LakeNorthern Kootenai County
5Redfish LakeCuster County
4Dierkes Lakenear Kimberly
3Josephine Lakenear Riggins
2Alice LakeSawtooth National Forest, near Stanley
1Alturas LakeBlaine County

The Featured Image

Panoramic view of puffy white clouds reflecting on the surface of a tranquil Alturas Lake in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, USA
Altarus Lake is named after the former Altarus County.
© PeskyMonkey/

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