9 Best Lakes in Washington (2023)
Arguably the most beautiful U.S. State, Washington has most of its wonders powered by its waterbodies. Lying strongly amongst the dense Pacific Northwest forests and glaciated mountains, Washington State has nearly 8000 lakes and water reservoirs. The sparkling water of these aquamarine beauties makes up for both beauty and recreation. On a hot summer day, Washington Lakes provides the most enjoyable experience and soothing views to the eyes. Whereas during winters, several of the same lakes provide for ultimate ice adventures.
Washingtonians are always excited for their ‘LAKE DAY,’ and so are the tourist visiting the Evergreen State. The Best lakes in Washington aids for several fun activities, including boating, fishing, swimming. And besides that, with their distinct look, natural setting, and postcard appeal, they come out as a more popular choice amongst enthusiasts. So why wait? Pack your swimwear, camera, and other bare necessities and head out to Pacific Northwest’s best lakes. Here we have a list full of options of ‘the most popular and must-visit lakes in Washington’.
9 Best Lakes in Washington
Have a sneak peek and build your summer itinerary.
1. Lake Chelan
Lake Chelan is a North Washington Lake spreading 50.5-mile-long on the eastern side of North Cascades. It is a glacier-fed lake and is the deepest lake in Washington and the third deepest in North America (1,486 feet). Lake Chelan is popular for its mountainous backdrop that looks mesmerizing during winters once snowfall starts. Even during summers, the lakes serve as an appealing attraction for their beauty and water sports. The best way to access this water body is via Chelan town, which sits on the lake’s southern end. Besides that, the Lake Chelan State Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and the Wenatchee National Forest are surrounding the lake.
Recreational Activities: Lake Chelan is popular for activities like paddle boarding, powerboating, water skiing, wakeboarding, swimming, sailing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, etc. Its surroundings are also popular for hiking and camping.
2. Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent is the stunning Olympic Peninsula Lake and one of the best lakes in Washington. This 2,100-hectare lake is known for its incredibly blue water and brilliant clarity. For a certain distance, one can actually see the land underneath. To reach Lake Crescent, one can choose several hiking trails and parks that provide easy day trips and night stay opportunities. The worth mentioning lakeside trails is the Barnes Creek Trail which also leads to the spectacular Mary mere Falls. One can also visit Lake Crescent 18 miles west of Port Angeles near the Strait of Juan de Fuca shoreline. A visit here is an absolute must for the undisputed experience of clear blue waters.
Recreational Activities: Lake Crescent is popular for activities like fishing, kayaking, swimming, diving, sailing, row boating, canoeing, and more. Its nearby region is also popular for incredible hiking and nature walking options.
3. Lake Quinault
Lake Quinault is another lake in the Olympic Peninsula, sitting on its western side. What surrounds it is the Quinault Rain Forest, the most stunning and undisputedly the best feature of Washington State. Lake Quinault is truly phenomenal for its views and tranquil vibes. The best way to explore its beauty is via taking the Lake Quinault Rain Forest Tours that drive around the 28.9-mile loop encircling the entire water body. The tours take participants through cedar, fir trees, towering spruce, abundant wildlife, magnificent waterfall views, and much more. Though for a more authentic experience, take the hiking trails that lead from the rainforest toward the lake. Visitors can also explore the visitor center and a museum on the southern side of the lake.
Recreational Activities: Lake Quinault is popular for activities like swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, trout fishing, and more. Besides that, activities like camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, picnicking, and nature gazing are also popular here.
4. Lake Wenatchee
Lake Wenatchee is one of the prettiest lakes in Washington, located on the eastern slopes of the Cascades Mountains. It is a glacier-fed lake and thus has quite clear and cold water. Wenatchee is 5 miles long and known for its beautiful mountainous backdrop. Since it is glacier-fed, it is on heavy flow during the spring and early summer seasons. A same-named State Park surrounds lake Wenatchee on its eastern end. The best way to access the lake is by driving on Highway 2, 16 miles west of Leavenworth. One of the most appealing access points is the state park beach. Upon standing here, one can grab astounding views of the big mountains behind.
Recreational Activities: Lake Wenatchee is popular for activities like swimming, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboarding, water-skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Every year from August 3 to September 7, fishing becomes a popular game here. Besides that, Lake Wenatchee has 200 campsites, making it a good nightspot.
5. Lake Washington
The second largest lake in the Evergreen State, Lake Washington is the best lake in Washington. It is home to home to the longest floating bridge in the world and also behaves like the border between Bellevue and Seattle. Both the lake and the state are named after America’s first president George Washington. This valuable lake features several fun parks and places on both the north and south shoreline. Lakeshore parks, including Madrona Park, Denny Blaine Park, Seward Park, and Madison Beach, are the best for enjoying and accessing the magnificence of Lake Washington. Besides Bellevue and Seattle, several other Washington towns surround the lake, boosting their own scenic waterfronts.
Recreational Activities: Lake Washington is popular for activities like boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet-skiing, swimming, and trout fishing. Besides that, its surrounding land also facilitates camping, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, etc.
6. Colchuck Lake
Colchuck Lake is a freshwater reservoir and an alpine beauty on the western slope of The Enchantments. It is located within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and is only accessible after 4.5 miles long and strenuous hike. Begin from the Stuart Lake Trailhead off Icicle Road from Leavenworth, taking out about 6 hours on average. Since the trail gains an elevation of 2000 feet, trekking here is more climbing and less hiking. However, the end result is when you see Colchuck lake, all of the pain and trouble turns into mesmerizing. Simply sit along the shoreline and enjoy the views of peaking hills in the background. Dragontail and Aasgard Peaks cut into the sky on its southern shoreline, building a postcard-worthy view.
Recreational Activities: Colchuck Lake is popular for activities like kayaking, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and nature gazing. From May 15 through October 31, hikers can also choose the location for overnight camping (only with a permit).
7. Baker Lake
Another best lake in Washington State, Baker Lake, is the best feature of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This 1,900-hectare lake sits at an elevation of 705 feet and is easily accessible from the west side of the North Cascades Scenic Byway (Highway 20). The lake is also close (within driving distance) to the city of Seattle and Bellingham. Upon sitting on the west side of the lake (Shoreline), one can grab magnificent views of Mt. Baker across the lake as its backdrop. Or, for a tranquil and wilder feel, visit the east side of the lake. The east side is also home to the Baker Lake Trailhead that extends 14-mile along with the shore, mending through the natural environment. Baker Lake is extremely popular amongst hikers and backpackers.
Recreational Activities: Baker Lake is popular for activities like boating, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. April, May, June, and the Fall season make it a playground for anglers. Besides that, its surrounding region is also popular for hiking and camping.
8. Banks Lake
If you are done with lakes with mountain backgrounds in Washington, then visit Banks Lake for a change. It is the largest artificial (human-made) reservoir located in eastern Washington, from Coulee City to Electric City. Its unique setting in eastern Washington’s canyons gives it a different and more dramatic look than various other lakes in the state. Banks Lake’s northern shoreline is the Steamboat Rock State Park, which behaves as a getaway for water activities. The state park is popular for its hard-to-miss rock monolith, which is 800 feet above the lake and spans over 600 acres. Due to low shade, Banks Lake isn’t ideal for a hot summer day but rest time of the year.
Recreational Activities: Banks Lake is popular for activities like boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and snowshoeing. Besides that, its adjoining park is popular for camping, hiking, rock climbing, and other unique land-based fun.
9. Ross Lake
Ross lake is located in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, just northeast of Diablo Lake at a slightly higher elevation. This 23-mile-long lake is the highlight of the recreational area and is quite popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts. And what catches the eyes of most nature lovers is the aquamarine waters of Ross Lake, quite known for its unique greenish color. The forest and mountain views around also add to its undisputed beauty. For catching the best overlook of Ross, reach Ross Lake Overlook on Highway 20, 60 miles west of Winthrop. Upon standing here, you can grab astounding views of Diablo Lake as well.
Recreational Activities: Ross Lake is popular for activities like boating, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. However, it has minimal entry points for boaters. Besides that, it is also popular for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. The lake also facilitates a floating resort during the warmer months, a major draw.