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8 Best Lakes to Visit in Idaho

Nestled in the heart of the American Northwest, Idaho, aptly nicknamed the "Gem State," is a land of unparalleled natural beauty. With over 2,000 lakes dotting its terrain, Idaho offers an array of aquatic adventures, from serene alpine lakes to vast reservoirs. In this comprehensive guide, we will embark on a journey to explore the eight best lakes in Idaho, each possessing its unique allure and charm.

1. Redfish Lake

A rocky lake with vegetation surrounding it.

Our journey begins with a visit to Redfish Lake, a mesmerizing alpine gem nestled in the heart of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Cradled by rugged mountain peaks and surrounded by dense coniferous forests, Redfish Lake is a sight to behold. Its crystal-clear waters mirror the surrounding wilderness, making it a favorite destination for both nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Redfish Lake offers an array of outdoor activities to suit every taste. Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular choices for those who wish to explore the lake's pristine waters. Anglers will be delighted by the excellent fishing opportunities, with rainbow trout and salmon being among the prized catches. Hikers will find themselves in paradise with the numerous trails that crisscross the area, providing access to stunning viewpoints and serene lakeside vistas.

For those seeking a rustic yet comfortable retreat, the nearby Redfish Lake Lodge offers cozy accommodations with breathtaking views. It's no wonder that Redfish Lake remains a treasured destination for anyone in search of Idaho's natural beauty.

2. Lake Coeur d'Alene

Coeur d'Alene lake and resort

Heading northward, we arrive at Lake Coeur d'Alene, one of Idaho's largest and most iconic lakes. Nestled in the scenic Idaho Panhandle, this breathtaking lake is a haven for water enthusiasts of all kinds. Its vast expanse provides ample opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, and water sports. Exploring the lake's picturesque shoreline reveals hidden coves, secluded beaches, and captivating wildlife.

The charming town of Coeur d'Alene, which shares its name with the lake, offers a vibrant community with an array of shopping, dining, and cultural attractions. Visitors can explore the Coeur d'Alene Resort, famous for its floating golf green, or stroll along the scenic boardwalk with stunning lake views. For more information about the resort visit Lake Coeur d'Alene seamlessly blends natural beauty with urban amenities, making it an unforgettable destination.

3. Priest Lake

A lake with mountains and pine trees and a water skier

Venturing further north into the Panhandle region, we discover the tranquil beauty of Priest Lake. Nestled amidst dense forests and surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains, this pristine lake is a hidden gem that beckons those seeking a peaceful getaway. Here, the pace of life slows, and the soothing sounds of nature take center stage.

Activities at Priest Lake are a testament to its unspoiled charm. Kayaking and paddleboarding on the glassy waters provide a sense of serenity and connection to the natural world. For the adventurous, hiking trails crisscross the region, leading to panoramic vistas and hidden waterfalls. The sandy beaches along the lake's edge invite visitors to relax and unwind, creating cherished memories in this tranquil paradise.

4. Payette Lake

A clear lake with lots of pine trees

Our journey continues to McCall, where Payette Lake reigns as a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Payette National Forest, this pristine lake offers a wide range of activities to suit every season.

During the summer months, visitors flock to Payette Lake for swimming, boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The lake's clear waters and picturesque backdrop make it a favorite spot for water sports enthusiasts. When winter arrives, the lake transforms into a wonderland for ice fishing and snowmobiling, drawing those who appreciate the beauty of a frozen landscape.

McCall, the charming town on the shores of Payette Lake, provides a cozy mountain escape with its unique appeal. Here, visitors can enjoy local cuisine, boutique shopping, and cultural events, ensuring that there's something for everyone in every season.

5. Stanley Lake

A lake with large mountains in the background.

Deep within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area lies Stanley Lake, a serene jewel renowned for its stunning views of the Sawtooth Mountains. Whether you're an avid photographer, camper, or hiker, Stanley Lake offers an ideal backdrop for outdoor adventures.

Hiking trails surround Stanley Lake, leading to high alpine meadows, pristine lakes, and breathtaking mountain vistas. The popular Stanley Lake Campground provides easy access to the lake's shoreline, where visitors can set up camp and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of nature.

Stanley Lake's peaceful ambiance invites reflection and relaxation, making it an excellent spot for those seeking solace in the midst of Idaho's natural wonders.

6. Bear Lake

A Caribbean blue water lake with mountains surrounding it.

Straddling the border of Idaho and Utah, Bear Lake is often referred to as the "Caribbean of the Rockies" due to its striking blue waters. The lake's vivid azure hue is a result of the unique limestone deposits that reflect the sunlight. Bear Lake beckons visitors with its diverse range of water activities and stunning vistas.

Boating, jet skiing, and sailing are popular pastimes on Bear Lake's expansive waters, while sandy beaches provide perfect spots for sunbathing and picnicking. Bear Lake State Park offers camping facilities and hiking trails, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the lake's beauty and tranquility.

7. Shoshone Lake

A sunset on the calm lake.

For a truly unique experience, we journey to the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to discover Shoshone Lake. This volcanic landscape, marked by vast lava fields and peculiar geological formations, hosts a series of interconnected lakes, creating a surreal and otherworldly environment.

Shoshone Lake is a place of contrast, where the stark beauty of volcanic terrain meets the serene allure of water. It's an excellent spot for kayaking, as paddlers can explore the maze-like channels between the lake's islands and witness the remarkable resilience of nature in the face of volcanic activity.

Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts will find Shoshone Lake to be a captivating destination, as the surrounding area is home to a variety of unique species adapted to this unique environment.

8. Henrys Lake

Wetlands and mountains alongside the lake.

Located near the Montana border, Henrys Lake is a renowned fishing destination, especially for those seeking a trophy trout. Anglers flock to its waters to try their luck at catching cutthroat, brook, and rainbow trout. The lake's clear waters and lush surroundings provide an ideal habitat for these prized catches.

Beyond fishing, Henrys Lake offers a variety of recreational activities, including boating, hiking, and camping. The Caribou-Targhee National Forest that surrounds the lake provides a pristine backdrop for outdoor adventures.

Idaho's diverse and breathtaking landscape is adorned with an array of lakes, each offering its unique blend of beauty and adventure. Whether you seek the tranquility of alpine retreats, the excitement of water sports, or the serene embrace of nature, the Gem State's lakes have something to offer every traveler.

From the mesmerizing vistas of Redfish Lake to the bustling community surrounding Lake Coeur d'Alene, and the peaceful solace of Stanley Lake to the surreal landscapes of Shoshone Lake, Idaho's lakes are natural treasures waiting to be explored. Plan your next adventure to the Gem State, and you'll discover a world of beauty and wonder in its eight best lakes.

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