80 Best Small Lake Towns in the U.S.
Lake life is rich with simple pleasures. Summer entices with boating, swimming and various water sports. Year-round fishing brings anglers from all over to enjoy the bounty. Hiking trails provide an active escape into the wilderness, with lake views in the distance.
But it’s the small towns situated along these majestic lakes that deserve attention. Rustic cabins, swanky resorts, down-home dining, elevated cuisine, bustling breweries and historic downtowns thriving with art galleries, antique shops and boutiques add culture and dimension to the bodies of water nearby.
We rounded up 80 small lake towns with populations of 20,000 or less for you to enjoy the beauty and peace you’re looking for in one of the thousands of lakes across the United States.
Note: We may earn money from affiliate partners if you buy through links on our site.
80. Oswego, New York
Where to stay: Best Western Plus Oswego Hotel And Conference Center
Best time to visit: Summer brings with it a number of cool outdoor festivals where you’ll enjoy good food, live music and friendly sports.
*All population numbers come from the latest census records.
The Experience: Oswego
Oswego's location at the meeting point of Lake Ontario and Oswego River makes it perfect for those who love the water. You’ll be able to enjoy both river and lake activities as well as pretty mountain scenery.
The town is also pretty on its own and has a surprisingly diverse dining scene that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a town with less than 20 thousand people.
79. Wahiawa, Hawaii
Where to stay: Wahiawa apartment
Best time to visit: April to October is the dry season in Hawaii, so if you want to avoid heavy rains, this is the best time to go.
The Experience: Wahiawa
Hawaii is known more for its beaches than its lakes, but that doesn't mean you can't take a lake vacation in the beautiful state.
Smack dab in the middle of Oahu, Wahiawa is graced with its namesake reservoir. This is one of the few lakes in the state where you are allowed to fish, though be prepared to release anything you catch. The lake is very peaceful since it's mostly reserved for recreational fishing, which means that you won't have to worry about screaming tourists driving your catch away.
Wahiawa also provides the opportunity to experience a different side of Hawaii — one that is closer to the mountains than to the beach. Of course, the beach is always a short drive away.
78. Laconia, New Hampshire
Where to stay: Lake Opechee Inn and Spa
Best time to visit: Come during summer for swimming. In fall, enjoy the New England foliage and have guaranteed solitude.
The Experience: Laconia
Laconia is a tiny town with a relatively small lake. But size is part of what makes the area an idyllic lake vacation spot.
You won’t have to worry about loud crowds, banks full of trash and no parking spaces. Lake Opechee is as tranquil as it gets, so you’ll be able to hear the birds sing and feel like you have the water almost all to yourself.
77. Burrillville, Rhode Island
Where to stay: Private Island Cabin on Lake
Best time to visit: If you love lake beaches, we recommend coming in the summer, when in-the-know Rhode Islanders flock to Spring Lake Beach. If swimming is not a requirement, however, come in the fall to enjoy the New England foliage.
The Experience: Burrillville
Burrillville is a unique town that divides itself into "villages" rather than neighborhoods. The villages are all named after old mills. In the summer, the most popular of these villages is Glendale, which sits on the shores of Spring Lake. This beachy lake is warm on the surface and cool underneath. It is also clear and sandy, so you won't need water shoes.
Glendale also has all the summer beach staples that you could want from a historic town: an arcade that's almost 90 years old, rides for kids, a beanbag toss game and a waterslide. Fried foods are also easy to acquire. There's even a diving dock to practice your form.
Note: Spring Lake is only one of the town's lakes. There's also the Wilson Reservoir, the Pascoag Reservoir and the Crystal Lake, which is next to an eponymous golf course.
76. Payson, Arizona
Where to stay: Wooden Nickel Cabins
Best time to visit: Go in the spring to enjoy water sports and activities without having to survive the oppressive heat of the Arizonan summer.
The Experience: Payson
Located near the center of the state, Payson labels itself as "the heart of Arizona." The small town is not marked by one big lake, but rather, by a collection of several small-ish lakes within and around it.
Boating, kayaking and fishing are particularly popular pastimes. For a variety of lakeside activities, make sure you visit Woods Canyon Lake and Chevelon Lake.
75. Lakeway, Texas
Where to stay: Lakeway Resort and Spa
Best time to visit: Spring is the perfect moment to visit, since the days are warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities on land and in the water, but they’re not sweltering.
The Experience: Lakeway
If you need an escape from Austin, take a break in nearby Lakeway, where you’ll be able to fish, sail and do water sports on Lake Travis. The town is welcoming and friendly, and there’s not much more to do than enjoy the water.
Hey, that’s good in our lake town book.
74. Mount Dora, Florida
Where to stay: Cottage with boat ramp
Best time to visit: Spring and fall are the perfect time to go swimming in Florida. It's still hot enough to jump into cold lake waters, but it's not fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. The crowds are also fairly controlled.
The Experience: Mount Dora
Florida is so famous for its beaches that its lakes are often ignored by both Floridians and outsiders. If you don’t want to make this common mistake, plan a trip to Mount Dora.
The town is situated on Lake Dora in Lake County. Not surprisingly, there are several other small lakes like Lake Beauclair and Lake Carlton. Boating is bigger than big here, but there is also a golf course, parks and cultural museums around town.
Since Mount Dora is a mere 40 minutes from Orlando, it can be an easy day trip for when you want a break from all the theme parks.
73. Mountain Home, Arkansas
Where to stay: Home on Lake Norfork
Best time to visit: Mountain Home is the most beautiful in the fall, given that Arkansas is famous for its foliage. Despite the cooler weather, you can still engage in water sports like boating or simply enjoy the beautiful lake views and hiking trails.
The Experience: Mountain Home
Located within the southern Ozark Mountains, Mountain Home is a perfect lakeside destination. The city has long been a lake resort town, thanks to its position between Norfork Lake and Bull Shoals Lake. It has a lot to offer in terms of pretty cabins by the lake as well as shopping and dining. You'll find bars, boutique shops and restaurants in the city center.
Most people rent a lake house and spend the day enjoying water activities, then hit the town at night. Of course, you're more than welcome to stay in the house with your group and take in the quietness of the lake.
72. Eufaula, Alabama
Where to stay: Baker Street Bed and Breakfast
Best time to visit: Winter tends to see a number of bass fishing competitions.
The Experience: Eufaula, Alabama
Straddling the border between Alabama and Georgia, Lake Eufaula is one of the best bass fishing spots, even earning the name of "Bass Fishing Capital of the World."
The eponymous Alabama town that surrounds it takes this title very seriously, hosting a number of fishing competitions year-round that bring in thousands of visitors to the area. When you're not on the lake (though you'll want to spend most of your time there), you'll want to walk around the historic town and see its well-kept buildings that date back centuries.
71. Port Washington, Wisconsin
Where to stay: Large historic house
Best time to visit: Winter can be inclement, so we recommend heading over in the summer when the water will be pleasant.
The Experience: Port Washington
The absolute coolest thing to do in Port Washington is to go on a scuba diving shipwreck tour. Yes, Lake Michigan is gigantic enough to have numerous shipwrecks. You can even get your certification while visiting.
If diving isn't your thing, you can still enjoy the lake from the harbor or at North Beach Park.
70. Clinton, Tennessee
Where to stay: Hickory Star
Best time to visit: Come the first weekend in October to attend the Clinch River Antique Festival. Over 100 antique dealers line the streets, while food, entertainment and antique shops stay open for late night fun.
The Experience: Clinton
Rated in the top 10 antiquing districts in the country, Historic Downtown Clinton oozes small town charm. Along with its antiques, collectibles and gifts, the area is rich in unique eateries like Hoskins Restaurant, which features an authentic 1940s soda fountain.
Meanwhile, the pristine beauty of Norris Lake is minutes away. A stay at Hickory Star provides topnotch access to the lake.
69. Lake Arrowhead, California
Where to stay: Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa
Best time to visit: Summer is by far the best time to visit this quaint lake town. Unlike winter, when the weather is very cold and partly cloudy, summer welcomes warm-weather activities, while the village is alive with al fresco fun.
The Experience: Lake Arrowhead
Nicknamed the “Alps” of Southern California, Lake Arrowhead is tucked into the San Bernardino National Forest, offering bountiful activities from dining and imbibing to hiking, cycling, boating, fishing and more. A stay at the town’s renowned Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa will position you in the middle of all the action.
Since the lake is private, you’ll have access to lakeside luxury, including exclusive access to boating and the beach. Sip a beer with a breathtaking view at Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co., enjoy a wine flight and delicious eats at The Grapevine, go to Skypark for an epic day of activities, and on your way out of town, treat yourself to the shrimp and grits at Stone Creek Bistro.
68. Sandpoint, Idaho
Where to stay: The Lodge at Sandpoint
Best time to visit: June through October promises comfortable temperatures. July is especially enticing, when the lake is warm and the landscape surrounding it is a vibrant green.
The Experience: Sandpoint
Situated on Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with its world class hiking and biking trails, ski slopes and more. A stay at The Lodge at Sandpoint will put you up close and personal to the lake, making for easy access to boating, fishing and swimming.
Events, including theatrical performances, concerts and fairs, thrive in the summer. Situated in the rugged Selkirk Mountains, Schweitzer Mountain Resort entices as well, with its uncrowded ski slopes and beautiful views of the lake below.
The Experience: Breaux Bridge
Situated on the shores of Lake Martin, this small lake town is known as “the crawfish capital of the world.” Stay at the original bed and breakfast, Bayou Cabins, for an authentic Cajun experience.
The lake is home to the largest nesting area of wading birds in the country, earning it a spot on Audubon Society’s top 10 bird watching spots in the U.S. Visitors can also enjoy world-class fishing here and in the Atchafalaya Basin. Stroll through downtown for a lovely array of antique shops and quaint boutiques, and be sure to dine at Buck & Johnny’s for a menu filled with mouthwatering Cajun dishes.
66. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Where to stay: Maxwell Mansion
Best time to visit: Skip the peak of tourism, and come in October. You’ll catch the stunning fall foliage, while many scenic boat tours and signature cruises continue throughout the month.
The Experience: Lake Geneva
This small resort city is beaming with fun. Lodging at Maxwell Mansion is filled with luxurious charm. It was the first mansion built in Lake Geneva (in 1856!) and is known for hosting dignitaries and socialites.
Outdoor adventures are endless in Lake Geneva. There’s ziplining, golfing, hiking and biking, petting zoos and horseback riding, lake activities, skiing and so much more! The annual Winterfest & the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship makes the most of the snowy season. And the best lakeside dining can be found at Pier 290, which is a year-round restaurant accessible by land, water and ice.
65. Whitefish, Montana
Where to stay: Good Medicine Lodge
Best time to visit: Whitefish is a small town in the mountains, so it has things to do year-round. During the winter, skiing, Nordic trails, dog sleds, mountain climbing and sleigh rides are available. During the summer, Whitefish Lake and guided flying tours are open, as are the parks and farmers' markets.
The Experience: Whitefish
Settled in 1903, Whitefish was a logging and railroad town for some five decades before the town found a new way to bring in dollars: golfing. By the mid-1990s, Whitefish had a 36-hole golf course, the largest in all of the vast state of Montana.
It's still a railroad town today, although it has more to offer than 100 years ago. The surrounding area is full of farms that provide fresh meat and produce, which means you're spoiled for farm-to-table restaurant meals.
Aside from the fantastic food, Whitefish is a fantastic place to hit the slopes. It's where 1994 Olympic gold medalist Thomas More learned to ski.
64. Clewiston, Florida
Where to stay: Lake condo with boat slip
Best time to visit: Come during winter to enjoy fishing without running into alligators on the lake. Alligators like the sun, so cold weather is actually your friend.
The Experience: Clewiston
Surrounded by sugar cane farms, Clewiston is located on Lake Okeechobee — Florida's largest freshwater lake.
Boating and fishing are the things to do here, with boat rentals and boat tours available from several providers around town. You won't want to swim here, though, given that the lake has a population of resident alligators. And while this may disrupt some of your lake-vacation fantasies, it does give you the opportunity to do an airboat ride and try to spot some of these reptiles.
Outside of the water, you can go golfing, visit the sugar factory or learn about the culture of the indigenous Seminole at the Thi-Ki Museum.
63. Devils Lake, North Dakota
Where to stay: Totten Trail Inn
Best time to visit: Winters are frigid here, so plan a summer trip to enjoy swimming and boating.
The Experience: Devils Lake
Visitors flock to Devils Lake for its world-class hunting and fishing. Large numbers of walleye, northern pike and white bass, have earned it the reputation of being the “Perch Capital of the World.”
Nearby Grahams Island State Park features more than 1,000 acres of wooded land to explore. Also, check out Ranch Steakhouse for dining in a restored barn and Proz Lakeside at the Cove for a quintessential sports bar experience, complete with an outdoor tiki bar.
62. Winthrop Harbor, Illinois
Where to stay: Large family home
Best time to visit: Come during summer to actually enjoy the water without the merciless wind of winter.
The Experience: Winthrop Harbor
Straddling the border with Wisconsin, Winthrop Harbor is the northernmost Illinois lakeside community on Lake Michigan. Since it's only an hour and a half away from Chicago, it's a popular weekend getaway for weary city slickers.
Head to North Point Beach for a sandy day, or get into nature at North Dunes Nature Preserve.
61. Monticello, New York
Where to stay: YO1 Wellness Resort
Best time to visit: Plan a trip around the second week of October for a first-class ticket to fall foliage and fun festivals like Oktoberfest.
The Experience: Monticello
Located within the Catskills region, Monticello is a charming little town that offers prime access to camping, fishing and sought-after culinary endeavors like Cellaio, an Italian-inspired steakhouse with a menu curated by the acclaimed chef Scott Conant.
It’s also home to luxury wellness retreat YO1, which borders Bailey Lake. The colorful forests of the Catskills beg for exploration, whether on foot, mountain bike or via zipline.
60. Hampstead, Maryland
Where to stay: Woodland retreat
Best time to visit: Yes, fall is gorgeous, but if you come in the summer, you can use a slide that goes straight into a lake, and it's hard to beat that.
The Experience: Hampstead
Other than a golf course, there isn't much going on in Hampstead outside of the water. But if what you want is to spend 98 percent of your summer splashing around, you'll find a lot of fun ways to pass the time.
Cascade Lake is a favorite with families, particularly because it was a waterslide that goes straight into the lake. Believe us, you could spend the entire day sliding down time and time again. Swimming is highly encouraged.
If you want to be in the water but don't really love swimming, head to Pretty Boy Reservoir instead. Though you won't be able to swim, you spend the day hiking and birdwatching in beautiful trails, or spend time in the water boating and fishing.
59. Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Where to stay: A waterfront lake house rental
Best time to visit: Dubbed “The Oldest Summer Resort in America,” the town beckons you to enjoy its charm during the warmer months. Some would argue autumn is the perfect time to come, however, with its fiery fall leaves leading hikers up Mount Major.
The Experience: Wolfeboro
A resort area situated beside the 72-square-mile Lake Winnipesaukee, this lake town swells with visitors during the summer or for big events. Wolfeboro has several markets and festivals year-round to enjoy, including farmer’s markets, music festivals, antique boat and car shows, pond hockey tournaments and fishing derbies.
Be sure to check out the new Pavilion Restaurant for seasonal cuisine in a charming atmosphere.
58. Meredith, New Hampshire
Where to stay: The Ballard House Inn
Best time to visit: Head on over to Meredith during the summer or fall seasons, where farmers markets will be stuffed with fresh goods and the water activities will be in full swing.
The Experience: Meredith
Located mostly on Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith used to be a farming community in the mid-1700s. By the mid-1800s, a railroad made it a popular summer resort.
Today, people still flock to the town to curl their toes on its beaches, take a leisurely trip on a paddleboat, or head to the Mills Falls market.
Jump on the small shuttle train and get a scenic ride to the nearby Weirs Beach. Then tour its bustling boardwalk.
57. Big Bear Lake, California
Where to stay: Fawnskin Cottage
Best time to visit: Beat the crowds and head to Big Bear during the spring. It's a slower time of year there, but you'll skip the influx of summer travelers.
The Experience: Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is surrounded by miles of the San Bernardino National Forest and 25 miles north of San Bernardino itself. It's a very popular tourist destination spot, which is why we're recommending a visit during the springtime months.
There is tons to do in Big Bear. The lake itself is seven miles long and has numerous types of fish to catch, and there are many miles of hiking trails in the forest. And, of course, there's skiing during the winter. There's even an Alpine zoo and a solar observatory.
56. Osage Beach, Missouri
Where to stay: Margaritaville Lake Resort
Best time to visit: Late spring in Osage Beach has comfortably warm weather, ideal for those who can’t take the blistering heat the area experiences in the height of summer.
The Experience: Osage Beach
Situated right on the Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach is home to a wide array of shops and local restaurants and ice cream parlors. Of course, you’ll want to spend your warm-weather days out on the lake, but a visit to Margaritaville Lake Resort for a cocktail is also worthy of your time.
Fun fact: This is the town where the Netflix show “Ozark” is set.
55. Lakeport, California
Where to stay: A cozy cottage by the lake on Airbnb
Best time to visit: Come at the tail end of peak season, which corresponds with harvest season for the area (August through October), to enjoy the lively energy without the high prices, plus the beautiful fall foliage.
The Experience: Lakeport
Located along the west shore of Clear Lake, Lakeport puts you in the heart of Northern California’s wine country. The largest natural freshwater lake in the state, Clear Lake offers 68 square miles to enjoy a day in the sun.
Popular activities include boating, fishing, off roading, bird watching, wine tasting at the over 30 wineries in the area and more. Check out Red’s at the Skyroom for California comfort food, sustainable proteins, handcrafted cocktails, and local beer and wines.
54. Bigfork, Montana
Where to stay: Flathead Lake Lodge
Best time to visit: The summer is short but enjoyable, so catch it while it lasts from early July to mid-August.
The Experience: Bigfork
Bigfork has it all. It’s equal parts ski village, lakeside resort and Wild West town. Resting on the shores of Flathead Lake, Flathead Lake Lodge is a family-owned and -operated Dude Ranch offering visitors endless recreation.
Take part in sailing, lake cruises, stand-up paddleboarding, wakesurfing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and lakeside campfires, or explore the allure of the Rocky Mountains. Stop for a bite at Stone Hill Kitchen for local, fine dining cuisine, and be sure to kick back with a cold one at Flathead Lake Brewing Co.
53. Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona
Where to stay: Mountain Haven Inn
Best time to visit: Summer in Arizona can be incredibly hot, so spring and early fall are actually the best time to enjoy the lake while it's still warm.
The Experience: Pinetop-Lakeside
If you think Arizona is all arid desert, think again. Pinetop-Lakeside is a lush wonderland of lakes and forests that will bust every stereotype you have of the state. In fact, this is where Arizonans who do live in the desert come for a change of scenery.
The town is surrounded by nature trails, and Woodland Lake provides a space for some outdoor fun. If you want even more nature, you can visit the Jacques Marsh Wildlife Area. Or, if on the contrary, you want to be outdoors but still in civilization, do some rounds at the Pinetop Lakes Golf & Country Club.
52. South Haven, Michigan
Where to stay: Inn at the Park
Best time to visit: You can't wrong visiting any time of year. But if you like warmer weather, summer is when to come to South Haven. It's perfect for nature lovers with scenic trips everywhere you look.
The Experience: South Haven
Located at the mouth of Black River on Lake Michigan, South Haven is a gorgeous resort town with beaches, hiking trails and orchards. Go for a local wine sampling in the center of town, visit one of several museums, or take your pooch to Decadent Dogs.
And be sure to visit Clementine's, a restaurant favored among locals that serves classic American food. It's situated in an 1896 building that used to be a bank, and it still has many of the original features.
51. Tiptonville, Tennessee
Where to stay: Eagle's Rest Inn
Best time to visit: Tennessee is at its most beautiful in the fall, when it is graced with mild weather and gorgeous fall foliage.
The Experience: Tiptonville
This west Tennessee town is located near the Missouri border. While visiting, you'll have access to Reelfoot Lake State Park and Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge. And if that's not enough water for you, you'll also have the Mississippi River to the west.
Water pretty much defines life in Tiptonville. Residents and visitors take advantage of the town's natural surroundings, especially to enjoy water sports.
50. Chelan, Washington
Where to stay: Riverwalk Inn
Best time to visit: Go in October to experience Lake Chelan Crush, a two-weekend grape-crushing and wine-tasting event. It's also apple harvesting time, so you can find an orchard to apple pick, too.
The Experience: Chelan
Chelan is located on the southern tip of Lake Chelan, a long and narrow lake that stretches for 51 miles. Grab a fishing pole and search for lake trout, longnose suckers, brook and rainbow trout, among many other species.
Chelan is also a popular destination spot for wine lovers, as there are over 35 wineries located in the area. The downtown is host to a lot of little shops, restaurants and bakeries.
49. Salt Springs, Florida
Where to stay: Lakeview Cabin
Best time to visit: Come during winter for mild weather and plenty of manatee-watching opportunities.
The Experience: Salt Springs
Another gem in Florida's Lake County, Salt Springs is near Ocala National Forest. This wonderland of pristine springs is a side of Florida most people never see.
The crystal-clear springs are the main attraction. You can take boat tours if staying dry is very important, but the absolute best way to experience the springs is to rent a kayak and slowly wade through the beautiful ecosystem. Manatees abound in these waters, especially in the winter when they migrate south seeking warmth, so you're basically guaranteed to see these gentle giants feeding on seagrass and floating peacefully around.
Word of warning: You may also see alligators — this is Florida, after all.
48. Lake George, New York
Where to stay: The Inn at Erlowest
Best time to visit: Come during the summer, when the weather is beautiful and water activities are in full swing.
The Experience: Lake George
The village of Lake George is located at the southern end of Lake George, aka the "Queen of American Lakes." The town dates back to the 19th century but was officially incorporated in 1903. It still has a 19th-century courthouse and jail, and the Lake George Steamboat Company, founded in 1817, is still operating out of the village.
Lake George is a popular tourist destination during the summer, where the steamboats are traveling the lake, the rodeos are open, and the farmers markets are full of fresh goat cheese and maple syrup from the Adirondacks.
47. Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Where to stay: La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Santa Rosa
Best time to visit: Come in the spring to enjoy the water without having to deal with the sweltering heat of summer in New Mexico.
The Experience: Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa may be small and pretty much surrounded by desert, but it is still known as the "City of Natural Lakes." The city is near the 3,500-acre Santa Rosa Lake and its eponymous state park. But it's also known for the Blue Hole. This scuba diving hot spot is a narrow pool that only measures 60 feet in width but is 81 feet deep.
Besides offering the typical lake activities, Santa Rosa is also a stop along the historic Route 66. This means you'll have plenty of photo ops at spots that have been around since the route's heyday.
46. Summersville, West Virginia
Where to stay: Cabin at the lake
Best time to visit: Summer is the perfect season to enjoy lakes and rivers in West Virginia. Summersville boasts the largest lake in the state, so you'll definitely want it to be warm enough to swim. It's even in the name of the town.
The Experience: Summersville
"Almost Heaven, West Virginia" sang John Denver, and it's true that parts of the state can be paradisiacal. With 60 miles of shoreline, Summersville is one of these places.
Taking its name from the largest lake in the state, Summersville is a popular lake getaway during the warmer months. Summersville Lake State Wildlife Area has picnicking, boating and swimming. There's scuba diving for those who are interested in the sport but don't want to do it in the open sea. You'll also find a beautiful beach perfect for some family fun.
45. Greensboro, Georgia
Where to stay: The Lodge On Lake Oconee
Best time to visit: Come during spring or fall, when the temperature is not yet cold and the summer crowds are not around.
The Experience: Greensboro
Atlanta may have famous urban spaces, but sometimes, you need much more green and much less concrete.
When this is the case, people like to head to Greensboro, where they can hang out in Lake Oconee. With six nearby golf courses and a Ritz-Carlton nearby, the town attracts an affluent crowd looking for peace in nature that’s luxurious rather than rustic.
44. Oakridge, Oregon
Where to stay: Westfir Lodge
Best time to visit: The main attraction in the area is Salt Creek Falls, the second highest waterfall in Oregon. The falls are the most magnificent in late spring and early summer when the mountain snow melts, making the falls their fastest and fattest.
The Experience: Oakridge
Oakridge is situated 18 miles outside Waldo Lake, one of the purest lakes in the world. There are numerous alpine lakes and small mountain peaks around Waldo as well, making Oakridge a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Within Oakridge itself, mountain bikers enjoy tackling the Alpine Trail. Rest your head at Westfir Lodge, the only ride-in, ride-out accommodations in the Westfir-Oakridge Area. Stewart’s 58 Drive-In is a favorite food stop along Hwy 58, offering drive-in fare prepared to order, using local, natural and organic ingredients.
43. Galena, Illinois
Where to stay:The Cottage on Lake Galena
Best time to visit: Between May and October, the mild-to-hot temperatures make for the most enjoyable time outdoors.
The Experience: Galena
Rich with history, rolling hills and outdoor recreation, Galena is a small but booming town. Among the area’s most prized amenities is the scenic, 225-acre man-made Lake Galena.
Main Street is another hit. Here, you can sign up for a ghost tour to see a spookier side of the area. Amelia’s Galena Ghost Tours offers historical and paranormal tours through a haunted pub crawl, vineyard tours or a shuttle bus ghost tour. When in town, be sure to grab a meal at the delicious Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant. A stay at The Cottage on Lake Galena offers a private lakeside retreat, complete with hot tubs, fireplaces and more.
42. Frisco, Colorado
Where to stay:Frisco Lodge Bed & Breakfast
Best time to visit: Winter thrives with winter sports, and we recommend heading to nearby Keystone Lake to ice skate on 5 acres of ice. The lake is one of the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor ice rinks in North America.
The Experience: Frisco
Hugging Dillon Reservoir, Frisco is a nature lover’s playground. Take in the lake life at Frisco Bay Marina. Located at just over 9,000 feet, it’s a certified clean marina. There are sailboat lessons and rentals, a rowing center, a sandy beach, waterside dining and Marina Park.
Explore the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in the winter. Frisco Lodge even lends out snowshoes for winter exploration. The many breweries in the area are a big hit, including Outer Range Brewing Company. For deliciously fresh food, people flock to Pure Kitchen.
41. Versailles, Missouri
Where to stay: Lakefront home
Best time to visit: Although swimming in the cold is only for the strong, going in the fall lets you enjoy the gorgeous foliage for which the Ozarks are known.
The Experience: Versailles
It may not have the golden glamor of the Sun King’s palace in France, but Versailles, Missouri, holds its own in terms of lakeside attractions.
The small town is on Lake of the Ozarks, so you’ll be able to enjoy swimming, canoeing and boating to your heart’s content.
If you want a different kind of activity, visit Jacob’s Cave, a large beautiful cave near the town.
40. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Where to stay: The VUE Boutique Hotel
Best time to visit: Fall is the prettiest season in Wisconsin Dells. You can enjoy both lake activities and fall activities like the Wo-Zha-Wa Days Fall Festival, which has markets, fairs and parades.
The Experience: Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin Dells is often overlooked when it comes to Wisconsin lake towns. We think this is a travesty given the town's proximity to Lake Delton and Mirror Lake State Park as well as the Wisconsin River.
The area where the town is located is known for beautiful sandstone formations that were once caved by glaciers. If you want to take a break from nature, there are also two water parks with indoor and outdoor pools, and a magic theater.
39. Bayfield, Colorado
Where to stay: Pine River Lodge
Best time to visit: Come between May and mid-June, when fish are plentiful at the lake. However, if ice fishing is more your thing, come for the annual ice fishing tournament held in mid-February.
The Experience: Bayfield
Another Colorado lake town, Bayfield features a small historic district with a few shops and restaurants in town, but it’s the town’s Vallecito Lake that’s the star. Vallecito is one of the highest mountain lakes of its size anywhere, residing at 8,000 feet above sea level.
Live music, beautiful views and home-style cooking can be found at The Lake House Bar & Grill. The lake is full of rainbow trout, brown trout and northern pike, making it a big draw for fishing. Also, be sure to check out the Tour of Carvings — 14 carvings standing around 18-feet tall created after the Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002 burned 70,000 acres.
38. Vergennes, Vermont
Where to stay: Basin Harbor Resort & Boat Club
Best time to visit: The fall foliage is not to be missed in Vergennes, so plan a trip in mid-October for crisp, yet enjoyable temperatures and fiery hues all around.
The Experience: Vergennes
Situated on Lake Champlain, Vergennes is as picturesque as it gets. A stay at Basin Harbor Resort makes for an authentic Vermont experience on the shores of the lake.
Sip on local craft cider at Shacksbury Cider, stop by the Bixby Library to marvel at the stained-glass dome in its lobby, and picnic by the scenic falls at Vergennes Falls Park. Vergennes Laundry is a must for wood-fired baked goods.
37. Lake Placid, New York
Where to stay: Lake Placid Stagecoach Inn
Best time to visit: If you go in the winter, there are incredible skiing trails — Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and 1980. If you visit during the summer, there are places to go mountain biking, golfing, fly fishing and cliff jumping if you're so inclined.
The Experience: Lake Placid
The town of Lake Placid is located in the Adirondack Mountains and nestled around the southernmost tip of the lake. For a while, Lake Placid had the best skiing in the United States, attracting the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and then 1980.
It still has fantastic skiing opportunities, as well as a Winter Olympic museum. This is where the "Miracle on Ice" happened, when the United States beat the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics, popularizing the "USA! USA!" chant.
Aside from its intriguing history, Lake Placid boasts fantastic trails to sightsee the Adirondacks, upscale restaurants and boutique shops.
36. Charlevoix, Michigan
Where to stay: Horton Creek Inn
Best time to visit: Head over there in the spring or summer to avoid those blistering Michigan winters.
The Experience: Charlevoix
Charlevoix is a beautiful small lake town set on Round Lake. It has several golf courses and a downtown area that's filled with small shops. You won't find any big box stores in Charlevoix, which outlawed them after Walmart tried to enter the town's borders.
Aside from boating and trail hikes, there are Earl Young's mushroom houses to visit and historic architecture to sightsee.
Charlevoix is where Ernest Hemingway set his Nick Adams stories.
35. Crosslake, Minnesota
Where to stay: Whitefish Lodge and Suites
Best time to visit: Summer is the only time of the year when you'll be able to enjoy the water without freezing. That said, winter brings about ice fishing and, if you're lucky, you may even get to see aurora borealis.
The Experience: Crosslake
The towns along Lake Superior get most of the out-of-state attention. And while we can't deny that the Great Lake is majestic, we'd also like to remind you that Minnesota is nicknamed, "The Land of 10,000 Lakes."
It's not even an exaggeration. Just head to Crosslake to see it for yourself. This town is lakes upon lakes upon lakes upon lakes. There are so many lakes around it, we couldn't even tell you exactly how many they are.
If all you want is to be in the water the entire time you're not sleeping or eating, Crosslake will give you the opportunity to do just that.
34. Grand Isle, Vermont
Where to stay: Lakefront cabin with beach access
Best time to visit: Unless you love the pain of being by the water in the winter, save yourself the trouble and go in the summer or fall.
The Experience: Grand Isle
True to its name, Grand Isle is a large island in the middle of Lake Champlain. Take a ferry west, and you'll cross the state line into New York. Go a bit north, and you'll find yourself in Canada. A quick boat ride to a smaller island east will land you at a regional airport.
One of the best things about Grand Isle is how connected it is, despite being fairly remote. The island is also home to Grand Isle State Park, so you literally could not avoid nature if you wanted to.
For some quirky fun, head to South Hero, a community in the south of the island, where you'll find intricate miniature stone castles that have been deemed one of the coolest castles in the U.S.
33. Pinedale, Wyoming
Where to stay: Gannett Peak Lodge
Best time to visit: There is no bad time to visit Wyoming, but summer is great for actually swimming in the lakes.
The Experience: Pinedale
Yes, Jackson Hole is amazing, but if you want a less touristy experience in the Wyoming mountains at a fraction of the cost, consider stopping in Pinedale.
Surrounded by numerous peaks, it is also very close to the large Freemont Lake, where water activities and hiking are the best ways to spend the long summer days. Other nearby lakes include Willow Lake, Half Moon Lake and Boulder Lake.
In the winter, you can enjoy snow sports at White Pine Ski Resort.
32. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Where to stay: Beaver Lakefront Cabins
Best time to visit: Summer brings the town to life and makes jumping in one of the lakes a great way to cool down.
The Experience: Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs is constantly referred to as one of the best small towns in the U.S., yet it’s rarely boasted as a perfect lake town.
The springs that give the town its name feed Lake Leatherwood. There’s also Table Rock Lake and Beaver Lake. That’s right. This town has three lakes you get to choose from, with each one specializing in certain activities.
Beaver Lake, for instance, is perfect for fishing, while mountain bikers head to Leatherwood to practice their sport.
31. Lakeside, Oregon
Where to stay: Lakeview home
Best time to visit: There is nothing like fall in the Pacific Northwest, so we highly recommend coming at this time.
The Experience: Lakeside
Can't choose between a lake and the beach? Despite what its name may imply, at Lakeside, you don't have to choose.
Blessed with a location right on North Tenmile Lake on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, this town is a perfect waterfront getaway. The only thing standing between you and the ocean are magnificent sand dunes that create a unique ecology.
30. Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina
Where to stay: Townhome with private pier
Best time to visit: Spring brings a pleasant temperature to enjoy the lake and its surroundings without feeling like you’re being cooked alive.
The Experience: Lake Waccamaw
Most people outside of North Carolina have never heard of Lake Waccamaw, probably because the town is very, very small. Also because those in the know would like to keep it a secret.
The lake is within a state park named after it, where you can see endemic fish and clam species, kayak or walk along natural trails.
Pro tip: Pack a fresh picnic, and enjoy it with the sounds of nature around you.
29. Shutesbury, Massachusetts
Where to stay: The Maguire House Bed and Breakfast
Best time to visit: Come in spring for swimming without the crowds and in the fall for boating and fishing.
The Experience: Shutesbury
Shutesbury's main draw is Lake Wyola State Park, which has facilities for plenty of fun activities like boating, swimming, fishing and picnicking. Families traveling with kids can rest assured knowing that there are designated lifeguards from late spring to late summer.
If you want an even bigger lake, you can also head to the Quabbin Reservoir, which boasts 180 miles of shoreline. Fishing and boating are particularly popular here.
28. Greenville, Maine
Where to stay: Greenville Inn
Best time to visit: Come during the "Moosemania" festival in spring when moose sightings are in the hundreds.
The Experience: Greenville
The small town of Greenville sits on stunning Moosehead Lake. The lake serves as the second-largest lake in New England and the largest mountain lake in the Eastern United States. A stay at Greenville Inn will put you just one block from Moosehead Lake and downtown Greenville restaurants.
All four seasons entice with activities, from the plentiful hiking trails and moose safaris, to dog sledding and snowmobiling. Hop aboard Maine’s last remaining steamboat, The Katahdin, for a leisurely cruise around the lake. Enjoy a beer and a view on the deck at Kelly’s Landing, and dine in style at The Lodge.
27. Lake Lure, North Carolina
Where to stay: Fox Run Resort
Best time to visit: Visit in October to comfortably enjoy a range of outdoor activities. The average temperature falls around 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air is moderately humid.
The Experience: Lake Lure
Checking into Fox Run Resort will put you in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. Explore the resort’s 2,700 acres, two 18-hole golf courses and onsite water sports.
Stroll the shopping and restaurants in the village of Chimney Rock, and then check out Lake Lure Tours for guided boat tours and boat rentals when you’re not relaxing on the wide and sandy beach of the lake. Take a day trip to the renowned city of Asheville, located just 27 miles away.
26. Clarksville, Virginia
Where to stay: Magnuson Hotel on the Lake
Best time to visit: A mid-July visit will land you in town just in time for the Clarksville's Annual Virginia Lake Festival — named "One of the Top 20 Events" by the Southeast Tourism Society for many years.
The Experience: Clarksville
Virginia’s only lakeside town, quaint Clarksville rests on the shore of the 50,000-acre Lake Kerr. Outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, camping and hiking, reign supreme.
Each year, dozens of fishing tournaments take place, while there are also various regionally famous festivals to attend. Check into Magnuson Hotel on the Lake for breathtaking views of Lake Kerr. The hotel puts you near Prestwould Plantation, Occoneechee State Park and MacCallum More Museum and Garden as well.
25. Grand Marais, Minnesota
Where to stay: Grand Marais Hotel Company
Best time to visit: Check it out in August to see the Fisherman's Picnic festival. The "Fish Pic," as the locals call it, has been celebrated for over 90 years. Expect food trucks, art vendors, family-friendly fun and fish burgers.
The Experience: Grand Marais
Grand Marais is a small town on the shores of Lake Superior, and it's a picture-perfect place that's host to a number of annual festivals. Arts are alive and well in Grand Marais, as the town has a thriving art community and an arts festival that occurs in July.
Downtown, you'll have a number of classy little shops, like Beth's Fudge & Gifts and Birchbark Books & Gifts.
And there are lots of lake activities, plus you don't need to worry about crowding — Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area.
24. Bayview, Idaho
Where to stay: Gold Creek Lodge
Best time to visit: Summer is the only time when it is warm enough to swim comfortably — unless you’re one of those people that love pretending they’re a polar bear swimming in the Arctic.
The Experience: Bayview
Why stay near a lake when you can stay on the lake? This is what people who visit Bayview probably ask themselves, and their logic is flawless.
The beautiful floating village is located right on Lake Pend Oreille. It is also near the majestic Coeur d’Alene Mountains, making for postcard-perfect landscapes and ideal seclusion.
Nature lovers return to this town again and again to swim, hike and feel miles away from the noise of modernity.
23. Talkeetna, Alaska
Where to stay: Talkeetna Inn
Best time to visit: Though winter in Alaska is incredibly harsh, Talkeetna hosts numerous festivals during the season to keep spirits up. If you want to actually swim in the lakes and rivers, summer is the only time to do so without freezing.
The Experience: Talkeetna
Talkeetna is famous for being one of the gateways to Denali National Park, home to the tallest mountain in the United States.
The town is crossed by three rivers, but it's also surrounded by several lakes, the best of which is Christiansen Lake. This blessed geography makes this a perfect place for water activities, including salmon and trout fishing and kayaking. You can also hike around the national park and even try to trek up to the summit of Mount Denali.
Only two hours from Anchorage, Talkeetna is an incredible Alaskan destination that has been called the state's "quirkiest town."
22. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Where to stay: Mission Point Resort
Best time to visit: Events are in full swing come summer, including the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, which celebrates the area's collection of some of the oldest, most lush French lilacs in the nation.
The Experience: Mackinac Island
Fairytale land is alive and well on Mackinac Island. Surrounded by Lake Huron, the small lake town bans motor vehicles. The only modes of transportation permitted are walking or horse-and-buggy.
When you’re not attending a festival or lounging on the expansive waterfront lawn of Mission Point Resort, order up the Planked Whitefish at Cawthorne's Village Inn, located just off of Main Street downtown.
21. De Smet, South Dakota
Where to stay: De Smet Super Deluxe Inn & Suites
Best time to visit: Summer is mild and pleasant, but fall brings with it fun harvest activities.
The Experience: De Smet
If "Little House on the Prairie" sounds ideal to you, you need to plan a visit to De Smet as soon as possible.
Laura Ingalls Wilder based the book on her family's experience as one of the first settlers in the town. Fans of the book can visit her home and join costumed guides that take you around different pioneering sites.
After touring, you can cool down at one of the several lakes that are near De Smet, like Lake Thompson, Lake Whitewood and Lake Preston.
20. Rangeley, Maine
Where to stay: Dog-friendly lake cottage
Best time to visit: Winter breathes life into Rangeley. The town's generous snowfalls attract people seeking to do some serious cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Experience: Rangeley
Sitting at the entrance of Rangeley State Park, this small town is a nature lover's dream. Besides forested mountains, the town borders Rangeley Lake and Mooselookmeguntic Lake and is near several other ponds and lakes.
Winter is particularly popular, as the town turns into a skiing paradise. Still, any time of year is great for fishing and hiking. The summer is especially perfect for those who want to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about the sweltering heat.
19. Bellaire, Michigan
Where to stay: The Grand Victorian B&B
Best time to visit: Unless you're looking to do some ice fishing, come to Michigan in the summer when the weather is nice and temperate.
The Experience: Bellaire
Located on the lake it shares a name with, Bellaire is also situated near Torch Lake, Intermediate Lake, Clam Lake and others. Most impressively, it's very close to Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.
With all these lakes to choose from, you have no shortage of lake activities to enjoy. Fishing is a huge part of the culture here, so if that's what you're looking for, you'll find a strong community. Summer is the best time to come, so you can enjoy swimming and kayaking without worrying about the freezing winds that winter brings with it.
18. White Lake, North Carolina
Where to stay: An eco cabin on Airbnb
Best time to visit: Come in May to enjoy the annual White Lake Water Festival, which includes tractor pulls, firemen Olympics, beach bands, a classic car show, arts and crafts, a parade and a 10k run.
The Experience: White Lake
The white, sandy bottom and crystal clear water of White Lake make it a burgeoning resort scene. The lake features some 1,200 acres that visitors can take advantage of for swimming, boating, wakeboarding, jet skiing and water skiing opportunities.
Snag an Airbnb rental, like an eco cabin featuring an extensive decking area, a private fishing pier and floating dock, to enjoy supreme lake time. The Cork Room is a delightful dining experience immersed in nature and offering locally sourced food and wine.
17. Saugatuck, Michigan
Where to stay: Lake Shore Resort
Best time to visit: The small lake town thrives in the summer, when visitors and locals enjoy their pick of six pristine beaches for sunbathing and swimming.
The Experience: Saugatuck
Lay back on a lounger and take in the sound of the lapping lake beneath you at Lake Shore Resort. Minutes away, downtown Saugatuck offers an eclectic mix of shops, including the iconic outdoor clothing and equipment store, Landsharks. The town is known for its fine art in every medium as well as finely crafted goods.
Adventure seekers love Saugatuck Dunes State Park for its 13 miles of sandy trails. As far as culinary adventures go, you’ll find seasonal food, craft beers, unique spirits and homemade desserts at Borrowed Time.
16. Marblehead, Ohio
Where to stay: Lakeside cottage
Best time to visit: Winter in the Great Lakes can be brutal, so come in the summer to enjoy the strong breeze and the refreshing temperature of the water.
The Experience: Marblehead
Looking to enjoy the wonders of Lake Erie? Head to the interestingly named town of Marblehead.
A vacation here does include the typical lake town attractions like boating and swimming. Plus, the size of this Great Lake guarantees that you feel more like you're at the sea than at a lake. But what we love about Marblehead is that it also provides opportunities for less typical fun.
Head to Marblehead State Park, for instance, and visit the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Or find a lakeside restaurant and sip some wine as the breeze soothes you.
15. Okoboji, Iowa
Where to stay: Vintage Block Inn & Suites
Best time to visit: Go during the summer to enjoy jet skiing, parasailing and flyboarding, as well as to visit the amusement park when it's open.
The Experience: Okoboji
Okoboji is one of Iowa's best-kept secrets. With a privileged location by the Iowa Great Lakes, you'll have access to five glacier-carved lakes that provide opportunities for great fun.
The lakes are dotted with beaches and surrounded by state parks, but the town has also developed tourism infrastructure to cater to the summer crowds. On the water, families like to swim and play beach volleyball, but we encourage you to try more extreme sports like jet skiing, parasailing and flyboarding. The latter involves using a jet pack to hover above the water.
On dry land, the must-do activity is visiting the Arnolds Park Amusement Park and daring to ride its 1930s roller coaster or enjoying the views from its Ferris wheel.
14. Dollar Point, California
Where to stay: Lake Tahoe beach condo
Best time to visit: Lake Tahoe is idyllic year-round, so this really depends on the activities that you prefer. Water activities like swimming are best in the spring and summer.
The Experience: Dollar Point
The only problem with Lake Tahoe is that its beauty has made it way too popular. Sometimes, it can be difficult to enjoy the lake when you have to share it with hundreds of other people. This is why we love Dollar Point, a tiny town right on the lake that not many out-of-towners know about.
Besides having premium access to Lake Tahoe, there are beaches, trails and boat ramps. For those traveling in the winter, there is also a cross-country skiing area that is rarely crowded.
The Experience: Blairsville
Tucked into the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville is home to three sparkling lakes: the 18-acre Lake Winfield Scott, the 20-acre lake and beach at Vogel State Park, and the 4,180-acre Lake Nottely with 106 miles of shoreline.
When you’re not lakeside, summit Georgia’s highest peak, Brasstown Bald. Check out the locally made wines at places like Odom Springs Vineyards. Lodge in a cozy cabin with a hot tub and mountain views at the 35-acre Paradise Hills Winery Resort & Spa. And for some of North Georgia’s best barbecue, dine at Jim's Smokin' Que.
12. Aurora, New York
Where to stay: Inns of Aurora
Best time to visit: Upstate New York gets frigid in the winter, so to truly enjoy the charm that comes alive in this 19th century small lake town, make your trip in the summer.
The Experience: Aurora
This storybook village is set on Cayuga Lake. Situated in the Finger Lakes region of central New York, the town offers easy access to 11 pristine lakes and 40-plus waterfalls. Check into the Inns of Aurora for a 180-degree view of Cayuga Lake.
There’s plenty of nearby wineries and craft breweries in town to enjoy when you’re not hiking Watkins State Park or fishing in the lake. Go to the seasonal Wheelhouse Restaurant, located on the lake, and order up the Fisherman Platter.
11. Huntsville, Utah
Where to stay: Valley House Inn
Best time to visit: Spring brings the perfect weather for lake activities. The water will be a bit cold, but it beats dealing with Utah's summer heat.
The Experience: Huntsville
Huntsville is located on the large Pineview Reservoir. The lake is popular for water sports like waterskiing and boating, which you can enjoy thanks to its size. There are also several beaches in case you want to go a more relaxed route or take a refreshing swim.
When you're done with the water activities, you absolutely have to head to the Shooting Star Saloon. Opened in the 1850s, this bar is the oldest in all of Utah. The food and beer are also good.
10. Hammondsport, New York
Where to stay: Keuka Lakeside Inn
Best time to visit: Fall is famously beautiful in New York, and harvest also brings interesting flavors to the area’s breweries.
The Experience: Hammondsport
Hammondsport’s Keuka Lake has the honor of being the only lake in the entire world that is shaped like a Y. Besides the usual water activities, you’ll be able to go on light nature walks around the boundaries of the lake.
When you’re finished with water activities, there are wine cellars and breweries to tour and enjoy, as well as relaxing spas. Not bad for a town with less than 800 people.
9. Garden City, Utah
Where to stay: Lakefront home with private beach
Best time to visit: Garden City is very popular during the summer, receiving visitors from Utah and Idaho looking to vacation in the "Caribbean of the Rockies."
The Experience: Garden City
Despite its size, Garden City enjoys popularity thanks to its location on the shores of the cerulean waters of Bear Lake.
The lake is absolutely breathtaking, especially because people don't expect to find the distinct color of its water in Utah. But those who know the state's secret come here during the summer to swim, kayak and have an all-around good time. In July, the town celebrates Raspberry Days, which is mostly an excuse to stuff yourself with as many raspberry-flavored foods as your body can handle.
8. Grand Rivers, Kentucky
Where to stay: Rose of the Lakes Bed and Breakfast
Best time to visit: While you probably want to visit during the summer to take advantage of the lake life, the winter has its charms, too. Grand Rivers has an annual Festival of Lights event in November, and it really is dazzling.
The Experience: Grand Rivers
Grand Rivers is a tiny little town located on an isthmus between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
It's an absolutely gorgeous location with numerous places to fish, hunt and play. There's a playhouse for year-round, family-fun entertainment.
Be sure to visit Patti's 1880s Restaurant, an eatery so popular, it serves 350,000 people per year.
7. Westmore, Vermont
Where to stay: WilloughVale Inn
Best time to visit: Summer in Vermont is idyllic for swimming, camping and hiking.
The Experience: Westmore
Westmore's main attraction is Willoughby Lake. This large glacial lake offers natural beaches that can be enjoyed by all ages and is surrounded by mountains. Hikers enjoy trekking to the peak of Mount Pisgah and Bald Mountain, though there are also several trails that are more about the scenery than about getting to the top.
Though the lake is at its best in the winter, Westmore also has plenty of winter activities thanks to its mountains. You can enjoy skiing while taking in the beauty of the lake, even if it's too cold to enjoy a splash in it.
6. Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
Where to stay: Gorgeous mountain cabin
Best time to visit: Spring through fall are perfect for lakeside water activities, and winter brings fun skiing opportunities.
The Experience: Snoqualmie Pass
It's not often that you get a lake town and a ski town in one, which is exactly what makes Snoqualmie Pass so unique.
From spring to fall, it's the lakes that attract people, as the town is right on the northern shores of Keechelus Lake. True lake aficionados also make time to visit nearby Kachess Lake and Cle Elum Lake.
During this time, the mountains that surround the town make for some great hiking. But come winter, the crowds come prepared with snowboard and ski gear, ready to hit the slopes. Those who love the snow but don't want to do sports can go snow tubing instead.
The Experience: Moose Pass
Besides having a really awesome name, Moose Pass is surrounded by beautiful lakes. The best known is Kenai Lake, but there's also Crescent Lake, Tern Lake and Grant Lake. The town itself is located on the banks of the Trail Lakes, a series of large interconnected lakes.
The town is tiny but offers plenty of opportunities for exploring the Alaskan wilderness safely. Hiking around Crown Point Mine Trail will give you the opportunity to see brown bears, moose, beavers, bald eagles and mountain goats. But you might also run into some old mines.
If you're a hunter, or simply have an ax or knife you want to keep sharp, you can head to the Ed Estes' Historic Waterwheel. This small landmark is pretty to look at but also receives visitors seeking to grind their axes.
4. Grand Lake, Colorado
Where to stay: Overlook at Grand Lake
Best time to visit: With an average of 130 inches of snowfall per year, winter is an ideal time to visit for winter sports enthusiasts.
The Experience: Grand Lake
This teensy town is filled with natural grandeur. Situated on the pristine shores of the largest natural lake in Colorado, the village is your gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. A stay at Overlook makes for a unique mountain lodging experience, complete with unobstructed views of the lake and beyond.
Grand Lake offers access to hundreds of acres of backcountry terrain where deep powder promises world-class snowmobiling, snowshoeing and skiing. The area is also known for its supreme ice fishing, ice hockey and ice skating. During the warmer months, an al fresco dining experience among the rapids at the Rapids Restaurant is a must.
3. Spring Branch, Texas
Where to stay: Hampton Inn Bulverde Texas Hill Country
Best time to visit: Though it's named after a spring and not the actual season, it is still a sign that this is the best time to visit.
The Experience: Spring Branch
Located a mere hour away from San Antonio, Spring Ranch feels like a whole other world. The small town is near beautiful Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River that feeds into it.
Opportunities for water activities abound, and there are also several parks and golf courses around.
2. Island Park, Idaho
Where to stay: Eagle Ridge Adventures
Best time to visit: Visit in the winter to avoid the summer Yellowstone crowds. Winter is also a popular time for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
The Experience: Island Park
Island Park sits by a large reservoir from which it gets its name. The small town is a gateway to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, where it's usually less busy than other entrances.
The reservoir makes Island Park a great lake town and a popular year-round destination for those who like fluvial landscapes. But there's also plenty of things to do besides have fun in the lake or visit Yellowstone (though those two things will keep you plenty busy). The town's main street, for instance, stretches 36.8 miles, making it the longest in the entire world. Its Island Park Caldera is also one of the largest in the world, with a diameter of 23 miles.
1. Salem, South Carolina
Where to stay: Keowee Lake Luxury Condo
Best time to visit: Visit during fall to get the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains and perfect weather.
The Experience: Salem
If you've even heard of Salem, South Carolina, chances are you're from the area. With just over 100 people, this tiny, tiny lake town is a true hidden gem you'll want to keep hidden from everyone except your closest friends. Its best feature is that it sits right on Lake Jocasse and Lake Keowee, both large lakes that will provide you with ample time in the water. Boating, kayaking, jet skiing and even scuba diving are popular ways to enjoy the lakes.
But besides this, Salem is at the foot of the mystic Blue Ridge Mountains, providing visitors with endless hiking trails and a number of gorgeous waterfalls. Oh, also, this is South Carolina, so the food tastes like it was made by angels.