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The 16 Best Lake Towns in the U.S.

If you’re looking for a lake getaway that not only brings the opportunity to enjoy fun on, in, and around the water but a town with shopping, dining, and other attractions, there are plenty of options across the U.S. From a famous town on a lake straddling the border of California and Nevada to spots in the Great Lakes regions and the charming South – you’re sure to find something on this list for your next lake escape.

Copper Harbor, Michigan Aerial View Of Lake Superior And Copper Harbor Michigan
Credit: Aerial View Of Lake Superior And Copper Harbor Michigan by © Ehrlif - Dreamstime.com

Copper Harbor, Michigan

Located along Lake Superior at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Harbor is one of the most charming towns in the Midwest. Best of all, it offers all sorts of fun on the water, including trips to Michigan’s only national park, Isle Royale. While copper mining was once its biggest draw, today tourists can explore history at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, which preserves an 1844 military outpost and includes the 1866 Copper Harbor Lighthouse. There are endless opportunities for hiking and scenic drives – Brockway Mountain Drive offers some of the most breathtaking views east of the Rockies, including Lake Superior from up to 1,300 feet above sea level.

Rangeley, Maine Rangeley Lake
Credit: Rangeley Lake by bigstock.com

Rangeley, Maine

Rangeley is a beautiful town in Maine that sits at the heart of the Rangely Lakes region, a four-season paradise in the mountains of western Maine. Located on Rangeley Lake, it’s surrounded by wilderness while offering lake cruises, swimming, and fishing for landlocked salmon or brook trout. Or, paddle across the water while watching for moose, eagles, and herons. The mountainous terrain offers scenic trails that bring breathtaking views and you won’t want to miss a tour of Maine Mountain Maple plantation, which turns locally tapped sap into syrup.

Burlington, Vermont Burlington, Vermont
Credit: Burlington, Vermont by © Wellesenterprises | Dreamstime.com

Burlington, Vermont

The city of Burlington has a beautiful waterfront located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain. It’s home to Waterfront Park, where you can get out on the water and play in the summer, simply relax and enjoy the scenery and spectacular sunsets with pinks and purples splashed over the Adirondacks. There are many summer festivals, with a different one practically every weekend, and exploring the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center is fun in any season.

South Lake Tahoe, California Lake Tahoe beach
Credit: Lake Tahoe beach by © Valentin Armianu - Dreamstime.com

South Lake Tahoe, California

One of the most popular year-round destinations in California, South Lake Tahoe is renowned for its winter skiing and warm weather activities, with opportunities for all sorts of water sports, from scenic cruises to stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating. Just looking out at the lake is enjoyable, with its hues ranging from Caribbean blue to emerald and you’ll find 55 acres of long sandy beaches for doing just that. The dining, shopping, and entertainment options are nearly endless and just across the state line on the Nevada side, you can test your luck with casino gambling. Nearby accommodations abound, with everything from mom-and-pop-type hotels to luxurious resorts overlooking the lake.

Lake George, New York Lake George, New York in the fall
Credit: Lake George, New York in the fall by © Phillip Gray | Dreamstime.com

Lake George, New York

Lake George is a beautiful lake getaway in New York State, offering picture-perfect views of the Adirondack Mountains. Offering the perfect balance of outdoor adventure and relaxation, Lake George is packed with a long list of activities throughout the year. In warmer months, you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, and lake cruises on the pristine water. Hop in a kayak on a guided tour or take in the impressive scenery from land along the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway. If you’re up for a hike, you can follow the trail to the top of Prospect Mountain. 

Mammoth Lakes, California Lake scene at Mammoth Lakes
Credit: Lake scene at Mammoth Lakes by melissamn/Shutterstock.com

Mammoth Lakes, California

Nestled in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California between Yosemite National Park and the Nevada border, Mammoth Lakes is all about the outdoors. One of California’s top lake getaways, it offers a long list of adventures on offer and world-class beers to enjoy afterward. Spend your days at Mammoth Mountain, famous for its single-track runs for mountain biking and scenic trails for hiking that meander through wildflower-filled meadows and pine forests, crossing alpine peaks. On the lake, kayak, fish, paddleboard, or just cool off on a hot summer’s day.

Chelan, Washington Lake Chelan, Washington
Credit: Lake Chelan, Washington by © Kbferguson20 | Dreamstime.com

Chelan, Washington

Chelan is the main town on Washington State’s longest natural lake in Washington. Located at the base of the North Cascade Mountains, the 55-mile-long lake is known for its frequent blue skies, clear blue waters, and sandy beaches with views of 7,000-foot-high rugged mountains. The resort town of Chelan itself offers plenty, including boutique shopping and outstanding golf. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy touring and tasting, and multiple wineries and vineyards throughout the area too.

Grand Lake, Colorado Grand Lake, Colorado
Credit: Grand Lake, Colorado by Michael Schober/shutterstock.com

Grand Lake, Colorado

The western gateway to Rocky National Mountain Park, the village of Grand Lake offers plenty of allure itself with a historic boardwalk, 60 shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries. The lake is the deepest and largest in Colorado, one of the best when it comes to all manner of water sports, including fishing and boating. On land, enjoy horseback riding, hiking, golfing, and four-wheeling. On Independence Day, visitors can take in a magnificent fireworks display over the lake too.

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Credit: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho by © Wollertz | Dreamstime.com

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Coeur d’Alene is famous for its lake with the same name. Its brilliant blue waters are surrounded by pine-forested hills with soaring mountains beyond. Located in northern Idaho, it’s become a popular international destination among visitors who come for the 26-mile-long lake and its 135 miles of shoreline. Its southern reaches are tranquil and secluded, with sheltered coves and peaceful inlets, while the north end offers numerous brewpubs, art galleries, and resorts. The entire area is a birdwatcher’s paradise with the largest nesting population of osprey in the western U.S., and frequent bald eagle sightings too. The most serene way to enjoy the beauty and the wildlife is to paddle in a kayak.

Lake Placid, New York Chairs alongside Lake Placid New York
Credit: Chairs alongside Lake Placid New York by mervas/Shutterstock.com

Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid is famous for having hosted the Winter Olympic Games, but it’s a fabulous lake town for every season. During the warmer months, the lake is ideal for heading out in a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat. The fall is jaw-droppingly beautiful with the densely forested mountains that surround it featuring splashes of vibrant colors, including oak, maple, birch, and beech trees that will be bursting with brilliant orange, yellow, and crimson red.  There are fall festivals too, like the Flaming Leaves Festival hosted in early October that features juicy BBQ, craft vendors, lawn games, and more. You can even take a chairlift up to the top of the 120-meter ski jump for a bird’s-eye view over the striking natural beauty.

Lake Lure, North Carolina Lake Lure, North Carolina
Credit: Lake Lure, North Carolina by © Jon Bilous | Dreamstime.com

Lake Lure, North Carolina

A cathedral of mountains, rushing rivers, and a tranquil lake is what awaits in the town of Lake Lure. Enjoy its many charms, and perhaps take advantage of the romantic setting for an escape with the one you love. There’s plenty of history to explore and outdoor adventures to enjoy too. You might spend the day out on the water, fishing, boating, or kayaking. Or go hiking in the woods, mountain bike, or rock climbing. No matter what your sport, you’ll probably find it here, along with plenty of warm hospitality. In town, there’s a wide range of shopping, dining, and lodging options. All can be enjoyed among breathtaking scenic beauty at every turn.

Greensboro, Georgia Lake Oconee, Georgia
Credit: Lake Oconee, Georgia by melissambwilkins via Flickr

Greensboro, Georgia

The town of Greensboro sits along one of the top lakes in the South. Only about 75 miles outside of Atlanta, Lake Oconee is a 19,000-acre lake that provides some of the best fishing, boating, and other water recreation, including wakeboarding and kayaking, in the region. It’s bordered by the Oconee National Forest, providing locals and visitors alike with fabulous views. The town of Greensboro offers lots too, including some of the country’s top-rated golf courses and gourmet restaurants sure to satisfy after a day of play.

Osage Beach, Missouri Lake of the Ozarks with boat docks and forest
Credit: Lake of the Ozarks with boat docks and forest by bigstock.com

Osage Beach, Missouri

Osage Beach is arguably the best town on the Lake of the Ozarks, with 420 acres of waterfront ideal for boating and many other water sports. Nestled in the rolling hills of Central Missouri, the town itself offers a wide range of restaurants, bars, parks, and lakefront resorts. There are many state parks in the region and you’ll have access to the rest of the 1,150 miles of scenic shoreline too.

Big Fork, Montana Flathead Lake
Credit: Flathead Lake by Troy Smith via Flickr

Big Fork, Montana

Flathead Lake is one of the top lake destinations in Montana and the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It covers 200 square miles with 185 miles of beautiful shoreline and crystal-clear sapphire waters. One of the best towns to base yourself here is Bigfork, which is known for its Old West feel, with resorts similar to what you’d find in Colorado’s mining country. There are plenty of modern delights to enjoy, including art galleries, a theater, and festivals like the annual Festival of the Arts. In addition to water sports like fishing, swimming, and paddling, there are miles and miles of trails for hiking that provide picturesque views of the lake. Plus, you’ll have a wealth of accommodation options to choose from, including cabin rentals, hotels, and resorts.

Lake Havasu City, Arizona View from London Bridge, Havasu City
Credit: View from London Bridge, Havasu City by bigstock.com

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

One of the top lake destinations in Arizona and the Southwest, Lake Havasu is the perfect spot to cool off, drawing many to enjoy swimming, boating, paddling, fishing, and more. On land, hike, bike, go off-roading or golf at some of the state’s top courses. Plus, there are houseboats for rent along with a wide range of other accommodation options. It’s also famous for the London Bridge, the very bridge that was originally built in the U.K. but ended up here, delivered piece by piece in the 1960s.

Dillon, Colorado Dillon Lake, Colorado
Credit: Dillon Lake, Colorado by Bigstock.com

Dillon, Colorado

While Lake Dillon is close to multiple renowned ski resorts, it’s a summer playground too, with 26 miles of shoreline and a backdrop of the magnificent Rockies. Enjoy splashing around, boating, sailing, and more. Dillon Marina offers charter cruises, boat rentals, and weekend sailing regattas. You can also fish for your dinner as it’s stocked with salmon, cutthroat, and brook trout.

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