Bucket List May 01, 2022
by Sarah McCosham The 11 Most Beautiful Alpine Lakes In America Top Our Outdoor Bucket List
There’s something quite compelling about a beautiful body of water; these natural wonders invite quiet contemplation and encourage all sorts of outdoor recreation. And while this intrigue can be found in all bodies of water, there’s something especially beguiling and beautiful about alpine lakes. Found within majestic mountain ranges and peaks, these pristine waters are shockingly cold and cobalt blue, mirroring the beauty of their surroundings in a way that would make da Vinci swoon. Of course, beauteous views are always expected from a summit, but the opportunity for a cool dip or grounding moment in an untouched natural oasis is what takes your typical outdoor excursion and turns it into a
Gem Lake - Washington
Home to some of the most amazing
parks and peaks in the Pacific Northwest
, Washington's Gem Lake is a stunning blue pool nestled at the base of Wright Mountain in the Snoqualmie region. A hidden gem that will take your breath away, visitors here should be prepared for unreal sunsets with a veritable ROYGBIV of color. With alpine views and icy-blue water that you can actually swim in, Gem Lake is a wonderful Washington oasis in the summer; during the winter, when the landscape is snow-dusted and dazzling white, it's a sublime scene that's more perfect than pictures can capture.
Gem Lake, Washington 98045, USA
Wallowa Lake - Oregon
are one of Oregon's most striking natural wonders. Home to majestic mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and verdant forests, there's nowhere in the PNW quite like this range. There are numerous hiking trails in the Wallowas, each offering thrilling views of the majestic mountains. And while we're all for lacing up our shoes and hitting the trails, nothing quite compares to the views you'll get on the Wallowa Lake Tramway. This lift opens for the season in mid-May, and it's a perennial favorite worth enjoying year after year. This unique tram was the steepest four-person gondola in all of North America when it was built in 1970; and decades later, it remains a superlative Beaver State attraction. Ogle the views from the top at the aptly named Summit Grill, which sits at the 8,150-foot-level of Mt. Howard. And if you can't bring yourself to leave, stay and enjoy amazing, year-round camping at Wallowa Lake State Park.
Wallowa Lake, Oregon 97846, USA
Sawtooth Lake - Idaho
Sawtooths of Idaho
are celebrated for their scenic splendor, and the alpine lakes within this resplendent range are some of the most beautiful in the country. Crystal-clear, picture-perfect, and just waiting for a fly-rod, Sawtooth Lake is magical in all the right ways. Nestled within a beautiful glaciated bowl, hikers cresting the Sawtooth Lake basin are treated to jaw-dropping vistas of Mount Regan; the majestic (and most-photographed) mountain in the range that towers over the eponymous lake with grand omnipotence. The largest alpine lake in the range, Sawtooth is pure grandeur, making the 10-mile trek wholly worth each and every step.
Sawtooth Lake, Idaho 83637, USA
Hidden Lake - Montana
Within the wondrous wilds of Glacier National Park,
is a pristine alpine lake that's worth seeking out. With clear glassy waters that reveal glorious depths and reflect the surrounding alpine scenery, Hidden Lake is a true Treasure State gem. Accessing this slice of paradise is relatively easy, requiring an enjoyable three-mile trek through marvelous mountain landscape. One of the best features about this trail is that the entire length is open and exposed, which means you'll enjoy the rolling alpine hills and valleys in a way that rivals Maria's iconic "Sound of Music" moment.
Hidden Lake, Montana 59936, USA
Big Bear Lake - California
Located in the heart of Southern California, Big Bear Lake sits high in the San Bernardino Mountains, creating an
all-season haven of relaxation, adventure, and outdoor fun
. With 22 magnificent miles of perfect alpine lake shoreline, there are endless opportunities for visitors to enjoy myriad adventures here, whether its adrenaline-pumping water sports or a more quiet and peaceful retreat. With the well-appointed Big Bear Marina, visitors have access to all sorts of adventures and experiences, making this alpine lake one of the best all-around
in the country.
Lake Tahoe - California and Nevada
Lake Tahoe is an American icon. Easily the
prettiest and most popular alpine lake in the country
, Lake Tahoe sits on the state line between California and Nevada, surrounded by the majestic, snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Located at 6,225 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is the highest alpine lake in the country, and the second deepest. But superlatives aside, it's absolutely ravishing. The cold, crystal-clear waters of this lake are mesmerizing, and really provoke a sense of awe and wonder. Lake Tahoe is often lauded as one of the most beautiful places in the country, and it really does deserve each and every word of praise.
Lake Tahoe, United States
Mirror Lake - Colorado
At a staggering
11,020 feet in elevation
, Mirror Lake is one of the most iconic and sought-after alpine lakes in Colorado. But accessing this place of sublime beauty is not for the faint of heart, with the hike clocking in at eight strenuous miles with a 2,300-foot elevation gain. One look at Mirror Lake, however, will put any doubts to rest. Perched at 11,000 feet above sea level at the end of a glacier-carved gorge, Mirror Lake is surrounded by verdant forests and granite, often snow-covered peaks. It's the ultimate nature postcard, and the very best reward for your efforts.
Mirror Lake, Colorado 80466, USA
Lake Blanche - Utah
One of the most accessible alpine lakes in the U.S.,
is nestled in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level. Though the trail is nearly seven miles long, it's quite accessible for most hikers; a large portion of the loop is ADA-accessible, in fact. Winding past waterfalls and canyons, there's no shortage of scenery on the way to this lovely oasis. Lake Blanche is, in a word, stunning. You can see Sundial Peak towering over the lake, and the fresh air is scented with pine. During the height of fall foliage, this area takes on a golden grandeur that's not to be missed.
Lake Blanche, Utah 84121, USA
Spruce Knob Lake - West Virginia
Wild and wonderful, West Virginia certainly lives up to its "Mountain State" moniker. Nestled in Monongahela National Forest,
Spruce Knob Lake
is a slice of alpine paradise that rivals anything you'd find in the mountains of Europe. At 4,863 feet above sea level, Spruce Knob is West Virginia's highest peak, and the views in this mountainous region are magnificent. The best way to take it all in is at the Alpine Lake Resort, a beautiful destination located right along the border of West Virginia and Maryland. Guests at this resort are encouraged to hit the lake for some kayaking or canoeing, taking in the beautiful scenery and breathing the fresh mountain air. If you're looking for a mountain escape in the mid-Atlantic, this is it.
Spruce Knob Lake, West Virginia 26296, USA
Lake of the Clouds - New Hampshire
Lake of the Clouds is located in Mount Washington State Park and, while challenging to reach, it's one of the
most beautiful natural attractions in New Hampshire
. True to its name, this alpine lake is located over 5,000 feet above sea level, which we definitely think earns it heavenly "cloud" status. This lovely oasis is actually a series of lakes and ponds sitting between Mount Washington and Mount Monroe, and the site of the most popular Appalachian Mountain Club hut used for hikers who want to spend the night. If you prefer a day trip adventure at this alpine lake instead, the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is a three-mile trek that's one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, in the Northeast.
Lake Champlain - Vermont
Once considered the sixth Great Lake,
is of otherworldly beauty. Located on the border of New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain stretches 125 miles and has a maximum depth of 400 feet, and is a pristine pool of calm, cerulean waters. Like most destinations in the Northeast, Lake Champlain has quite a history. The lake itself and the land surrounding it played an integral role in three American wars: the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812; and visitors can learn more about these events at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont. History aside, Lake Champlain is a popular summertime destination; its azure waters and soft, sandy shoreline an irresistible draw. In the winter, you can go ice skating on Lake Champlain, which really is a quintessential Northeast experience.
Lake Champlain, Lake Champlain
Gorgeous grandeur is all around us here in America, and these stunning alpine lakes (quite literally) top our list of the most beautiful places to explore.
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