Idaho Nature, On The Water December 02, 2022
Here Are 13 Of The Most Beautiful Lakes In Idaho, According To Our Readers
Idaho boasts a stunning number of natural wonders, but our glittering lakes often rise to the top of the list. Incredibly, the Gem State has over 2,000 official lakes, with thousands more tucked away in the backcountry that are unnamed or can’t be found on a map – and every single one is worth a visit. With majestic, snow-capped mountains and towering trees reflected in these mirror-like pools of the most incredible jewel-colored water in the country, no matter which slice of Idaho you’re exploring, you can’t ask for dreamier views! Recently, we asked our
Idaho Only readers to choose their favorite lakes and we were blown away by the response. We would never be able to pick just one, so below are 13 of the most beautiful lakes in Idaho according to YOU:
1. Alturas Lake
Alturas Lake doesn't get nearly the amount of attention as some of its Sawtooth counterparts, but that just means there's more to love! Being the halfway point between Ketchum and Stanley helps keeps the crowds at bay, but without sacrificing any epic sunrise and sunset views. Families will love that you can walk around the entire lake on the unofficial trail.
What We Love: Fewer crowds and no shortage of Central Idaho beauty! The icy runoff from the Sawtooths is slightly more temperate by the time it gets here, which makes the water at Alturas a little warmer as well.
Alturas Lake, Idaho 83340, USA
2. Brockie Lake
The Lost River Range is known for being home to Idaho's biggest and boldest mountains, including Mount Borah itself. It's only fitting that one of the most beautiful lakes in Idaho would be hiding here too!
Brockie Lake is a fantastic hidden gem that, uniquely, is also one of the precious few alpine lakes in the state that gets stocked with fish. But before you grab your fishing pole and prepare for a day spent enjoying the mesmerizing views, keep in mind that this lake sits at nearly 10,000 feet - and the nearly vertical trail to get here is an unrelenting one with few switchbacks.
What We Love: The rocky crags of the Lost River Range are unforgiving, but definitely offer some of the most breathtaking views in the state. Fortunately, the steep and grueling hike to reach Brockie Lake weeds out all but the most determined hikers, which means the seclusion here is absolutely idyllic.
Brockie Lake, Idaho 83255, USA
3. Goat Lake
This high alpine lake requires a strenuous hike to reach but is renowned for its beauty. Bonus points for stumbling upon the tallest waterfall in Idaho along the way! A few water crossings, some steep trudging, rock scrambling, and a wealth of magical overlooks make up the trail to
Goat Lake, but it's the phenomenal sights at the end that are the real treat. But be warned... the water is frigid!
What We Love: Goat Lake is an unexpected surprise hidden away in the already magical Sawtooth Mountains. While the setting is immaculate on its own, the vibrant, jewel-like colors of this lake are absolutely out of this world.
Goat Lake, Idaho 83637, USA
4. Hunt Lake
Deep within the Selkirk mountains of the Panhandle,
Hunt Lake is a vibrant teal lake that is a blissful, well-kept secret. It takes some boulder-hopping and rock scrambling to reach, but at only a few hours from CDA and Sandpoint, the effort to reach the trailhead is worth it for experienced hikers.
What We Love: Seclusion and the proximity to nearby Priest Lake make visiting Hunt Lake a challenging, but worthwhile backcountry adventure to add to a day of relaxation.
Hunt Lake, Idaho 83864, USA
5. Independence Lakes
Tucked away near the City of Rocks National Reserve (and not to be confused with Independence Lake farther north), this lake system is an absolute treasure. Southern Idaho's
Independence Lakes are a chain of four lakes that sit gloriously nestled in the shadow of Cache Peak, offering a unique alpine experience in the heart of lower Idaho's quintessential high desert ecosystem. The perfect rings of aspen trees, rocky shorelines, and lush fern ground cover surrounding each lake are their trademark.
What We Love: The water is crystal clear, the fishing is reliable, the solitude is idyllic, and the hike is relatively short and sweet. What's not to love?
Independence Lakes, Idaho 83342, USA
6. Lake Cleveland
Lake Cleveland may not be surrounded by dozens of towering Central Idaho peaks, but this Southern Idaho beauty is a stunner all the same. Nestled at the base of Mount Harrison, this alpine lake offers sweeping wildflower meadows, clear water, and vast views that stretch all the way into Utah, alongside a host of recreational opportunities. Bonus? This is the highest lake in Idaho that you can actually drive to.
What We Love: Yes, alpine lakes CAN be found beyond the Sawtooths! This quiet slice of Idaho rarely gets the attention it deserves, and Lake Cleveland is just a small taste of the magic that can be found in this underrated region. We love the mix of scenery that can be found here, in addition to the beauty of the lake itself.
Lake Cleveland, Idaho 83311, USA
7. Lake Coeur d'Alene
As Idaho's second-largest lake, this massive (and massively gorgeous) body of water winds through Northern Idaho's mountainous landscape with river-like beauty. As if the lush setting wasn't already idyllic enough,
Lake Coeur d'Alene also boasts well over 130 miles of shoreline. which means the beach-lounging options are endless.
What We Love: Coeur d'Alene is a magnificently scenic resort town in Idaho's Panhandle, and its iconic lake is nothing short of spectacular. Visitors will find a variety of ways to enjoy the water, ranging from luxury resorts with posh amenities to secluded waterfront hikes that soothe the soul and refresh the spirit. Lake Coeur d'Alene is also overflowing with history, so one of the best ways to explore everything this region has to offer is to take a bike ride down the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, a 72-mile paved trail that weaves through the Panhandle and along portions of the lake.
Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, USA
8. Lake Pend Oreille
Idaho's largest and deepest lake is hiding a multitude of surprises within its depths, but its gorgeous sunsets are no secret to locals!
Lake Pend Oreille is also the fifth-deepest lake in the country and has a long history that ranges from major tribal importance to naval submarine testing to "deep-sea" diving and everything in between.
What We Love: Unlike many of Idaho's lakes, Pend Oreille is glacially-carved. Its eons of history are showcased in unique rock formations, islands, and surrounding mountains with plenty more to discover below the surface. Wildlife cruises are second-to-none here.
Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, USA
9. Payette Lake - McCall
Just a short drive from Boise,
Payette Lake is a breathtaking getaway that feels lightyears away from the city. This mesmerizing glacial lake dazzles in every season, and from the moment you step foot in downtown McCall, it beckons with its panoramic views and woodsy, mountain surroundings. It's no wonder so many families visit to swim, boat, hike, and enjoy the idyllic setting!
What We Love: Payette Lake is a glittering jewel that's easy to access and relatively close to Idaho's capital city. But to truly enjoy everything that this lake has to offer, venturing off the beaten path and away from the bustling city center to the Upper Payette and less-trafficked corners of the main lake reveals rich rewards of untapped beauty.
Payette Lake, Idaho 83638, USA
10. Priest Lake
Tucked away in Northern Idaho's lake country,
Priest Lake is known as "Idaho's crown jewel." Weaving through the landscape and creating tributary-like bays and inlets, Priest Lake has no bad angles, that's for sure! The lake is fed by countless streams that flow from the Selkirk Mountains and stretches nearly all the way to the US-Canadian border. What few people realize is that there are actually two Priest Lakes in Idaho: Upper and Lower. They're both magical.
What We Love: While Priest Lake offers endless opportunities for recreation, vacationing, and getting out into nature, the photography opportunities here are absolutely mind-blowing. And with so many nooks and crannies hidden along the shore, finding "your own private Idaho" is still possible.
11. Redfish Lake
Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho is a beloved local favorite, and people come from miles around to enjoy the beauty. Easy to access and set beautifully beneath Mount Heyburn and Grand Mogul peaks, the beachy views are hard to match! It's also the largest lake in the SRA. During the off-season, the water is glasslike, and the mountains reflect flawlessly in the water. In summer, this is where countless family memories are made.
What We Love: Redfish Lake is a remarkable place to visit in any season. The colors of the water are astoundingly bright, and in truth - something about it just feels like home. We also love that so many trailheads start here.
Redfish Lake, Idaho 83637, USA
12. Sheep Lake
Idaho's Seven Devils are seriously underrated when it comes to exploring and adventuring - and that could be because the terrain is as harsh and intimidating as their name. But experienced hikers craving seclusion and untouched beauty will find this magnificent range to be rich with incredible sights.
Sheep Lake included! This petite alpine lake sits at over 9,800 feet and is as wild as it gets. Photos do not give justice to the impressive rock face of He Devil that overlooks the water, nor to the impressive panoramic views of She Devil and the craggy, devilish mountainscapes that make up west Central Idaho.
What We Love: Sheep Lake is pure, unadulterated Idaho. The route to get here is a serious nail-biter if you're unprepared, but the views are absolutely breathtaking every step of the way. Plus, absolute peace and quiet! In fact, it's likely you'll have the entire trail (and lake) to yourself.
Sheep Lake, Idaho 83227, USA
13. Stanley Lake
Is there any lake that perfectly captures the heart of the Gem State? Of all the lakes in Idaho,
Stanley Lake arguably has one of the most iconic panoramas of any body of water in the Sawtooths (or in the state, for that matter). This small, 170-acre mountain lake is the northernmost lake in the SRA, yet nevertheless offers breathtaking rewards without the hike.
What We Love: Photographers, rejoice! This stunning lake is gorgeous at all hours of the day. There are also a number of trailheads that launch here, plus surprisingly few boats churning up the water. This is a dreamy spot to break out the kayak!
Stanley Lake, Idaho 83637, USA
While certainly not a complete list of the most beautiful lakes in Idaho, they sure are gorgeous, aren’t they? A huge thank you to everyone who submitted their favorite lake photos and shared their stories! We especially love how many corners of Idaho are represented on this list. But remember, this is just a snapshot of our great state – there’s no shortage of amazing places to discover, especially off the beaten path!
To learn about epic places like these and share more of your coolest photos, join our Idaho Nature Lovers Facebook group. While you’re at it, be sure to browse through the many other lakes, reservoirs, and natural areas mentioned by our readers in our original post.
Can’t decide where to start? Explore this overlooked state park in Eastern Idaho and the pristine lake that glistens at the heart of it. Address: Hunt Lake, Idaho 83864, USA Address: Brockie Lake, Idaho 83255, USA Address: Goat Lake, Idaho 83637, USA Address: Redfish Lake, Idaho 83637, USA Address: Priest Lake, Idaho, USA Address: Alturas Lake, Idaho 83340, USA Address: Lake Cleveland, Idaho 83311, USA Address: Stanley Lake, Idaho 83637, USA Address: Sheep Lake, Idaho 83227, USA Address: Independence Lakes, Idaho 83342, USA Address: Payette Lake, Idaho 83638, USA Address: Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, USA Address: Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, USA
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