Take a Dip

America’s Top 10 Lakes to Visit This Fall (Photos)

Lake trips offer the perfect mix of relaxation and water action, plus the chance for some moonlit skinny-dipping.

Lake getaways offer the perfect combination of water warm enough for wading and calm enough for canoeing (not to mention clean enough for moonlit skinny-dipping). Check out one of these great American lakes.   

Lake Champlain

Vermont and New York


There’s a reason Lake Champlain temporarily became the sixth Great Lake in 1998: it's gorgeous. If you live in the Northeast, it’s a must-visit, in spite of the heady journey. It’s a four-hour drive from either Boston or New York City (about two-and-a-half hours from Montreal), and that journey through the increasingly dense, fragrant forests toward the lake sets the mood for a serene getaway.


by Lauren Viera

Door County

Wisconsin

 

This slim, 70-mile-long peninsula is Wisconsin’s northeast finger, lined with picturesque lakeside towns and beaches wrapping around 300 miles of shoreline. Named for Death’s Door, the narrow passage between the tip of the peninsula where Lake Michigan and the Green Bay converge, it’s a vacation haven rife with small-town charm (ice cream stands, B&Bs, pontoon-boat docks) and around 23,000 acres of preserved land ideal for exploring. 

Lake Placid

New York

 

One of the best things about Lake Placid and its family of mini-lakes (including Mirror Lake, pictured) is its location smack in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains. Spectacular mountain vistas reflected in water flat as glass? We’ll take it. Lake Placid is about a half-day’s drive from New York City (half that from Montreal), and the village of Lake Placid—about 4,500 people—is the regional hub for lodging, dining, shopping, and nightlife, presuming you aren’t content to just bask in nature.

Lake McDonald

Montana


Located about two hours from the Canadian border, this 10-mile-long, fjord-shaped lake is the biggest in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Like others in the area, its basin was gouged by Ice Age glaciers; today it's shielded from foul weather by the surrounding mountains and hills, resulting in mild climes. Prepare to get cozy with wildlife: there’s tons of it, including big horn sheep and black bears.

Finger Lakes

New York


Smack in the middle of New York, this collection of more than a dozen skinny, three-mile-wide lakes (they really do look like fingers from a bird’s-eye view) stretch toward Lake Ontario, anchoring several villages within the 9,000 square-mile region. The main draw? Wine. There are more than 100 wineries in the area, not to mention a massive cultural scene. You'll find more than 200 museums and art galleries, plus a professional theater group, for each major hub.

Saugatuck

Michigan

 

This tiny hamlet of less than 1,000 residents is nestled among the sand dunes on the east coast of Lake Michigan. It’s a favorite among Chicagoans for its close proximity (about a two-hour drive) and impressive art scene, which blossomed during the late 19th-century arts and crafts movement and hasn't waned since. Oval Beach is where it’s at during the warmer months, but neighboring Douglas and nearby Holland, Michigan, add to the options for lodging, dining, and nightlife.

Shasta Lake

California

 

A man-made lake, Shasta sits in the middle of the hottest region of Northern California, making it an ideal destination for summer water sports. Waterskiing, houseboat-hopping, and fishing are the traditional pastimes at this low-key, family-friendly resort area. Sitting in the shadow of the Shasta National Forest, the views are spectacular—especially from an inner tube floating through the middle of it all.

Lake Tahoe

California & Nevada

 

A little more than three hours from downtown San Francisco is beautiful Lake Tahoe, whose waters are shared by two states, their respective state parks lining almost the entire 70-mile perimeter. Tahoe offers two distinct faces to choose from, depending on your ideal vacation: South Shore, which has the more active nightlife, dining, and tourism scenes; and North Shore (and West Shore), home to the area’s most serene vacation rentals with easy access to nearby villages.

Lake Powell

Utah & Arizona


Straddling the border between these two western states, this massive reservoir (the second-largest in the country) appears as a striking aquamarine in contrast to the clay-colored terrain. Slot canyons and natural sandstone sculptures, some only navigable by canoe, are among the photogenic features of this houseboat-laden paradise.

Yellowstone Lake

Wyoming


Perched in the center of sprawling Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake covers 136 square miles, making it the park’s largest lake. Cabins and lodges are aplenty in these parts, as are working dude ranches and golf resorts. Bring your binoculars: there’s as much fauna here as amazing flora.


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