There's something about crisp mountain air that just takes your breath away—and it's not just the altitude sickness kicking in. It's the surrounding beauty, especially if you find yourself soaking in a lakeside view. So to get a glimpse of the magnificence and feed our wanderlust, we rounded up some of the most beautiful lakes in the U.S. that you can plan your next trip around, or simply appreciate vicariously.
Lakes in Glacier National Park, Montana
There are many lakes worth seeing in Glacier National Park, and McDonald Lake is the largest (other standouts include Swiftcurrent Lake, Saint Mary Lake, and Grinnell Lake). The park sits on the border between the States and Canada in Montana, and it is one of the best places to visit if you love the outdoors. It's also one of the best places in the U.S. for backcountry hiking and backpacking trips. Aside from lakes, you'll find a breathtaking wilderness reserve full of glacier peaks, classic, cozy lodges, valleys, and nearby resort towns, like Whitefish, Montana.
Lakes in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is another one of the best wilderness reserves in the country, partly because of its wealth of beautiful lakes. One of the most gorgeous is Delta Lake, thanks to its opaque turquoise hue. It gets its vivid color from the rock flour that comes from Teton Glacier. The northern section it's most famous for is Jackson Hole, a luxurious yet rustic mountain resort town.
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
No matter what time of year you visit Lake Tahoe, the beauty of the crystal-clear lake, mountains, and fresh air is always astounding. The are several towns around the lake, the four main ones being South Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Incline Village, and Tahoe City. Hit the slopes in the winter, and partake in water sports during the summer. You can also go hiking and rock-climbing if you're more of a land person.
There are also plenty of other mountain towns along the way if you drive here from San Francisco or Sacramento (definitely stop and visit Auburn!).
Lakes in Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is full of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. If you need an excuse to unplug for a weekend, come here to camp and hike near gorgeous waterfalls, lakes, and mountaintop views (Glacier Point and Half Dome are musts). The most accessible lake is Tenaya Lake, where you can picnic, canoe, swim, and relax and enjoy the scenery. Mirror Lake is easily one of the most beautiful, and it's known for the gorgeous, crystal clear reflections of Half Dome and Mount Watkins, hence its name.
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Salt flats (or salt pans) are some of the most uniquely beautiful sights you can find in nature. They aren't exactly built for swimming, but these kinds of lakes are definitely worth visiting. The Bonneville Salt Flats, which are the largest salt flats west of the Great Salt Lake, are no exception. Though they're all dried up now, the area used to be a large lake, Lake Bonneville, in prehistoric times. During the winter, the pan has about one inch of water in it, which creates that ethereal glassy look you see above. Unsurprisingly, lots of famous Hollywood movie scenes are filmed here, thanks to its otherworldly sheen.
Lakes in Vail, Colorado
Vail is one of those mountain towns that's so quaint and charming, you'll feel like you're Europe instead of the middle of the country. In fact, it was modeled after European mountain resorts, so it's pedestrian-friendly and festive. The town itself is more of a square in a village with a small collection of boutiques and restaurants for visitors. Ride up and down the gondolas for mountain views in every direction, and ski the unique back bowls or go hiking and canoeing in the many surrounding lakes during the summer, like Piney Lake, Booth Lake, and Gore Lake.
Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona
Lake Powell is a reservoir on the Colorado River that snakes its way through the rainbow Utah and Arizona canyons. It's something you need to see and experience in person to believe since it truly looks like it's on another planet or part of the Jurassic Park movie set. It only takes one look at Lake Powell to convince us we need to visit it at least once in our lifetimes. Make sure you see the Rainbow Bridge, which is one of the largest naturally occurring bridges in the world. And you can actually swim in it, which is hard to believe since it looks so pristine and untouched.
Lake Superior, Michigan
Michigan's Lake Superior is striking beyond belief, especially during the fall season when the foliage is a rainbow of warm colors. It's also the largest of the Great Lakes in North America. Pictured above is Spray Falls in the small town of Munising, which lies in the southeast region of the lake. The vibrant gradients of crystal-clear blues and deep shades of turquoise look more like a beach in the Caribbean.
Lakes in Telluride, Colorado
Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, Telluride, Colorado, is about as breathtaking and exciting as it gets. There are so awe-inspiring gems like the many striking mountain springs, including Blue Lakes, Hope Lake, Silver Lake, Island Lake, and Navajo Lake. After a day soaking in the incredible beauty of all the blue and green lakes, head to the charming town center. From the authentic saloon-like bars, boutique gourmet eateries, and old-school chophouses, you'll never run out of things to do.