Early-morning fishing in still waters, leaping off the dock in summertime, or having the jade-green alpine pool at the end of your hike all to yourself—Idaho’s lakes are something to behold. In fact, there are more than 2,000 in the state. If you’re planning a trip to one of our Idaho vacation rentals, be sure to experience the surrounding natural beauty with one of these top 10 most beautiful lakes.
Aptly named “Idaho’s Crown Jewel,” this ethereal lake is comprised of two bodies of water—Upper and Lower Priest Lake—connected by a thoroughfare. It dates back to the last ice age and provides year-round outdoor recreation, like water skiing or hiking along the water’s edge. The lake’s mirror-like surface, white-sand beaches, and unique clusters of islands draw visitors from across the country.
Idaho’s largest lake is also the fifth deepest in the U.S. During World War II, submarine researchers tested equipment in the great blue, but today its waterways and rocky banks are reserved for boaters, fishermen in search of rainbow trout, and swimmers. Lake Pend Oreille is home to both resort communities and untamed forests filled with grizzly bears and gray wolves.
The Sawtooth National Forest spans across Idaho and Utah, offering more than 1,100 unique alpine lakes. While it would take years to explore them all, start at Redfish Lake, near the headwaters of the raging Salmon River. Crystal-blue waters and sandy beaches attract kayakers, sunbathers, mountain bikers, and outdoor adventurers of all varieties to explore the jagged Sawtooth Mountains.
Idaho’s Panhandle is home to Lake Coeur d’Alene, another geological wonder from the ancient Missoula Floods, where glaciers carved the terrain of the Pacific Northwest. The popular resort destination provides a summer home to movie stars, stand-up paddleboarders, cliff jumpers, and fishermen alike, who are drawn to the deep-blue waters and surrounding forests.
If you’re willing to climb over a boulder field, you’ll discover a tiny glacial lake at the edge of a talus field. Visit Hunt Lake in July and there will probably be snow on the ground, but the view and secluded environment are well worth it. If you’ve got extra gas in your tank (energy, that is) you can hike even further to Fault Lake.
Payette Lake and its sister body of water, Little Payette, have astounded sailors and anglers in search of trout for decades. The fantastic lake and sandy beaches are home to resort communities like McCall, yet protected by conservation efforts at Ponderosa State Park and the Payette National Forest. Locals claim the lake is home to Sharlie, a “Loch Ness” monster first sighted in the 1920s.
Yellow Belly Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, but it isn’t easy to get to. Although overgrown forests and an impossibly rocky road make the drive difficult, this lake has long been a popular Idaho backpacking destination along the Yellow Belly Trailhead. If you’re looking for a nearly private alpine lake, this is a perfect option.
Formerly known as Cascade Reservoir, this massive lake is surrounded by the Boise National Forest and is home to world-class skiing, including Tamarack Ski Resort, on the western shore of the lake. The reservoir is well known among fishermen baiting Kokanee salmon.
This high mountain lake just 15 miles west of Yellowstone National Park is a haven for fishermen, with perhaps the best fly fishing in all of Idaho. Flanked by the Centennial Mountains and the Henrys Lake Mountains, the gorgeous lake valley is a popular destination for boaters and hikers.
Bear Lake is split about equally between Idaho and Utah. Dubbed the “Caribbean of the Rockies” due to its phenomenal turquoise waters, the lake is a popular destination for sailing, fishing, raspberry picking, and swimming.