When it comes to the quintessential summer getaway, lake vacations are hard to beat. Whether heading out for a weekend trip or an extended escape, lake life provides ample means for camping, hiking, fishing, boating, sunbathing, swimming and just about any other summer-related activity you could desire. The seven lakes in this gallery each have something unique to offer, from gorgeous natural surroundings to quaint lakeside towns and are all worthy of a spot on your summer bucket list.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Oregon's Crater Lake is a site to behold. Expansive, placid and impressively blue, the lake and its surrounding national park is a must-see for nature lovers. As the name suggests, it formed some 7,700 years ago after Mount Mazama collapsed and its caldera filled with water from rain and snowmelt. At 1,949 feet deep, Crater Lake also ranks as the deepest in the county. Boat tours and scuba diving are both popular water activities, as is fishing. The surrounding Cascade Mountains also make a great destination for hiking, biking and camping during the summer months.
Photo by Jonathan Miske, CC BY-SA 2.0
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Geneva Lake and its surrounding communities are a popular Midwest destination located in Walworth County, Wisconsin. From windsurfing to sailing and swimming, the water provides ample activities to keep you busy for a weekend or more, but the towns located around the lake are a worthy draw as well. The most popular of which is Lake Geneva, a charming resort town with plenty of shopping and eating options for when you're off the water. For great views, a path runs around the entire lake, which takes you along the shore and through the backyards of a number of historic estates belonging to names like Wrigley and Schwinn.
Photo by Oscar Shen, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Colorado's Lake San Cristobal features glassy waters ringed by green hills and snow-capped peaks. It's the second largest natural lake in the country and the Hinsdale County-destination offers everything you could want from a lake vacation. Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains, the lake's breathtaking natural scenery includes plenty of outdoor activities like camping, fishing and boating.
Photo by Shutter Runner, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks covers 54,000 acres and has an impressive 1,150 miles of shoreline. The lake's infamous Party Cove, formally Anderson Hollow Cove, makes it a popular local destination for the state's college crowd. The mile-long cove is home to pleasure boats frequented by thousands of partiers looking to partake in various forms of revelry. For those looking to appreciate tamer activities at Lake of the Ozarks, the reservoir itself and the surrounding state park offer an array options like boating, golfing, fishing and hiking.
Photo by Missouri Division of Tourism, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The Finger Lakes region is comprised of 11 individual lakes spanning some 80 miles of impressively scenic surroundings. The largest and deepest of the bunch are Lake Cayuga and Seneca (pictured). These long and narrow bodies of water sit in the glacier valleys of central New York, and while the lakes themselves are a draw, the region's more than a hundred wineries and thriving art scene bring their fair share of visitors as well. The region, which includes Rochester and Ithaca, is best enjoyed at a slow pace or spread across multiple visits.
Photo by redisant, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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As Utah.com points out, Lake Powell may be a fake lake, but it still provides real fun. This postcard-perfect reservoir formed after a dam was built along the Colorado River to flood Glen Canyon. As a result, the country's second largest man-made lake was formed and with it an immensely popular vacation destination. Lake Powell straddles the Arizona and Utah border, but the majority of it falls within the former. A trip to the lake, which includes Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, offers no shortage of water and land activities like camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing and boating, among countless other options.
Photo by Wolfgang Staudt, CC BY 2.0
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While it's not one of the Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe is still worthy of donning the same adjective. It holds the title of North America's largest alpine lake and is famous for its clear water and surrounding beauty. Located in the Sierra Nevada of both California and Nevada, the area is a popular destination year-round. While many head their in winter to take advantage of nearby ski resorts, the summer months provide plenty of great options for taking advantage of the lake. Multiple cities surround Lake Tahoe where you can set up camp, literally and figuratively, for a vacation of hiking, boating, horseback riding and more.
Photo by Mirza Asad Baig, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0