There are reportedly two million lakes in Canada, but only 15 of them made our list of the best lakes in the nation.
We’ve whittled down our list to include some of the most well-known, picturesque, and spectacular lakes in the entire country, ranging from brilliantly blue glacier-fed lakes to lakes begging to be paddled by canoe in the summer or skated on in the winter.
Even on the hottest summer day, some of the lakes on this list remain icy cold, and one of them forbids swimming altogether. However, some of the lakes on this list are ideal for a swim. However, as you’ll see, it’s still highly recommended.
Use our list of the best lakes in Canada to plan your trip.
1. Lakes In Canada: Lake Louise
The stunning Lake Louise in Banff National Park is one of Canada’s most extraordinary lakes. If you take a dip in the aqua blue water, it might tempt you to think it’s in the tropics, but this glacier-fed lake is extremely chilly all year round.
Even though it might not be the best lake for swimming, it is a very well-liked vacation spot. The lake, nestled beneath the majestic Rocky Mountains, is accessible and incredibly picturesque. It’s a beautiful location for paddling in the summer and for ice skating in the winter.
Around the lake, there are many day hikes that can be undertaken. The Lake Louise Lakeshore trail, a flat, one-hour accessible hike that will take you around the lake’s perimeter, is a simple one to start with. Another simple option is the Fairview Lookout, which gains 100 meters and leads to a vantage point over Lake Louise. More challenging trails will take you even higher into the mountains while moderate trails will take you to nearby lakes like the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike.
2. Lakes In Canada: Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake, another beautiful lake close to Lake Louise, is nearby. Moraine is only about half the size of Lake Louise, but it is the same brilliant green color, and it is surrounded by some mountains that are just as impressive.
Because the road leading to Moraine Lake closes in the winter and the lake is still frozen as late as June, it can be a little more challenging to get to. It frequently fills up in the relatively small parking lot by the lake. Parks Canada employees keep an eye on the parking lot, so if you’re late, you run the risk of being turned away. You can always choose to take a shuttle to the lake if you want to completely avoid dealing with the parking.
You can go canoeing (rentals are available at the lake), go hiking by the lake or on one of the more challenging trails nearby, or just relax by the lake and take in the scenery on a day trip to Moraine Lake. There is a seasonal lodge that offers overnight lodging if you still can’t get enough.
3. Lakes In Canada: Lake Superior
Only one of the five Great Lakes—Lake Superior—made it onto our list despite each having distinct qualities and attractions.
So, what exactly makes this lake so special? Its size is undeniably impressive: at 128,000 square kilometers, it is the world’s largest freshwater lake and the largest of the Great Lakes.
But Lake Superior is more than just a huge lake; it also has a rugged, humbling beauty. Its sandy beaches and sparkling blue bays almost give the impression that you are in the tropics when it is clear, but in the blink of an eye, a creeping fog can take over and make travelers completely lost. The lake rages with choppy waves during a storm.
Swimming at one of Lake Superior’s beaches, fishing, kayaking along the shore, or going on a wilderness hike in one of the nearby parks such as Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ruby Lake Provincial Park, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, or Pukaskwa National Park are all options. There are numerous other ways to get close to Lake Superior.
4. Canada Lakes: Emerald Lake
61 lakes and ponds can be found in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. The largest lake inside the park’s boundaries is Emerald Lake, which holds this distinction.
It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how this lake got its name: rock flour (superfine particles of glacial sediment) gives the water a sparkling green hue, similar to the gem it’s named after.
Emerald Lake is a popular vacation spot all year long with lots to do. You can hire a canoe in the summer and go paddling on the water. In the winter, the lake freezes over and is a well-liked location for cross-country skiing. Early fall, just after the summer crowds have thinned out and before the snow falls, is one of the best times to visit the lake.
5. Canada Lakes: Spotted Lake
Spotted Lake near Osoyoos, British Columbia, is arguably the coolest lake in Canada – figuratively, at least.
The lake has a delightfully whimsical appearance, with large polka dots dotting the water; some are blue, while others appear green.
Though the lake appears magical, the spots have a scientific explanation: it’s all about the minerals. Mineral deposits abound throughout the lake, including magnesium sulfate, calcium, and sodium sulphates, to name a few. The spots are revealed when some of the water evaporates in the summer. The spots’ colors vary depending on the mineral composition.
6. Garibaldi Lake
Many of the lakes on this list are fairly accessible. Some require a long drive, while others necessitate a battle for a parking spot – but you don’t have to work too hard to get to the lake.
Garibaldi Lake, located in British Columbia’s Garibaldi Provincial Park near Whistler, is an incredibly beautiful alpine lake – and you’ll have to work up a sweat to see it in person. The hike to Garibaldi Lake is nine kilometers each way, with an elevation gain of 820 meters along the way.
The trail begins with a steady climb through forested switchbacks before reaching alpine meadows blanketed in colorful wildflowers in the summer.
You can hike to the lake as a day trip or reserve a campsite along the lake – though hiking up with a backpack full of camping gear will slow you down. There are even more trails to explore from the lake, such as the hike up Black Tusk or the Panorama Ridge trail, which provide panoramic views of Garibaldi Lake.
7. Peyto Lake
You could be forgiven for thinking that if you’ve seen one beautiful glacial lake, you’ve seen them all – but you’d be wrong. Even if you’ve already seen Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, it’s well worth taking a drive along the Columbia Icefields Parkway to see the bluer-than-blue Peyto Lake.
Peyto Lake, like the other easily accessible lakes near Banff, gets crowded during the tourist season. Many people try to beat the crowds by arriving early in the morning, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: late afternoon/early evening are also quieter times to visit.
8. Lake of Bays
Muskoka is Ontario’s cottage country, where people go to get away from the madness of the city and relax by the water. There are many beautiful lakes in the area, but Lake of Bays is one of the best.
The lake’s nature varies depending on where you are. Some areas have been developed, with golf courses, public beaches, and waterside lodges. There are numerous nooks with private cottages, and portions of the shoreline have remained untouched. There are also several islands scattered throughout the lake.
9. Kathleen Lake
Kathleen Lake, located in the Yukon’s Kluane National Park, is a picture-perfect silver-blue expanse of water nestled beneath snowcapped mountains.
There is plenty to do in and around the lake. It’s a great place to cool off after completing the nearby King’s Throne hike, or you can opt for a shorter, more leisurely hike around the lake’s perimeter.
You can also pitch a tent near the lake and use it as your home base while exploring the park. The campground is open from mid-May to mid-September, with reservations recommended during the summer.
10. Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods is a massive lake, nearly 4,500 square kilometers in size, shared by Manitoba, Ontario, and the American state of Minnesota, with over 14,550 islands scattered throughout. It’s also one of Ontario’s top attractions.
Consider this: it would take you nearly 40 years to spend a single night camping on each of the lake’s islands!
The lake’s character changes depending on where you go. There are many motorboats whizzing by and cottages perched on the lakeshore near Kenora. The further you travel, the more remote it appears. You can go exploring in your own boat, or bring a small group and rent a houseboat.
Anglers, put this lake on your list: the fishing is excellent, and your catch of the day could include walleye, northern pike, or lake trout, among other species. Stay at one of the luxury fishing lodges and go on a guided tour of the lake.
11. Lake Athabasca
This 7,850-square-kilometer lake, which straddles Saskatchewan and Alberta (with roughly 70% of the lake within the boundaries of Saskatchewan), is the eighth largest lake in Canada and the largest in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A trip to Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park is one of the best ways to experience Lake Athabasca. The dunes that surround a portion of Saskatchewan’s shoreline are unlike any other landscape in Canada, but you’ll have to fly in or take a boat to get there.
Expect a true wilderness experience; plan and pack carefully because there aren’t many amenities once you’re in the dunes.
12. Rainy Lake
Rainy Lake is unique in many ways because it is large and undiscovered by most people. The lake extends north, south, and east of Fort Frances, Ontario, one of Canada’s best small towns.
There are over 2,000 islands, bays, and wide-open stretches of water in this body of water that any pleasure boater will enjoy exploring. Swimming and water sports are popular on the lake, which is dotted with cottages.
The north arm of Rainy Lake is distinguished by islands, large white pine trees, and exposed granite shorelines, while the south arm is distinguished by larger expanses of water. Voyagers National Park, one of the best national parks in the United States, is located on the lake’s southern shore.
13. Great Slave Lake
Northern Canada has some of the most beautiful and remote lakes in the world, and if you can visit them during the short summer season, you’ll be in for a treat.
Great Slave Lake is a massive body of water, the world’s tenth largest body of water. It is 615 meters deep in sections and 480 kilometers long from end to end.
The lake is particularly well-known for its fishing, which includes Arctic grayling, trout, and northern pike. Birders come from all over the world to see the over 200 bird species that have been recorded on and along the lake’s shorelines.
14. Lake Ontario
A visit to would be incomplete without a cruise tour to see the city’s iconic skyline from the water. Ontario is large enough, spanning over 7,000 square miles.
Lake Ontario has some beautiful beaches, and with over 1000 kilometers of shoreline, the deep blue lake is a water lover’s paradise. The beaches on the lake are all easily accessible and vary in size. The urban neighborhood beaches around Toronto are a stark contrast to the other remote, sandy beaches in the area. Fine pebble beaches are set against the backdrop of Niagara’s vineyards and orchards in the lake’s southwest corner.
15. Maligne Lake
This lake is a hidden gem in Jasper National Park. A boat cruise, at 14 miles long, is the best way to see everything and do it justice, from the Hall of the Gods to the sacred Spirit Island.
Maligne Lake is one of Canada’s most famous lakes, famous for its turquoise water, surrounding glaciers and peaks, and Spirit Island.
The lake is about 14 miles long and over 300 feet deep in the south end, just south of Jasper Town.
The lake was commonly referred to as Beaver Lake by the First Nations, and many people now visit the lake to see the wildlife.