Vermont has more than 800 lakes, 220 of which are larger than 20 acres. As a result, travelers seeking beaches for swimming, kayaking, or fishing have many options. It’s challenging to rank Vermont’s top lakes given their abundance.
Accessibility, location, scenery, and activities were given more weight than size in the selection of the best lakes. The following lakes offer the most options for tourists and locals looking for outdoor recreation and water sports.
The lakes are used by residents of Vermont and tourists all year round for various activities, including swimming in the summer, viewing the double reflection of colored foliage in the fall, excellent bass fishing in the early spring, canoeing and kayaking whenever the lakes are ice-free, and ice fishing in the winter.
You’ll find with this helpful list the best lakes in Vermont, whether you and your family are looking for places to canoe, kayak, sail, water-ski, swim, go fishing, go on a scenic cruise, lease a cottage by a lake, or have a picnic by the water.
1. Lakes In Vermont: Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain, which is shared by Quebec and New York (the mountains you can see from Burlington are the Adirondacks), was modestly named by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1609. The largest lake in the northeast, it measures 120 miles long, 12 miles wide at its widest point, and has 435 square miles of surface water.
Champlain also has the most activities available of all the lakes in the state. There are bike paths along eight miles of Burlington’s coastline that you can use to get around on foot or a bicycle. You can take a ferry or a cruise to New York from Charlotte, Grand Isle, or Burlington. You can go independent exploring by hiring a kayak or boat from one of the numerous state parks along the shore.
2. Lake Willoughby
The dramatic silhouette of Willoughby, which is frequently compared to a fjord due to its nearly vertical walls and long, narrow shape, is most impressive when viewed from the north. However, the lake is stunning from any angle due to the mountains that rise sharply on either side.
With its origins in the bed of an ancient river between Mount Pisgah on the east and Mount Hor on the west, Willoughby is a prime example of a gouged basin lake. Glaciers enlarged the lake and ground it, and after blocking both ends with glacial till deposits, the lake filled to a depth of up to 300 feet in some places.
One of New England’s most picturesque lakes, a long, narrow body of water sandwiched between two steep mountain sides, is the visual outcome.
3. Lakes In Vermont: Lake Dunmore
Lake Dunmore, which is close to Middlebury, is more than three miles long and up to one mile wide at its northern end. It is situated at the base of Mount Moosalamoo, a mountain that forms part of the Green Mountain National Forest and runs along the lake’s eastern shore.
Branbury State Park is located to the west and features a 1,000-foot natural sandy beach as well as large grassy areas for picnics and sunbathing. There are two campgrounds where campers can choose between wooded sites and sites near the edge of a grassy field.
The park will host a farmers market on Thursdays starting in 2022 where campers and beachgoers can buy fresh produce, flowers, prepared foods, and crafts made locally.
4. Crystal Lake
The ledges on Crystal Lake’s eastern shore are not nearly as dramatic as those of Lake Willoughby, but both lakes are glacier-carved basins. However, Crystal Lake has the benefit of a sizable beach area that is away from the road and has a grassy picnic area along the shore that is shaded by big trees.
In Crystal Lake State Park, there is a mile-long stretch of beach with restrooms, refreshments, and kayak rentals. On the northern shore is Pageant Park, which is more sedate and remote than the state park. The town of Barton owns the beach and campground, which are open to the public. The park offers a boat launch for non-motorized boats.
5. Lake Elmore
Lake Elmore was created by glacial till that blocked a river’s outflow at the base of the 2,600-foot Elmore Mountain, northwest of Stowe. The 700-acre Elmore State Park, which is on its shore, has a boat rental facility, a large sandy swimming beach, and a campground.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built the building housing the bathhouse and concession stand during the Great Depression (CCC). A fire tower and breathtaking views of the lake and the Green Mountains can be found at the summit of Elmore Mountain, which is reached by hiking trails in the park.
6. Lakes In Vermont: Lake Bomoseen
Lake Bomoseen, the largest lake entirely within the state of Vermont, is located in the Taconic Mountains, west of Rutland, in the region that once produced slate.
There are still a number of slate slag piles and quarry holes in Lake Bomoseen State Park where you can see remnants of this industrial past.
The smaller Glen Lake, which is nearby and has a shoreline similar to Lake Bomoseen’s, is also surrounded by the park’s grounds. The park offers camping, a children’s playground, a sizable swimming beach, boating, and the option to rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks.
7. Caspian Lake
Caspian Lake, located northwest of St. Johnsbury, has long been a favorite retreat for creative types. Cross-country skiing is one of the many outdoor activities that can be done all year long in the serenely beautiful setting on the trails of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
Caspian Lake is a good location for kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and fishing for lake trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, and landlocked salmon in addition to the public swimming beach. In the more tranquil areas of the lake, loons are frequently seen.
Although there isn’t a state park close by, the village of Greensboro is on one side, and the Highland Lodge’s wraparound front porch overlooks the lake and provides free use of kayaks at its private beach.
8. Lakes In Vermont: Lake Memphremagog
Memphremagog is one of two large lakes that Vermont and Quebec, Canada, share; it is 31 miles long, with nearly three-quarters of the lake located in Quebec. One of its 21 islands is international, and five of them are in Vermont.
At the southern end of the island, in the town of Newport, is Prouty Beach, a swimming area with a quarter-mile stretch of sand and a bathhouse. There are signs along the shoreline’s walkways that provide historical details about the town and lake.
Using a retro-styled cruiser, Northern Star Lake Cruises offers day, dinner, and sunset excursions around the lake.
9. Lowell Lake
Kayakers’ hidden haven in central Vermont is Lowell Lake in Londonderry. The only sounds are the wind stirring the leaves and possibly the call of a loon as trees line the shore.
The lake has several small tree-covered islands and is surrounded by mixed hardwoods and white pines. If you arrive first, you may have an entire island to yourself for a picnic.
Kayakers who are in the know arrive early because the small, undeveloped Lowell Lake State Park has very little parking, no beach, and no amenities. When the parking lot is full, the park closes to visitors. Period. There are no parking spaces available on the nearby town road.
10. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is located in the town of Dorset, a former marble quarrying town north of Manchester, and was created when glacial debris blocked a stream’s outflow. The lake’s northern end has a sand beach and grassy hillside, but the rest of the shoreline is undeveloped and encircled by forests.
On the hilltop above the beach, the park offers boat rentals as well as a campground. Keep in mind that if you bring your own kayak, you will need to portage quite a distance to get to the beach from the parking area.