Many of Washington’s natural wonders are defined by water. Stunning lakes stand out among the Pacific Northwest’s glaciated mountains and dense green forests. The best lakes in Washington have a distinct look and natural appeal, with glacier-carved shorelines and aquamarine waters.
Boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, and exploring the postcard settings are popular activities on and around Washington’s best lakes. All anglers 15 and older must have a valid Washington fishing license. There is a fee to use any state park boat launch. More information about boating in state parks can be found on the Washington State Park Boating Program page.
This summer, plan your freshwater fun with our list of the best lakes in Washington.
1. Lakes In Washington: Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent is one of the many beautiful natural features on the Olympic Peninsula that are part of Olympic National Park. This glacially carved lake is located 18 miles west of Port Angeles, near the shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Lake Crescent is surrounded by several hiking trails and park facilities, making it ideal for a day trip or overnight stay.
Hiking is a popular activity in the area around the lake. One of the best hiking trails in Olympic National Park begins near the southern shore and leads to Marymere Falls. A strenuous 2.2-mile hike up to Mount Storm King begins on the lake’s south side and climbs more than 2,000 feet. Both hikes begin near the Storm King Ranger Station, where you can get more information about the area.
2. Lakes in Washington: Lake Chelan
Lake Chelan is a magnificent 50.5-mile-long lake that stretches into the eastern flank of the North Cascades. Visitors and boaters from all over the state flock to this glacier-fed body of water. Chelan, a tourist-friendly city, is located at the lake’s southern end. It’s an excellent starting point for getting out on the water.
All varieties of floating craft, including powerboats and stand-up paddleboards, are allowed on the lake. Popular water sports include wakeboarding and waterskiing. There are numerous boat and watercraft rental businesses all around the southern end, close to Chelan. Additionally, there are day-use parks, public boat launches, and marinas along this lake’s shoreline.
3. Washington lakes: Lake Wenatchee
On Highway 2, 16 miles west of Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee is located on the eastern side of the central Cascade Mountains. This five-mile-long glacier-fed lake is surrounded by stunning mountains. Much of Lake Wenatchee’s recreation revolves around Lake Wenatchee State Park, one of Washington’s best parks.
To get to the water, Lake Wenatchee State Park has a public boat launch. In some places, the lake is over 200 feet deep, and the water is extremely cold. Fishing and windsurfing are two of the most popular aquatic activities. The Jet Ski makes an appearance now and then. Throughout the summer, the state park rents stand up paddleboards and kayaks.
4. Washington lakes: Lake Washington
Lake Washington is the largest lake in King County, located between Seattle and Bellevue. All sides of this approximately 15-mile-long lake are surrounded by city streets. Lakefront property is valuable around Lake Washington, but there are public access points all along the shore. These free-to-enter parklands include some of Seattle’s best beaches.
Madrona Park, Denny Blaine Park, and Madison Beach are all enjoyable places to visit on Seattle’s northside. On the lake’s south end is Seward Park, one of the largest public parks bordering the water. This sprawling 300-acre park includes boat launches and a beautiful beach on the water’s edge.
The most popular way to enjoy Lake Washington is to visit one of these lakeshore parks. The body of water has a long history of being linked to the development of the city. Chittenden Locks, also known as Ballard Locks, is a fascinating place to learn more. This clever engineering prevents the lake’s freshwater from mixing with the saltwater of the Sound. On-site interpretive materials are available.
5. Ross Lake & Diablo Lake
Ross Lake is located on Highway 20, also known as the North Cascades Scenic Byway. The centerpiece of Ross Lake National Recreation Area is this approximately 23-mile-long lake. It is also a component of the much larger North Cascades National Park Complex.
From the Ross Lake Overlook on Highway 20, the aquamarine waters of this massive reservoir are easily visible. This scenic viewpoint is about 60 miles west of Winthrop. Nearby, equally stunning views of Diablo Lake compete for attention. One of the most popular ways to enjoy the environment is to stand above these two lakes and admire the significant mountain backdrops.
Ross Lake has few boating access points. Boaters wishing to access the south end of Ross Lake must first launch into Diablo Lake from the Colonial Creek Campground (one of the best campgrounds in the North Cascades). It’s a five-mile paddle and a mile-long portage to get to Ross Lake from here.
Ross Lake Resort is located on the southwest shore and can only be reached by boat or hiking trail. The lake is also lined with boat-in camping areas that require permits. A hiking trail runs along the entire east bank of Ross Lake, connecting many of these camping spots.
6. Pearrygin Lake
One of the many things to do in Winthrop, Washington, is to visit Pearrygin Lake, which is located in the sunny Methow Valley on the east side of the North Cascades. The northern shore of this approximately 200-acre reservoir is bordered by Pearrygin Lake State Park. The campground at the park offers several opportunities to enjoy the water.
The East Campground’s boat launch opens for the season on the first Friday of April. The boat launch is used by all boats, including powerboats, Jet Skis, and fishing rigs. Anyone wishing to enter the water must have a valid boat launch permit.
7. Mowich Lake
Mowich Lake is located in Mount Rainier National Park’s less visited but still popular northwest region. It’s reached via State Highway 165, the last six miles of which are rough and rocky and should be taken slowly. Make the dusty drive, however, and enjoy Mount Rainier National Park’s largest lake.
Mowich Lake Campground, located at the end of State Highway 165, is one of Mount Rainier’s best campgrounds. This primitive campground, which is first-come, first-served, allows for several days of exploring the lake and nearby mountain activities.
8. Colchuck Lake
This beautiful backcountry lake is located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The lake can be reached via the Stuart Lake Trailhead off Icicle Road in Leavenworth. It’s a four-mile climb with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain to get there. Nonetheless, the views along the shoreline are worth the effort.
Beyond the southern shoreline of Colchuck Lake, Dragontail and Aasgard Peaks cut into the sky. Hikers can see the difficult Aasgard Pass from here, which leads into the wilderness’s Core Enchantment area. This central section of pure mountain beauty is laced with several mesmerizing high alpine lakes and one of Washington’s best hiking trails.
9. lakes in Washington: Banks Lake
Located in Eastern Washington, Banks Lake is a sizable artificial reservoir that stretches from Coulee City to Electric City. The larger Columbia Basin Project, which supplies energy and irrigation to the entire region, includes this unique lake.
Another well-liked vacation spot in Eastern Washington is Banks Lake. The focal point of activity is Steamboat Rock State Park on the lake’s northern shore. A prominent rock monolith that towers 800 feet above the water gave the park its name. Over 600 acres are covered by this imposing plateau.
10. lakes in Washington: Baker Lake
Baker Lake can be reached from the North Cascades Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 20. Within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, it is a popular recreation lake. This nine-mile-long and skinny lake is surrounded by several campsites, hiking trails, and general forest attractions.
A popular summer destination, Baker Lake is only two hours from Seattle and even less from Bellingham. However, due to the lake’s enormous size and amenities, things remain fairly dispersed. The lake’s western shoreline is where development has occurred, and there are a number of campgrounds there.