Elizabeth is an experienced traveler and writer with bylines in several popular travel publications. She currently co-owns a small digital travel publication and spends her free time writing, taking photos, and traveling.
Washington, DC, is known for its monuments, museums, and vibrant culture, but did you know it also boasts some of the most stunning lakes in the country? From tranquil retreats to scenic spots for outdoor activities, the capital city has it all. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city or simply want to soak up some nature, explore these top 10 lakes in Washington, DC.
1. Lake Accotink
Emerging from the dammed Accotink Creek, the 55-acre Lake Accotink sits calmly within a vibrant 493-acre park. Here, you can row, pedal, or cruise along the lake’s serene waters or explore diverse trails that extend to the Cross County Trail system. The park also houses an antique carousel, encircled by a miniature golf course, offering a unique, whimsical atmosphere amidst the diverse recreational offerings. Unique wildlife sightings and the aroma of barbecue from the picnic areas add to the invigorating ambiance.
2. Burke Lake
At the heart of Washington, DC, lies Burke Lake, an inviting retreat with 218 acres of natural beauty and activities for all. Encounter both serene and exhilarating activities here, whether casting a line from the fishing pier, indulging in ice cream, or challenging yourself on the disc golf course. With a 4.7-mile trail wrapping around the lake, it’s more than just a visit—it’s an exploration of endless potentiality.
3. Lake Fairfax
Infuse your travels with a dash of excitement at Lake Fairfax, a 476-acre parkland in Washington, DC, offering a myriad of family-friendly attractions. From the thrill of the Water Mine family water park to the serenity found along hiking trails, or the camaraderie at group campgrounds, there’s something for every adventurer here. So, whether you fancy testing your agility at the skate park or immersing yourself in classes and special events, Lake Fairfax ensures each visit will lead to a fun memory etched in time.
4. Seneca Creek Lake
Unveil the wonders of Seneca Creek State Park, a sprawling haven in Maryland renowned for inviting a broad spectrum of outdoor pursuits. Clopper Lake, the heart of the park, thrills with boating and fishing opportunities amidst a diverse aquatic ecosystem. The park’s extensive network of trails offers the perfect backdrop for an exhilarating hike, cycle, or horseback ride. Our top tip? Explore the Seneca Ridge Trail that gracefully connects Clopper Lake with Schaeffer Farm.
5. Black Hill Lake Park
Set against Washington DC’s bustling cityscape, the vast 1,580-acre Black Hill Regional Park offers a contrasting haven of natural tranquillity. Its heart is the Little Seneca Lake, a 505-acre water reservoir unveiled in the 1980s, now a sanctuary for bird watchers and a focal point for watersports enthusiasts. Trails lace the park, meandering through mixed woodlands, meadows, and shrubby fields, offering a playground for hikers and wildlife watchers alike. The park also caters to water lovers, offering a host of boat rentals and a public launch area, so you can paddle across the three arms of the lake.
6. Hunting Creek Lake
Hunting Creek Lake, a 43-acre aquatic marvel, resides in the heart of Cunningham Falls State Park, luring the adventurous with its enigmatic underwater ecosystem. Here, the lake’s serene waters, largely renowned for abundant bluegill, crappie, and red ear sunfish population, hide an overshadowed secret: impressive largemouth bass weighing up to a whopping six pounds. Rainbow and golden trout are stocked annually each October, too.
7. Lake Anna
Nestled in Virginia’s countryside, Lake Anna, one of the largest inland reservoirs in the state, is a convenient 72 miles from Washington, DC. Its vast 13,000 acres of freshwater, divided into a public and private side, offer several fun water activities to enjoy, from wakeboarding to sailing and much more.
8. Lake Arrowhead
Lake Arrowhead, a tranquil 39-acre jewel in Page County near Luray, Virginia, is more than just a picturesque body of water—it’s a testament to the harmonious marriage of careful town planning and the preservation of nature. Brought into existence in 1971 for flood control, the lake has now been transformed into a vibrant ecosystem cared for by the Town of Luray and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. With the Blue Ridge Mountains serving as a breathtaking backdrop, curious explorers are invited to try their hand at fishing in Arrowhead’s clear waters, abundant with species like crappie and walleye.
9. Greenbrier Lake
Greenbrier Lake, nestled within Washington DC’s Greenbrier State Park, serves as an enticing conduit to the area’s rich natural beauty and biodiversity. This 42-acre artificial lake lures many with its promise of canoeing, picnicking, fishing in trout-filled waters, and trails that plunge hikers into a universe teeming with wildlife and wildflowers. Take the inviting detour to the Appalachian trail to delve deeper into the area’s fascinating geological history.
10. Smith Mountain
Finally, don’t visit Washington, DC, without exploring the beauty of Smith Mountain Lake, a reservoir nestled within the enchanting landscapes of Virginia’s Roanoke Region. This playground of aquatic adventures, established in 1963, welcomes water sports enthusiasts for boating, sailing, and professional fishing tournaments. Discover serenity at the Smith Mountain Lake State Park, or tee off on a nearby golf course for a rewarding day in this captivating corner of Virginia.
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