Top 15 Idaho Lakes to Add to Your Wanderlust Wish List

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Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.

Aptly known as the “Gem State,” Idaho is home to some of America’s most beautiful lakes. From enchanting waters nestled in the mountains to serene reservoirs ideal for adventure, there is no shortage of natural beauty. But which ones should you add to your wanderlust wish list?

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the very best 15 lakes to visit in Idaho!

Sawtooth Lake

Sawtooth Lake - Idaho Lakes
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Discover the breathtaking beauty of Sawtooth Lake, nestled in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest. An accessible five-mile hike leads you through enchanting landscapes of lush forests and soaring mountains, taking you to the largest alpine lake in the Sawtooth Mountains. Be it for a day hike or an overnight camping experience; Sawtooth Lake promises an unforgettable blend of adventure and awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Lake Coeur d’Alene

Lake Coeur d'Alene
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Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho’s second-largest lake, offers diverse activities in a dramatic mountain setting. Hike scenic trails, sail the 26-mile lake, or catch a Chinook salmon. Between November and February, don’t miss the majestic spectacle of migrating bald eagles, too!

Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake, Idaho
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Discover Redfish Lake, the crown jewel of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. From hiking in the embrace of the Sawtooth Mountains to enjoying water sports on the pristine alpine lake, outdoor adventure awaits. Don’t miss the summer ferry service that offers spectacular views, or the many trails accessible for backpacking and mountain biking.

Payette Lake

Payette Lake, Idaho
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Here’s one for the monster hunters! According to Idaho folklore, hidden in Payette Lake is a sea monster, much like the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Now known affectionately as Sharlie, make sure to back your binoculars to see if you can spot her gliding beneath the water! Outside of monster hunting, there are plenty of other things to do when exploring Payette Lake, including camping amidst the natural wilderness or hiking pristine trails. 

Bear Lake

Bear Lake, Idaho
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Welcome to the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” otherwise known as Bear Lake. Offering both summer and winter recreational activities, this beautiful lake is a haven for sailing, jet-skiing, snowmobiling, and wildlife observation. With plenty of opportunities for camping, boating, or hiking, Bear Lake State Park invites visitors to enjoy its vivid landscape year-round.

Stanley Lake

Stanley Lake, Idaho
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Located at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley Lake offers a serene escape from Idaho’s alpine landscapes. Its pristine waters, fed by various creeks, provide an idyllic backdrop for camping, hiking, and boating. Whether you’re exploring trails or simply soaking up the view of McGown Peak, Stanley Lake promises a refreshing outdoor retreat.

Lake Cascade

Women windsurfing
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Delve into the natural wonders of Lake Cascade, a popular destination in Idaho for outdoor enthusiasts. From harnessing the afternoon winds for a thrilling windsurfing experience to casting a line for Rainbow Trout, Coho Salmon, or Smallmouth Bass, the possibilities are endless on this stunning lake. When you’re ready to retire for the night, choose from one of the many campsites sprinkled across its 86 miles of shoreline, complete with scenic views of the North Fork Mountain Range.

Priest Lake

Priest Lake, Idaho
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Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Priest Lake, a year-round destination renowned as “Idaho’s Crown Jewel.” You won’t get bored here, from boating and fishing to snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Selkirk Mountains. Offering 23,000 acres of undisturbed wilderness, Priest Lake is a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Henrys Lake

Henrys Lake, Idaho
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Henrys Lake, one of Idaho’s high mountain lakes, beckons fishing enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Known primarily for its impressive trout fishing, the pristine lake is also a perfect starting point for hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing. With its campsites resting on the 6,000-acre lake’s shoreline and its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, Henrys Lake is a must-visit summer destination.

Warm Lake

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Experience the outdoor allure of Warm Lake, a 640-acre natural treasure nestled in the Boise National Forest. With its diverse wildlife, including moose, mule deer, and various bird species, the lake offers an idyllic setting for camping, fishing, and wildlife spotting. 

Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho
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Exploring Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest and deepest lake, is a truly unforgettable experience. With parks, sandy beaches, trails, and an array of recreational opportunities, such as boating, fishing, and wildlife spotting, there’s no shortage of adventure. Whether you’re watching ospreys dive, casting a line for Kamloops trout, or simply enjoying a picnic on the shoreline, Lake Pend Oreille is an essential destination for outdoor lovers!

Yellow Belly Lake

Man hiking in the woods with a dog
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Reaching Yellow Belly Lake isn’t an easy feat, but the effort is well worth the reward. After navigating dense forests and rocky roads, you’ll be met by one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the whole of Idaho. If you’re hiking in the warmer months, be sure to pack your swimsuit for a refreshing dip after a tough trek. Thanks to its isolation, Yellow Belly Lake is a great spot for those seeking to escape the crowds.

Alturas Lake

Alturas Lake, Idaho
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Embark on an adventure at Alturas Lake, an impressive lake in the Sawtooth Valley. As the second-largest lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, it offers accessible shores, numerous campgrounds, and perfect terrain for cross-country skiing during the winter. Whether you’re casting a line in the summer, spotting birds, or venturing on hiking and mountain biking trails, Alturas Lake will leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Deadwood Reservoir

Man fishing
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If you’re looking for a quiet destination for your next water-based vacation, Deadwood Reservoir is a great option. Due to its secluded location, you’ll find a sprawling fish population, including salmon, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. It’s also the perfect spot for some water skiing, canoeing, or just relaxing on its 21 miles of shoreline.

Alice Lake

Alice Lake, Idaho
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Alice Lake, tucked away in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest, offers an unforgettable hiking experience. As a part of the renowned Tin Cup Hiker’s Loop, it’s a beautiful stop in the journey, nestled amidst the commanding “Dragon’s Back” peaks. While snow may add a challenge in spring, the trail to Alice Lake is a must-explore for avid hikers from July to early September.

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Miami Beach
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Ann Arbor for MSN
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