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.
Untouched nature, tranquil waters, and outdoor adventures are all just a short drive from Philadelphia. We’ve put together a list of the best lakes no more than three hours outside of the City of Brotherly Love. From idyllic swim spots to fishing havens and serene hiking paths to lively picnic pavilions, discover your next perfect lakeside escape!
Lake Absegami, a scenic 64-acre lake just an hour from Philly, caters to those who crave aquatic adventures. Swim, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard in the secure presence of lifeguards. Experience the beauty of the Absegami Natural Area by hiking its eight unique trails teeming with cedars, magnolias, and flowering plants. Be sure to start your day early to secure parking in this bustling spot.
Blue Marsh Lake
Dive into a world of adventure at Blue Marsh Lake, a sprawling 6,100-acre project with a 1,150-acre lake, 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Whether you fancy a refreshing swim, a picnic with a view, or a thrilling bout of water skiing, this place has you covered. Don’t miss the 30-mile multi-purpose trail ideal for hiking and biking, as well as three accessible interpretive trails, promising an exploration of the surrounding natural beauty.
If you’re in search of engaging outdoor activities near Philadelphia, look no further than Parvin State Park. Its centerpiece, Parvin Lake, provides a safe spot for swimming, canoeing, and fishing, with lifeguards from Memorial Day to Labor Day. On land, the park is home to diverse flora and an array of bird species, which you can observe while meandering along its 15 miles of trails.
Located conveniently close to Philadelphia, Bellmawr Lake is an ideal family destination. Safe swimming is ensured by attentive lifeguards and a variety of floats are available for a leisurely lake experience. Don’t forget to carry cash for the on-site concessions (an ATM is available at the entrance) to refuel after a day of fun on the water. While the lake encourages relaxation, remember – no pets and no drinking to maintain a peaceful environment.
A gem in Bucks County, Lake Nockamixon offers a multitude of water activities, despite swimming being off-limits. The lake, carved by a dam on Tohickon Creek, is a hub for sailboating, kayaking, and motor boating, with an active sail club steering the excitement. Anglers can expect a catch boasting bass, catfish, walleye, and more. In winter, the lake’s surface is perfect for ice fishing and skating, while the year-round accessible horse trails are great for hiking enthusiasts.
Fondly known as ‘The Lake’ by locals, East Lake in Ridley Park is an ideal retreat near Philadelphia. While not suitable for swimming, it’s an excellent spot for fishing from the traditional floating dock or exploring the self-guided walking trails. With a diverse array of wildlife, including foxes, geese, wild turkeys, and the rare Mandarin duck, it’s a bird watcher’s paradise.
Lake Lenape, located in a friendly community of Burlington County, NJ, serves as a peaceful haven an hour away from Philadelphia. The park is a hub of outdoor activities – from hiking and hunting to jogging and mountain biking. Take a serene paddle in a kayak, canoe, or rowboat, or enjoy a leisurely picnic in the provided areas. With a playground to keep the young ones busy and ample parking and bathroom facilities, it’s a well equipped family destination.
Found at the heart of the expansive 23,000-acre Belleplain State Forest, Lake Nummy offers numerous recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy canoeing, swimming, or hiking around the lake, or enjoy a serene picnic by the lakeside, complete with charcoal grills and horseshoe pits. While canoe rentals and a concession stand add to the convenience, remember to adhere to the Carry in/Carry out Program to help keep this beautiful destination clean.
Lake Wallenpaupack, the second-largest lake wholly within Pennsylvania, is an outdoor enthusiast’s haven just under three hours from Philly. In summer, the 52-mile shoreline buzzes with boating, swimming, and fishing, while in winter it transforms into a playground for ice skating, ice fishing, and snowmobiling. Hiking trails wind through the lakeside woods, offering glimpses of wildlife including deer and black bears.
Nestled within Locust Lake State Park, Locust Lake offers a variety of activities for year-round enjoyment. From boating, with both motor and non-powered options, to fishing for species like trout, pickerel, and bass, it’s a destination for water enthusiasts. The lake is encircled by 282 campsites, providing the perfect base for tent or trailer camping. While swimming is allowed from Memorial Day to Labor Day, remember that lifeguards are not posted anymore!
A 42-mile journey from Philadelphia lands you at Atsion Lake, a man-made water body nestled within the Pine Barrens of Wharton State Forest. This multipurpose lake offers boating, hiking, fishing, and swimming, with camping facilities to round off an adventurous day. Extend your exploration with canoeing in adjacent rivers, mountain biking, horseback riding, or enjoying wildlife observation. Don’t miss the historical charm of the nearby ghost town and iron and glass-making village.
Just under two hours from Philadelphia, nestled in the scenic Pocono hills, Beltzville State Park offers a tranquil retreat featuring the 949-acre Beltzville Lake. With its sandy beach and picnic pavilions, it’s a haven for swimming and fishing with species ranging from bass to perch and walleye. The park hosts 15 miles of trails, ideal for hiking along old roads and stream banks, and transforms into a winter wonderland offering ice fishing, ice boating, and cross-country skiing.
Union Lake, a sprawling 5,000-acre man-made wonder near historic Millville, New Jersey, presents a picturesque getaway about an hour from Philadelphia. The westward tapering lake offers tranquil spaces, ideal for relaxed fishing or leisurely lounging. Scattered islands within the lake provide pleasant stopovers for paddleboard exploration, camping, or simply basking in the shade on a breezy summer day.
Hooks Creek Lake
Hooks Creek Lake, a secluded 6-acre retreat found 80 miles from Philly and in the heart of Cheesequake State Park, is a haven for swimming and fishing enthusiasts alike. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, swimmers can enjoy the lake under the watchful eyes of lifeguards. Anglers can look forward to reeling in a variety of freshwater species, while the ADA-accessible Crabbing Bridge offers an ideal spot for crabbing adventures.
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