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18 Scenic Lakes in Alaska for a Splendid Getaway

By | Last Updated : 8th October 2021

Alaska, a North American state, is home to the largest number of lakes in the entire nation. Out of the three million lakes, only 3,197 of them have names. However, not all are reachable by road, accessed only by boat or plane, making them isolated and less-visited. Beautiful glaciers, towering mountains, and spruce and alpine forests surrounding the lakes make them all the more picturesque and photogenic. From water activities like kayaking and water-skiing to land activities like hiking and camping, these pristine lakes will keep you busy from the moment you set foot here. They’re also a popular winter destination with ice-fishing, snowmobiling, and snow-machining enjoyed in and around the frozen lakes.

Lakes in Alaska

1. Lake Clark

Lake Clark in Alaska

Lake Clark sits nestled amidst rainforests and alpine trees in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. In addition, the steaming volcanoes and craggy mountains provide a stunning backdrop. It is not reachable by road. You will have to take a boat or board a seaplane to get here. The surrounding wilderness is home to many birds and animals. In fact, with the help of your binoculars, you may even spot a brown bear foraging in these areas.

Fishing: The best time to fish here is from May to October. However, the lake has an excellent stock of sockeye salmon, mainly available in July and August. Other fish species found include northern pike, rainbow trout, lake trout, and arctic grayling. Ice fishing is quite popular, with the lake remaining frozen till June.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, biking, hiking

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2. Kenai Lake

Kenai Lake in Alaska

Kenai Lake is one of Alaska’s most beautiful lakes found on the Kenai Peninsula. Its zigzag shape with turquoise-colored waters and encompassing snow-capped mountains make it highly photogenic. Hikers can explore the surrounding forested areas using the different trails. There are four campgrounds where you can spend overnight in nature’s beauty. While you enjoy your time here, don’t miss visiting the nearby Juneau Creek Falls for additional views.

Fishing: Kenai Lake supports excellent freshwater fish species such as sockeye, king, and coho salmon. You can also expect to catch rainbow trout, dolly varden, arctic char, arctic grayling, lake trout, and steelhead trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boating, camping, hiking, nature-gazing

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3. Skilak Lake

Skilak Lake in Alaska

Located within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, this glacial-fed lake flows downstream to the Kenai River. You can access it by Skilak Lake Loop Road via Sterling Highway. Besides the picturesque views, the lake also offers numerous recreational activities. Several boat launches are available here to enjoy the clear waters and surroundings with your boats. It is also a great place to walk along the stone-filled shoreline, and many even have fun skipping stones. For the lake’s best views, hike up the 2-mile Skilak Lookout Trail. Rustic cabins and vacation rentals dot the shoreline, and you’ll also find many restaurants in the neighboring towns.

Fishing: This lake is well-suited for boat fishing than shore fishing. Sockeye and coho salmon are abundant in August. Rainbow trout, lake trout, dolly varden, and arctic char also dwell here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, nature-gazing

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4. Mendenhall Lake

Mendenhall Lake in Alaska

Mendenhall Lake is a spectacular iceberg-filled lake located just a short distance away from downtown Juneau. It provides sweeping views of Mendenhall Glacier. Make it a point to hike up the 1.2-mile Nugget Falls Trail to soak in the views of the waterfall and the magnificent glacier. You might also catch sight of a bear trying to capture salmon from the lake. Kayaking is a sought-after activity to admire the pristine surroundings.

Fishing: This lake has plenty of coho salmon, pink salmon, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout. Don’t forget to carry your fishing license for acquiring permission to fish.  

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing

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5. Wonder Lake

Wonder Lake in Alaska

This secluded lake is a part of Denali National Park and Preserve. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with the awe-inspiring views of Denali, the highest peak in North America. The ideal time to come here is from June till mid-September. However, don’t forget to carry a bug repellent as mosquitoes can be a nuisance at times. Hiking the numerous scenic trails in the vicinity will give you opportunities to see the area’s wildlife like bears, moose, and sheep. You can pitch your tents at the lake’s south end in Lake Wonder Campground for an overnight stay. Do remember that you will have to reserve a bus to get to the lake area and park your private vehicle at the state park’s visitor center.  Also, don’t miss visiting the sled dogs found in no other national parks.

Fishing: Anglers usually catch lake trout and grayling in Wonder Lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing

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6. Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake in Alaska

Eklutna Lake is a long glacial lake near Anchorage, boasting 15 miles of shoreline. Its blue-green waters attract visitors to enjoy a boat ride. You can rent a kayak or bike from Lifetime Adventures that runs the Visitor Center situated in the vicinity. The trail to the Twin Peaks offers mesmerizing views of the Lake and the surroundings. For a family-friendly hike, you can consider treading along the 1 mile Thunderbird Falls Trail to witness the gorgeous 200-foot waterfall. Several campsites sit at the Lake’s northern tip. Your dogs can also accompany you but do keep them on leash.

Fishing: Fish species like dolly varden and rainbow trout populate the lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, camping, hiking, picnicking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, ATV riding

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7. Quartz Lake

Quartz Lake in Alaska

Quartz Lake is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Its shore is primarily private property, but visitors can access it from Quartz Lake State Recreation Area. To get here, you will have to take a frontage road off Richardson Highway. Among the many surrounding trails, the one leading to Bluff Point offers breathtaking views. For a night stay, you’ll find several campsites along the shore providing additional facilities like a swimming area, picnic sites, boat launches, and a volleyball court.

Fishing: This lake contains fingerling, coho salmon, and rainbow trout in abundance. Ice fishing is also common here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, picnicking, snow machining

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8. Iliamna Lake

Iliamna Lake in Alaska

Iliamna Lake is Alaska’s largest lake in which many rivers and streams drain. Many locals claim to have witnessed a monster roaming around in the waters, possibly indicating an aquatic cryptid. On the lake’s northeastern end, you will be able to see many harbor seals basking in the sun. You can get stunning views of Mount Iliamna, a glacier-covered stratovolcano overlooking the lake. The Kvichak River connects it to Bristol Bay. This vast body of freshwater can be reached only by a floatplane. For overnight accommodations, you will be able to stay in one of the two fishing lodges.

Fishing: Anglers mainly target pacific salmon, arctic grayling, and rainbow trout. Other fish like dolly varden, sockeye salmon, and silver salmon also dwell here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, wildlife watching

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9. Becharof Lake

Becharof Lake in Alaska

Alaska’s second-largest, Becharof Lake on Alaskan Peninsula, flows within Becharof National Wildlife Refuge. The volcanic Mount Peulik, sitting at the backdrop, elevates its untouched beauty. Its remote location, accessible only by motorboats or floatplanes, offers a quiet time to visitors. The encompassing wilderness is home to many birds and animals like bald eagles, terns, cormorants, bears, moose, seals, and sea otters. However, boating in the lake is quite challenging due to the rapids from the King Salmon River, a tributary to the Egegik River.

Fishing: Becharof Lake is well-known for sockeye salmon. Fish species like arctic char, grayling, trout, dolly varden, northern pike, and burbot also inhabit here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, camping, hiking, nature-gazing, wildlife watching

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10. Birch Lake

Birch Lake in Alaska

Those seeking a blend of scenic beauty and fun activities can plan to visit Birch Lake. Nestled amidst the forested wetlands, it sits within Birch Lake State Recreation Area. Boaters can enter the waters from the developed boat launch. Water activities, including water skiing and jet skiing, are popular during summer, while snow-machining is common in winter. You can pitch your tents at the designated campsite next to the lake and enjoy nature’s beauty even at night.

Fishing: The primary targets of fishermen are rainbow trout, king salmon, silver salmon, arctic char, grayling, and northern pike. In winter, you can rent one of the five ice fishing huts.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, camping, hiking 

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11. Summit Lake

Summit Lake in Alaska

Summit Lake is a beautiful little tarn located at the crest of Hatcher Pass. It is indeed enchanting to see the snow-covered mountains’ reflection on the clear blue waters. Paragliders taking off from the adjoining peaks in summer is a common sight. Hiking enthusiasts should tread on the moderately difficult April Bowl Trail to get to the top of Hatcher Peak. The view from there of Summit Lake along with other neighboring lakes is incredible. Many also indulge in berry-picking in August as ripe blueberries dot the place. As the lake sits at a high elevation, you can expect and enjoy snowfall at any month of the year.

Fishing: Fish species like dolly varden and lake trout naturally inhabit the lake, but it is also annually stocked with rainbow trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, camping, hiking, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding,

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12. Aleknagik Lake

Aleknagik Lake in Alaska

This pretty lake is near Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. It is reachable by vehicles from the southern shore where Aleknagik village lies. Named by the Yupik tribe ‘Aleknagik’ means wrong way home, as the thick fogs here would often confuse them, and they would end up being swept up the Wood River to the lake. You can consider spending your holiday at Alaska’s Bearclaw Lodge, located near the shoreline in Bristol Bay.

Fishing: Sockeye salmon, king salmon, silver salmon, arctic char, rainbow trout, and lake trout thrive here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, mountain climbing, wildlife and bird viewing, snow-machining

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13. Chilkoot Lake

Chilkoot Lake in Alaska

Chilkoot Lake is a well-known lake located near Haines in southeast Alaska. Spruce trees lining along its shoreline and the lofty mountains make it a sight to behold. Its southern end features a campground and a boat launch. It is a favorite place for bear-watching activity during summer when the water is brimming with salmon. River otters and seals also pay a visit to enjoy their share. Kayaking in its calm water and exploring the nearby picturesque areas is pure bliss.

Fishing: Salmon fishing takes place in four runs in this lake from mid-June to mid-October. Fish species like dolly varden, steelhead, and cutthroat trout are also common finds here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, nature-gazing

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14. Tangle Lakes

Tangle Lakes in Alaska

Tangle Lakes is a splendid series of lakes located north of Denali Highway, boasting uninhabited and untouched beauty. You can pop your boats into the waters and explore the lakes connected by streams and the Tangle River. Avid hikers can choose the trails leading to Tangle Lake Archaeological District and get an insight into the area’s history. Vacation rentals are available here for those who want to spend time in the wilderness.

Fishing: Arctic grayling, lake trout, burbot, and whitefish are mainly found here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, sight-seeing, wildlife viewing

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15. Tustumena Lake

Tustumena Lake in Alaska

Tustumena Lake sits within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, accessible only by a boat via the Kasilof River. It is the state’s eighth-largest and holds crystal clear waters. The wilderness areas around provide visitors the opportunity to hike or horse-ride. You will also get to see several wildlife species here, like moose and bears. Rental cabins are available nearby for those planning to extend their stay in the sights and sounds of nature.

Fishing: Sockeye salmon is primarily abundant, but you’ll also find pacific salmon, rainbow trout, and dolly varden here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, wildlife watching, horseback riding

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16. Twin Lakes Alaska

Twin Lakes Alaska

Twin Lakes in Lake Clark National Park consists of a 6-mile upper lake and a 4-mile lower lake, joined by a stream. It is accessible only by a floatplane. Moose-hunting is a popular sport in summer. You can stay in the campsites or rental cabins for the night, and firewood is available here. Its isolated position makes it less-visited, but the views of the mighty mountains and glaciers along with glimpses of wildlife are pretty impressive. 

Fishing: Twin Lakes supports excellent fish species such as sockeye salmon, dolly varden, and arctic grayling.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, camping, hiking, nature gazing, wildlife viewing

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17. Finger Lake

Finger Lake in Alaska

Finger Lake is within Finger Lake State Recreation Area. Visitors mainly enjoy water activities like water-skiing and jet-skiing in summer. The campsites here are spacious and well-maintained, offering campers a quiet time to enjoy nature’s beauty. Kids, too, have fun at the designated swimming area, including a roped-off section. With the help of your binoculars, you will be able to catch sight of eagles, warblers, short-eared owls, ducks, finches, and many more such birds.

Fishing: The lake has a stock of rainbow trout, arctic char, and landlocked king salmon.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet-skiing, water-skiing, paddle boarding, camping, hiking, picnicking, birdwatching

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18. Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake in Alaska

This lake is on the Kenai Peninsula within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It can be reached by Skilak Lake Road or by hiking the Seven Lakes Trail. Plenty of waterfowl like common loons, pacific loons, and red-necked grebes wade in the waters. As it is in the foothills of the Kenai Mountains, its shoreline is pretty steep and densely bordered with birch and spruce trees. The campsites are family-friendly, and you can also enjoy moose viewing.

Fishing: Hidden Lake is home to sockeye salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, arctic char, and rainbow trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, camping, hiking 

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TOP PICKS

Best Lakes for Fishing: Kenai Lake, Birch Lake, Iliamna Lake

Best Lakes for Boating: Skilak Lake, Eklutna Lake, Birch Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: Wonder Lake, Birch Lake, Finger Lake

Best Lakes to Live On: Iliamna Lake, Mendenhall Lake, Eklutna Lake

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