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17 of the Best and Most Beautiful Lakes in Idaho

By | Last Updated: 30th May 2023

Idaho, known for its rugged beauty, is also home to some of the most beautiful lakes on earth. It houses more than 2000 lakes, including both artificial and natural ones equally distributed to all parts of the state. Most of the lakes, particularly those in the northern and central regions, lie within the Boise National Forest and the Sawtooth National Recreational Area. So, be it a fishing spree or a desire to take pleasure in the water sports, the lakes in Idaho provide for all of them.

Lakes in Idaho

Lakes in Northern Idaho

1. Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho

Located in the northern part of Idaho near Sandpoint, Lake Pend Oreille is the state’s largest and also deepest lake. It has 111 miles of shoreline and is 1158 feet deep. The incredible Rocky Mountains that border the entire shore adds to the scenic beauty of the place. You can enjoy numerous activities here, which makes this place an ideal getaway for a fun-filled vacation with friends or family.

Fishing: The lake is mainly noted for the kamloops rainbow trout. Other fishes available here are westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, mackinaw, and kokanee salmon.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, water skiing

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2. Couer d’alene Lake

Couer d’alene Lake in Northern Idaho

 Located 30 miles east of Spokane, Washington, this lake is the second largest lake in northern Idaho. With mountains acting as a backdrop, the lake appears even more attractive. You can find numerous parks, beaches, trails, and camping grounds here. The Tubbs Hill, a 165-acre peninsula with hiking trails, offers picturesque scenery.

Fishing: The lake is well known for its chinook salmon population. Other fishes found here include trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, and kokanee salmon.

Other Activities: Sailing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, swimming, cliff jumping

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3. Priest Lake

Priest Lake in Northern Idaho

Also commonly known as Idaho’s Crown Jewel, the Priest Lake lies in the northernmost part of the state. It stretches to about 15 miles of the Canadian border. The Selkirk Mountains provide for a stunning backdrop adding to the natural beauty of the place. The lake is known for its clear water pouring from the peaks of the Selkirk Mountains.

Fishing: Fishes commonly found here are smallmouth bass, cutthroat trout, lake trout, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, yellow perch, and kokanee salmon.

Other Activities: Water skiing, hiking, swimming, mountain biking

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4. Spirit Lake

Spirit Lake in Northern Idaho

Also called the “Lake of the Spirit” by the local Indians, the Spirit Lake is one of the hidden gems of Idaho. The lake, located in the northern part of the state, sits at an elevation of 2400 feet. Formed from a glacier, it is crystal clear and surrounded by lush greenery.

Fishing: Rainbow trout, brook trout, carp, white bass, crappie are commonly found.

Other Activities: Bicycling, swimming, hiking, canoeing

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Lakes in Southern Idaho

1. Bear Lake

Bear Lake in Southern Idaho

 The Bear Lake has its waters, half in the state of Idaho and half in Utah. It is often referred to as the ‘Caribbean of the Rockies’ due to its marvelous turquoise waters. Various activities can be enjoyed throughout the year, making this place well known for its recreational opportunities. The Lake’s Idaho side has the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which abounds in cranes, swans, geese, and muskrats.

Fishing: A variety of fishes such as the Bonneville Whitefish, the Bonneville cisco, the Bear lake whitefish, and the Bear lake sculpin dwell here.

Other Activities: Boating, swimming, jet-skiing, go sailing, bird watching, and wildlife viewing, ice fishing, snow skiing, snowmobiling

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2. C.J. Strike Reservoir

C.J. Strike Reservoir in Southern Idaho

C.J. Strike Reservoir is a famous manmade waterbody in southwestern Idaho. It is a perfect summer spot to enjoy various recreational activities with family or friends. The lake’s shoreline has four campgrounds equipped with a boat launch and picnic areas.

Fishing: C.J. Strike Reservoir offers outstanding fishing opportunities for both cold and warm water species, including catfish, bass, perch, crappie, and rainbow trout.

Other Activities: Boating, camping, hiking

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3. Lucky Peak Reservoir

Lucky Peak Reservoir in Southern Idaho

This gorgeous reservoir is situated on the Boise River in Idaho. The Lucky Peak Reservoir State Park, which includes a beautiful sandy beach, surrounds the northern part of the lake.

Fishing:  A wide variety of fish, like rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass inhabit the lake.

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

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4. Lake Cleveland

Lake Cleveland in Southern Idaho

Located near the Utah Border, Lake Cleveland is a popular summer destination. It is a high mountain lake with an elevation of about 8300 feet, making it one of Idaho’s most beautiful hidden beauty. The lake is formed at the basin of Mount Harrison.

Fishing: Cutthroat trout, brook, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass are good catches here.

Other Activities: Kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping

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5. Payette Lake

Payette Lake in Southern Idaho

Situated in southwestern Idaho in McCall town, Payette Lake is a natural lake formed by a glacier, sitting at about 5000 feet above sea level. Almost half of it is surrounded by the Ponderosa State Park, rich in a natural wilderness.

Fishing: The lake is well known for mackinaw. Other fishes include cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee.

Other Activities: Jet-boarding, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, swimming, sailing, wildlife watching.

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Lakes in Central Idaho

1. Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake in Central Idaho

The Redfish Lake, in Central Idaho, south of Stanley, is a beautiful lake of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It gets its name from the sockeye salmon that was once found in abundance. It is still found here, though, in fewer numbers.

Fishing: Rainbow trout, dolley varden trout, landlocked salmon, and kokanee are commonly found here. 

Other Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, swimming, kayaking, sunbathing

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2. Stanley Lake

Located northwest of Redfish Lake, this blue beauty is another scenic alpine lake within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It lies at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains. It is a perfect place for campers due to the several camping grounds surrounding it.

Fishing: Lake trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, kokanee, brook trout are available here.

Other Activities: Camping, hiking, biking, bird watching, water-skiing, canoeing, kayaking, boating

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3. Alice Lake

Alice Lake in Central Idaho

Alice lake is the largest lake of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, with an elevation of 2,622m above sea level. It offers breathtaking scenery with an alpine backdrop and dense forests surrounding the lake.

Fishing: Bass, brook trout, bull trout, kokanee, and salmon are the prominent fishes here. However, Alice lake remains frozen till early summer.

Other Activities: Hiking, biking, nature-gazing

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4. Sawtooth Lake

Sawtooth Lake in Central Idaho

Lying 6.8 miles southwest of Stanley, Sawtooth Lake is also an alpine lake of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. With an elevation of 2,571 meters above sea level, it is seated high in the Sawtooth Mountains. You can reach the lake along the Iron Creek trailhead and campground. Due to its high elevation, it often remains frozen, even during the summers.

Fishing: Fishing activities are limited as the lake remains frozen most of the time of the year.

Other Activities: Hiking, camping

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5. Alturas Lake

Alturas Lake in Central Idaho

Alturas Lake is another beautiful alpine lake of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It is the second-largest lake of the Sawtooth Wilderness, at a 2138 m elevation. Surrounded by forests, this lake provides numerous recreational activities. It can be easily reached on its northern shore, where plenty of campgrounds and private camps are available.

Fishing: Plenty of fish species can be found in this lake, including kokanee rainbow trout, bull trout, and cutthroat trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, canoeing, boating, hiking, bird watching, mountain biking

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6. Lake Cascade

Lake Cascade in Northern Idaho

Earlier known as Cascade Reservoir, Lake Cascade is a massive man-made lake. Encompassed by the Boise National Forest to its western and southern parts, it is an ideal place for those desiring to get wooed by nature’s picturesque beauty. Wildlife viewers would have a splendid time admiring the deer, black bear, grizzly bear, and skunk populations found in the surrounding areas. The Lake Cascade State Park lying in its vicinity has over 2,000 campsites alongside other facilities.

Fishing:  Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bullhead catfish, bluegill, kokanee, sunfish are found here, but a fishing license is mandatory. Ice fishing is popular during winters.

Other Activities: Bird watching, wildlife viewing, camping, biking, rafting, kayaking, swimming, hiking, snowmobiling, skiing

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7. Warm Lake

Warm Lake in Northern Idaho

Spanning across a 640-acre area, Warm Lake is the largest natural lake of the Boise National Forest. The lake possesses extraordinary scenic beauty and is blessed with abundant wildlife and birds like mule deer, moose, elk, black bear, bald eagle, and osprey.

Fishing: Plenty of fishes like bull trout, rainbow trout, brook, mountain whitefish, kokanee salmon are available here.

Other Activities: Boating, canoeing, swimming, camping, hunting, wildlife watching, nature-gazing

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Lakes in Eastern Idaho

1. Henry’s Lake

Henry’s Lake in Eastern Idaho

Henry’s Lake, located near the Montana border is known to be the clearest lake in Idaho. Despite its small size, the blue waters generate a scenic beauty with a magnificent backdrop of the Sawtell Peak. There are many natural trails ideal for hiking.

Fishing: This lake mainly offers yellowstone cutthroat trout, rainbow-cutthroat hybrids, and brook trout.

Other Activities: Hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, boating

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Best Lakes for Fishing: Lake Pend Oreille, Coeur d’Alene Lake, Priest Lake

Best Lakes for Swimming: Redfish Lake, Alturas Lake, Payette Lake

Best Lakes for Boating: C.J. Strike Reservoir, Lucky Peak Reservoir, Lake Cascade

Best Lakes to Live On: Hayden Lake, Bear Lake, Lake Pend Oreille

Best Lakes for Camping: Lake Cascade, Stanley Lake, Henry’s Lake

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