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30 Serene and Secluded Lakes Worth the Drive

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Convict Lake ,fall aspen trees, ,Sierra Nevada Mountains, fall color, golden aspens
Ron and Patty Thomas/istockphoto

Chill Zone

Summer isn't summer without some time spent on a lake. Yet after four months of quarantine, visiting a lake to escape crowds is not a unique proposition and is probably on many folks' minds. In order to find a more secluded spot in the age of social distancing, a little extra effort (and time in the car) might be required. So hit the road and find your happy place at these off-the-beaten-path lakes. (Here are 50 Picturesque Road Trips for Safer Travel During the Pandemic worth checking out, too.)

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Sunset at Siskiwit
Sunset at Siskiwit by TheMichaelMcKenzie (CC BY-ND)

Siskiwit Lake | Michigan

As one of America's least visited national parks, Isle Royale National Park is where you go when you really want to get away from it all. You could spend weeks on this remote island in Lake Superior above Michigan's Upper Peninsula and not see another human. Siskiwit Lake is the largest lake on Isle Royale, offering non-motorized fishing and several smaller lake islands waiting to be explored.

Related: Stunning Photos of Every National Park in America

Cave Run Lake
volgariver/istockphoto

Cave Run Lake | Kentucky

The verdant green rolling hills of northeast Kentucky are where you'll find this picturesque lake within the appropriately rugged Daniel Boone National Forest. Drive the scenic Zilpo Road, do some A-plus bass fishing, kick back on the beach, or start a barbecue by the shore. Whatever you do, life is instantly better when you're here.

Lake Willoughby
©TripAdvisor

Lake Willoughby | Vermont

Located on the edge of Willoughby State Forest in northern Vermont, this secluded lake surrounded by beaches and forested mountains is so beautiful it was even name-checked in the Robert Frost poem "A Servant to Servants." The glacial lake hums with the soothing sounds of vibrant bird life and, as an added bonus, even features its very own nude beach.

Related: 13 Great Places to Go Skinny-Dipping

Flowers over Trout Lake
Flowers over Trout Lake by Alex Berger (CC BY-NC)

Trout Lake | Colorado

In a state jam packed with jaw-dropping alpine lakes from the heavily visited Rocky Mountain National Park to the oft-photographed Maroon Bells near Aspen, this overlooked lake located just 30 minutes south of Telluride is one of those hidden gems that many folks just drive right past. Located just off the stunningly scenic San Juan Skyway, this laid-back scenic mountain lake is well worth the short extra drive.

Lake Lila
Lake Lila by Cornellier (CC BY-SA)

Lake Lila | New York

Tucked away within New York's almost incomprehensibly massive 6.1-million acre Adirondack Park (roughly three times the size of Yellowstone), this hidden lake in the park's remote William C. Whitney Wilderness Area is accessible only via a 6-mile dirt road or canoe portage. But the peace and solitude you'll find here is well worth it.

Convict Lake, Sierra Nevada Range, CA 2016
Convict Lake, Sierra Nevada Range, CA 2016 by Don Graham (CC BY-SA)

Convict Lake | California

This awesomely named lake located in the Mammoth Lakes area of Northern California is a significantly less-trafficked alternative to nearby Yosemite, rewarding visitors with screen-saver worthy views of turquoise blue waters set against rugged mountains. Primarily known for its excellent trout fishing, the lake also features a gorgeous 3-mile hike around the shore.

Elkhart Lake Shoreline
Elkhart Lake Shoreline by The Osthoff Resort (CC BY-SA)

Elkhart Lake | Wisconsin

While many visitors to Wisconsin stop in the famous resort town of Lake Geneva or make their way up to the Door County peninsula, this often overlooked lake about halfway between the two is a charming little delight not far down the road from Sheboygan. Rent a pontoon boat, explore the town's cute business district, or recharge with a good book. This is what summer is all about.

Crab Orchard Lake Sunset
Crab Orchard Lake Sunset by K e v i n (CC BY-NC)

Crab Orchard Lake | Illinois

Southern Illinois as a whole is just incredibly underrated when compared with more human-dense population centers like Chicago, and this lake near the equally underrated college town of Carbondale is the perfect place to soak in the local flavor. It's the chief asset of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and one of many natural attractions in the area. A day on this lake is a day well spent.

Rangeley Lake, Maine Sunset III
Rangeley Lake, Maine Sunset III by cloud2013 (CC BY)

Rangeley Lake | Maine

Located at the edge of Rangeley Lake State Park about 2.5 hours north of Portland, this awe-inspiring lake helped fuel Henry David Thoreau's love of the legendary surrounding North Maine Woods area. One of 112 lakes that make up the Rangeley Lakes region, the namesake lake's spiritual setting provides an instant jolt of pure wilderness at its best.

Abert Rim & Lake Abert
Abert Rim & Lake Abert by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington (CC BY)

Lake Abert | Oregon

Oregon is stuffed with an all-star assortment of lakes from the famous Crater Lake to Odell Lake in Deschutes National Forest, but Lake Abert is one of the state's most unique. The desolate alkaline lake is too salty to support fish life, resulting in an eerily beautiful edge-of-the-Earth quality similar to California's Mono Lake or Salton Sea. You should have the place all to yourself.

Lake Meredith, Texas
Lake Meredith, Texas by J. Stephen Conn (CC BY-NC)

Lake Meredith | Texas

Those seeking to avoid crowds in Texas should have no problem doing so in the sparsely populated Texas Panhandle, where they will find what the National Park Service characterizes as an “oasis on the Texas High Plains.” The namesake attraction of Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, this colorful canyon-rimmed lake should not be missed.

Skilak Lake
Skilak Lake by Bill Bumgarner (CC BY-NC-ND)

Skilak Lake | Alaska

Alaska's lakes boast an almost unfair competitive advantage when judged against those of the Lower 48, and this astoundingly beautiful lake is no exception. Located about two hours south of Anchorage not far off the world-renowned Seward Highway, this lake is just one of many stunners that dot the epic landscape of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.  

Lake Pend Oreille
Lisay/istockphoto

Lake Pend Oreille | Idaho

While most of Idaho's lake lovers blaze a path toward Lake Coeur d'Alene or nearby Priest Lake, Lake Pend Oreille provides plenty of room for social distancing as Idaho's largest lake. Also located in the lake-blessed Idaho Panhandle region, this 43-mile-long lake is a boater's paradise as well as the perfect place to relax on the beach or park. What else do you need?

Lake Bistineau hdr--2
Lake Bistineau hdr--2 by Michael McCarthy (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lake Bistineau | Louisiana

This long and narrow lake located in northwest Louisiana outside Shreveport has pretty much got that classic Louisiana swamp vibe down cold. The centerpiece of Lake Bistineau State Park, this marshy lake is lined with cypress trees and Spanish moss that help cultivate that classic "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" experience.

Lake Greenwood State Park
Lake Greenwood State Park by Jason A G (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lake Greenwood | South Carolina

While Lake Murray and Lake Moultrie are some of the more popular lake retreats in South Carolina, a more out-of-the-way alternative lies about an hour down the road from Lake Murray in Lake Greenwood. Here you will find plenty of open space with more than 11,000 acres of water spread out over 212 miles of serene shoreline.

Gorged
Gorged by Nicholas A. Tonelli (CC BY)

Kettle Creek Lake | Pennsylvania

Wait, what? This is Pennsylvania? Yes, indeed, this postcard-picture lake that serves as the face of Kettle Creek State Park will redefine your preconceptions of the Keystone State. Surrounded by lush forest and rolling mountains smack in the middle of the state, don't be surprised to see a few swooping bald eagles while you're here.

Navajo Lake | Utah
pikappa/istockphoto

Navajo Lake | Utah

Utah is known for of course the Great Salt Lake as well as some of America's most popular national parks, but this placid little lake in the massive Dixie National Forest about an hour north of Zion National Park makes an excellent summer escape for those looking to boat, fish, hike, or camp on the lake. You can also rent boats and cabins from nearby Navajo Lake Lodge.

Related: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States

Lake Istokpoga cypress trees
Lake Istokpoga cypress trees by South Florida Water Management District (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lake Istokpoga | Florida

According to Wikipedia, the name of this remote Southern Florida lake smack in the middle of the state's two coasts derives its moniker from the Seminole phrase for "a lake where someone was killed in the water." And while it might make a good place for dumping a body, the lake is more well known as one of the finest airboat fishing lakes in the Sunshine State.

Bowman Lake
Bowman Lake by Kent Kanouse (CC BY-NC)

Bowman Lake | Montana

While most visitors to Glacier National Park make it a point to visit spots like St. Mary Lake and Lake McDonald, this lesser-trafficked lake hidden in one of the park's more remote sections rewards visitors with A-plus views and largely crowd-free campgrounds that provide the ideal setting for stargazing under the park's sensational night sky.

lake yonah
lake yonah by betsy (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lake Yonah | Georgia

While this laid-back lake on the Tugaloo River between Georgia and South Carolina is pretty popular with area vacationers, it is located in a remote corner of the state not as highly visited as other more well-known Georgia destinations like Lake Oconee. Get out on a boat. Drop in a line. Kick back with a beer in the sun. It's all good, man.

Nighttime in Nevada: Pyramid Lake Boat Ramp
Nighttime in Nevada: Pyramid Lake Boat Ramp by Beau Rogers (CC BY-NC)

Pyramid Lake | Nevada

Lakes aren't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a notoriously dry state like Nevada, yet Pyramid Lake more than holds its own as one of the most stunning in the nation. Located off the dusty strip of roadway connecting Reno to Burning Man's fabled Black Rock, this ancient lake provides the perfect backdrop for that quintessential Instagram shot.

Lake James
traveler1116/istockphoto

Lake James | North Carolina

Why pack the beaches of Myrtle Beach when you can kick back in the calm waters of Lake James? Located about an hour east of Asheville via a stunning mountain drive, this romantic lake offers a bevy of activities from boating and beachcombing to hiking at camping at the thoroughly scenic Lake James State Park. You won't be sorry you came.

Tygart Lake
©TripAdvisor

Tygart Lake | West Virginia

If you're coming to West Virginia, come to Tygart Lake. The beating heart of Tygart Lake State Park nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains about 30 miles south of Morgantown has everything you need in a classic lake experience. Boating and water skiing? Check. Canoeing and fishing? Check. Scuba diving? Yep, they have that too.

Related: 40 Under-The-Radar Boating Destinations Across the Country

Lake Francis
©TripAdvisor

Lake Francis | New Hampshire

New Hampshire's lake bona fides are never in short supply, as anyone familiar with Lake Winnipesaukee of "What About Bob?" fame can attest. Yet perched high on the Connecticut River in the northern sliver of the Granite State, serenity seekers will find this quiet getaway in Lake Francis State Park. Fish for trout, explore the lake by boat, or just sit back on the shore and marvel at the views.

Mount Wister over Snowdrift Lake — DSC_4567
Mount Wister over Snowdrift Lake — DSC_4567 by Robert (CC BY-NC-ND)

Snowdrift Lake | Wyoming

In a word: wow. This high-altitude lake perched just above 10,000 feet in the somehow still underrated Grand Teton National Park almost defies characterization. This is a lake that needs to be seen up close and personal to be fully appreciated. Part of Grand Teton's ancient Avalanche Canyon, you'll never get tired of the views no matter how many times you visit.

Lake Patagonia State Park
Flickr Commons

Patagonia Lake | Arizona

With Arizona home to two of America's biggest party lakes in Lake Havasu and Lake Mead, this quiet alternative just 30 minutes north of the Mexican border offers a surprisingly lush landscape in the middle of the desert region south of Tucson. Yes, it's man-made. Also yes, it's so beautiful you won't care.

Kabetogama Lake
Kyle Kempf/istockphoto

Kabetogama Lake | Minnesota

In a state famously known as "The Land of 10,000 Lakes," you know you'll have endless lake options when visiting Minnesota. The vastly underrated Voyageurs National Park along northern Minnesota's border with Canada is the ideal setting from which to explore the state's bounty of sparkling natural lakes, starting with the park's largest: Kabetogama Lake. A few days here and you'll forget modern life even exists.

Lake Garfield
Jodi E./Yelp

Lake Garfield | Massachusetts

While summer crowds make their way toward the beaches of Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, adventurous road trippers in Massachusetts head west near the New York border to discover Lake Garfield. Stocked with a dozen varieties of fish as well as a pleasant public beach, this lake will make you as comfortably lazy as a certain cat of the same name.

Fontana Lake
NetaDegany/istockphoto

Fontana Lake | North Carolina

This show-stopping lake just inside North Carolina's border with Tennessee is wedged between Great Smoky National Park and Nantahala National Forest. Which means the nature that surrounds the lake is never in short supply. While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America's most heavily visited national park, Fontana Lake provides access to some of the park's most remote sections.

Related: 33 Historic National Park Photos for Vintage Views

Azure Lake
Google Images ©2020 CNES / Airbus, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency

Azure Lake | Washington

This absolutely stunning lake in Washington's terribly underrated North Cascades National Park also comes with the bonus of plenty of social distancing. Located far from the well-trodden trail in a notoriously difficult section of the park to access, this remote natural gem makes a richly deserved reward for those willing to work for it.