When you think water and sun basking, the ocean is probably what immediately comes to mind. The ocean is special, but we can’t forget about lakes! Lake life is a pretty rad way to get outside and soak up some rays. You can breathe in the fresh air off the water and feel the sun on your cheeks: the perfect antidote to a stressful week.
No matter your style of adventure, from big hikes to lowkey lounging, everyone can enjoy a lakeside recharge. If you’re looking to find some time on or near the water, check out our breakdown of some of the best lakes on the West Coast.
Best Overall: Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
Mountains, beaches, forests, water. Situated on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a pretty incredible sight to behold. The lake itself is cradled by majestic mountains, and the water is a stark blue that begs you to hop in. When the sun shines in Lake Tahoe, you can bask with stunning beauty all around you.
Sandy beaches, big trees, and gorgeous mountains courtesy of Lake Tahoe, photographed by Samantha Fortney
You can skip the beaches and rent a boat for the day, and whether your goal is to lounge on the water or hop on a pair of water skis, you won’t be disappointed. At Lake Tahoe, there’s something for every type of fun seeker, so you can find whatever suits your style and enjoy the sunny days.
Bonus: You can also camp at Lake Tahoe and make the most of your sun worship opportunities.
Most Serene: Crater Lake, OR
Up in Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is a natural marvel. It is the deepest lake in America, and all of its water comes from rain or snow melt: no rivers feed into it, which is part of what makes it so remarkably clear.
Swimming is a little limited at the lake. Only one area of the lake, Cleetwood Cove, is available for swimming, and it’s only open during the summer. The lake water temperature is typically in the 50s over the summer, so expect a chilly dip!
Crystal clear sky, crystal clear water, photographed by Kal Visuals
If you’re there to swim or not, you can easily make a trip out of the sunny scene of Crater Lake. Camp at the park and drive around the lake to scour out the best perches. Find a spot to nature journal under the glow of the sun. Hike to any of the summits around the lake to find epic, aerial views of this unique body of water.
Best for Recreation: Shasta Lake, CA
Located in Far Northern California, Shasta Lake is a hot destination for lake recreation. Boat rentals are the way to go at this lake, with the option of wakeboarding, water skiing, or tubing galore. Shasta Lake is also a great fishing locale (it’s been named one of the best lakes in California for Rainbow Trout, and folks have even caught massive sturgeon in the lake!), for relaxing under the sun and casting a line. For an extended stay, check out a houseboat rental to really make the most of your time on the water!
Houseboating on Shasta Lake is prime way to maximize your Vitamin D intake, photographed by Rishi Gurjar
It’s an added bonus that this lake is also surrounded by tree-covered mountains. This man-made lake fills a basin of canyons, and you’re surrounded by a rugged landscape on all sides. The Sacramento, McCloud, and Pit Rivers all feed into this lake to create its ‘arms,’ which just gives more area to hit with the boat.
Bonus: With plenty of lakes nearby, if you have trouble snagging a boat at Shasta Lake, you can hit up Whiskeytown National Recreation Area for camping and beach basking. Similar views and climate, but a bit smaller.
Best Urban Lake: Lake Washington, WA
Often times, lakes are a bit off the grid and up in the mountains. One thing that makes Lake Washington special is that it rests adjacent to Seattle, making it extremely accessible to Pacific Northwest city dwellers.
Lake Washington has beaches for swimming and launching a kayak, and if you’re a big-time cyclist, you can actually bike the 60+ mile path around the lake. On the shores of the lake, you can also find several different parks, like Seward Park and Magnuson Park, which are awesome, dedicated spaces for hitting the beach or simply getting yourself outside for a sunny stroll.
Lake days that end with a glowy sunset are simply the best, photographed by Taylor Foss
Lake life can be so refreshing for the soul! It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting the trails for a hardcore bike ride or sun bathing on the beach. The act of spending time outside and relishing in the sun plays an important role in washing away the stress of modern life. When you plan your next lake day, be sure to pack your Sunburst or Friendly Cactus hat!
Meet the Author
Along with writing blogs for Sunski, Madison creates nature books for kids. She grew up with BLM land in her backyard, which fueled her affinity for adventure and epic stories. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, camping, and reading under the sun.