Most Beautiful Lakes in New York
New York State has some of the most beautiful and diverse terrains in the United States. Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, this east coast gem is dotted with rugged mountains, lush forests, crumbling shorelines and meandering rivers. But the shining star of the state is its vast, sparkling lakes.
Whether you want to swim, fish, paddleboard, canoe, ice skate or water ski, you’ll find the perfect lake in New York. The Empire State has some of the best lakes on the East Coast, from huge water wonders spanning two countries (Lake Erie crosses the US-Canada border) to mountain-lined displays like Lake Avalanche.
This breathtakingly beautiful lake wonder is well worth exploring, and jumping into it first is one of the top things to do in New York, especially when the weather is ideal.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in New York and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Most Beautiful Lakes in New York
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful Lakes in New York:
1. Chautauqua Lake
At an elevation of 1,308 feet, Lake Chautauqua is one of the highest navigable lakes in North America. The lake is 27 miles long and offers visitors plenty of space to explore the water depths. With four public swimming beaches, there are plenty of beaches to spend the day on.
If you like fishing, you’ve come to the right place. Known for its excellent bass, muskellunge, and walleye fishing, Lake Chautauqua is held here annually for competitions. Rent a boat (motorized or non-motorized) at a nearby marina. You can launch boats from public launch areas at Prendergast Point, Bemus Point, and Long Point State Parks, as well as Mayville Lakeside Park and Lakewood.
The most popular attraction in the area is Chautauqua College, a non-profit educational center that gets bustling during the summer months. Take art, religion and entertainment courses. Or attend one of the many performances, from opera to dance to drama.
2. Lake George
It is not for nothing that Lake George is known as the “Queen of the Lakes of America”. This glittering expanse spans 44 square miles and highlights the towering Adirondacks. Talk about amazing backgrounds for photos.
Outdoor enthusiasts will have fun all year long as there are so many activities to choose from. Boating, biking, fishing, swimming and water sports make this the best lake in New York for summer fun. During the colder months, whitewater rafting tops the list, as is horseback riding, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating.
Hop on a boat (canoe or sailboat will do) and gawk at Millionaire’s Row, an incredible stretch of coastline explored by grand estates.
Insider Tip: Aim to visit Lake George at one of the most popular festivals in the area. The Lower Adirondack Area Arts Council (LARAC) festival is usually held in June at nearby Glens Falls. In August, you can attend the annual Lake George Music Festival, and the Lake George Winter Fiesta is another cold-hearted one.
3. Lake Champlain
Nestled peacefully between Vermont’s Green Mountains and the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain is a must-see when traveling above New York. Besides being a scenic place, this cute spot is full of fish. We’re talking more than 80 species in a 400-foot-deep lake. Fishermen welcome!
With more than 500 miles of shoreline, this vast lake offers its visitors endless activities to keep them happy and busy. Hike the 40-mile Champlain regional trails, camp at a local campground, climb the impressive Ausable Chasm or splash in the cool lake water.
This is one of the cleanest lakes in the area and one of the best floating lakes in New York.
4. Avalanche Lake
If you’re looking for rugged beauty, you can find it at Lake Avalanche. Another stunning spot in the Adirondacks, this lake is named after the area hit by an avalanche in the 1800s. It sits quite high on Adirondack Peak, 2,880 feet above sea level, between towering Cole Mountain and Avalanche Mountain.
You’ll have to hike to Avalanche Lake, which makes the camera-ready view even more stunning. The more adventurous will choose the trails along with nearby Lake Placid. They can cover anywhere from 10 to 12 miles. The Cedar Trail is particularly fascinating. Expect to see (and possibly climb) boulders and lush forests along the way. Massey Dam is a highlight.
Insider Tip: Book your campsite early if you want to stay the night, as it can fill up quickly during the summer months.
5. Cayuga Lake
Long ago, glaciers created another beautiful water source. It’s called Cayuga Lake and is located in the lovely Finger Lakes region. The longest Finger Lake, Cayuga is also the second deepest lake. It is known for hosting activities such as boating, sailing, swimming, and fishing, but is also known for diving into lakes off the coast of Ithaca.
The tall lake is about 40 miles long, giving visitors plenty of space to get lost. Don’t worry, there are plenty of access points along the beach that is ideal for family outings.
Not suitable for boating? Book a fishing charter or cruise at Ellen H Treman State Marine Park or Ithaca. Or rent a pedal boat, SUP, canoe or canoe. Whatever you do, don’t miss the sunset. So honorable!
6. Skaneateles Lake
Skaneateles Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in New York State and provides drinking water to nearby Syracuse. Skaneateles is a sparkling gem surrounded by historic homes and grand mansions with ample lawns, Skaneateles will give your camera a real workout. Its home village, Skaneateles, will offer small-town charm you never thought you craved and something to keep everyone happy.
Pronounced “skinny-atlas” or “skinny-atlas,” this pristine lake is scientifically known as oligotrophic. This means the lake is lower in nutrients, which helps prevent the overgrowth of algae and other vegetation.
Although clean, Skaneateles Lake is one of the best floating lakes in New York. It’s also a great place to go kayaking, fishing or any other fun water sport you love.
Insider Tip: Enjoy one (or three) nights of luxury at Mirbeau Inn & Spa Skaneateles.
7. Lake Erie
Did you know that Lake Erie is the 11th largest lake in the world? With an area of more than 9,900 square miles and a catchment area of 30,000 square miles, this huge lake is the fourth largest of the Great Lakes.
Throughout its 4,000-year history, numerous ships have sunk in these waters, making Lake Erie one of the best diving spots in New York State. On the water, visitors can enjoy regular water activities such as boating, fishing, swimming and canoeing. In the winter, skating, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiling take over their summer hobbies.
Looking for a fun place to spend the day? Check out Lake Erie State Park. It has campgrounds, sandy beaches, playgrounds, disc golf courses and many trails.
8. Canandaigua Lake
Visit the beautiful Canandaigua Lake at the height of fall and you’ll find it hard to leave. Vivid hues of red, yellow and orange brighten an already dazzling space and are subtly accentuated by the vibrant blue waters of the lake. No wonder its name means “place of choice.”
This beautiful lake is 16 miles long and 1 mile wide and is the drinking water source for the approximately 70,000 residents of the nearby city of Canandaigua.
Easily considered one of the best lakes in New York, this lake also has an island called Squaw, which is one of two in the Finger Lakes region. Rent a canoe, canoe or paddle bike and take a closer look at this beautiful little place.
On the lake’s north shore, you’ll find impressive cottages and cottages as big as those on Lake George’s Millionaire’s Row. At its southern end is Naples, a village filled with natural beauty (including hidden waterfalls and steep, rugged hills).
Insider Tip: Board the Canandaigua Lady, a replica of a 19th-century rowing boat.
9. Great Sacandaga Lake
Technically speaking, Great Sacandaga Lake is a reservoir, not as popular as its larger, more flamboyant lakes, and locals like to keep it that way. This 29-mile-long paradise is a hidden gem, a serene utopia filled with delightfully clean, clear water and surrounded by tall forests.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the calm waters of New York’s largest lake. Boating, fishing, swimming, water sports (and skiing, skating, and snowmobiling in winter) are frequent. There are even four boat ramps on site. But you should do this without telling too many people so that it is not too crowded. So, whoo!
After exploring the lake, head into town for a bite to eat, then wander the beautiful streets filled with boutiques and small museums.
10. North-South Lake
Located in Greene County, North and South Lakes is one of the best lakes in the Catskills. It is best known for hosting the North and South Lakes Campground, the largest state campground in the Catskill Forest Reserve. Tourists can do many interesting things around the lake. From fishing to hiking to swimming to kayaking, the entertainment options are almost endless.
Boats are allowed and there is a launch on site, but it is recommended that all boats be cleaned, emptied and dried prior to your arrival to ensure no invasive species enter the more than four square kilometer lake. Other amenities include boat rentals (including rowing boats), junior naturalist programs, picnic areas with tables and grills, toilets with showers, and firewood sales.
Are you a big fan of the outdoors? you are lucky. Cycling, volleyball, horseshoes, and snowmobiles are also fun to play here. Let me tell you, there are many things to do in Nanbeihu.
Hope you like our choice of the Most Beautiful Lakes in New York. If you think there are some more beautiful Lakes in New York, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.