The Top 7 Lakes to Visit on a Budget in the US

The United States has an over-abundance of incredible lakes to choose from when deciding on where to go for your next weekend getaway or month-long summer retreat. From the shimmering blue waters and hanging mountains of famous Lake Tahoe in the West to the tranquil lakes in the Northern United States, there’s a lakeside vacation destination for families of all shapes, sizes, and budgets just waiting to be explored.


We all love going on vacations but we don’t always know where to head next, especially if you’re looking for a location that’ll allow you to get the best bang for your buck. Below is a list of exactly that, the best lakes to visit on a budget in the US for your next vacation to that all guarantee an incredible experience filled with breathtaking views, awesome outdoor fun, and plenty to see without breaking the bank on five-star resorts or lavish activities.

1. Lake Superior

Image by Shelly Havens from Pixabay

Spilling out into Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and even Ontario, the vastness of Lake Superior cannot be overstated. The largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world at 31,700 square miles, Lake Superior matches its gargantuan size with an equal number of activities to enjoy, things to see, and places to stay at.


Some of the highlights of visiting Lake Superior are making a stop at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, seeing the Soo Locks in Ontario, Tour the Apostle Islands from Bayfield, Stopping by Duluth, and taking a Sunday drive along the stunning 145-mile-long North Shore Scenic Drive. Lake Superior offers limitless options when it comes to budget-friendly accommodations and free activities to enjoy no matter where you decide to stay during your vacation along the shores of one of North America’s greatest lakes.

2. Lake Tahoe

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Situated on the Nevada-California border, the majestic Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Flanked by stunning snowcapped mountains this bright-blue lake is renowned for its natural beauty. Welcoming over 2.7 million visitors annually Lake Tahoe is not just a very popular getaway location for Californians, but Americans across the country.


While many often think of Lake Tahoe as the lake of choice for the rich and famous, there are tons of great budget-friendly accommodations and activities to be enjoyed on and around the lake. Lake Tahoe is a great destination for excellent hiking and watersports activities during summer and spring but transforms into a world-class winter wonderland that’s a top-notch locale for skiing and snowboarding during winter. 


With trendy hotels, upscale resorts and family-friendly campsites littered all along Lake Tahoe’s shoreline there’s no shortage of great places to stay no matter your budget or group size.

3. Crater Lake

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Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and was created almost 8,000 years ago after a violent eruption collapsed the dome of an old volcano that stood at the site where the lake currently lies. The centerpiece of a protected area that includes age-old cliffs and otherworldly rock formations, Crater Lake is not only one of America’s most visually stunning lakes, but the lake is also surprisingly budget-friendly to visit.

One of the best free activities to do at Crater Lake is taking a scenic drive around the lake’s 33-mile-long Rim Road which winds all the way around Crater Lake to give travelers an unbeatable 360-degree view of the entire lake. If you’re planning on stopping by during the summer, be sure to try out some of the 90+ miles of scenic hiking trails found all throughout Crater Lake National Park. The Crater Lake Lodge and the park’s 2 campgrounds provide guests with plenty of options for places to stay that’ll fit even the tightest of budgets.

4. Lake Washington

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

While many might be familiar with Lake Washington as the home of the annual H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series that sees 3,000-horsepower hydroplane boats race across this azure lake’s surface, Seattle’s largest lake offers plenty of other great activities to enjoy too. 


Separating Downtown Seattle from Bellevue and Mercer Island in the East, Lake Washington lies in the heart of the Emerald City and is a favorite hangout spot for city-slicking Seattleites.


With plenty of great places to stay along the shores of Lake Washington, including the surrounding city, you don’t need to live in Seattle to enjoy the lake’s awesome activities. Lake Washington’s perfect if you want to enjoy all your typical lakeside activities such as fishing, hiking, or barbequing next to the water whilst also still being near all the amenities that a large such as Seattle provides.

5. Lake Champlain

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Vermont’s spectacular 120-mile-long Lake Champlain is the crown jewel in a state that is renowned for its incredible natural beauty. Home to charming islands, picturesque beaches, and multiple hiking and biking paths, setting your eyes on Lake Champlain for the very first time is like being transported into a romance novel.


Situated right on the US-Canadian border, Lake Champlain is a mere 76 miles from Montreal and only 156 miles from Albany. The lake’s star attractions are no doubt its 5 idyllic navigable islands that can all be conveniently be reached via U.S. Route 2. 


If you’re wondering about a great place to stay, fear not as the 5 islands all have cozy hotels for you to choose from if you’re not planning on camping in nearby Grand Isle State Park. With plenty to see and do, it’s easy to see why Lake Champlain is a favorite lakeside vacation destination for many in the US Northeast and should definitely be on your list to visit too.

6. Flathead Lake

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Flathead Lake is the largest naturally-formed freshwater lake by surface area west of the Mississippi, covering an area of over 220 square miles. Located in picturesque Montana, Flathead Lake lies in the state’s Mission and Flathead valleys and is one of the state’s most popular outdoor attractions. 


This beautiful lake combines incredible vistas of the snow-capped peaks of the Salish and Mission Mountains with the amazing outdoor fun you’d expect from a fantastic lakeside vacation, Flathead Lake really has it all.


Apart from enjoying the lake itself, Six State Parks border Flathead Lake, so there’s never a shortage of great hiking trails, wildlife spotting, and even horseback riding to partake in when you’re staying near the lake. Flathead Lake even spoils visitors when it comes to accommodation, with several campsites situated along the lake’s 185 miles of shoreline as well as the towns of Polson, Kalispell, and Bigfork nearby to set up camp in if you’d prefer the creature comforts of hotels and motels.

7. Lake Powell

The filming location for more than 36 films including the likes of Charlie’s Angels and Planet of the Apes, Lake Powell is as much a great family-friendly lake as it is a favorite setting for Hollywood blockbusters. Spanning across the border from Arizona into Utah, Lake Powell forms part of the Colorado River as it flows through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.


This unique geographic location gives Lake Powell and the lake’s desert-like surroundings a dramatic and rugged beauty found nowhere else in the country. Exploring the stunning 80+ canyons of Glen Canyon and hitting the lake with a boat to do some fishing or water-skiing are just some of the many budget-minded activities to do at Lake Powell. 


There are also many excellent places to stay along this 200-mile long lake, however, the best way to fully enjoy Lake Powell’s majesty is by setting up camp for a night to marvel at the brightly shimmering stars above, far away from the light pollution of large towns and cities.

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