The Best Washington Lakes for Fun, Relaxation, and Gorgeous Views
For this guide to the best Washington lakes, I’m going to go from west to east. We’ll start with some favorites that are part of Olympic National Park, move on to Seattle and its suburbs, and then on to the Cascades and beyond to eastern Washington.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a vacation, you’re sure to find a Washington Lake that’s the perfect fit for you!
One of the gems of the Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault sometimes gets overlooked due to it being quite the drive to get to from Seattle, much farther than the northern part of Olympic National Park that is easily accessible from Port Townsend. But, make your way to Lake Quinault, and you’ll also be a short drive from the mossy beauty of the Hoh Rain Forest and Quinault Rain Forest. When you’re done hiking, you can relax by the shores of Lake Quinault and take in the peaceful views of this beautiful Washington mountain lake.
This one can’t be missed — after all, just look at its name! And if you visit Seattle, you pretty much can’t miss seeing this lake since it borders the eastern part of the city and has a floating bridge connecting Seattle with the Eastside. The city’s famous billionaires all have homes on the western side of the lake, but I prefer the east side of the lake where you can find some lake views with the Seattle skyline behind it from the beaches of Kirkland as well as the beautiful lake view from City Park in Bellevue.
For those who like boating and standup paddle boarding, but want a quieter lake (and one that’s not crossed by two major highways), then Lake Sammamish is your answer. It’s just 15 minutes from Lake Washington, but feels a world away. The public beach at Sammamish State Park has a boat launch as well as a recently revamped sandy beach area next to picnic grounds and a state of the art playground that mixes in a variety of Northwest touches. It’s a great beach for kayaking and standup paddle boarding.
Visit this lake’s public beachfront area on a calm day and you’ll probably quickly understand the phrase “it took my breath away.” At the very least, you’ll likely stand in awe of the view before making your way to the water for a swim — albeit a chilly one thanks to the lake being fed by a glacier. Lake Wenatchee is accessible for the public via Lake Wenatchee State Park, which is also home to a popular campground (so make your reservations early).
If you love some wine with your lake viewing, then Lake Chelan is the place to head. The large lake is surrounded by vineyards, particularly on it southeastern end. Nestled right in between the mountains of the Cascades and the sprawling beauty of the rolling hills of eastern Washington, Lake Chelan is often touted as being one of the best lakes in Washington (if not THE best) for its wealth of activities and jaw-dropping natural scenery.
Located in Eastern Washington near the Coulee Dam, Banks Lake is accessible from Coulee City to its south or Electric City on its northern shores. No matter which way you visit Banks Lake, one thing is for sure: you’re in for some incredible views. Banks Lake has spectacular cliffs, rocky islands, and even waterfalls. It is an excellent place for boating and waterskiing.