North America's 9 Most Scenic Lakes

By: Angela Ayles

From Canada to Panama, North America is home to some of the most stunning lakes in the world, boasting a wide variety of landscapes, attractions and history. Here are 9 of the continent’s most scenic lake destinations.


1. Crater Lake, Oregon, USA

Filling the caldera left behind by the collapse of the Mount Mazama volcano, Crater Lake is a natural wonder with more than 30 scenic overlooks on its rim. One of the most interesting features of Crater Lake is The Pinnacles, a grouping of towering stone spires formed when volcanic ash solidified in midair during an eruption.

Crater Lake

2. Skilak Lake, Alaska, USA

Located on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, Skilak Lake is famous for its crystal clear waters due in part to the lakes lack of aquatic vegetation. The lake is formed by glacial run off so the water can be chilly but the scenery is amazing with views of mountains all around you. Skilak Lake is popular with Alaskans due to it’s convenient location about 2 hours from Anchorage and the lake features 2 campgrounds where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the landscape.

Skilak Lake, Alaska

3. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

One of a number unusual milky blue-green glacial lakes found in Banff National Park, Lake Louise has both the beauty of nature and a chateau-style hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1920s. The color of the water is somewhat indescribable, appearing bright turquoise against the deep green, steep forested slopes of the glacier-topped Canadian Rockies.

Lake Louise

4. Laguna Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico

Located in the state of Veracruz, Laguna Catemaco is an ancient lake, formed when a volcanic eruption isolated its waters from the Gulf of Mexico. A popular ecotourism destination, Las Margaritas on the northeast shore of the lake offers tropical views, archaeological ruins and ancient petroglyphs. There are also miles of mountain trails and jungle trekking adventures offering breathtaking lake sightseeing.

Laguna Catemaco


5. Emerald Lake, Carcross, Yukon, Canada

This Canadian destination boasts both scenic lake views and views of the Gray Ridge Mountain. It got its name from the unusual coloration of the water, appearing a deep green-blue in the deeper sections, while the shallows sparkle like a light green opal. The effect is created by the sun reflecting off white calcium carbonate on the lake floor, creating a marbling effect on the surface.

Emerald Lake, Yukon

6. Scargo Lake, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA

Although best known for its beaches, the Cape actually has dozens of freshwater lakes and ponds. Located in the town of Dennis, Scargo Lake is situated at the foot of Scargo Hill and is ringed with dense trees that are particularly picturesque in the fall. Scargo Tower at the top of the hill is a 30-foot-tall, medieval-looking cobblestone tower, offering views of both the lake and Cape Cod Bay beyond.

Cape Cod Lake

7. Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina, USA

Situated in the Great Smokey Mountains and surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, Lake Santeetlah is a beautiful place to escape. It’s also conveniently located within a 2 hour drive from both Knoxville TN, and Asheville NC making it an easy place for a scenic day trip. The lake also offers some fantastic fishing including both smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye and lake trout. To enjoy this beautiful destination to its fullest, consider camping at one of the many sites located all around the lake.

Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina

8. Lake Powell, Arizona and Utah, USA

Although man-made, Lake Powell offers one of the most stunning landscapes in the world. Created by the Glen Canyon Dam, this lake is a part of the Colorado River. Nestled among rugged, striated sandstone rock formations and mesas, this lake is the very definition of an oasis in the desert, acting as a cool respite for both people and animals. One particularly gorgeous view is from Alstrom Point, displaying a panoramic look at the lake and canyons.

Lake Powell

9. Lac Heney, Quebec, Canada

Lac Heney is one of the lakes found in Gatineau Park, located just north of Ottawa. Surrounded by undulating hills, woodlands and picturesque cottages, this lake is beautiful regardless of season. Visitors can enjoy the water in summer, dazzle at the changing leaves in autumn or strap on cross-country skis to marvel at crystalline blankets of snow in winter.

Lac Heney