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15 Dazzling Hiking Trails With A Lake (Must-See)

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If the call of the wild is enticing with dramatic ridges and tiered greenery, the promise of tranquility will coax even the most extreme of homebodies into the great outdoors.

The jewel in the mountains: mirror-like lakes, glistening pools of mystery and cascading waterfalls. Hiking trails with a lake are a triumph of mother nature.

In fact, you’ll often find more than one as the dips and crests in mountainous ranges form natural basins.

Lakes make for great resting spots because of their isolated character and typically flat embankments.

The marble-like texture of water and reflective qualities also inspired many photographers and artists. On the other hand, physically-inclined people will gleefully disrupt the surface with water sports and activities. Restful and welcoming, this natural feature elevates any hiking trail.

Having scouted gorgeous hiking trails with lakes from all over the world, we’ve put together a quick list of top destinations.

Most Gorgeous Hiking Trails With A Lake Around The World

Mark down these jaw-dropping hiking trails as your next weekend venture to be awarded with picturesque lakes.

Let's dive right in.

#1 Olympic National Park

  • Location: Port Angeles, Washington (USA)
  • Length: 12 km loop
  • Difficulty: Hard 

There’s a certain transparency to water that emerges in high altitudes and crisp climate, a glassy sheen that frames the submerged rocks and debris in high definition.

olympic nationa park lake

Photo by nick.mealey on Foter.com / CC BY

Deep greens lighten as they creep down the craggy peaks of Olympic National Park towards the mossy banks of the Lake of Angels. It’s a steep climb up – you gain almost 3,400 feet in elevation in 6 kilometres – and one recognized among Washington’s toughest trails.

Keen eyes are required to follow the trail as wildflowers grow uncontrollably along the Mount Skokomish path. Efforts pay off when you reach the vividly colored lake and majestic waterfalls.

#2 Grand Teton National Park

  • Location: Teton County, Wyoming (USA)
  • Length: 32 km loop
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate 

Permanently patched with white, the rocky slopes high up in Grand Teton National Park round their lakes like the rim of a shallow bowl.

grand teton national park

Photo by Aspenbreeze on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Among the most stunning lakes is Icefloe Lake, presenting almost year-round ice fractals and cloud-like patterns on the water surface. Due to its high elevation, its rendered ice-free for only a few weeks in the summer.

Hikers should prepare layered clothing to combat the chill. Easily accessible via the South Fork of Cascade Canyon and Avalanche Canyon, the trail itself doesn’t require technical skills to conquer. While suitable for beginners, the long 32-kilometer trek is a serious test in stamina.

#3 Highland Mary Lakes Hike

  • Location: Weminuche, Colorado (USA)
  • Length: 10-13 km 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Practically its own state at half a million acres, the sprawling Weminuche dominates the majority of Colorado’s wilderness.

highlands mary lake hike

Photo by Daniel Weber on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Composed of mostly high alpine tundra, the trails are comfortable to navigate. The real prize lies with the seven Highland Mary Lakes, three of which are clustered together for easy access from Silverton and Ouray.

Muddy embankments edge the lakes to mark better landscapes than swimming holes, but the abundant greenery and low-rise hills create an open and serene ambiance. To extend the loop, seek out where the route overlaps with the Continental Divide Trail.

#4 Sawtooth Lake

  • Location: Stanley, Idaho (USA)
  • Length: 16 km 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Lured in by the scent of fresh forest and the gurgling creek that runs parallel to the trail, hikers approach Sawtooth Lake with building anticipation.

sawtooth lake

Starting off with a mellow incline that steeps up and out of the tree-line to reveal inspiring views, the path is outfitted with jutting rock outcroppings that allow for photo ops.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area gifts you with constant juxtaposition between the craggy climb and open lake, the latter offering peaceful picnic spots.

It’s also famous for the Mt. Reagan view, inviting painters and photographers alike to capture the landmark. McGown Lakes is the final stretch before you loop back. Even scarring from wildfires can’t detract from its beauty.

If you’d like a longer hike, continue on around McGown Lakes for 20 kilometers

#5 Tahoe Rim Trail

  • Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada & California (USA)
  • Length: 265 km (full circumference of Lake Tahoe basin) 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Completing the Tahoe Rim Trail may very well be one of the greatest challenges in your hiking career – or the greatest introduction.

tahoe rim trail

Volcanic rock formations, meadows fluttering with wildflowers, dense forestry and oscillating valleys flip by like a thousand-paged book.

The monumental beauty of Lake Tahoe itself is replicated in miniature alpine lakes slaked throughout.

While the entire trail takes 10 to 15 days to commandeer, you can choose a section to do a day hike. Sure enough, this long-distance trail will excite all thru-hikers and ultralight hikers.

Do research your area of interest as the terrain is diverse. The level of difficulty varies.

Some of the best camping and day-tripping locations include Watson Lake and Star Lake. The former is popular among campers as there is trailer space for overnight visitors.

The latter is a high-altitude destination with dazzling views of iconic Jobs Sister.

#6 Garibaldi Provincial Park

  • Location: British Columbia, Canada
  • Length: 23 km 
  • Difficulty: Easy to hard 

A vivid representation of Canada’s wonderful nature, the Elfin Lake Trail starts with a steep 4-kilometer stretch to get your lungs pumping, levelling out once you reach Red Heather Meadows.

garibaldi provincial park

Photo by brodieguy on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The high alpine scenery features a gorgeous waterfall and comfortable grounds for a quick water break or lunch.

What follows are sweeping fields of heather, light sprigs of violet framing an easy descent to the highlight landmark: elegant Elfin Lakes.

The water here is particularly clear, reflecting the surrounding mountain ranges with high precision.

The gentle slopes down to the waterside are grassy, a perch with full-range views. If you’re adventurous, pack your camping gear as there are plenty of sights for an overnight stay. Don’t forget your dry bag if you’re planning to do some kayaking or hiking in the water.

The campsite does get busy in the summer so you may want to attempt the hike in cooler seasons instead.

#7 Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail

  • Location: British Columbia, Canada
  • Length: 12 km  
  • Difficulty: Hard 

The Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail winds through the backcountry in an intense 12 kilometer stretch, the dirt trail sometimes murky to spot.

From densely packed forests, the trail wanders past glacial formations to slanted hillsides lined by cliffs on one side and wild growth on the other.

The occasional stream and waterfall will quicken your steps as you eagerly scout out a resting spot.

To reward your sweat-filled journey, the towering tree line is frequently punctured with open plateaus and views of Howe Sound, Skypilot Mountain and lower Habrich.

And saving the best for the last, scenic Neverland Lake marks the end of the trail. Escape from the heat with a cooling swim as you settle down for a pick-me-up.

#8 Lech River Trail

  • Location: Lech am Arlberg, Austria to Füssen, Germany
  • Length: 123 km  
  • Difficulty: Easy 

A long-distance hike that takes you between the high planes of Austria to Germany, Lech River Trail unexpectedly offers up Formarinsee Lake at the very start.

lech river trail

The water is cold, connected underground to Formarinbach River. Natural water springs emerge during spring to complement this popular swimming hole.

The trial continues on along gravel riverbanks to be one of Europe’s untouched river trails. Further down your journey are spectacular vistas that run parallel to Lech, flashes of turquoise broken up by idyllic meadows and small bridges.

The walk, while long enough to take a minimum of six days, is relatively easy. Plenty of other lakes dot the trail, including the Kneipp pools of Holzgau, Riedener See Lake nearby Ehrenberg Castle and pretty Alpsee Lake that marks Germany’s borders.

#9 The Glacier Lakes Tour, Retezat National Park

  • Location: Hunedoara, Romania
  • Length: 5 km  
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Romania’s Retezat National Park is a veritable farm of glacial lakes, among which Bucura Lake is one of the most famous.

Retezat National Park

A “magical land with blue eyes” as the locals refer to it, the expansive parkland features rocky peaks that encircle water portals of all sizes – even the smallest of them are constantly fed by underground springs.

To admire the variety, challenge this short but dynamic tour that loops. It takes 7 – 8 hours to complete.

Bucura Lake bookends the trail which is characterized by rocky terrain, sharp peaks and gently curved lakes.

From trout-filled Florica Lake to mossy Lake Viorica, the deeper depths of Lake Ana and blue placidness of Lia Lake, you’ll be arrested by the icy bite of glacial air and unfiltered views.

#10 Plitvice Lakes National Park

  • Location: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
  • Length: 3.5km – 9km per section; 18.6km in a full loop  
  • Difficulty: Easy 

16 natural lakes decry this UNESCO Heritage Site in central Croatia – it is utterly stunning. Turquoise waters ripple calmly until they descend rock outcrops in gushes of white foam.

plitvice lakes, croatia

I took this photo several years ago when I hiked in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.

Layered cliffs are wreathed with shrubbery while trees and mosses spring up in grounded patches.

Boardwalk trails walk you directly over water, its four hiking trails organized into seven routes. Certain routes are contained within the Lower Lakes or Upper Lakes with an option of connecting shuttles back to the entrances.

Only Program K takes you through the entire park. Don’t worry about getting lost as there is plenty of signage to keep your oriented. Still, feel free to use a hiking app to navigate your way even easier.

The Lower Lakes wind between cliffs and waterfall pools to showcase Plitvice’s tiered geography.

Veliki Slap is a massive waterfall that leads up to a great viewpoint over the park. Climb up slippery steps to the dark Suplijara Cave, which brings you to the upper level of the cliffs.

Lake Kozjak is the middle point. The boardwalk brings you through the light aquamarine waters, energetic ripples swirling right by your feet. If you’re a fan of waterfalls, the Upper Lake houses many impressive spouts.

#11 Valley Of The Seven Lakes

  • Location: Julian Alps, Slovenia
  • Length: 26 km  
  • Difficulty: Hard 

The mountainous beauty of Slovenia is often overlooked for other European contemporaries, but the Julian Alps remain a revered name in the hiking community.

11. Valley of the Seven Lakes

The Valley of the Seven Lakes will take you on an incredibly taxing circuit lasting between 9 – 11 hours. The reward is more than worthwhile.

Your first lake comes up early in the trail, a way after the picturesque Vogar pasture and right in the backyard of Planina pri Jezeru hut.

A spruce forest is next, followed by another shepherd’s domain to an uphill sprawl of Za Kopico Valley – there’s a panoramic view of Bohinj Mountains. Rjavo Jezero Lake, Green Lake, Kidney Lake, and Triglav lakes take you further into the rugged terrain.

Take all the breaks you need while absorbing the sights. The complexity of this nature reserve is absolutely awe-inspiring.

#12 Five Lakes Valley

  • Location: High Tatras Mountains, Poland
  • Length: 23 km  
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

White capped ridges, terracotta tones of heated valley slopes and patches of green build an artistic picture of Five Lakes Valley.

five lakes valley

Photo by Piotr P. on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Ranking among the top sights of Tatras Mountains, this Polish landscape is easy to access and comfortable to hike, thanks to relatively manicured hiking trails.

Greeted by Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza waterfall near the trailhead and a mountain hut just an hour into the hike, you’ll find it suitable for kids to trek.

Przedni Staw Polski Lake is the first to appear, setting the precedence of stun factor. From there, you can choose a gentle loop around more lakes or challenge the rocky Zawrat Pass.

#13 Kalaw To Inle Lake

  • Location: Kalaw, Myanmar
  • Length: 44 km  
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Trek from the small mountain town of Kalaw to Inle Lake for a glimpse of Myanmar’s agricultural lifestyle.

Inle_Lake_(Myanmar)

Image via Marc Veraart from Haarlem, Netherlands

November is the perfect time to hike this trail as barren fields turn green from rainfall. The bent backs of locals tending to their fields and guiding their water buffalos is a common sight.

Head past these humble villages on dirt tracks when the sun is high, but when the sun sets, experience a home stay with these curious folks.

At the end of your immersive journey, Inle Lake greets you with a town that is half-grounded and half on water.

Rest your legs as the native lake dwellers take you on a tour of this scenic beauty through their unique leg rowing technique.

#14 Kolsai Lakes

  • Location: Tien Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan
  • Length: 8 km  
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Two beautiful alpine lakes are nestled at the base of Tien Shan Mountains, hemmed in by snow-covered peaks and soft plains of grass.

 Because the lakes are a distance away from the city of Almaty, this detour will take up to three days. Allow one full day for the hike as you’ll be in transit for most of day one and day three.
kolsai lakes

Photo by t_y_l on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Around their borders grow thick pines with a forest scent so strong it’s almost dizzying. Drive to the first Kolsai lake but challenge yourself with the steep ascent that connects it to the second lake.

Stretch well before your hike as the trail is blocked with tree trunks and boulders. Because there are no mountain huts along the way, prepare sufficient snacks and water.

Upon arrival, you can either camp for the night or return to the first lake for housed accommodation.

#15 Schynige Platte Hike to Faulhorn & First

  • Location: Switzerland
  • Length: 16 km
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate 

Whether you challenge this hike in the lush dredges of summer or icy bite of snow season, it offers some of Switzerland’s most stunning landscapes.

lake brienz

Photo by Rennett Stowe on Foter.com / CC BY

Expect most of the trail to be rocky but with little exposure, although the incline can be a lung-buster.

Upon reaching Schynige Platte summit station, start on the Oberberghorn route for scenic glimpses of Lake Brienz below the deep greens and grays of the mountain range.

The trail will take you up along the ridges for unobstructed views, an undulating path with cliffs in the backdrop.

It gets snowy at the peak but you can avoid most of the snow. For more white goodness, climb up Faulhorn summit. There’s a restaurant and dormitories for those who want to stay for sunrise.

A Safety Tip To Remember

If you’re attempting these lakeside hikes during winter months, don’t assume that the water has completely frozen over unless it’s a proven fact.

Stay on land if possible and in the case where you want to walk on the iced-over surface, make sure you’re close to the bank and within reach of your hiking partner.

Conclusion

These hiking trails captivate with glimmering lakes of all shapes and sizes. Their wavering shades of blues and greens pleasantly complement the typical rugged landscape of high altitude ranges.

Given the opportunity, you should definitely set off for these high reward routes! Whether you’re admiring them from afar or fortunate enough to swim in clear waters, you’ll be left with deep impressions of how beautiful nature can be.


What’s the last place with a delightful lake view you have been to? Leave a comment below!

me

​Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

  • May 11, 2020
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Holly - May 12, 2020

This post is stunning and inspiring- as nature often is! My family and I experience nature by taking to the trails and dunes in our off-road vehicles (4 wheelers, utv’s) and we absolutely love a scenic view! Beautiful post- thank you for sharing!

Reply
    Asen - May 12, 2020

    Hi Holly,

    Wow, I really like ATVs but never heard of UTVs before. Will try for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply
Angelique Pascaud - May 12, 2020

Woooow! Great lakes and beautiful trails. I wish we weren’t in lockdown, so we could make plans to travel again. But it’s nice to dream about new adventures and destinations. Thanks for the tips!

Reply
    Asen - May 12, 2020

    Hi Angelique,

    Yes, just looking at those trails makes me want to grab my pack and just go. Anyway, soon that will be possible. Stay safe.

    Reply

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