Summers are dry and hot but the hundreds of lakes, of all sizes, throughout the Inland Northwest provide destinations for recreation and respite for city dwellers. Our 2021 lake guide includes more than 70 of the best regional lakes in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, western Montana, and southeast British Columbia in Canada.
From fishing holes and alpine gems in national forests to massive lakes and reservoirs, there is a destination for every type of water-loving adventurer. Find a lake for your desired activity and plan a day-trip agenda or overnight getaway. While summer is one of the best times to be on the water, these lakes never close, and most access sites are on public lands.
Though not completely comprehensive or inclusive, this online guide provides a good overview of each lake with resources to find more information. Many regional guidebooks and fish and wildlife websites provide more in-depth details for your trip planning. Also, be sure to use our website search bar to peruse our story archives to learn more about watersports and other summer recreation, camping, regional travel, and lake destinations.
PHOTOS: [Top Row] Paddleboard yoga on the Chain Lakes of the Coeur d’Alene River, off the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes (left); Lake Roosevelt (upper right), Blossom Lake (lower right) // Photos: Shallan Knowles. [Middle Row] Fish Lake Regional Park and Pend Oreille Lake at Sam Owen Campground. // Photos: Amy McCaffree. [Bottom Row] Priest Lake // Photo: Robert Salsbury; Sullivan Lake // Photo: Amy McCaffree; Bonnie Lake // Photo: Chris Cindric.
High adventure, serene paddling, hiking, camping — whatever your preferred activities and recreation, the lakes dotting eastern Washington’s diverse landscape provide destinations to suit your agenda. From backcountry flatwater nestled within national forests to Ice Age-flood channeled scablands, the scenery is reason enough to go.
This guide focuses on lakes located east of the Columbia River, where it bisects the state at Vantage.
For full details about public boat launches and fishing and boating access sites in Washington State, visit the websites for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), U.S. National Forest Service (FS), or the municipal park or public land management agency for the lake. Contact private resorts and campgrounds for current operation dates and times, fees, and reservations.
Banks Lake: This 27,000-acre reservoir lake extends 27 miles between two community hubs, from Coulee City north to Electric City and Grand Coulee. Boaters, wake-boarders, and water-skiers have fun here, and anglers enjoy catching whitefish and walleye. Amenities:6 WDFW sites, Steamboat Rock State Park, Coulee City Community Park and Campground, Coulee Playland Resort (Electric City).
BearLake: Find this quiet, spring-fed lake 15 miles north of Spokane, near Chattaroy. Amenities: Bear Lake Regional Park (Spokane County)..
Badger Lake: Expect good trout fishing and serene paddling. Amenities: WDFW boat ramp and dock.
Bead Lake: Located in the Colville National Forest, enjoy paddling and fishing for kokanee and trout. Amenities: FS boat launch.
Big Meadow Lake: Loons and trout call this rustic lake home, and fishing prospects are “excellent” in July, according to WDFW. There is both a dock and boat launch at the campground. Amenities: FS Big Meadow Campground.
Bonnie Lake: A paddler’s haven located south of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, put-in your watercraft at the small, rustic boat launch by Rock Creek bridge. Private landowners allow launch access, so be respectful and Leave No Trace. Paddle upstream to find the long, narrow lake and its island (BLM land, open to the public). Amenities: None.
Clear Lake: Anglers, boaters, and water-skiers enjoy this 316-acre lake west of Spokane. Amenities: WDFW, Sun Cove Resort.
Curlew Lake: Located in Ferry County, you can do all the watersports on this 7-mile long lake. It’s open year-round for fishing, and waterfowl nest on the lake’s small islands. Nearby recreation destinations include the Ferry County Rail Trail and Stonerose Interpretive Center and Eocene Fossil Site in Republic.. Amenities: Curlew Lake State Park, Tiffany’s Resort, Fisherman’s Cove Resort, Black Beach Resort.
Deer Lake: Fed by springs and snowmelt, this lake has 1,150 acres for all watersports. Amenities: WDFW, Deer Lake Resort.
Diamond Lake: Expect good fishing at this 754-acre lake near Newport, which was recently stocked with more than 12,500 trout. Amenities: WDFW, Little Diamond Lake KOA, Thousand Trails RV Campground.
Eloika Lake: Nestled in the Selkirk Mountain foothills north of Spokane, paddlers can spot beavers and muskrats around this 3-mile long lake. Amenities: WDFW, Jerry’s Landing Resort.
Fish Lake: Enjoy this 32-acre rural lake, off the Cheney-Spokane Road, and its quaint county park, which includes a boat ramp (no gas motors), swimming beach, dock, and playgrounds. Nearby is the trailhead for the Columbia Plateau Trail State Park. Amenities: Fish Lake Regional County Park.
Fishtrap Lake: A remote 190-acre lake near Sprague, in Lincoln County, with 8,000+ acres of BLM public land along its west shoreline, which includes nearby Hog Canyon Lake. Amenities: WDFW launch sites, Fishtrap Recreation Area – Bureau of Land Management (no facilities or services), Fishtrap Lake Resort.
Hog Canyon Lake (Hog Lake): People come here to fish, paddle, or hike the trail that travels partly along the cliff edges overlooking the lake. Hog Canyon Falls is a viewing attraction, but the waterfall itself is on private property. Amenities: Fishtrap Recreation Area, WDFW.
Horseshoe Lake: One of the best local paddling destinations, according to Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club members, this 128-acre lake has a “no wake” rule. It’s located in Pend Oreille County, in the northeast corner of the state, . Amenities: WDFW.
Lake Spokane: Local paddlers, boaters, and bass anglers enjoy this 24-mile reservoir along the Spokane River, from Nine Mile Falls to Long Lake Dams. Though called Lake Spokane, some locals still refer to it as Long Lake (not be confused with Long Lake near the town of Republic). Amenities: Riverside State Park’s Nine Mile Recreation Area; Fisk State Park (Fisk property acquisition by Riverside), and Lake Spokane Campground in the town of Tum Tum.
Little Pend Oreille Chain of Lakes: In the Colville National Forest is a chain of four small lakes interconnected by the Little Pend Oreille River. Starting from the north end, it includes lakes Leo, Heritage, Thomas and Gillette (connected by a short navigable channel), and Sherry (which connects with Gillette via short channel under Pend Oreille Lake Road). The western shoreline of Thomas and Gillette, and all of Sherry Lake, are developed with homes and docks. Enjoy paddling, swimming, and fishing. Amenities: FS campgrounds, boat launches, and day-use areas at Lakes Leo and Gillette; FS campground only at Thomas; Beaver Lodge Resort & Campground at Gillette.
Liberty Lake: An iconic lake close to the city, it’s popular with paddlers, boaters, and other users. Amenities: WDFW, launch with dock; Liberty Lake Regional Park (beach, campground, no boat launch, entrance fee required).
Loon Lake: Over 1,000 acres for boating, waterskiing, and fishing on this lake in Stevens County. Amenities: WDFW, Shore Acres Resort, Granite Point Park.
Long Lake: Near the town of Republic, in the Colville National Forest, this rustic 13-acre lake is regulated for anglers as fly-fishing only. Good for paddling; no motorized boats. Amenities: FS Long Lake Campground.
Medical Lake: This spring-fed lake, with an average summer temperature of 74 degrees, is ideal for swimming and paddling. There is a boat launch, but no combustion-engines are allowed. Don’t miss a bike ride or stroll along the tree-shaded, paved Medical Lake Trail, along the lake’s west shoreline. Take a break at Duffy’s Point (you can also paddle here). Amenities: Waterfront Park, south end (free boat launch, swimming beach, playground, restrooms, outdoor shower); Coney Island Park, east shore (picnic tables); Peper Park, north end.
Moses Lake: This shallow 6,727-acre lake reservoir, 105 miles west of Spokane, is great for all watersports. An official Water Trail map from the city promotes paddling among 8 shoreline parks and points of interest. The lake’s outlet water trails, at an irrigation dam, connects to Potholes Reservoir and Potholes State Park. Amenities: WDFW sites; municipal boat launches at Blue Heron, Connelly, Montlake, and Peninsula Parks, and Cascade Park Campground; Camping at Grant County Fairgrounds, Big Sun Resort, Suncrest RV Park, Sunny Springs Resort & Campground (Ephrata).
Newman Lake: One of the largest lakes in Spokane County (1,200 acres), you’ll enjoy views of Mt. Spokane and the Selkirk Mountains as you paddle, fish, or boat. Most of the shoreline is privately owned. Amenities: WDFW, McKenzie Conservation Area; small private resorts.
North & South Skookum Lakes: Two small, primitive lakes at 3,500’ elevation in the Colville National Forest, near the small town of Usk. Amenities: South Skookum Campground.
Pacific Lake: Located north of Odessa, in Lincoln County, it’s only been since 2017 that’s this lake has again been able to hold enough water to support stocked trout from WDFW. Amenities: BLM boat launch.
Lake Gillette (left) // Photo: Amy McCaffree; Curlew Lake (right) // Photo courtesy Get Out Fest.
Potholes Reservoir: Located in central Washington’s desert landscape, the 25,000-acre Potholes Reservoir was created when the O’Sullivan Dam filled the Ice Age flood-carved “potholes.” Sand dune islands abound, some covered by shallow water. Popular for all watersports, the state park provides 6,000 feet of shoreline access, and this lake is also a Columbia Basin Wildlife Area unit. Two water trails on the east end connect to Moses Lake. Amenities: WDFW sites, Potholes State Park, Sand Dunes Site (primitive camping and boat access, Mar Don Resort.
Roosevelt Lake: This 130-mile long reservoir of the Columbia River, upriver from Grand Coulee Dam, is protected as a national recreation area. Altogether five agencies and the Spokane and Colville Tribes collectively manage the waters and shoreline, so be sure to consult a map and plan carefully before you go fishing or take your watercraft to any primitive, sandy beach. Major entry points and boat launches are Fort Spokane, near Davenport, at the confluence of the Spokane River; Bradbury Beach near the city of Kettle Falls; Spring Canyon near Grand Coulee; and Marcus Island boat launch and day use area north of Kettle Falls. Amenities: Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (boat launches, campgrounds, boat-access only campsites, day-use areas, beaches); Private resorts with boat launches, including Sun Lakes Park and Two Rivers; houseboat rentals from Lake Roosevelt Adventures.
Sacheen Lake: Located in Pend Oreille County near Newport, most of the shoreline is private, but there is a public access site on the northeast shore. Stocked annually with hatchery trout, the small lake and its unique shape makes it great for fishing and paddling. Amenities: WDFW, Cedar Creek Resort, Old Sacheen Lake Resort Campground (house and cabin rentals).
Silver Lake: Located near I-90’s Four Lakes exit, this long, narrow lake is popular with paddlers and anglers. Amenities: WDFW launch with dock, Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center.
Soap Lake: A quiet, natural mineral lake renowned for its “healing” effects, on windy days you’ll see soap bubbles on the shore. There’s no fish at this lake, but you can enjoy paddling and buoyant swimming. Be aware of sulfur-smelling mud. Amenities: Smokiam Park (city-owned campground), West Beach, and Paul Lauzier Community Park; resorts, spas, and inns, including Soap Lake Natural Spa and Resort.
Sprague Lake: I-90 runs along this lake west of Spokane—you can’t miss it, at 6-miles long by 1-mile wide lake (1,760 acres). Best known for its good fishing prospects, 675 acres of the lake’s wetlands and shoreline is designated as part of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. Amenities: WDFW, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area interpretative trail.
Sullivan Lake: Enjoy camping, paddling, fishing, hiking, and picking huckleberries at this iconic lake in the Colville National Forest, near the town of Metaline Falls. Amenities: FS campgrounds and day-use areas with boat launches and beaches: West Sullivan, East Sullivan, and Noisy Creek.
Sun Lake: Located at the foot of Dry Falls, enjoy all your favorite watersports, including waterskiing and wakeboarding. Amenities: Sun Lake-Dry Falls State Park, Sun Lakes Park Resort.
Trout & Emerald Lakes: Rustic lakes in Hoodoo Canyon of the Kettle River Range in the Colville National Forest. Hike the Hoodoo Canyon Trail #17 to Emerald Lake Trail #94 (6 miles round-trip). Amenities: FS Trout Lake Campground.
Twin Lakes: On the Colville Indian Reservation, near the town of Inchelium, there are two lakes—North Twin and South Twin. Anglers need tribal fishing permits, available to purchase from local resorts. Amenities: Rainbow Beach Resort (North), Hartman’s Log Cabin Resort (South).
Waitts Lake: A quiet 500-acre lake that’s ideal for fishing or paddling, located south of Chewelah. Amenities: WDFW, Silver Beach Resort, Winona Beach Resort, Waitts Lake Resort.
West Medical Lake: This small lake in east Spokane County attracts anglers, as well as white pelicans, herons, and other waterfowl. In fall 2018, Washington Fish & Wildlife started rehabilitation efforts, and more than 15,000 hatchery-raised trout were released in spring 2019. Amenities: WDFW (West Medical Lake Resort is no longer in business).
Williams Lake: Anglers and paddlers enjoy this small, spring-fed channeled scablands lake, stocked annually with rainbow and cutthroat trout. Amenities: WDFW, Klink’s Resort, Bunker’s Resort & Marina.
Idaho’s Panhandle, dominated by three of the state’s biggest lakes, is known for its lake culture. While much of the shoreline near cities and towns are developed and privately-owned, National Forest and BLM sites have protected public land for the enjoyment of all.
For complete details about boating access sites, launch permit fees, and fishing regulations, visit Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG), U.S. National Forest Service (FS), Kootenai County (KC), or other corresponding public land management agency.
Brush Lake: Located north of Bonners Ferry, this scenic destination is annually stocked with trout. Amenities: FS Brush Lake Picnic Area launch (electric motors only), dock, and campsites.
Chain Lakes of the Coeur d’Alene River: A series of small lakes interconnected by narrow channels, off the Coeur d’Alene River where it flows into Lake Coeur d’Alene near the town of Harrison. While some lakes are too shallow to navigate, larger ones like Blue Lake (no motor restrictions) and Killarney Lake are great for boating and paddling. Coeur d’Alene River Wildlife Management Area includes Thomas and Anderson Lakes as state birding trail areas, and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes travels along the river and is a popular biking trail. Amenities: Lake Killarney BLM boat launch (dock, campground); BLM boat launches at Thompson and Anderson Lake Outlets.
Cocolalla Lake: This 800-acre lake, south of Sandpoint, was stocked this spring with over 9,000 rainbow trout. Amenities: IDFG boat launch and day use area.
Chatcolet & Benewah Lakes: Accessible from Heyburn State Park near Plummer,or from the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, these two beautiful, serene lakes have no actual separating boundary. Amenities: Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, Heyburn State Park, Chatcolet boat launch and day-use area, Rocky Point Beach and Marina, and Plummer Point (dog-friendly beach).
Coeur d’Alene Lake: This 25-mile long mecca for lake-life is 31,000 acres with more than 15 boat launch locations (complete details at Lakecoeurdalene.com). Here are highlights you need to know.
- City of Coeur d’Alene: The city’s downtown lakeshore hub serves locals as well as tourists. For upscale, visit the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Boardwalk Marina. For adventure, hike around Tubbs Hill and swim at one of its small, sandy beaches. For family fun, McEuen Park boasts the city’s largest playground, a splash pad, dog park, and the Centennial Trail goes through the park. Amenities: McEuen Park boat launch, City Park & Fort Sherman Playground, Independence Point.
- Sunspot at Yap-Keehn-Um Beach (aka NIC Beach): This large public beach at the edge of the North Idaho College (NIC) campus is accessible from Rosenberry Drive or the North Idaho Centennial Trail. Amenities: NIC’s Outdoor Pursuits boat house is open daily for watercraft rentals through Labor Day; reserve at (208) 769-3290; free campus parking (during summer, before fall term begins).
- Harrison: Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway on the lake’s east side leads to this historic lake town that’s also a popular boating destination. Amenities: Harrison County Docks, city day-use park, beach, RV/tent camping park, Gateway Restaurant & Marina, Carlin Bay Resort, Harrison hotels and restaurants, FS Bell Bay Campground.
- Other notable amenities around the lake: Boat-access only campgrounds/mooring docks: Windy Bay and Mica Bay Boater Parks (BLM), Mowry Boat Park (Kootenai County); Marinas: Tobler (Black Rock), Conkling, Silver Beach, Sun-Up Bay.
Elsie Lake: Enjoy serene paddling and fishing at this sub-alpine lake near Kellogg. Amenities: No-fee gravel launch, beach, primitive campsites; no motorboats allowed.
Fernan Lake: A 300-acre lake in Fernan Lake Village, near Coeur d’Alene, that’s great for paddling and fishing. The Idaho Panhandle National Forest borders its northern shoreline. Amenities: Fernan Park boat launch, dock, and marina.
Granite & Kelso Lakes: Two small, forested, trout-stocked lakes north ofAthol, situated near each other off the same rural road. Kelso is a state birding site. Amenities: IDFG boat launch and docks (electric motors only).
Hauser Lake: Located north of Post Falls, enjoy the surrounding forest and mountain views. Amenities: Hauser Lake Park launch, swimming area.
Hayden Lake: Enjoy your favorite watersports and mountain views. Amenities: IDFG boat launch, Honeysuckle Beach, Hayden Lake Marina.
Lake Pend Oreille: Idaho’s largest and deepest lake (pronounced “Pond-uh-ray”) has several access points and destinations not to be missed. Here are the four main areas with amenities:
- Sandpoint: The biggest city along Lake Pend Oreille, City Beach is a popular main attraction and conveniently located off the main downtown district (marina, boat launch, lifeguarded swimming beach; no dogs allowed). Local watercraft and boat rentals are available from local gear shops, including Action Water Sports, Outdoor Experience, 49 Outfitters. Take a ride with Lake Pend Oreille Cruises across the lake. Camp at the FS Green Bay Campground south of town.
- Hope (northeast): FS Sam Owen Campground, Hope Marina, Beyond Hope Resort and Floating Restaurant, Pend Oreille Shores Resort, FS Whiskey Rock Bay Campground (near the town of Clark Fork).
- Farragut State Park (south end, near Athol): Boat launch, Beaver Bay Beach (day use), campgrounds.
- Bayview (town north of Farragut): Kootenai County boat launch, marinas, resorts.
McArthur Lake: Protected as a state wildlife management area (WMA), north of Sandpoint, there are three other lakes for public recreation within WMA boundaries. Amenities: IDFG launches at Lakes McArthur, Dawson, Bonner, and Freeman.
Mirror Lake: Near Sagle, this secluded 85-acre trout-stocked lake, nestled between two mountains, is where Dante’s Peak was partially filmed. Amenities: IDFG, private campground.
Moose Creek Reservoir: Visitors with kayaks and fly-fishing float tubes will enjoy this small, forested reservoir lake east of Moscow. Heavily stocked with rainbow trout, it’s also a state birding trail area. Amenities: Moose Creek Park launch (no gas motors allowed), fishing docks, campground.
Moose Lake Fishing Pond: Located near Priest Lake’s Huckleberry Bay, private landowners allowpublic shoreline access at this small, trout-stocked fishing hole—a great destination for families with young children. Amenities: Shoreline pathways, picnic table, no boat launch.
Smith Lake: This small, family-friendly fishing lake close to Bonners Ferry is stocked annually with trout and catfish. Amenities: FS Smith Lake Campground.
Robinson Lake:Located north of Bonners Ferry, the unique shape for this lake’s 60 acres makes it nice for paddling. Amenities: Robinson Lake Campground.
Rose Lake: A forested, 371-acre lake near the town of Cataldo is popular for boating, waterskiing, paddling, and fishing. Amenities: IDFG boat launch, docks, and primitive campsites; Watsons Rose Lake Resort.
Round Lake: Enjoy relaxing water activities at this small, scenic, family-friendly, trout-stocked lake near Sagle, south of Sandpoint. Amenities: Round Lake State Park.
Spirit Lake: Located north of Rathdrum, just west of the historic town of Spirit Lake, enjoy Selkirk Mountain views and restaurants, bars, and other amenities in town. Try an electric-assist bike at Fresh Air E-bikes in town and ride the Empire Trails mountain bike trails on the north side of the lake. Amenities: IDFG, Kootenai County boat launches—Maiden Rock (east) and Bronze Bay (west); Sedlmayers Campground & Resort, Silver Beach Resort.
Twin Lakes: North of Rathdrum, a narrow channel connects the upper and lower lake sections, providing over 800 acres for boating and fishing. Amenities: Kootenai County boat launches and docks.
Priest & Upper Priest Lakes: These lakes are legendary for their rustic beauty, wildlife, and huckleberry foraging prospects in the surrounding mountains. Priest Lake, 19 miles long, is flanked by national forest on its western shoreline, with views of the Selkirk Crest to the east, while the west side enjoys picture-perfect summer sunsets. Paddle or boat the no-wake Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area for day-use or overnight camping at primitive FS campgrounds. Amenities: West side has FS boat launches, day-use beaches, and campgrounds; 3 boat-accessible islands (camping and day-use), and day-use only Eightmile Island; Hill’s Resort and Elkin’s Resort. East side features Priest Lake State Park, with 3 campground units.
Big lakes, big mountains—everything you’d expect from the Big Sky state to beckon lake lovers.
Visit Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks or U.S. Forest Service websites for more details.
Blossom Lakes: Upper and Lower Blossom Lakes are a backcountry hiking destination (moderate difficulty) with primitive campsites. Trailhead is located at the top of Thompson Pass, a Idaho-Montana stateline. Though you start hiking in Idaho, the trail goes into Montana.
Heart & Pearl Lakes: These two alpine lakes in the Great Burn Wilderness of the Lolo National Forest, near Superior, make great destinations for day-hiking or backpacking. Amenities: FS Trout Creek Campground; primitive campsites around Heart Lake.
Loon Lake: Located near the town of Libby, enjoy paddling and fishing at thissmall, shallow, no-wake lake in the Kootenai National Forest. Amenities: FS Loon Lake Campground.
Flathead Lake: As the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, 28 miles long and 15 miles wide, you can do it all at this huge lake south of Whitefish. Amenities: Volunteer Park, Flathead State Park, Wild Horse Island State Park, resorts, fishing charters.
Mission Mountain Lakes: Between Missoula and Flathead Lake is the Mission Mountains Wilderness with backcountry lakes. Read about them in this archive story.
Whitefish Lake: A pristine, glacial, 7-mile long lake, with 16 miles of shoreline surrounded by mountains, you can experience both its wild and city scenes. Amenities: City Beach, Whitefish Lake State Park, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, Lady of the Lake boat cruise and tours.
Sometimes truly “getting away” means heading across the border into Canada. What awaits are clear blue lakes, stunning mountains, and (usually) a favorable exchange rate. Lakeside communities and numerous provincial parks provide adventure opportunities.
Christina Lake: Enjoy every imaginable water sport activity on this long, forested lake. Amenities: Christina Lake Provincial Park, Christina Lake Marina, Gladstone (Texas Creek) Provincial Park, Christina Pines Campground.
Kootenay Lake: One of the province’s largest lakes at 67 miles long and nearly 500’ deep, it’s nestled between the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges. The municipal hubs of Nelson, on the lake’s west arm, and Kaslo, a mountain village along the lake’s main section, offer plenty of lodging, dining, recreation, and cultural opportunities. Amenities: 5 provincial parks, Kokanee Park Marina, Kaslo Bay Park, Nelson City Campground, Kaslo Municipal Campground, and resorts.
Okanagan Lake: Across the U.S. border north of Tonasket, Wash., this lake spans 84 miles, north to south, and boasts long sandy beaches. The surrounding area is divided into three sections: Kelowna, the major city located about midway on the lake; Lake Country; and West Kelowna & Peachland. Amenities: Public boat launches, 30+ beaches, 6 provincial parks with campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, wineries, and resorts.
[Feature photo: Rose Lake, Idaho.]