10 Lakes for Family Day Trips

Amy Silbernagel McCaffree

On hot, sunny summer days, a waterfront park is one of the best places to be. Kids can swim, play on the beach, and dig in the rocky sand. A family can also paddle together, go fishing, or hike or bike on nearby trails before cooling and picnicking in the relaxing shade of towering pines. Here are 10 lakes near Spokane with public parks that provide opportunities for a variety of recreation. 

Kayaking on Lake Chatcolet. // Photo: Amy McCaffree


Fish Lake: The rustic park has a compact waterfront swimming beach and small dock, but it is a great lake for paddling or fishing. There’s a small boat launch for non-motorized watercraft (electric motors or paddling only), and the park includes playgrounds and bathroom facility (be aware that the facility receives limited maintenance). Bring a picnic blanket or camp chairs since there are no picnic tables. Nearby is a trailhead for the Columbia Plateau Trail State Park

Columbia Plateau Trail at Fish Lake// Photo: Carol Corbin

Liberty Lake: A beach and playground are the highlights at Liberty Lake Regional Park (daily entrance fee required). A boat launch and dock are located at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife access site (Discover Pass required). 

Medical Lake: Waterfront Park has expansive, grassy grounds that make it easy to physically distance from other household groups. There’s also a wide swimming beach and areas to launch a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Enjoy a bike ride or stroll along the tree-shaded, paved Medical Lake Trail on the west shoreline. On the east shore of the lake is Coney Island Park for picnicking and wildlife viewing, and the north end has Peper Park.   

Photo of Medical Lake by Shallan Knowles.
Medical Lake // Photo: Shallan Knowles

Lake Spokane: Access this 24-mile reservoir along the Spokane River, located between Nine Mile Falls and Long Lake Dam, from Riverside State Park’s Nine Mile Recreation Area or Lake Spokane campground. 


Chatcolet Lake: Heyburn State Park’s Chatcolet Day Use area has a boat launch, small primitive access sites for wading and swimming, a playground, picnic shelters, and trailhead for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Within the state park property, you’ll also find Plummer Point (dog friendly beach), Rocky Point Beach and Marina, and three campgrounds. 

Rocky Point Beach and Marina at Lake Chatcolet // Photo: Amy McCaffree

Coeur d’Alene Lake: There are three main access sites in the downtown core of the city of Coeur d’Alene. (1) Tubbs Hill: This city park natural area has a popular 2.2-mile loop hiking trail around the peninsula along with spur trails to access small, sandy primitive beaches. Nearby is McEuen Park, which includes a huge playground, splash pad, dog park, and boat launch. (2) City Park: Kids can enjoy the swimming beach, dig in the rocky sand, and play at Fort Sherman Playground. Picnic on the grass and bike or walk the North Idaho Centennial Trail. (3) Sunsport at Yap-Keehn-Um Beach: Also located along the Centennial Trail is a public beach at the edge of the North Idaho College campus. You can park on campus (free) or drive here via Rosenberry Drive, with limited street parking. NIC’s Outdoor Pursuits boat house rents kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and sailboats. Call ahead to confirm availability (208-769-3290).  

Hayden Lake: Honeysuckle Beach in the city of Hayden has a large swimming beach, dock, and boat launch.  

Honeysuckle Beach near Hayden, Idaho is great because it has it all – certified lifeguards, restrooms, a kid-friendly food concession, dock, beautiful mountain views, and blue-looking lake water. Photo courtesy Travelcoeurdalene.com
Honeysuckle Beach near Hayden, Idaho. // Photo courtesy Travelcoeurdalene.com

Pend Oreille Lake: There are two main public access sites for day use on the lake’s west side. (1) Sandpoint’s City Beach has a large swimming beach and playground. (2) Towards the lake’s south end, Farragut State Park’s Beaver Bay Beach provides a calm swimming area. 

Sandpoint City Beach

Round Lake: Enjoy the beach, fishing dock, trail around the lake, and flatwater for paddling at Round Lake State Park—located near Sagle, south of Sandpoint.  

Q’emiln Park: Located in Post Falls along the Spokane River, it’s not on a lake, but the park is spacious with a great swimming beach (day parking fee required). It only opens, however, after Avista closes the nearby downstream dam, which usually happens by mid-July. You can also hike or mountain bike on trails in the nearby Community Forest.

Inland Northwest lakes will cool down you and your kids this summer.

Amy McCaffree is special section editor and Out There Kids columnist. Her favorite summer recreation activities are stand-up paddling, kayaking, camping, and swimming with her husband and their two kids.

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