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You need to visit these 10 gorgeous alpine lakes

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

When mountains meet water, it’s truly something special. While alpine lakes require a trek to reach, the hike is worth it. Check out these 10 stunning alpine lake adventures for seclusion, untouched wilderness, and some of the most blue waters you’ll ever see. They’re sure to take your breath away!

1. Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake – Idaho

Photo: Dusty Klein

Distance: 10.85 miles
Elevation: 1893 ft
Type: Out-and-back

South of Stanley, Idaho lies Redfish Lake, a unique banana-shaped lake that has some of the best camping spots in the surrounding area. From here, hike to Alpine Lake for an added adventure! Along the way, you’ll be delighted by creeks, small waterfalls, picturesque meadows, rock gardens, and the scent of crisp mountain air. You’ll need to shuttle across on a boat before embarking unless you want to add miles of hiking around Redfish Lake.

2. Chasm Lake – Colorado

Photo: Kyle Frost

Distance: 8.02 miles
Elevation: 2500 ft
Type: Out-and-back

This beautiful hike in Rocky Mountain National Park winds through dense forest before emerging above the tree-line, opening up to some of the most sublime views. Plan to arrive at the lake early for an iconic sunrise hitting Longs Peak. Keep going after reaching the lake to summit Longs Peak if you’re prepared to really get your steps in!

3. Cracker Lake – Montana

A clear blue lake surrounded by mountains.
Image by Dustin Wong.

Distance: 12.72 miles
Elevation: 1650 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Go off the beaten path to discover this mesmerizing turquoise glacial lake. This adventure is less busy than nearby Iceberg Lake, giving you more breathing room to relax on the beach in peace and solitude. Hike through wooded forests and slow down to take in the fantastic mountain views, distant waterfalls, wildflowers, and mining ruins. Be prepared for the occasional shallow creek crossing and bring bear spray! 

4. Sunrise Lakes – California

Photo: Nathaniel Polta

Distance: 18.93 miles
Elevation: 1775 ft
Type: Loop

Take in the natural beauty of Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley! If you want to take a break and spend more time enjoying the panoramic views, plan to stay overnight. We recommend watching a stunning backcountry sunrise if you're willing to get up early! Since this is a longer hike, bring plenty of water and snacks to enjoy among the towering granite slabs.

5. Phelps Lake – Wyoming

Photo: IdleTheoryBus

Distance: 4.22 miles
Elevation: 974 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Check out one of the best swimming holes in the Tetons! Here, you can cliff jump from a granite boulder into a cold glacial runoff lake. Looking northwest, you can see Death Canyon– a marvelous backdrop. This is the perfect summer spot for family and friends to enjoy some relief from the sun. Be bear aware and always prioritize safety before deciding to cliff jump. 

6. Stella and Teresa Lakes – Nevada

Photo: Mayson

Distance: 2.7 miles
Elevation: 600 ft
Type: Loop

You can hike to these two gorgeous alpine lakes in Great Basin National Park, Nevada, in under three miles with views of Wheeler Peak on the way. The water is glasslike, reflecting the peak and the surrounding trees especially well in the morning light. Get ready to snap some photos! Remember that the time of year can affect the trail conditions. The trail is usually snow covered in late Fall, Winter, and Spring. In the warmer months, the trail is easily accessible and great for many hiking experience levels.

7. Spectacle Lake – Washington

Photo: Randy Gordon

Distance: 18.91 miles
Elevation: 3058 ft
Type: Out-and-back

This is one of the more popular locations on the eastern side of Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, so don’t expect total solitude! The adventure is still worth your time despite some potential crowds here and there. Head out in the early morning to avoid high-traffic times of day. Before reaching Spectacle Lake, take in the beauty and power of Spectacle Falls, a welcoming sign of the stunning body of water to come. Chikamin Peak and Lemah Mountain create a breathtaking backdrop.

8. Russell Lake – Oregon

Photo: Eric Sanders

Distance: 11.4 miles
Elevation: 1926 ft
Type: Out-and-back

This well-maintained trail boasts fairytale views. Plan to camp overnight to experience some of the clearest starry skies! The astrophotography is top-notch in this untouched wilderness area. Pro Tip: Visit in July for peak wildflower season and dark skies. If you’re seeking even more adventure, you can head up the intersecting Pacific Crest Trail for more miles of exploration.

9. Red Pine Lake – Utah

Photo: Jeff Groves

Distance: 6.94 miles
Elevation: 1995 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Just a quick drive away from Salt Lake City, this alpine lake is nestled within the Wasatch Mountains. The trail features beautiful aspens and pines with breathtaking canyon vistas along the way. Look out for wildlife and visit in the summer for the most beautiful display of wildflowers. There are plenty of campsites surrounding the lake if you want to stay the night. Please note that Little Cottonwood Canyon is a watershed area, which means that swimming in Red Pine Lake is not allowed.

10. Lake of the Clouds – New Hampshire

Photo: Drew Thompson

Distance: 2.81 miles
Elevation: 1224 ft
Type: Out-and-back

This popular, dog-friendly adventure near Randolph, New Hampshire will bring you to a dreamy alpine lake, but not without some rock scrambling first! Check out the hut that sits on the ridge right below the summit of Mount Washington-- the highest point in the Northeast. Stop in the hut for a coffee or a baked good. Family-style breakfast and dinners are also served June through mid-September. Enjoy a much deserved meal and take in the sunset while you’re at it!

A note before you embark

It's easy to get excited and want to immediately take a dip in the glacial blue waters of alpine lakes - especially in the heat of summertime! Please remember to always check water-use restrictions ahead of time. 

Find out if swimming is allowed by researching the area through the public lands website or by contacting the local park service or DNR. They can also explain whether you need a special permit to enter the area or camp out. 

If there are cliff jumping opportunities, check the landing area below to ensure you will enter the water in a safe and adequately deep spot. 

Practice Leave No Trace rules. Help keep these wilderness areas pristine for the next person to enjoy and create memories. Now, go get outside!


Cover Photo: Jess Fischer

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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