Breezy summer days are just around the corner, and there's no better time to start daydreaming about the trips you'll take once the weather warms up. Vacationing isn't just fun; numerous studies demonstrate that it's great for your health. Even so, polls have shown that approximately 705 million vacation days went unused in the U.S. in 2017 — but we hope that number will drop as you book the perfect vacation. To kickstart your planning process, here are five of the dreamiest U.S. lakes to visit.
Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
At 40,000 acres, Lake Ouachita is the largest lake completely contained in Arkansas. When you take a trip out here, you'll be surrounded by the serene Ouachita National Forest. So you can wake up every morning to the sound of birdsong and the leaves rustling in the breeze.
No matter what kind of water activities you like, odds are you'll be accommodated at Lake Ouachita. Take a guided kayak tour, or grab some scuba equipment and dive under the surface. Fishing fans can catch catfish, striped bass, crappie, bream, and largemouth bass.
With a total of 93 campsites located along the shore and throughout the national forest, there are also plenty of places to stay along the edges of the lake. If you don't like roughing it in tents, you might choose a fully-equipped cabin overlooking the water.
Lake Ouachita is also conveniently close to Hot Springs Village, where you can find all sorts of fun things to do. Grab a drink and enjoy some live music at The Big Chill or visit the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo.
Flathead Lake, Montana
The strikingly flat Flathead Lake stretches out across 188 square miles, making it the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Surrounded by mountains, Flathead Lake was once described by explorer David Thompson as a "fine sheet of water."
This region is perfect for any wildlife lover. Flathead Lake is home to several islands and numerous hiking trails, all of which contain an incredible variety of birds and other animals. You might try boating out to Bird Island, where you'll likely see herons, eagles, geese, and osprey. If you take a trip to Wild Horse Island, you'll be able to hike along trails through forests and open meadows. This large island is a wildlife refuge for bears, coyotes, deer, bighorn sheep, and numerous bird species.
Flathead Lake is also great for fishing, and it boasts plenty of campsites, motels, and cabins for longer stays. Don't forget to stop at one of the many roadside stands selling local fruits like apples, plums, and cherries.
Lake Travis, Texas
Another enormous freshwater lake, Lake Travis features over 271 miles of shoreline. What truly makes this gem stand out is its limestone bottom. While other lakes can get a little murky and muddy, Lake Travis remains bright blue and crystal clear throughout the summer.
One of the most popular attractions is The Oasis Restaurant. Located on a bluff 450 feet above the lake, this restaurant offers absolutely stunning views and live music that you can enjoy as you dine.
Feeling a little adventurous? You might enjoy Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. Here you'll be able to ride the longest zipline in Texas, which stretches over 2,800 feet across the lake. Tour guides also offer a variety of nature walks and hikes.
Lake Chelan, Washington
Before you visit Lake Chelan, you'll need to make a choice: do you want to stay in a historic lakeside city, a quaint town, or the secluded wilderness? The experience you prefer will help you determine the shore of the lake you should travel to. Fans of the lakeside city will want to book accommodations at Chelan, located on the lake's southeast shore. Although Chelan only has approximately 4,000 year-round residents, there can be up to 25,000 people during peak tourist season.
Perhaps the most charming feature Chelan offers is an evening farmer's market, complete with lavender and gooseberry stands, activity tables for children, and a visiting barn owl.
A slightly less bustling area is Manson, located along the lake's north shore. This small town features mountain views, numerous shops and restaurants, and easy access to orchards and vineyards. Enjoy handmade pizza, go boating at Old Mill Park, or do a little grilling at the secluded Willow Point Park.
For the true nature fanatics, there's no better place to visit than Stehekin. Located at the head of Lake Chelan, it's impossible to drive here — you'll need to take a ferry, hike, or even travel on horseback. With just 90 full-time residents, Stehekin is a hidden gem nestled into the snow-capped mountains.
Coeur d'Alene Lake, Idaho
Bird watchers will love Coeur d'Alene Lake, where a migrating bald eagle population visits every winter. Also, geese, swans, and osprey abound during the warmer months. However, you don't need to be a wildlife aficionado to relax on the coast surrounding Idaho's second-largest lake.
Nestled beneath the mountains, Coeur d'Alene Lake boasts numerous hiking trails to explore. At City Park and Beach, you'll find plenty of sandy beaches, as well as volleyball courts and additional trails. Coeur d'Alene Lake has both camping and cabin rental accommodations, so you can find the most comfortable spot for you.
Downtown Coeur d'Alene also has a bustling art scene, with multiple fine arts galleries located within walking distance of one another. Try stopping in at the Gallery Northwest, which is run by local artists and dedicated to promoting artists throughout the region. Afterward, you might consider grabbing a drink at Trickster's Brewing Company or doing a little shopping at Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort.