The Lone Star State is a cultural melting pot famous for its cowboy lifestyle, barbeques, and mountain ranges. The state is also known for its rather hot and humid temperatures, especially during the summer. And what better way to cool off during these times than taking a trip to one of the many lakes in Texas?
Texas is home to a number of beautiful clear lakes. Both natural lakes and man-made reservoirs offer locals and tourists alike an array of fun and exciting outdoor activities. From watersports and fishing to relaxing boat rides and bird-watching, here are the best lakes in Texas to visit for fresh air, amazing views, and relaxing atmospheres.
1. Caddo Lake
Located in East Texas, Caddo Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in Texas. Towering over several sloughs, ponds, and bayous are 25,000 acres of bald cypress trees covered in Spanish moss. Fishing and boating are the most popular activities on the open waterways of this uniquely beautiful lake. Make sure to watch out for alligators and snakes inhabiting the lake.
On the west end of the lake is Caddo Lake State Park. Truly a fantastic spot for nature lovers, visitors can enjoy plenty of recreational activities, including biking, hiking, picnicking, and camping. There are also cabins available for rent that can sleep six people.
2. Medina Lake
A hidden gem within San Antonio, Medina Lake is one of the man-made lakes in Texas that provides a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The crystal clear waters make it perfect for all sorts of water activities, such as swimming, scuba diving, and canoeing.
The true highlight of lake Medina, however, is its fishing. The waters are swimming with a variety of fish species, primarily hybrid striped bass and catfish. You can also catch a good amount of small, largemouth, and white bass in the lake, as well. Just note that you will need to bring your own fishing rods and boating equipment. Aside from being one of the best fishing lakes in Texas, it’s also an ideal spot for family outings. The area has plenty of picnic tables and even grills open for use to cook your prize catch of the day.
3. Canyon Lake
Situated halfway between San Antonio and Austin, just along the Guadalupe River, going to Canyon Lake is one of the best cheap vacation ideas within the state. Dubbed as “The Jewel” of the Texas Hill Country, it’s one of the cleanest lakes in Texas. The clear waters make it a prime destination for swimming and water sports. However, Canyon Lake Texas which has over 8,000 acres of surface area is probably most known as a boating destination, easily accessible thanks to the 23 boat ramps and watercraft rentals available!
Aside from wading in the waters, visitors can take part in several land-based recreational activities including hiking and wildlife viewing. If you want to spend the night, you’re in luck, since there are several areas designated for camping in Canyon Lakes, Texas. Aside from camping grounds, there are also lodges, cottages, and cabins for rent within the area.
4. Lake Whitney
For those who want to try exciting recreational and water sports activities, you definitely shouldn’t skip Lake Whitney. Not only can you go water skiing and wake surfing, but you can also even try out cliff diving thanks to the surrounding cliffs that reach up to 50-feet. It’s also one of the top angling destinations, with bountiful fish like largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish.
Locals and tourists who frequent the lake year-round not only visit for the clear blue waters but also for its lakeside amenities such as golf courses, tennis courts, playgrounds, and camping grounds within Lake Whitney State Park. Wildlife enthusiasts can also find a number of different species roaming the area, including deer, wild turkeys, and bald eagles.
5. Eagle Mountain Lake
Just north of Fort Worth, you’ll find one of the most beautiful lakes in Texas — the Eagle Mountain Lake. Spread out over 8,000 acres across, this lake is an ideal spot for cheap weekend getaways with the family. It’s an excellent spot for boating and other water-based activities, such as jet skiing, wakeboarding, and paddleboarding. The lake is also a hotspot for fishing as well, with its ample population of crappie and white bass. There is plenty of fun to have on the shores, as well, with picnic areas, walking trails, and camping grounds surrounding the lake.
6. Inks Lake
There’s no better place than an area surrounded by lush, bright greenery and rugged rock landscape. Just an hour drive northwest of Austin, you’ll find Inks Lake State Park often visited by nature-lovers. With its constant water level all year round, Inks Lake is one of the best lakes in Texas for many water activities like swimming, boating, water skiing, scuba diving, and fishing. Meanwhile, enjoy hiking, biking, geocaching, and wildlife viewing if you’re looking for activities out of the water.
Set up at one of the 200 campsites, build campfires, sing songs, and make delicious s’mores. If roughing it on the ground in camping tents isn’t your style, there are plenty of Inks Lake cabins and lodging for rent.
7. Lady Bird Lake
Named after Lady Bird Johnson, the former First Lady, and long-time Austin resident, Lady Bird Lake is one of the six famous Highland Lakes on the Colorado River worth visiting for its many water and land-based activities.
Situated at the heart of Downtown Austin, you wouldn’t expect Lady Bird Lake to be a popular destination for people looking for some peace and relaxation. Despite being surrounded by a bustling metropolis, the lake remains serene thanks to the local government banning the use of gas-powered watercraft vehicles. As such, this makes it a great location for dragon boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Take note though, that it is illegal to swim in this lake.
Land-based outdoor recreation includes biking and jogging along the Lady Bird Lake trail. You can also spot plenty of dog lovers bringing their furry companions to roam around the area! If all of these sounds like your cup of tea, the next time you’re looking for Airbnb Austin rentals, consider booking one along Lady Bird Lake.
8. Lake Buchanan
Another renowned Highland Lakes in Texas is the beautifully stunning scenery of Buchanan Lake. It is a favorite among campers, swimmers, boaters, and fishing enthusiasts alike. Having a surface area of over 22,000 acres and stretching 30 miles long, you’ll never feel crowded when visiting, even during the summer months. Visitors who want to spend the night can find a number of Lake Buchanan cabins and lodging for rent.
The lake is a real outdoorsman’s paradise, with rugged granite cliffs on the east end ideal for hiking, coupled with granite gravel shores on the west perfect for swimming and sunbathing. You can even find a 30-foot waterfall on the far north end of the lake! Buchanan Lake is one of the perfect spots in the Texas Hill Country for birdwatching, as well. Grab a pair of binoculars and watch bald eagles, herons, pelicans, and many other species of birds as they take flight around the lake.
9. Lake Conroe
Looking for things to do in Houston, Texas? Located on the west fork of the San Jacinto River, Lake Conroe is a 22,000-acre reservoir ideal for boating, swimming, canoeing, and other water sports. The lake also has a diversity of fish species from largemouth bass, channel catfish, hybrid striped bass, and crappie.
Ready for some wildlife viewing? The Sam Houston National Forest keeps deer and several species of birds under its care. Lake Conroe Park is packed with amenities the whole family will enjoy such as golf courses, children’s playgrounds, volleyball courts, and picnic grounds with grills.
10. Lewisville Lake
Just an hour’s drive from Dallas, you’ll find Lake Lewisville, a reservoir formed in 1927 after damming the Elk Fork of the Trinity River. It’s the largest lake in North Texas with a surface area of 29,000 acres and 233 miles of shoreline.
Built originally for flood control purposes, it is now an immensely popular spot among locals during summer. Fishing is also a popular activity within the waters thanks to the ample population of catfish, hybrid striped bass, and crappie. It is also a great place for water skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, and other water sports. Party Cove, as the lake’s main attraction, is where people come to hike, camp, and bike along its massive shoreline.
11. Lake Granbury
Situated southwest of Fort Worth in northern Texas, Granbury Lake is one of the three man-made lakes in Texas formed by damming the Brazos River. Being a resort lake destination, you can find restaurants, stores, cottages, and an inn on Lake Granbury.
A recreational paradise, you can partake in kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, as well as fishing. The number of boat ramps surrounding the area allows visitors to launch their own boat free of charge. If you are planning a camping trip with your family and friends, set up camp in one of the free camping sites within the area.
12. Lake Fork
Lake Fork, Texas is among the best fishing lakes in Texas to catch some sunfish, crappie, channel catfish, and largemouth bass. In fact, the top five largest largemouth bass were caught in this lake. Since the lake is such a popular fishing spot, you can find numerous amenities catered towards fishing enthusiasts, such as boat ramps, bait stores, fishing piers, and fish cleaning stations. There are also a number of fishing tournaments that take place at Lake Fork each year.
Apart from fishing, the surrounding area of the lake is a great place to spend the night as well. Set up camp on one of the many campgrounds or RV sites. Rent one of the many cabins in the area if you’re arriving with a bigger group.
13. Sam Rayburn Lake
Spanning a surface area of over 114,000 acres, Sam Rayburn Reservoir is one of the biggest lakes in Texas where people go swimming, hiking, and water skiing. The lake is abundant with fish species such as largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. Since the area is mostly undeveloped, it’s an ideal spot for wildlife spotting, as well.
One of the main attractions in the area is the Powell Park Marina. The family-owned park offers inflatable water parks as well as boat and jet ski rentals. You can also find a number of campsites and vacation cabins along the shorelines.
14. Lake Tawakoni
Located in East Texas, you’ll find a 37,000-acre lake that welcomes swimming and canoeing activities. Additionally, with its abundance of catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, and hybrid striped bass, it’s among the top fishing lakes in Texas.
If you prefer land activities, head over to Lake Tawakoni State Park and follow scenic trails or stay the night in one of the campsites. Moreover, the Thousand Trails Lake Tawakoni campgrounds provide cabin rentals, RV camping, boat slip rentals, and other services that make roughing it a little less rough.
15. Lake Texoma
Straddling the edge of Texas and Oklahoma, the aptly named Lake Texoma is among the largest lakes in the United States covering almost 90,000 acres of water and surrounded by around 1,000 miles of shoreline. From its sandy beaches to the lush greenery found in Lake Texoma State Park, the area is a paradise for people who want to sit back, relax, and be one with nature.
With almost 20 marinas, it’s the ideal spot for recreational boating and water sports such as water skiing, jet skiing, and windsurfing. Fed by the waters of Red River and Washita River, expect to find abundant fish species like striped bass and blue catfish. Filled with 700 campsites and many quaint cabins, stay over for the night to catch a spectacular sunrise (or sunset).
16. Lake Travis
As the biggest of the Highland Lakes, Lake Travis is overflowing with fun things to do—a tried-and-true destination for people who want to have a good time. With a surface area of over 18,000 acres and 270 miles of shoreline, it’s one of the best lakes in Texas for vacation goers.
Popular water-based activities include boating, flyboarding, wake surfing, and fishing. There’s even a clothing-optional public park along the shores of the lake for those 18 and above. On land, you can find a number of hiking trails, golf courses, waterparks, and zipline tours. The surrounding lakeside park also features campsites, picnic areas, and shops. Some of the top eateries and wineries in North Texas can even be found near the lake.
17. Cedar Creek Lake
Looking for romantic weekend getaways or relaxing overnight trips within the Lone Star State? Look no further than Cedar Creek Lake. Located in East Texas, it’s one of the lakes near Dallas that offers amazing views and plenty of activities from fishing and boating to golf courses and trails.
Want an overnighter? Set up camp on one of the many campsites or RV parks in Cedar Creek Lake. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to invest in a vacation home, you’ll be glad to know that Cedar Creek Lake is also one of the best lakes in Texas to live on. The lake has the fourth-largest marketplace for lakeside property in the state and is a prime location for vacation and retirement houses.
18. Possum Kingdom Lake
Just west of Fort Worth, along the Brazos River, Possum Kingdom Lake is one of the clear lakes in Texas perfect for boating, fishing, swimming, and scuba-diving. Fondly called “PK,” the name of the lake allegedly comes from when fur traders in the early 1900s saw the area as a paradise for possums and other fur-bearing critters. Nowadays, the area is a popular party spot for locals.
The lake is home to the famous “Hell’s Gate,” a dramatic-looking channel with two enormous cliffs standing like gates to the party cove. At the south end of the lake, you can often find boaters to party and have a good time with. If you visit during the Fourth of July, you’ll get to experience an epic firework show over the cliffs. The scenic shores also pose well for pictures to keep the memory alive of a great vacation!
19. Toledo Bend Reservoir
Nestled on the border of Louisiana and Texas, you’ll find a fisherman’s paradise. Toledo Bend Reservoir that opens to Sabine River, is one of the best fishing lakes in Texas if you’re looking to catch largemouth and striped bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish. You can typically find these game fishes along the edges of the lake.
Aside from fishing, people also engage in swimming, boating, water rafting, and jet skiing within the water of the reservoir. Since it’s among the clear lakes in Texas, scuba divers explore the waters to spot artifacts including flooded cemeteries, sunken boats, and even buildings from submerged ghost towns. On the shores, join the locals as they camp, golf, and picnic around the area.
20. Lake Livingston
Located just north of Houston and southeast of Dallas, Lake Livingston State Park is a wonderland for people looking to relax and enjoy. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway or a year-round vacation home, the park has everything you need. Here, you’ll find one of the biggest lakes in Texas, Lake Livingston, stretching 93,000 acres of water and 450 miles of shoreline, where almost 5,000 campsites and 100 boat ramps can be found.
Fishing enthusiasts flock to the area due to the water’s abundance of game fish, specifically white bass, catfish, and crappie. Nature lovers also have chances to spot an assortment of wildlife, including bald eagles, woodpeckers, deer, and raccoons.
21. Lake Austin
Wakeboarding, waterskiing, and canoeing are just a few of the popular water activities in Lake Austin. Part of the Highland Lakes, the lake features amazing views and plenty of fun recreational activities, including fishing and boating. Plenty of the surrounding shoreline is privately owned, which makes access to the banks limited, but you can always head over to one of the many lakeside parks such as Emma Long Park and Mary Quinlan Park to access all the lake’s wonders. These parks are also ideal areas for bringing picnic baskets and camping gear.
22. Lake LBJ
Another reservoir part of the Highland Lakes in Central Texas is Lake LBJ. Due to the lake’s constant water level year-round, it became an ideal destination for sailing, boating, and other water sports. Fishing is extremely popular at LBJ Lake since it is home to largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, and catfish. There are even several fishing tournaments that take place on the lake each year.
On the south side of Lake LBJ is Sunrise Beach, a great spot to play a game of volleyball or simply sunbathe. After a long day of swimming, fuel up at one of the many waterfront restaurants in the area. If you visit around April, take a hot-air balloon ride from Horseshoe Bay Resort to admire the scenic view of the lake from above.
23. Lake Amistad
Lake Amistad is a unique and wildly beautiful oasis in the desert. Nestled between the borders of Mexico and Texas, the reservoir lies where the Devils River meets the Rio Grande. The area is best known for the 4,000-year-old cave paintings by the Native Americans that resided in the area. You can view these pictographs by boat or on foot.
It’s also among the best lakes in Texas for swimming, scuba diving, and fishing. For land-based recreation, go for a beautiful nature hike or camp under starry skies. Furthermore, hunting is also a popular activity among Texans in the area, with several hunting areas around Amistad Lake open to the public during specific seasons.
24. Lake Marble Falls
Lake Marble Falls is a picturesque lake in the Texas Hill Country, along the Colorado River. Part of the Highland Lakes chain of lakes, its constant water levels make it a popular destination for swimming, boating, and waterskiing. Enjoy the lake’s scenic charm from the banks of Lakeside Park and Johnson Park, which are favorite spots for locals to picnic and relax in.
As the lake is just a mere distance away from Marble Falls city, it gives you the best of both worlds—natural beauty and urban convenience. After a day of swimming and hiking at the lake, head back to the city for an evening of premier shopping and dining.
25. White Rock Lake
This lake in Dallas is an urban gem among city-goers and a favorite among locals looking to sit back and enjoy wildlife and nature. Since the city prohibits high-speed motorized boats in the waters, White Rock Lake is an ideal spot for rowing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Aside from water sports, among the popular activities are hiking or biking along the 17-mile White Rock trail, as well as bird-watching. Others simply set up picnic areas to marvel at the views. The northwest side of the lake has a dog park where adorable, furry companions roam free. Adjacent to the lake, take a stroll around Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden to witness a stunning floral sanctuary.
Discovering the Best Lakes in Texas
Visiting picturesque lakes in Texas is among the best vacation ideas out there. Thanks to the many natural lakes and man-made reservoirs in the state, you’ll never run out of acres of water to discover. Whether you’re looking to take pleasure in activities in the waters or admire the state’s beautiful landscape from the shores, the Lone Star State has it all. So grab your swimwear, ready your fishing poles and camping gear, and head on to any one of these lakes in Texas for the most memorable nature escapes yet.