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The Best Summer Lake Hikes to Beat the Heat

Ditch the high lowland temps and head for the water on these six lake hikes.

No matter how you choose to spend your summer, Backpacker is here to help make it your best one ever. Become an Outside+ member today to get access to exclusive trips, including the full hike reports for the six we mention here.

Storms are clearing, mountain trails are melting out, and the days are as long as they’ll ever be: It’s officially summer. With all those clear, sunny days, though, comes heat. Whether you just want to enjoy the cool breeze swirling over the lake side or take a swim in some glacial melt, a backcountry watering hole is the answer to all your sweltering woes. Here’s six lake hikes to chill your toes in this year.

Trampas Lakes, Carson National Forest, NM

Photo: “Upper Trampas Lake” by Jerry Friedman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A pair of lakes nestled beneath a craggy headwall at 11,000 feet are easy to find in the northern Rockies, but down in the desert southwest the setting makes for a rare alpine oasis. Bonus: the trailhead is only an hour and a half out of Santa Fe. Read More

Lost Lake, Ludington State Park, MI

Photo: “Ludington State Park” by john.anes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This loop trail hopscotches through a series of bridge-linked islands through and around Lost Lake. If one lake isn’t enough, a short jaunt up the trail brings you to forested dunes and swaths of white sand on the shores of Lake Michigan. Read More

St. Mary to McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

McDonald Lake Glacier National Park
Photo: Emma Smith

Take anywhere from a weekend to a week on this 40.9-mile odyssey through Glacier National Park. The trail climbs from river valleys to alpine passes through some of the densest bear populations in the Lower 48 (bring bear spray and remember to make noise before blind corners). Read More

Summit Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

This 17.7-mile lollipop actually snags five lakes on its way through Lassen Volcanic National Park. Though the volcano hasn’t erupted in decades, the occasional rumble still shakes the hiking trails. Read More

Navajo Lake, Indian Head Wilderness, CO

Photo: “The end to an awesome weekend at Dunton Hot Springs for #weekendatberners” by oso243 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

And now for something completely different: This 9-mile out-and-back leaves from a nineteenth-century ghost town turned luxury resort, where hikers looking for some pampering after a day or a weekend in the backcountry can soak in Dunton Hot Springs. Navajo Lake itself is remote enough that you’ll likely have it all to yourself, an even rarer luxury in the Colorado backcountry. Read More

Lake Ouachita, Lake Ouachita State Park, AR

Lake Ouachita
Photo: Oliver Graham

Arkansas’s largest body of water is best experienced on a weekend trek along the western edge of the 40-mile Lake Ouachita Trail, where you can watch the sunrise spill over Hickory Nut Mountain and onto the water from among stands of blooming dogwoods. The trail has near-constant views of the lake, where loons often bob between forested islands. Read More