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Favorite Lakeside Retreats

Take a dip, have a picnic, or go for a stroll at eleven lakes in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

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Lake Merritt in Oakland California, image
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Photo: cdrin/Shutterstock
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Lake Merritt in Oakland, Calif., is a tidal lagoon that is popular with walkers, bikers, and joggers.


D.L. Bliss State Park Near South Lake Tahoe, Calif. “Bring a picnic, relax on the beautiful sandy beach, and enjoy the views of Emerald Bay and Fannette Island without a care in the world,” says Amy Rodrigues of San Jose. (530) 525-7277,

Fallen Leaf Lake Near Lake Tahoe, Calif. “A campsite here gets you views of Mount Tallac, swimming and fishing in a crystal-clear lake, and an over-the-water gaze into Desolation Wilderness,” writes Janet Kaidantzis of Lafayette, Calif. (530) 543-2600,

Camp Richardson Historic Resort and Marina South Lake Tahoe, Calif. “Find options from campgrounds to hotel rooms,” says Barbara Schroeder of Rancho Cordova, Calif. “You can rent boats or enjoy music at a bar and grill right on the beach.” (800) 544-1801,

Lake Anza Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley, Calif. “An amazing pot of gold in the Berkeley Hills,” says Jasper Sage of Cutten, Calif. “Swim zones are clearly marked, fees are reasonable, the large locker rooms have showers, and there’s a sandy beach.” (510) 544-2747,

Lake Merritt Oakland. “You can’t beat sitting at the long bar of the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill and watching the Venetian gondolas go by at dusk,” writes Bill Kaufner of Oakland. (510) 208-5253,


Redfish Lake Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. “One of the most gorgeous lakes I’ve ever seen,” says Julia Peters of Portland. “With camping, fishing, boating, hiking, stunning mountains, and few people—it’s heaven.” (208) 774-3000,


Elk Lake Resort Lima, Mont. “This off-the-beaten-track spot has it all,” says Allen Russell of Shoshone, Idaho. “Fishing, hiking, birding, boating, horseback riding—all in a stunningly beautiful valley. Great food, too.” (406) 276-3282,


Detroit Lake State Recreation Area East of Salem, Ore. “Great fishing and boating in the lake, which is just a good cast from the campground,” writes Dave Taube of Eugene, Ore. (503) 854-3346,

Devils Lake State Recreation Area Lincoln City, Ore. “There’s something for everyone here,” says Tammy Kobinski of Lincoln City. “Fishing, boating, sailing, camping, birding, and just relaxing make this a favorite place.” (541) 994-2002,


Lake Quinault Olympic National Park, Wash. “We walked the Maple Glade Trail here,” says Eileen Fukunaga of Monterey, Calif. “It was magical, like being in a primeval forest. We had the place to ourselves—no one else was crazy enough to be out in the rain—but the next day we walked in sunshine.” (360) 565-3130,

Mayfield Lake Mossyrock, Wash. “Though there are lots of places to stay near this lake, we’ve always chosen Ike Kinswa State Park,” says Barbara Stanbro of Hillsboro, Ore. “Many of the spacious campsites are beside the lake, and you’ll find fire pits, picnic tables, and well-maintained restrooms with showers.”

This article was first published in July 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.