Top 10 lake vacations
Grab your swimsuit! Here are the most irresistibly enjoyable, summer-fun-filled lakes in the West
Christina’s charms extend beyond real estate, though. The lake is serenely lovely, set in the Monashee Mountains, near the Canadian Rockies. August lake and weather temps belie the north-of-the-border location: 71° (or, as they have it up here, 22° C); daytime averages around 82°. If you’re looking for a lake with sweeping, sandy beaches where you can get so warm that you have to make regular plunges into the water, this is it.
One potential drawback—the lake’s somewhat remote location, more than two hours north of Spokane—is in some ways a plus. Things aren’t crowded here. True, in summer the population soars from its year-round 1,500 to 6,000, but that won’t faze anybody familiar with, say, Lake Tahoe. And with the north half of the lake embraced by Gladstone Provincial Park, it’s easy to find quiet moments, when you can fantasize about living here permanently.
Stay: For rental cabins and homes, which cluster along the lake’s eastern shore, a reliable agency is Christina Lake Vacation Rentals (christinalakevacation.com). If you want someone to coddle you, the Sunflower Inn Bed & Breakfast (from $131 U.S.; sunflowerinnbb.com) has three great suites with good lake views, a private beach, and a dock.
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But luxury is where Suttle really scores. Its seven-year-old resort is a modern take on Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge, big on rough-hewn beams and wrought-iron chandeliers. The spa offers couples’ massages; the Boathouse Restaurant serves surprisingly-ambitious-for-being-out-in-the wilds Northwest cuisine, like grilled salmon with charmoula cumin sauce and buttermilk-soaked trout and chips. There’s a long list of activities you can participate in—kayaking, canoeing, fly-fishing, hiking. But if you just want to sit on the lodge lawn gazing off at the lake and thinking only about each other, that’s fine too.
Stay: Eagle Feather, the most desirable of the 11 lodge suites, features a sitting room with a stone fireplace and a sleeping loft overlooking the lake. The older lodge cabins are pretty simple, but four contemporary versions fronting Cinder Beach feature all the modern luxuries of the lodge rooms. Lodge suites from $199, waterfront cabins from $299; 2-night min.; thelodgeatsuttlelake.com
As for the lake itself, it’s a gem: second-deepest in Washington and, locals claim, clearer than Western rivals Crater and Tahoe. There are biological reasons for this—such as an almost complete absence of water-clouding nitrogen—but what will count more is all the fun you can have on and around Crescent. The lodge rents canoes, rowboats, and tandem kayaks; you can fish for two species of trout found nowhere but here. (You do, however, have to put the trout back.)
Stay: Best (and only) choice is 1916-vintage Lake Crescent Lodge. Singles and couples cocoon in the eight upstairs lodge rooms (all have lake views); families go for the four Roosevelt Cottages, each with a working fireplace and situated steps from the water. If they’re booked—and they often are—the 13 Singer Tavern Cottages lack fireplaces but have Dutch doors that open to let in lake breezes. Lodge rooms from $115, Roosevelt Cottages from $259, Singer from $224; olympicnationalparks.com
The region has its plush side—just sample the Citron cocktail at sunset at Sardine Lake Resort—but its true heart is easygoing, low-key, and thrifty. There are more than 10 public campgrounds, including Sardine Campground, where every site has a view of the jagged Sierra Buttes. You can rent boats at Sardine Lake Resort. Or hit the area’s dozens of trails: Families can wander the easy 0.5-mile path to Frazier Falls; intrepid hikers can climb about 2.5 miles to the top of Mt. Elwell or conquer the mighty pinnacle topped by the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, a 7-mile round-trip.
Stay: Spots at Sardine Campground can be reserved ($21; recreation.gov). Gold Lake Campground is first come, first served ($10), as are some sites at Lakes Basin Campground; others can be reserved (from $18; recreation.gov).
More: Lake Tahoe summer