The 9 best freshwater beaches in the US
America has over 400,000 lakes. Some of them are Great and some of them are decidedly more humble, but many of them offer the sort of sandy respite many travelers reflexively seek out in the Caribbean. The scenery tends to be different, pine forests replace jungle and granite mountains replace volcanic spires, but lakes can be just as welcome a place to enjoy a tan or a dip as any tropical island. Here are the best inland spots for swimming and sprawling this summer.
Peterson Road Beach, Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has more stunning beaches than most coastal states. The stunning reserve hugely popular among in-the-know Chicagoans, who drive up remote Peterson Roadtoward the secluded, stunning beach that sits just beyond where it puddles into a parking lot surrounded by dunes. From the beach, visitors can see South Manitou Island and swim out — and promptly back — in the crisp water.
Antelope Island State Park, Utah
The Great Salt Lake is not the best spot in America for a dip, but its beaches have an ethereal appeal that makes them uniquely strange places to lay out the towel. Antelope Island State Park boasts many of the area's most memorable stands as well as a herd of bison, a bunch of antelopes, and the odd Bighorn Sheep. There's a restaurant and a campground on the island if you want to stay overnight, but it's a better bet to make it a day trip from Salt Lake City, which is just 25 miles north but feels eons away.
Boulder Beach, Nevada
Lake Mead is so famous for the spring break parties and its proximity to Las Vegas that its beauty frequently goes overlooked. Visitors to Boulder Beach have to confront the area's beauty as they dash across luxuriously soft sand towards bright, refreshing water. The beach is generally thick with locals, college kids, and partiers, so visitors would do well to wear shoes lest they end up with broken bottles in their feet, but the atmosphere is inviting and the smell of BBQ is always welcome. Swim out into the lake and look back if you want to put the celebration in some natural perspective.
Walden Pond, Massachusetts
Henry David Thoreau had a tendency to make his life in the woods sound a lot tougher than it actually was. The pond he made famous sits a short walk away from bustling Concord center (where his mother lived and did his laundry during his experiments in conscious living) and attracts Sox fans by the dozen on hot days. Visitors can swim out from the beach beneath the reconstruction of Thoreau's shack or walk around to the other side and take a dip in peace. Swimming across the glacial kettle-hole is a rite of passage for locals and a profoundly relaxing literary journey.
Willoughby Lake North Beach, Vermont
Willoughby Lake was carved out of northeast Vermont by a glacier several million years ago and hasn't gotten much warmer since. Still, hanging out at the edge of this 320-foot-deep, tree-lined oasis is incredibly peaceful when the sound of locals shouting as they jump off nearby Devil's Rock doesn't echo off towering Mount Pisgah. Along the lake's eastern edge, there are natural waterslides, but most locals stick to North Beach and stay out of the water lest they encounter the local sea monster named Willy or hypothermia.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
The name "Indiana" doesn't exactly conjure up images of white-sand bays, but at the state's northern edge, past Notre Dame and the industrial towns along the Michigan border, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore boasts some of the most striking water-frontage in the states. The deserted portions of the beach are a hike away — the reserve boasts 45 miles of trails –— and tend toward the dramatic, appearing like frozen sand waves crashing into the cold blue. The area, home to myriad birds and plant species, tends to attract naturalists — also naturists.
Bliss Beach, Nevada
Lake Tahoe boasts many of America's most striking beaches. The water is clear in the shallows and dark blue in the middle. The sand is clean and bright. The snow remains on top of the Sierras year-round. But the most memorable beach is on the eastern side of the lake in Nevada's D.L. Bliss State Park (named for a prominent banker/lumberman). Bliss Beach is popular with swimmers — who tend to jump out of the freezing water fairly quickly — SCUBA divers taking advantage of the amazing clarity, and campers, who can stay at the nearby Beach Camp.
Tenaya Lake East Beach, California
Californians know to head straight to Tenaya Lake after passing through Yosemite National Park's Big Oak Flat Road gates. The Ahwahneechee Indians called the place Pywiack (Pie-we-ack), meaning "Lake of Shining Rocks," which was entirely apt. The peaks surrounding the water glint beautifully in the clear sunlight. Over the past few years, trails to East Beach have been refurbished, and the place is now more accessible than ever — and just as shiny.
Sand Point Beach, Michigan
A popular destination for sunset-gazers and hikers alike, Sand Point Beach is a short ride out of the scenic town of Munising into the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Not only is the beach itself remarkable — lots of clean sand and clear cold water — but the views are unbeatable. From the surf, visitors can see Hiawatha National Forest and the imposing, century-old East Channel Lighthouse standing on the shore of Grand Island.