With over three million natural lakes in Alaska, only a little over 3,000 of which are named, these wild bodies of water are one of the state’s top natural features. Exploring the diverse landscape in and around the 49th state’s lakes is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.
Whether you’re interested in photography, wildlife viewing, gorgeous scenery, or outdoor adventures, Alaska’s lakes are a fantastic place to start. Witness bears feeding on salmon, hike to remote and unspoiled lakes in Denali National Park, or marvel at lakeside glaciers just outside of Juneau.
Explore these nine magnificent lakes in Alaska and discover the state’s wild beauty.
Mendenhall Lake, Juneau
Situated next to an impressive Alaskan glacier of the same name, Mendenhall Lake is one of southeastern Alaska’s treasures. The one-and-a-half-mile-long lake is a destination just north of Juneau, within the lush Tongass National Forest.
The glacier itself is one of the most accessible for viewing, and one of the top things to see in the region. Stretching half a mile wide and as deep as 1,800 feet in certain spots, Mendenhall Glacier in the Juneau Icefield is a sight to behold.
This popular lake is a fantastic place to admire Mother Nature’s natural artwork; meander along the hiking trails, discover an amazing waterfall, or paddle through the pristine, icy waters. Venturing on the lake in a kayak is a great way to marvel at the glacier and surrounding terrain from a different vantage point.
Get up close to icebergs, soaring cliffs, and the vivid blue shades of the glacial ice sheet. Those interested in stretching their legs on the trails can choose from a wonderful selection of some of the best hikes in Alaska.
Make your way around the edge of the lake, following the trail to Nugget Falls where you’ll discover a waterfall that is sure to take your breath away.
Tumbling from 377 feet, this famous cascade drops into the lake with the glacier as its backdrop. If you’re interested in photographing Alaska and its landscapes, this is one of the most picturesque spots to capture Mendenhall Lake.
For an authentically Alaskan adventure, catch a thrill and admire lake views from atop the glacier with a guided trek on the ice. Explore mystical ice caves and walk on the ice sheet on this once-in-a-lifetime expedition. Mendenhall is one of the most beautiful and exciting lakes in Alaska.
Wonder Lake, Denali National Park, Denali
Discover one of Alaska’s most celebrated lakes in Denali National Park. Hailed as one of the park’s most well-known features, Wonder Lake is a natural Alaskan icon. Located at mile 85 of the 92-mile-long park road, this remote body of water is popular for hikers and campers, accessed by bus.
The three-and-a-half mile long, mile-wide lake is a place of tranquility and sheer beauty. It’s a favorite of photographers for the opportunity to capture crisp reflections of the Alaska range in the still water. Perhaps the elusive “Great One” (Denali Mountain) will decide to appear from behind the clouds, too.
Launch one of the onsite canoes for a stunning paddle on the waters, keeping an eye out for wildlife such as caribou or moose, who make their home in the tundra landscape. Make sure to look above as well, as you might spot a majestic eagle soaring from treetop to treetop.
Embark on a portion of the McKinley Bar Trail, lined with wild blueberry bushes and stretching just under five miles round-trip to McKinley River. However you choose to spend time at the peaceful shores of Wonder Lake under the shadow of Denali, it’s sure to be a memorable day.
Lake Clark, Anchorage
Known to be one of the best places to visit in Alaska for bear viewing, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a favorite destination in the state. Wildlife and striking beauty are at the forefront of these protected lands; it’s here that you’ll experience pure and untouched backcountry terrain.
Lake Clark is the largest in the state, where Alaskan culture and the wilds blend seamlessly. The nature preserve pays homage to the homelands of the Dena’ina Alaskan Natives.
Reachable by only boat or plane, the lake is secluded landscape at its finest. Just 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, most tours depart from the city, or from Homer in the Kenai Peninsula.
Aside from being one of the best places to fish in Alaska, the location also happens to be the biggest sockeye salmon fishery in the entire world. Fish for salmon, Arctic char, lake trout, northern pike, and rainbow trout.
Go hiking, enjoy birding, or experience canoeing or kayaking in Alaska amongst unbeatable scenery.
The most popular activity at Lake Clark is bear viewing. Watch from a safe distance as the large population of brown bears feast on salmon in the waters of lakes and streams. It’s possible to experience this memorable wildlife viewing with a day trip via bush plane between June and September.
Lake Clark is the perfect place for any water-fueled and backcountry adventure and an experience not to be missed.
Chilkoot Lake, near Skagway
Surrounded by Sitka spruce trees and the Takshanuk Mountains within the Haines State Forest, Chilkoot Lake is one of Alaska’s most scenic bodies of water.
It’s one of southeastern Alaska’s gems, near the towns of Skagway and Haines. Chilkoot Lake was named after the Tlingit Natives, who inhabited the area on the edge of the lake.
Known as a popular salmon fishing spot for its four salmon runs every year, it also attracts bears hoping to catch their lunch from June to October.
Other than the fishing and wildlife viewing that Alaska is known for, Chilkoot Lake offers various recreational activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and hiking.
Hike a portion of the historic Chilkoot Trail, traversed during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s. The entire length is 33 miles, but it’s possible to enjoy a shorter trek of this open-air museum, where it’s likely you’ll see beautiful wildflowers and gold rush artifacts, as well as jaw-dropping scenery.
Kenai Lake, near Seward
This glacial-fed lake outside of Seward is one of the Kenai Peninsula’s natural treasures. Be mesmerized by the vibrant blue and green hues of the lake, surrounded by the verdant Chugach National Forest and towering mountains. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped inside a true Alaskan postcard.
The large lake is known for its unusual “zig-zag” shape, and stretches more than 20 miles in length. Cast a line into the clear, turquoise waters and try your hand at catching Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, or steelhead trout.
Boating and kayaking are also popular recreational activities at this beautiful lake, where the scenery is unbeatable. Head for the hiking trails to really immerse yourself in the gorgeous scenery.
Enjoy views of Kenai Lake as you drive along the Seward and Sterling scenic highways. The scenic pull-offs allow visitors to stop and absorb the lake and its surroundings, with additional information about the history of the area.
Whatever you choose to do at this famous lake, it’ll be a day well spent in the Alaskan outdoors.
Portage Lake, near Anchorage
Situated just off the Seward Highway, the popular Portage Lake is a haven for nature lovers. With a stunning lake and accessible glacier combination, it’s a place not to be missed while traveling in Alaska.
Named after the glacier that feeds it, the lake is nestled within the scenic Chugach National Forest valley, one of the most beautiful places in Alaska.
Learn about glacial activity and the history of Portage Lake at the onsite visitor center. During summer in Alaska, it’s possible to get a closer perspective of the glacier by joining a boat tour that ventures across the lake to the edge of the ice sheet.
For a more active adventure in and around Portage Lake, consider kayaking. Paddle through the cold waters, surrounded by mountains. As you explore, keep an eye out for Alaskan waterfalls cascading over the rocks and listen for calving, when a chunk of the ice sheet may dramatically fall into the water.
Stretch your legs on the Byron Glacier trail, which skirts the northwest shoreline of Portage Lake. The three-mile trail gives you views of the lake, both the Portage and Byron Glaciers that share the same icefield, and nearby mountains. This hike is perfect for hikers of all skill levels and offers fantastic scenery.
Auke Lake, Juneau
Just north of Juneau, Auke Lake offers abundant outdoor activities and well-photographed views, with magical Mount McGinnis as the backdrop.
Enjoy the scenery with a hike, kayak, or canoe on the waters of the lake. Hike the one-mile trail, with interpretive signs about the history and ecology of the area, as well as beautiful views and birdwatching.
Auke Lake is a well-loved swimming area too, with swimming platforms in the cool, refreshing waters and an Alaskan beach for relaxing and picnicking. Fishing enthusiasts will enjoy the challenge of casting a line at Point Louisa, a popular fishing spot.
Skilak Lake, near Seward
The pristine river and glacier-fed Skilak Lake, just outside of Seward, is ideal for hiking, picnicking, and possible wildlife viewing on the Kenai Peninsula.
Hiking trails weave through the wildlife refuge, making it an ideal place to spot Alaskan wildlife such as bears, moose, bald eagles, or snowshoe hares. Hike the four-mile Skilak Lookout trail for a stunning 360-degree vista over the lake, perfect for capturing the area’s beauty.
Drive the 18-mile long gravel road during the warmer months and experience breathtaking scenery, with ample places to pull over and take in the view.
Venturing along this route quite often proves to be a great place for wildlife viewing, as well as having various trailhead starting points, from easy to challenging.
The lake feeds the Kenai River and is a popular spot for anglers interested in attempting to catch rainbow trout and salmon, too.
Eklutna Lake, Anchorage
Kayak beneath snow-capped mountains at Eklutna Lake, less than an hour from the city of Anchorage. With 15 miles of shoreline, this lake is the perfect outdoor Alaskan playground, with a backdrop of the awe-inspiring Chugach range.
The glacial-fed lake stuns with vibrant blue water and soaring Alaskan mountains.
Take a boat out to enjoy its splendor, indulge in a picnic, or paddle around and take in the immense beauty; there’s no wrong way to absorb this place.
Kayak rentals and guided trips are popular activities to explore the lake, and on the northeastern shores, a trail for cycling and ATV driving provides a bit of adrenaline along the lakeside.
Hike up one of the many trails for a higher vantage point of Eklutna Glacier, the life source of the lake. Eklutna Lake is an ideal day trip from the city of Anchorage with activities that appeal to all interests.
From hiking to paddling, the lakes of the Last Frontier have so much to offer. Enjoy a tranquil canoe trip in Denali National Park, or spot wildlife near the shores of southeastern Alaska’s favorite lakes. A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to experience some of the best lakes in Alaska.
Whether you’re interested in jaw-dropping natural scenery, active outdoor pursuits, or seeing a glacier up-close, Alaska has a lake to impress. Browse our luxury cruises to Alaska and book your wilderness adventure.