Lexington provides access to some of the best lakes in Kentucky. Fishing is by far the most popular activity here, but there are also fantastic options for kayakers, water skiers, and folks who just want to cool off in summer.
Renting an RV and going on a lake trip is the best way to explore these options.
We made picking a lake easier by producing a list of the highest-rated reservoirs around. Your next trip is somewhere on this list. Check them out!
Lakes near Lexington:
- Jacobson Park Lake
- Lake Carnico
- Taylorsville Lake
- Herrington Lake
- Beaver Lake
- Willisburg Lake
- Guist Creek Lake
- Lake Reba
- Cave Run Lake
- Lake Linville
- Cedar Creek Lake
1. Jacobson Park Lake
- Official Page: Jacobson Park Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 7 miles (15 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Playgrounds, Sports Fields
Jacobson Park Lake, also known as Lexington Reservoir Number 4, is a fantastic urban lake on the city’s outskirts.
As the name suggests, the reservoir is accessed through Jacobson Park that offers tons of facilities like picnic shelters, playgrounds, a dog park, and basketball and volleyball courts.
And when it comes to water recreation, you can hire kayaks and pedal boats or fish from the pier. The reservoir is stocked with trout and channel catfish multiple times a year, making it a popular angling spot.
Although swimming or powerboating are not allowed in Jacobson Park, it’s a fun, family-friendly destination with lots to do, and it’s just 15 minutes from downtown.
2. Lake Carnico
- Official Page: Lake Carnico
- Distance from Lexington: 36 miles (45 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing
Lake Carnico is a 114-acre reservoir of Route 68, some 36 miles from Lexington. Although a private lake, it offers affordable public access to everyone.
The lake is versatile, with hardly any restriction on activities. Anglers love it because it gets stocked with fish, and there are four designated fish habitat sites (pdf) that promote stock growth.
Also, it’s a fantastic spot for paddling and boating, with a concrete boat ramp providing easy access. And in summer, it’s a popular swimming spot with a sand beach and a designated swimming area.
With well-kept grounds and so much to do, it’s hard to find any drawbacks here. Perhaps the only problem is that it’s day-use only. It would be nice to camp by the water and extend the stay.
3. Taylorsville Lake
- Official Page: Taylorsville Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 57 miles (1h)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Horseriding
Taylorsville Lake is a large 3,050-acre reservoir west of Lexington. It offers a wide selection of activities and several public boat ramps. If you’re renting an RV for a lake trip, this is the best option in the area.
The best way to access the lake is to visit Taylorsville Lake State Park. It offers fishing, paddling, boating, and swimming and has a developed campground with RV sites and hookups.
Another awesome thing about the park is that it has over 20 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. Perfect for visitors who want to enjoy lakeside views without getting wet.
Next door to the park is Taylorsville Lake Marina which has boats for hire and offers services to boaters, from gas pumps to covered slips.
The lake is a highly-rated and versatile destination; it’s hard to find any significant drawbacks here. Definitely worth the one-hour drive!
4. Herrington Lake
- Official Page: Herrington Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 29 miles (45 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing
Herrington Lake is a vast 2,350-acre reservoir south of Lexington. It’s known for outstanding fishing and boating.
The unique thing about the lake is that it doesn’t have any public access points meaning there is no bank fishing or free boat ramps to use.
Instead, you can enjoy the lake by visiting one of a dozen private marinas that dot the shoreline. The marinas vary in their facilities, but they all have boat ramps and boats to hire.
Tubing, skiing, and wakeboarding are all popular activities here, but fishing is by far the number one. The reservoir was recently described in NKYTribune as ‘a eutrophic lake of high productivity.’ And it still holds a state record for white bass, 5lbs.
To enjoy the lake, you need to have your own boat or spend on hire, which is the biggest drawback here. But once you are on the water, it’s a blast!
5. Beaver Lake
- Official Page: Beaver Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 35 miles (45 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing
Beaver Lake is a small 158-acre reservoir west of Lexington. It’s a tranquil spot, best known for fishing and paddling.
The lake has one public access point that consists of a concrete boat ramp, fishing pier, parking, and a restroom. The facilities are limited compared to larger lakes, but this is Beaver Lake’s biggest advantage; it’s a peaceful place with no crowds.
Swimming or camping are not allowed at Beaver Lake, but you can go paddling or make use of the fishing pier, and that’s pretty much it when it comes to activities.
Although not as versatile as many other options on the list, it’s still an excellent location, especially for solitude seekers and paddlers.
6. Willisburg Lake
- Official Page: Willisburg Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 43 miles (45 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping
Willisburg Lake is another small but peaceful reservoir accessible from Lexington. Fishing is the main attraction here, but you can also enjoy kayaking and canoeing.
The lake has a small marina that rents out pontoon boats and kayaks, depending on the availability, and provides boating services, fishing supplies, and snacks.
Still, what makes the lake different from other destinations is a small campground with 10 RV hookups and primitive tent sites, perfect for extended fishing expeditions.
Swimming, waterskiing, and jet skis are prohibited at Willisburg Lake. This keeps noise and crowds away, making it a serene little lake.
7. Guist Creek Lake
- Official Page: Guist Creek Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 44 miles (50 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Camping, RVs
Guist Creek Lake is a 317-acre reservoir west of Lexington. It’s a highly-rated lake with fantastic fishing and tons of water activities.
The best way to access the lake is via Guist Creek Marina. It offers a wide selection of craft to rent, from kayaks to pontoon boats and provides boating services, fishing supplies, and a developed campground with RV hookups.
Although swimming isn’t allowed in Guist Creek Lake, they have a designated waterskiing area that operates during the summer.
Despite its modest size, the lake offers some of the best fishing around and even holds a state record for White Catfish, 5.27lbs caught in 2016.
Overall, it’s a versatile place, loved by many. It will suit most adventurers and is ideal for weekend trips.
8. Lake Reba
- Official Page: Lake Reba
- Distance from Lexington: 28 miles (35 min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Playgrounds, Sports Fields
Lake Reba is a small, 76-acre reservoir east of Richmond, 35 minutes drive from Lexington. It’s one of the best family-friendly lakes with lots to do.
The reservoir is part of a well-developed park that features playgrounds, sports fields, a dog park, and an aquatic center with pools and slides. It’s a buzzing destination, especially in summer.
And although swimming is not allowed in Lake Reba, you can enjoy fishing and kayaking here. Seasonal kayak hire is available, and you can make use of a concrete boat ramp if you have your own craft. Note that Lake Reba is electric motors only.
Naturally, the biggest drawback here is that you can’t go wakeboarding or skiing, but the lake is suited for more peaceful activities; it’s a family-friendly kind of place.
9. Cave Run Lake
- Official Page: Cave Run Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 65 miles (1h 15min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping
Cave Run Lake is a vast 8,270-acre reservoir located in Daniel Boone National Forest. It’s a hugely versatile place with as many activities as Taylorsville Lake.
In addition to the two main recreation areas – Twin Knobs and Zilpo, the lake features dozens of other access points like picnic spots, day-use areas, and launching ramps.
The two main areas offer developed campgrounds with electric hookups and dozens of miles of trails for hiking and biking. If it’s your first time at Cave Run Lake, these two areas are an excellent way to start.
Still, the best thing about the lake is that there are hardly any restrictions on water activities. Paddling and exploring the shoreline, wakeboarding, and waterskiing are all welcome here.
Swimming is allowed in Cave Run Lake, but fishing is by far the most popular activity here. In fact, the lake holds a state record for the 47lbs musky pike caught in 2008. Good luck and tight lines!
Accessible, lots to do, no restriction, this destination is hard to beat. Perhaps a few drawbacks are that it can get pretty busy in summer, and the lake requires over an hour’s drive. Apart from that, it’s a lakeside joy!
10. Lake Linville
- Official Page: Lake Linville
- Distance from Lexington: 54 miles (1h)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Camping
Lake Linville is a 356-acre reservoir near Mt Vernon. It’s a peaceful destination, frequently described as a hidden gem.
There is just one access point – Lake Linville Boat Dock. But it has everything you may need on a lake trip: a launching ramp, bait shop, marina, and a place to eat.
Fishing is the most popular activity here and quite good, too, with bass competitions on some weekends. And it is also an ideal place to go kayaking and canoeing, especially if you’re into birding, as the area is known for a large population of bald eagles.
The campground nearby makes it an ideal weekend destination that doesn’t get crowded or noisy, definitely a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
11. Cedar Creek Lake
- Official Page: Cedar Creek Lake
- Distance from Lexington: 49 miles (1h 10min)
- Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming
Cedar Creek Lake is a 784-acre reservoir near Crab Orchard, best known for bass fishing.
The lake is a highly-rated destination not just for anglers but paddlers, too. It’s a beautiful place to kayak and canoe, and because waterskiing is prohibited here, you don’t have to worry about the wake.
There are three access ramps on the lake. The main one (north side) has a gentle slope and plenty of parking. Also, swimming is allowed at Cedar Creek Lake, but only in the designated areas.
Because the reservoir was mentioned in Field and Stream magazine, it attracts crowds of anglers, and some consider the lake overfished. But at the same time, many report good catches here, just no state records.
For fishing, paddling, or swimming, it’s an ideal destination, but for everything else, you need to look at other options.
More Lakes in Kentucky: