11 Stunning Lakes for Recreation near Salt Lake City, UT

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Utah is one of the best states in America for outdoors, and SLC has access to a variety of recreational lakes, most of which are just within an hour’s drive from downtown. 

Almost all the options have no limits on recreation. You can swim, kayak, boat, hike, and camp at any of these. Also, a few reservoirs on the list are some of the best fishing destinations in the state.

Renting an RV to check out these lakes is an excellent idea, too. There are plenty of campgrounds to choose from and it’s the most efficient way to see as many lakes as possible.

Check out the options!

Lakes near Salt Lake City:

  1. East Canyon Reservoir
  2. Echo Reservoir
  3. Rockport Reservoir
  4. Jordanelle Reservoir
  5. Deer Creek Reservoir
  6. Utah Lake
  7. Strawberry Reservoir
  8. Pineview Reservoir
  9. Lost Creek Reservoir
  10. Bear Lake
  11. Great Salt Lake
Lakes near Salt Lake City Utah Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. East Canyon Reservoir

  • Official Page: East Canyon Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 32 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

East Canyon Reservoir is a 680-acre lake easily accessible from Route 65. When Big Mountain Pass is open, it takes just 45 minutes to get here from downtown.

The best thing about the reservoir is that it’s a part of the state park. You are guaranteed a selection of modern facilities and clean grounds here.

On the water, there is no limit to activities. You can hire canoes, kayaks, jet skis, go fishing or try tubing and wakeboarding.

Swimming is also allowed at East Canyon Reservoir, and the park offers a selection of beaches and sets up an aqua park in summer. 

Still, what makes this area unique is its history. It sits on the route of early pioneers that led to the Salt Lake Valley. Nowadays, you can hike those same trails and find an occasional pothole left by wagons.

Another cool thing about this destination is the unique selection of accommodation types. In addition to the traditional tent and RV camping, you can stay in cabins, yurts, or even wagons, just like pioneers did.

The only drawback at this lake is that the water levels fluctuate depending on the season and droughts. Otherwise, it’s a fun family destination steeped in history.

2. Echo Reservoir

Echo Reservoir
  • Official Page: Echo Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 45 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Echo Reservoir is a 1,394-acre lake north of Coalville. It is easily accessible from I-80, and the drive only takes 45 minutes from SLC, making it a fantastic option for day trips.

Like East Canyon Reservoir, Echo Lake can be accessed from the state park. As of 2021, the park is undergoing a renovation to add a spacious campground and an RV park. So if you’re renting an RV for your lake trip, this is the perfect first stop.

When it comes to activities, there are hardly any restrictions at the reservoir. Fishing, kayaking, swimming, and boating are just a few to mention. In most cases, you can drive right up to the water, set up a camp, and enjoy the lake.

Another awesome thing about the area is the Union Pacific Rail Trail – a former railroad that hugs the eastern shore connecting Echo to Coalville. It’s an excellent hiking and biking route. 

Yet, there are a few complaints about the reservoir. For example, it’s not as clean as it should be with garbage littering the shoreline. And another is that water levels drop a lot during droughts, making boating unsafe.

Still, it’s a popular and versatile recreational spot, minutes from Salt Lake City.

Related: 10 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Mirror Lake, UT

3. Rockport Reservoir

  • Official Page: Rockport Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 45 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Rockport Reservoir is a 1,080-acre lake south of Wanship. It’s another versatile destination with a state park at its heart.

A wide selection of campgrounds around the lake provides tent camping, RV sites, yurts, and cabins, making it a fantastic option for multi-day trips.

Swimming and fishing are popular activities at Rockport Reservoir. Also, you can rent pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards from the marina. Plus, a couple of short hiking trails offer sweeping views over the water.

Like many other lakes around Salt Lake City, Rockport Reservoir is sensitive to droughts. In the 2021 season, it has dried out almost completely. If you plan on boating, it’s better to check the current conditions on the state park’s website before traveling.

Other than that, it’s a fun destination with lots of accommodation types and things to do.

4. Jordanelle Reservoir

  • Official Page: Jordanelle Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 38 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Jordanelle Reservoir is a 3,068-acre lake just 38 miles east of Salt Lake City. It’s a hugely popular destination with tons of activities and year-round operations.

The reservoir is part of the Jordanelle State Park – a well-managed park with clean grounds and top reviews. 

It offers two main access points to the lake. Hailstone Recreational Area is developed with a marina, boat rentals, cabins, and an RV park. But if you want to avoid the crowds and experience a more natural setting, then Rock Cliff is a better option. 

The reservoir offers all types of water activities imaginable. Fishing, kayaking, and boating are just a few to mention. Swimming is allowed at Jordanelle Reservoir, too. There are plenty of sandy beaches and no-wake zones. Plus, the park sets up an aqua park in summer for kids.

Another fantastic thing about the park is the hiking and biking trails. For example, Jordanelle Reservoir Trail follows the shoreline for 15 miles and offers stunning views throughout.

The only drawback to the reservoir is that it gets hectic and crowded, especially during holidays and hot summer weekends, but the best places usually are. 

5. Deer Creek Reservoir

  • Official Page: Deer Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 53 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Deer Creek Reservoir is 2,965 acres in size. It’s another fantastic destination within an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City.

The reservoir is known for clear water and stunning surroundings with mountains at the backdrop. It’s a popular location not just for water recreation but also for photography.

Fishing is really good at Deer Creek. The reservoir holds three state records, and many anglers report large hauls.

Swimming is allowed at Deer Creek Reservoir. In fact, it’s a very popular activity here thanks to the unique water park with an obstacle course and a climbing wall.

The lake is also known for its winds. For kayakers and paddleboarders, this isn’t good news, but the wind allows for kitesurfing in summer.

Like other lakes mentioned thus far, Deer Creek is part of the state park that offers numerous facilities, accommodation types, and rentals. It’s a highly-rated and well-organized destination.

Related: 10 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Mirror Lake, UT

6. Utah Lake

Utah Lake
  • Official Page: Utah Lake
  • Distance from SLC: 40 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Utah Lake is different from the lakes mentioned thus far. First of all, it’s massive. At 95,000-acres, it’s the third-largest lake by surface area in Utah.

Second, it’s rather polluted. The state makes efforts to clean up the water, but this will take time. And although swimming is allowed at Utah Lake and it offers numerous beaches, folks opt for swimming elsewhere. Luckily, there is no shortage of fantastic, clean lakes around Salt Lake City.

However, where Utah Lake excels is fishing. It has multiple state records to its name and is especially well-known for channel catfish and white bass.

Another great thing about the lake is boating. There are multiple marinas and boat ramps around the reservoir, and the lake’s sheer size allows for unrestricted use. It is also home to sailing clubs that you won’t find at other reservoirs.

With such characteristics, Utah Lake is much quieter than other options. This is a solid choice to avoid crowds, especially if you enjoy fishing or water sports.

7. Strawberry Reservoir

  • Official Page: Strawberry Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 74 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Strawberry Reservoir is a sizeable 17,164-acre lake southeast of Salt Lake City. It’s a highly-rated destination with lots of activities on offer.

The reservoir is one of the best fishing destinations in the state, although it only holds one state record – 26.5lbs cutthroat in 1930. Still, there is plenty of trout and kokanee in the water, and anglers frequently report catches over 15 inches.

The lake has dozens of recreation areas, but the three main ones are Strawberry Bay Marina, Renegade, and Soldier Creek Marina. All of which offer boat ramps, slips, and campgrounds.

Swimming is allowed at Strawberry Reservoir, and most campgrounds and recreation areas offer access to the water, although designated beaches are hard to find. 

It is also a fantastic destination for water sports like wakeboarding, skiing, and paddling. Plus, there are tons of trails for hiking and ATVs around the lake.

Although it’s further from SLC than other options on the list, Strawberry Reservoir is worth the drive, especially if you are planning a multi-day trip. 

8. Pineview Reservoir

  • Official Page: Pineview Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 44 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Pineview Reservoir is a 3,000-acre lake near Ogden. It sits on the edge of Wasatch National Forest and offers several beaches and recreation areas.

The main access points are Anderson Cove, Cemetery Point, and Port Ramp, most of which offer boat ramps, campgrounds, and designated swimming areas.

Although the facilities aren’t as developed as at some other lakes, and most are shut during the cold season, Pineview is still a fantastic lake that serves thousands of visitors every year.

Popular activities here are swimming and boating, including wakeboarding, skiing, and tubing. It’s also great for paddling as there are plenty of coves to explore. 

Fishing isn’t as popular here as at Strawberry or Bear Lakes. Yet, the reservoir is known for record-sized tiger muskies. In fact, it holds the state record for one – a 33-pound lunker.

If you are traveling from Ogden, this destination is a no-brainer, especially for day trips. And if you are coming from SLC, it’s just as good as the other options.

Related: 10 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Mirror Lake, UT

9. Lost Creek Reservoir

Lost Creek Reservoir
  • Official Page: Lost Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from SLC: 68 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Ice Fishing

Lost Creek Reservoir is a 365-acre lake hidden away in the mountains, 10 miles northeast of Croydon. It’s a tranquil spot without the hustle and bustle of bigger lakes.

The reservoir is a day-use destination; camping isn’t allowed here, neither is fast boating – it’s a no-wake lake. Such restrictions keep the crowds away and preserve the peaceful atmosphere.

Swimming is allowed at Lost Creek Reservoir. The access to the water is excellent, but there are no designated swimming areas. In fact, the lake is undeveloped; it has one boat ramp and a restroom, and that’s really it. 

Also, the reservoir is an excellent kayaking and paddle boarding spot. There are miles of shoreline to explore, and you don’t have to worry about fast boats.

Still, fishing is the most popular activity at Lost Creek. Cutthroat and rainbow trout are the most common catches, but the trophy-sized lunkers are rare. Shore access is excellent, yet people report better results when fishing from a boat or a kayak.

The newly-created Lost Creek State Park has plans to redevelop the area and improve the facilities. This is likely to attract more people and ruin the tranquil atmosphere. 

In the meantime, if you want to escape and enjoy nature, Lost Creek Reservoir is the top spot!

10. Bear Lake

Bear Lake
  • Official Page: Bear Lake
  • Distance from SLC: 122 miles (2h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Bear Lake is a massive 69,000-acre reservoir that sits on the border with Idaho. It’s known for gorgeous turquoise water and a wide selection of recreation activities no matter the season.

Although the reservoir is located over two hours drive away, the list just won’t be complete without this nation-famous destination.

Bear Lake is managed by the state park that offers a wide selection of recreation areas. The most developed spots are Bear Lake State Park Marina near Garden City and Rendezvous Beach at the southern tip. 

When it comes to activities, there are absolutely no limits to what you can do at the lake. From swimming to wakeboarding and scuba diving, everything is possible here. 

And the range of facilities is beyond belief. From KOA parks to primitive camping and boat rentals, it’s all happening at Bear Lake.

If you are looking for the best lake destination in the state, this is definitely it. ‘The Caribbean of the Rockies’ is definitely worth the drive.

11. Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake
  • Official Page: Great Salt Lake
  • Distance from SLC: 19 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Birding, Nature Trips

Great Salt Lake is a world-renowned destination that attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is the largest lake in Utah and the largest salt-water lake in the Western Hemisphere.

There are two primary access areas to it: Antelope Island State Park and Great Salt Lake State Park. Both offer beaches, marinas, campgrounds, and more.

But when it comes to recreation, Great Salt Lake is different from other reservoirs on the list. For example, fishing is out of the question as there is no fish in it and water sports like wakeboarding and skiing are unlikely due to the shallow depths.

Instead, the most popular activities at the lake are kayaking, hiking, swimming, and floating on the salty water. Wildlife is unique and plentiful here, too. You can take fantastic photographs and see bison on Antelope Island.

Great Salt Lake is an exceptional place that everyone should see at least once. And if you find yourself in SLC, don’t think twice; it’s a must-visit spot!

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