11 Best Recreational Lakes near Tyler, TX

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Tyler is an ideal gateway to lakeside destinations, especially in summer when cooling down is on everyone’s mind.

Like many lakes in Texas, Tyler’s options are hugely versatile, offering every activity you can think of. Fishing, swimming, kayaking, and boating are all allowed at these lakes.

Yet, every reservoir offers something interesting and unique. Some are famous fishing spots, like Lake Fork; some are massive, like Lake Palestine; and some are perfect family spots like Tyler State Park.

Whether you plan to fish, swim, or camp, there are plenty of fantastic options around Tyler. Check them out!

Lakes near Tyler:

  1. Lake Palestine
  2. Lake Tyler
  3. Lake Tyler East
  4. Tyler State Park
  5. Lake Gladewater
  6. Lake Hawkins
  7. Lake Holbrook
  8. Lake Fork
  9. Lake Jacksonville
  10. Lake Striker
  11. Martin Creek Lake
Lakes near Tyler Texas Comparison Table

1. Lake Palestine

Lake Palestine near Tyler Texas
Photo: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Palestine
  • Distance from Tyler: 15 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Water Skiing, Jet Skiing, Camping, RV, Nature Trips, Swimming

Lake Palestine is a vast 25,560-acre reservoir just 20 minutes from Tyler. It is a popular recreation lake that attracts visitors from as far as Dallas.

The reservoir is known for fantastic fishing and is a frequent host of fishing tournaments. The lake is teaming with various bass species, but catfish is the most common catch here.

Lake Palestine is surrounded by dozens of marinas, campgrounds, and RV parks, most of which offer launching ramps, boat rentals, and have stores and cabins to make your visit as pleasurable as possible.

And when it comes to activities, there are practically no limits. You can go kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, or try something faster like jet skis or water skiing.

Needless to say, Lake Palestine is a superb water recreation spot, especially in summer. Yet, it does have a few drawbacks. For example, it lacks hiking or biking trails that could’ve made the lake even more versatile.

Still, if you are looking for a place to take family grilling and fishing, it’s a no-brainer.

Related: 10 Fantastic Lakes near Texarkana

2. Lake Tyler

  • Official Page: Lake Tyler
  • Distance from Tyler: 13 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Water Skiing, Jet Skiing, Camping, RV, Nature Trips, Swimming

Lake Tyler is a highly-rated reservoir southeast of the city. It’s not a good spot for fishing as Lake Palestine, but instead, it’s great for swimming and paddling.

There are several parks and access points around the lake. For example, Hill Creek Park and Eastside Park 4 are smaller, less-developed areas with picnic tables, boat ramps, and primitive camping, which are great for family days out and swimming.

At the same time, there is a more developed Lake Tyler Marina that offers boat services and has an RV park. You can find it at the southern end of the reservoir.

The size of the lake allows for any water-based activity imaginable. You can go paddling, fishing, pleasure boating, or try jet skis and water skiing. There are hardly any restrictions at the lake.

Thanks to its versatility and well-kept areas, the reservoir frequently scores high ratings and reviews; and most complaints are usually about other lake users rather than the facilities. So, it’s hard to find any significant drawbacks to it.

Related: 7 Amazing Lakes and Ponds near El Paso

3. Lake Tyler East

  • Official Page: Lake Tyler East
  • Distance from Tyler: 13 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Water Skiing, Jet Skiing, Camping, Nature Trips, Swimming

Lake Tyler East is an aptly named neighbor of Lake Tyler. Two reservoirs are similar in size but quite different when it comes to facilities and access spots.

Lake Tyler East is undeveloped compared to Lake Tyler. It only has three access points, all of which are boat launching ramps.

The northern and western ramps have picnic tables and allow primitive camping, but that’s pretty much it when it comes to amenities. And the eastern ramp only has a parking area.

This lack of facilities can be a nuisance to some, but it’s also an advantage. For example, the lake doesn’t attract crowds, making it a more peaceful option. And also, the reservoir remains pristine; it’s home to a diverse range of plants and animals.

As you can imagine, Lake Tyler East is best suited to solitude seekers and adventurers who like to blend in with nature and remain undisturbed.

Related: 9 Superb Lakes near Waco

4. Tyler State Park

Tyler State Park
Photo: steelbyteCC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Tyler State Park
  • Distance from Tyler: 11 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Camping, Nature Trips, Swimming, Hiking, Biking

Tyler State Park is home to a charming 64-acre lake that is spring-fed and has crystal clear water. It is the top lake destination and the best swimming spot around Tyler.

The park is very well developed and has plenty of showers, campsites, RV hookups, and picnic areas. Also, there are boat rentals where you can hire kayaks, canoes, SUPs, johnboats, and pedal boats, giving you plenty of water recreation options.

But what makes this location unique is the pristine, natural environment surrounding the lake. The area is simply stunning and has a dozen miles of trails for hiking and biking. Even if you are tired of the water, you can still enjoy the park’s 100-foot pines and diverse wildlife.

A lot is going for the park, and the drawbacks are hard to find. Perhaps the only criticism here is that restrooms and showers can benefit from some renovations, but that’s really it.

Tyler State Park is the best lake destination around Tyler, especially considering its proximity; in just 20 minutes, you can be in the water, playing and swimming. And the park’s progressive nature makes it an easy choice for weekend gateways with family.

Related: 10 Fantastic Lakes near Texarkana

5. Lake Gladewater

Lake Gladewater
  • Official Page: Lake Gladewater
  • Distance from Tyler: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Water Skiing

Lake Gladewater is a 6,950-acre reservoir north of the Gladewater, some 30 miles from Tyler. It’s a popular location that gets busy during summer weekends, and not without reason.

The lake is known for a fantastic swimming destination, partly because it is spring-fed, making the water clean and clear, and partly because it has a lovely sandy beach with shallow areas, perfect for kids splashing.

Apart from the beach, the area has covered picnic spaces with grills, playgrounds, sports courts, a boat launching ramp, and a fishing pier. It’s a well-developed location with tons of activities on offer. You can even go water skiing in a designated zone. 

However, what the lake doesn’t have are campgrounds or trails. So, if you plan a multi-day trip or enjoy exploring lakeside routes, Lake Gladwell is the wrong pick.

Still, there are several RV parks a short drive away. And the kid-friendly nature of this location makes it an easy choice for families, especially in summer.

Related: 7 Unique Lakes near Lufkin, TX

6. Lake Hawkins

Lake Hawkins
  • Official Page: Lake Hawkins
  • Distance from Tyler: 24 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Water Skiing, Camping, RVs

Lake Hawkins is a well-known reservoir in the area that attracts visitors from as far as Dallas.

There are four access points at the lake, but the most popular option is Lake Hawkins RV Park. This location is famous for having one of the best swimming areas in East Texas, with a wide and long sandy beach.

In addition to the beach, the park has a wide range of facilities. For example, there are picnic tables with grills, a boat ramp, a fishing pier, and tent and RV sites for multi-day trips. You can easily spend a fun-filled weekend here, and some retirees even make it their permanent home.

Another thing that makes Lake Hawkins unique is the road circling it. It creates a rather scenic route, hugging the shoreline and providing a continuous view over the water.

Needless to say, the reservoir is a versatile destination with plenty of facilities and a lot of fun things to do. 

Some may say that it’s too developed and has lost its natural charm, but there is plenty of space to find peace. All you have to do is paddle out or drive to some of the less-visited access points.

Related: 9 Superb Lakes near Waco

7. Lake Holbrook

Lake Holbrook
  • Official Page: Lake Holbrook
  • Distance from Tyler: 30 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping

Lake Holbrook is a charming lake not far from Mineola. It is relatively small compared to other reservoirs in the area but is an excellent spot for fishing and swimming.

There are two access points at the lake; both have boat ramps, picnic tables, and primitive camping. Also, the southern access point has a designated beach area that gets busy in summer.

Because of the lake’s relatively small size, it’s a friendly destination for paddling as the water is calmer than at bigger lakes; unless it gets windy. Perfect for beginners!

The only downside to Lake Holbrook is that there is a lot of trash in public areas. Unfortunately, many people don’t clean after themselves, and the local authority can’t keep up. Still, it’s a free destination with lots to do and lots of fun to have.

Related: 10 Fantastic Lakes near Texarkana

8. Lake Fork

  • Official Page: Lake Fork
  • Distance from Tyler: 40 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs

Lake Fork is a massive reservoir some 40 miles from Tyler. At 27,264 acres and 315 miles of shoreline, it has plenty of space for water activities but what it really is known for is fishing.

The lake holds records for some of the largest fish caught in Texas. For example, the largest Largemouth bass came at 18.18 pounds, and the largest catfish caught here was 53.96 pounds.

Such records attract anglers from out of state, and there are plenty of businesses that support such tourism. For example, there are dozens of lodges, RV parks, boat rental shops, and you can even hire fishing guides who will show the best spots.

However, apart from fishing and maybe kayaking, the lake isn’t great. When filled in 1980, the trees were left intact to create an ideal habitat for fish. Nowadays, most of that timber is still standing, creating hazards to navigation.

Some say you can still go skiing, tubing, and boarding by the dam where there are fewer stamps, but there is no need to take the risk with so many other lakes around.

As you can imagine, Lake Fork is the bucket list destination for anglers from all over the country. But even if you are not into fishing, you can still enjoy lakeside camping, wildlife, and stunning lake scenery.

Related: 7 Unique Lakes near Lufkin, TX

9. Lake Jacksonville

Lake Jacksonville
Photo: ImageTekCC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Jacksonville
  • Distance from Tyler: 31 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, BBQs, Picnics, Birding

Lake Jacksonville is a 1,325-acre reservoir southwest of Jacksonville, some 30 miles from Tyler. It’s a highly-rated family destination that rarely disappoints.

The lake’s shoreline consists of a mix of private and public land. Cute, lakeside homes surround the reservoir with a few public access points in between, the best of which is Lake Jacksonville Campground and Recreational Area.

This location boasts a couple of fantastic swimming areas with sandy beaches and clean water, the main attraction at the Campground. 

Plus, there are other facilities here like boat ramps, fishing piers, campsites, showers, and RV pads, which means you get a wide choice of activities and an opportunity to stay overnight.

The other public access points are not as developed or well-kept, but they are usually quieter, attracting fewer people. So, the choice is yours.

Related: 9 Superb Lakes near Waco

10. Lake Striker

Lake Striker
  • Official Page: Lake Striker
  • Distance from Tyler: 41 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs

Lake Striker is a medium-sized reservoir east of Jacksonville. It’s an excellent option if you are looking for a more comfortable stay.

Striker is different from other lakes on the list. The only point of access here is the family-owned Lake Striker Resort which features cabins, a motel, a restaurant, campsites, and RV sites, giving you a wide choice of accommodation.

The resort also has a large covered fishing pier, boat launching ramp, and a swimming area. Needless to say, there is plenty to do at the lake. 

However, the most common activity here is fishing. Because the reservoir has just one access point, it isn’t overfished like many others, and you’re likely to catch decent-size catfish and bass.

Perhaps the only downside to Lake Striker is the lack of free access; the only way to enjoy it is through the resort. Still, this keeps loud crowds away, and, considering the positive reviews, you are guaranteed to have clean, well-kept facilities and a welcome stay.

Related: 10 Fantastic Lakes near Texarkana

11. Martin Creek Lake

Martin Creek Lake
  • Official Page: Martin Creek Lake
  • Distance from Tyler: 51 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Hiking, Biking

Martin Creek Lake is almost 5,000 acres in size. It is located 50 miles east of Tyler, near Tatum.

The only way to access the lake is through the Martin Creek Lake State Park on the northern shore. It’s an excellent example of a lakeside park that boasts high ratings.

Here, you will find a boat ramp, canoe rentals, fishing pier, campsites with hookups, a couple of cabins, and a few miles of trails for hiking and biking. 

It’s a versatile park with tons of activities on offer. And even if you are not into swimming or fishing, there are always trails to explore where deer, armadillos, and various birds are a common sight. 

And just like in many other state parks, rangers run several programs for kids and adults where you can pick up cool skills.

The only downside to the park is the power station across the lake. It makes the humming noise, but most people find it easy to tune out. And on the bright side, it keeps the water warmer than normal.

Overall, it’s a fantastic lake with stunning scenery, and it’s definitely worth the 1-hour drive from Tyler, especially if you’ve been to Tyler State Park already.

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