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9 Superb Recreational Lakes near Vancouver, WA

Vancouver has an excellent selection of lakes. There are urban swimming holes, superb fishing lakes with tiger muskies, and remote reservoirs with unrestricted boating and camping.
ItIsWild.com: best lakes near vancouver washington

Vancouver is pretty amazing when it comes to lakes. The selection here is diverse, with every option offering something new and unique.

For example, Battle Ground Lake is the most family and beginner-friendly. Klineline Pond runs fishing events for kids. Horseshoe Lake is fantastic for swimming. And Lake Merwin is the only reservoir in the area where you can catch tiger muskie.

Most lakes on the list offer swimming, fishing, and paddling. And only a few are over an hour’s drive away. Renting an RV and going on a family trip is the best way to see these lakes.

Check out Vancouver’s best.

Best Lakes near Vancouver Washington Comparison Table

1. Vancouver Lake

Vancouver Lake in Vancouver Washington Aerial View
Source: wikimedia/public domain
  • Official Page: Vancouver Lake
  • Distance from Vancouver: 6 miles (12 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Kitesurfing, Windsurfing, Hiking

Vancouver Lake is a 2,287-acre body of water on the Columbia River. It’s a shallow lake with an average depth of just 3 feet. Yet, it offers plenty of recreational opportunities and is the nearest place to relax and unwind in nature.

The lake has a public boat ramp on its southern shore that’s basically just a dirt slope suitable for kayaks, canoes, and small jon boats.

However, Vancouver Lake Regional Park on the western side is a much more popular place. It has plenty of beach space, two volleyball courts, picnic tables, and a swimming area. It’s the best place for family and first-time visits.

Although not great for boating, the lake is an excellent paddling spot, especially for beginners who will find its shallow water unintimidating. 

Also, Vancouver Lake is the top location for rowing and dinghy sailing. It’s home to multiple clubs, including the well-established Vancouver Lake Sailing Club on the eastern shore.

A couple of hiking trails allow you to stretch your legs and get daily steps in. For example, you can take the 2.5-mile paved route to the neighboring park and get a view of the Columbia River.

And when it comes to fishing, Vancouver Lake is teeming with common carp. Plus, it has perch, crappie, and some largemouth bass, too. There are no fishing piers, but shore access is excellent. 

Related: 15 Fun Recreational Lakes near Seattle, WA

2. Lacamas, Round, Fallen Leaf Lakes

Lacamas Lake near Vancouver Washington
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lacamas Lake
  • Distance from Vancouver: 15 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking

Lacamas Lake, Round Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake are a trio of ponds near Camas, just 20 minutes from Vancouver. These are peaceful lakes with well-kept parks and dense forest all-around.

Lacamas Regional Park provides access to Round Lake and Lacamas Lake and offers picnic shelters, grills, and 10 miles of hiking trails. 

And right across the road is Fallen Leaf Lake Park with its charming 25-acre pond that used to be known as Dead Lake. This is the most peaceful spot where motorized boating and fishing are prohibited. 

However, swimming and paddling are allowed at Fallen Leaf Lake. Its modest size is excellent for beginners learning to stand on a SUP or paddling.

On the other hand, Lacamas Lake is the biggest of the three and offers boating and fishing. It has a public boat ramp accessed from Leadbetter Road. 

However, fishing isn’t great here. The water suffers from an overabundance of phosphorus and nitrogen, putting pressure on the fish population. Yet, WDFW stocks Lacamas and Round Lakes with plenty of rainbow trout, and anglers also report largemouth bass, bluegill, and perch catches.

Overall, this trio of lakes offers plenty of space in a natural environment. It’s excellent for family day trips filled with paddling adventures, picnics, and tranquil walks.

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

3. Battle Ground Lake

Battle Ground Lake near Vancouver Washington
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Battle Ground Lake
  • Distance from Vancouver: 20 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Battle Ground Lake is a small 25-acre lake 30 minutes north of Vancouver. It’s a fantastic spot for swimming, fishing, and paddling and one of the nearest lakes with campgrounds.

The cool thing about this location is that it’s a crater of a long-extinct volcano. Yet, nowadays, it’s a thriving state park with well-kept grounds and plenty of fun things to do. Here, you will find a fishing pier, playgrounds, a boat ramp, and miles of hiking and biking trails.

The lake is restricted to motorized boats, making it an excellent place to kayak and paddleboard. The park has rentals, so you don’t need to own a SUP or a kayak. It’s also the perfect place to try it for the first time.

What’s more, Battle Ground Lake is an excellent fishery. When the water is cold, it’s all about trout here. WDFW stocks it with rainbow trout, but you can also expect lake, Skamania, and cutthroat varieties. And in summer, the lake is teeming with bluegill and largemouth bass. The shore access for fishing isn’t great, though.

Another drawback to this location is that it gets pretty busy. If you plan on camping, book in advance. And if fishing is your priority, try colder months, when the park is at its quietest.

4. Klineline Pond

  • Official Page: Klineline Pond
  • Distance from Vancouver: 7 miles (12 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Hiking, Biking

Klineline Pond is a 12-acre lake, just 7 miles from downtown and easily accessible from I-5. Although small, it’s a popular family destination with a beach, paved trails, and picnic tables.

The pond is accessed through Salmon Creek Regional Park, which changes a lot throughout the year. In winter, it’s a quiet, tranquil park with hiking and fishing. However, in summer, it becomes a hectic hive of parents and kids enjoying the splash pad and racing down the Salmon Creek Trail.

One event that stands out at Klineline Pond is the Kids Fishing Derby. A 2-day affair is when an army of 3,000 kids (+parents) flock to the lake to catch a fish and celebrate outdoors. The park provides every kid with a rod, and the lake gets stocked with 14,000 rainbow trout before the event.

However, the drawback to this location is that no craft is allowed on the water, even inflatable ponies. So, kayaking and paddleboarding are out of the question.

Related: 15 Fun Recreational Lakes near Seattle, WA

5. Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland near Vancouver Washington
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Horseshoe Lake
  • Distance from Vancouver: 21 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Skate Park

Horseshoe Lake is an 83-acre reservoir in Woodland, easily accessible from I-5. It’s a hugely popular spot with excellent fishing and swimming.

Most of the lake’s shoreline consists of private housing, and the only public access point is Horseshoe Lake Park on the northern side. It has acres of beach real estate, playgrounds, a boat ramp, and a fishing pier. 

Although there is a wide paved launch, motorized boating is prohibited at Horseshoe Lake unless it’s an electric motor. This makes kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding easy and fun. 

What’s more, WDFW is very generous with rainbow and brown trout here. The lake is stocked to the brim and offers excellent fishing, especially considering the park’s pier and easy shore access.

Overall, it’s another fantastic and family-friendly location not far from Vancouver. It’s definitely worth the 25-minute drive.

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

6. Lake Merwin

Lake Merwin on Lewis River near Vancouver Washington
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Merwin
  • Distance from Vancouver: 32 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, Hiking

Lake Merwin is a 3,836-acre reservoir just 40 minutes from Vancouver. It’s the nearest full-on recreational lake with no restrictions on activities. It’s an excellent choice for renting an RV and spending a weekend in nature.

The reservoir is the lowest of the three on the Lewis River. It’s managed by PacifiCorp, which runs three recreational sites on this lake:

  •  Merwin Park (day-use beach with playgrounds and shore fishing)
  • Speelyai Bay Park (day-use park with a boat ramp and a swimming area)
  • Cresap Bay Park (a campground with a boat ramp, slips, and a beach)

All three are highly-rated locations with well-kept grounds and reasonable fees, but Merwin Park is the largest and the nearest one.

Apart from swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding, Lake Merwin is a fantastic boating location. It’s very deep and has plenty of space for water activities like jet skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing. 

What’s more, it’s an exceptional fishing reservoir. WDFW stocks it with rainbow trout and tiger muskie. The latter is a gorgeous but vicious fish that grows to 50 inches in size. Lake Merwin is the only reservoir near Vancouver where you can catch on of these.

Overall, it’s an excellent recreational reservoir with stunning mountain views, camping options, and plenty to do – you can’t go wrong with it.

7. Yale Lake 

Yale Lake on Lewis River near Vancouver Washington
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Yale Lake 
  • Distance from Vancouver: 39 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, Hiking

Yale Lake is a 3,612-acre reservoir on the Lewis River. It sits between Lake Merwin and Swift Reservoir, offering incredible views of Mt St. Helens and fantastic water recreation.

Yale Lake is the most accessible of the three reservoirs here, partly because it has four parks and partly because it offers opportunities for dispersed lakeside camping

When it comes to activities, there are no limits on recreation here. Yale Lake is fantastic for swimming, kayaking, and boating. All four of its parks offer designated beaches and boat ramps.

Yet, fishing here may not be as good as at Lake Merwin. WDFW doesn’t plant any fish here, at least not in recent years, so there are few rainbow trout. Still, it’s an excellent kokanee spot, and in summer, you can catch northern pikeminnow and occasional largemouth bass, too.

One local adventure you don’t want to miss is Ape Caves – the lava tubes under Mt St. Helens that you can hike through. Bring a flashlight!

8. Swift Reservoir

Swift Reservoir on Lewis River near Vancouver Washington
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Swift Reservoir
  • Distance from Vancouver: 67 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Camping, Hiking

Swift Reservoir is the highest of the three lakes on Lewis River, and at 4,585 acres, it’s also the largest. 

Of the three, it has the least amount of parks and campgrounds, although there are several dispersed camping sites, making it the most remote and crowd-free.

Also, because Swift Reservoir is the highest, its water level tends to fluctuate the most throughout the seasons, so launching big boats may be problematic at times.

Still, there are no restrictions on recreation here either. It’s an excellent location for swimming, paddling, and fast boating. 

And when it comes to fishing, it’s all about trout and salmon. WDFW stocks rainbow trout; also, there are steelhead, Skamania, and coho salmon, in addition to the lake’s superstar – kokanee.

Remote, tranquil, and absolutely gorgeous, Swift Reservoir is a fun playground for outdoor lovers that offers a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

9. Merrill Lake

Merrill Lake near Vancouver Washington
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Merrill Lake
  • Distance from Vancouver: 53 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Camping, Hiking

Merrill Lake is a 283-acre lake at the foothills of Mt St. Helens. It was formed when a lava flow blocked a creek, creating a natural waterhole.

Nowadays, the lake is part of a conservation area that offers seasonal camping, a boat ramp, and an opportunity to spot wildlife.

Swimming is allowed at Merrill Lake, and it’s a fantastic kayaking and paddleboarding spot, too. Moreover, gas-powered boating is forbidden, making for a serene and tranquil location.

Also, there are restrictions on fishing here. Merrill Lake is a fly-fishing catch-and-release lake where bait is prohibited. 

Once every few years, WDFW stocks it with rainbow or brown trout to make things interesting for anglers. In addition to these two types, there are also cutthroat and lake trout to look forward to.

What’s more, there are also plenty of hiking trails around. The nearest route is Kalama Falls Trails with its beautiful water cascade, best visited in spring when the falls are at their best.

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