Waking to one more clear morning, you dive off your houseboat into the wild blue of Lake Powell in southern Utah. The water takes the edge off the heat, and you float along, contemplate a lazy day of navigates amazing red-rock gorges and flooded canyons.
Lake Tahoe: California/Nevada
Best for Snow Sports: High-altitude Tahoe (6,225 feet) is nirvana for skiing, snowboarding, and other cold-weather sports. Seven chief winter resorts ring the shore, as well as Squaw Valley, where the 1960 Winter Olympics took place.
Stay: The Shore House; shorehouselaketahoe.com.
Play: Heavenly Ski Resort; skiheavenly.com.
Lake Superior: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Best for Fishing: Lake Superior is so cosmic it could easily hold all of the water from all of the other Great Lakes. That means there’s abundance of room for fish to thrive: salmon, trout, walleye, smelt, whitefish, herring, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and many other game species can be wedged in great quantity along the lake’s tristate shores.
Stay: Lutsen Resort, MN; lutsenresort.com.
Play: Duluth Charter Fishing Captains; fishduluth.com.
Crater Lake: Oregon
Best for Scuba Diving: extra lakes have shipwrecks or sunken towns, but only Crater Lake offers the bragging rights of diving in a flooded volcano that also happens to be the deepest lake in the U.S. with no a deep-sea submersible you won’t be able to reach the utter bottom (1,943 feet).
Stay: Crater Lake Lodge; craterlakelodges.com.
Play: Wizard Island Boats; (888) 774-2728.
Lake Winnebago: Wisconsin
Best for Windsurfing: Steady wind and easy launch make Winnebago the lake of alternative for Wisconsin windsurfers and kite surfers—especially in summer, when the shallow, sandy bottom creates water temperatures that are absolute tropical (75–85ºF).
Stay: Plaza Hotel (Fond du Lac); ramadafdl.com.
Play: Wind Power Windsurfing & Kiting Center; windpowerwindsurfing.com.
Lake Kabetogama: Minnesota
Best for Kayak or Canoe Camping: Paddle along the same routes as near the beginning French trappers, traders, and explorers on Lake Kabetogama in northern Minnesota. Part of the warren of waterways that make up Voyageurs National Park, the lake offers more than two dozen wilderness campsites that can be reached only by boat, as well as beautiful spots along Lost Bay and among the Chief Wooden Frog Islands.
Stay: Northern Lights Resort; nlro.com.
Play: Anderson’s Canoe Outfitters, which offers shuttle service between Crane and Kabetogama lakes and customizable canoe trips; anderson-outfitters.com.
Lake Clark: Alaska
Best for Wilderness Adventure: The only way to reach super-secluded Lake Clark is trekking overland throughout the Alaska bush, getting dragged by a dogsled team, or flying in by a floatplane. Flanked by snowcapped peaks, thick boreal jungle, and Whitewater Rivers, the 50-mile-long lake is quintessential Alaska.
Stay: Island Lodge, Lake Clark; islandlodge.com.
Play: Lake Clark Air, Port Alsworth; lakeclarkair.com.
Chain of Lakes: Florida
Best for Waterskiing: Sixteen lakes form a deep-blue chain around the west side of Winter Haven, the Water Skiing Capital of the World. The craze ongoing in 1936 with the debut of Cypress Garden, the nation’s first aquatic theme park, and its famous water-ski shows.
Stay: The Stanford Inn, Bartow; thestanfordinn.com.
Play: Lucky Lowe Ski School; luckylowe.com.
Lake Michigan: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois
Best for Beaches: through more than 1,600 miles of shoreline, Lake Michigan offers more beaches than any other American lake. But it’s not just number: there’s a beach for nearly every taste.
Stay: The Inn at Bay Harbor.
Play: Sleeping Bear Dunes; nps.gov/slbe.
Finger Lakes: New York
Best for Wine Tastings: through more than a hundred vintners, the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is the prime wine region of the Eastern U.S. The major absorption of tasting rooms is next to Highway 414 on the east side of Lake Seneca.
Stay: Belhurst Castle; belhurst.com.
Play: Thirsty Owl Winery; thirstyowl.com.
Lake Powell: Utah/Arizona
Best for Desert House boating: From the unique Planet of the Apes to Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, more than three dozen movies have been filmed in and around drop-dead-gorgeous Lake Powell.
Stay: Bullfrog Marina Houseboats; lakepowell.com.