Top 15 Beautiful Lakes to Explore in or near Portland

I honestly think Portland is surrounded by some of the most natural scenery in the USA, and if you’re a bit of a water baby like me, there are plenty of beautiful lakes just waiting to be explored in or near the city.

If you’re looking to go boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, paddleboarding, or just gaze at the scenery, here are my personal favorite lakes in or near Portland, Oregon…

Best For Water Sports

Oswego Lake

Oswego Lake - Oregon

Located 20 minutes away from Downtown Portland, Oswego Lake is a naturally occurring lake that drains into the Tualatin River. The lake is surrounded by a residential vicinity with beautiful homes nestled in foggy clusters of the hills, I huge fan of this beauty spot! 

At Oswego Lake, indulge in a wide range of recreational activities, such as swimming, kayaking, cycling, and sightseeing. While you’re at the lake, you can visit nearby sites, such as Oswego Hills Vineyard and Winery, the Arts Council of Lake Oswego, and Lake Oswego Public Golf Course.

You will find good places to shop around Oswego Lake. If you visit the lake with your kids, I’d highly recommend visiting Lake Oswego Ice Creamery. 


Nearby winery and cultural attractions

Diverse recreational activities available

Various activities like kayaking

Beautiful views and a serene ambiance


Limited parking options

The location is far from Portland

Must Do Things

Explore the lake's beauty by renting a kayak or canoe immersing yourself in the tranquility of the serene surroundings

Golf enthusiasts can tee off at the Lake Oswego Public Golf Course combining nature's beauty with the game's thrill

Don't forget to treat your kids to the delights of Lake Oswego Ice Creamery for a delightful family experience

Best For Exploration

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake - Oregon

Crystal Lake is a high-elevation water reservoir located near Bridge City Community Church. The lake is surrounded by sheltered campsites that allow you to have perfect picnics anywhere around the lake.

There exist three small lakes below Crystal Lake. From the hilltop above Crystal Lake, you can catch views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens.

There is no designated trail to reach the lake. However, I’d suggest heading up the mountain through the Pacific Crest Trail at Burnt Rock. 


Offers panoramic views of the alpines

Various hiking trails for exploring

Tranquil picnic spots by the lake


Lack of designated trails

It requires a bit of hiking to reach

Must Do Things

Enjoy a serene picnic surrounded by lush nature and stunning mountain views

Hike up to the hilltop above Crystal Lake to witness breathtaking vistas of Mount Adams Mount Rainier and Mount Saint Helens

Embark on an adventure via the Pacific Crest Trail at Burnt Rock for an off-the-beaten-path exploration

Best For Hiking

Little Crater Lake

Little Crater Lake - Oregon

Located in the Mount Hood National Forest in Clackamas County, Little Crater Lake is a small spring-fed lake with a depth of 45 feet. The lake is too cold and not deep enough to swim. 

You can hike to this beautiful lake via a 400-meter-long trail. This trail also gives you access to other courses around Timothy Lake. The temperature at the lake remains close to 34 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. 


Stunning blue water and scenery

Easy hiking access to other trails

Nestles near various attractions


It is unsuitable for swimming

The water gets very cold

Must Do Things

Embark on a 400-meter hiking trail that leads you to this breathtaking lake. Along the way enjoy the serenity of Mount Hood National Forest

The pristine water acts as a natural mirror reflecting the azure skies. The tranquil beauty is perfect for capturing Instagram-worthy photos

Visit the Linn County Arts Guild Gifts and Gallery to see some art or buy some souvenirs.

Best For Animal Watching

Bybee Lake

Bybee Lake - Oregon

Situated right beside Smith Lake, Bybee Lake is another lake in the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area. Ash trees, willows, black cottonwood, red alder, and red-osier dogwoods surround the lake.

You’ll also find about 200 western-painted turtles, garter snakes, and other reptiles at the lake. You’ll also see a massive variety of aquatic plants flourishing in the lake, including pond lilies and duckweed. 

Bybee Lake is heavily fished for carp, bluegill, largemouth bass, crappie, and other non-native species. While Smith Lake is a spot for everyone, Bybee Lake is mostly visited by nature enthusiasts, wildlife lovers, birders, and anglers. 


Natural beauty and serene surroundings

Abundance of wildlife and reptiles

Ideal for birdwatching and nature enthusiasts

Peaceful fishing spot for specific species


It may not cater to all recreational interests

Insect presence during warm seasons

Must Do Things

You can observe about 200 western-painted turtles garter snakes and other reptiles in their natural habitat. Experience the thrill of encountering these creatures up close

Explore the unique aquatic ecosystem of Bybee Lake which features an impressive array of aquatic plants

The lake offers excellent opportunities for fishing with an abundance of different species so test your mettle here

Best For Bird Watching

Crystal Springs Lake

Crystal Springs Lake - Oregon

Crystal Springs Lake is a tributary of Crystal Springs Creek, which streams completely within the city of Portland. The creek flows south around Crystal Springs Lake and receives massive overflows from it.

It is worth a visit for anglers, birdwatchers, and even hikers. On the east shore of Crystal Springs Lake, there’s a beautiful maze of short pathways.

There’s a 120-foot hike on the north side of the Crystal Springs parking area, which descends to the Reed Canyon. You can keep hiking until you reach a footbridge that leads across the starting point of Crystal Springs Creek. Big-leaf maples, Douglas fir, and red cedar border the trail. 

Crystal Springs Lake is home to mallards, wood ducks, buffleheads, Canadian geese, pied-billed grebes, coots, and lesser scaups, among other majestic creatures. The lake is heavily fished for coho, chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. 


Serene maze of pathways

Fishing opportunities for salmon and trout

Scenic duck-watching at the lake


It offers limited amenities for visitors

Potential for crowded hiking trails

Must Do Things

Enjoy a leisurely walk along the picturesque east shore of Crystal Springs Lake. Navigate through a beautiful maze of short pathways

For those seeking more adventure embark on a 120-foot descent on the north side of the Crystal Springs parking area leading you to the Reed Canyon

Crystal Springs Lake is a thriving ecosystem teeming with life. Keep an eye out for grebes and coots among other fascinating wetland creatures.

Best For Historic Charm

Firwood Lake

Firwood Lake - Oregon

At the lowest point of Laurelhurst Park, Portland, sits a beautiful lake called Firwood Lake. Firwood Lake is home to some of the most magnificent natural creatures, including geese and ducks.

As you stroll through the park, you get to indulge in the mesmerizing beauty of the lake and the vegetation surrounding it. A thick layer of viridescent water lentils covers the azure water of the lake.

The periphery of the lake is laced with evergreen trees, which make it a perfect spot for photography. 

While it seems like a natural place for a lake, Firwood Lake hasn’t always been there. It was developed in the 1920s to augment the beauty of the park.

While you’re at the park visiting the lake, you can see other recreational areas in the park that include a basketball court, volleyball court, horseshoe pit, picnic site, and soccer field, among others. Laurelhurst Park remains open from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. 


Great for photography with evergreen surroundings

Long opening hours from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m

Additional recreational areas within the park

Scenic lake in a serene park


Seasonal changes in park aesthetics

Potential for crowded recreational areas

Must Do Things

Enjoy peaceful walks around Firwood Lake surrounded by lush greenery and soothing waters providing a serene atmosphere for relaxation

Learn about the lake's history as it was constructed in the 1920s to enhance the park's aesthetics adding an intriguing layer to your visit

Make the most of your visit to Laurelhurst Park by exploring the various recreational facilities such as basketball and volleyball courts.

Best For Picnics

Commonwealth Lake

Commonwealth Lake - Oregon

Located on the north side of Beaverton, Commonwealth Lake is an ideal spot for anglers and birders. The lake is well-stocked with and heavily fished for trout and several warmwater fish.

The best time to visit the lake is from March to May. The lake remains open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on all days of the week. 

Commonwealth Lake has access points for people with disabilities, which allows disabled anglers to relish fishing to the fullest. The lake is nestled in a suburban park that also houses a hiking trail, soccer field, and playground, among other recreational spots.

From great blue herons to cedar waxwings, you’ll find a large variety of birds gliding over the lake. 


Diverse bird species for observation

Ideal for picnics by the lake

Accessible for disabled anglers


Opens for limited hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m

Limited water-based recreational activities

Must Do Things

Commonwealth Lake is a serene haven perfect for picnicking. Set up your spread by the calm waters and enjoy a leisurely meal amidst nature's beauty

Beyond the lake explore the suburban park's hiking trail soccer field and playground. It's a full day of outdoor recreation and relaxation

Take a stroll around the lake's perimeter soak in the peaceful ambiance and reconnect with nature.

Best For Tranquility

Force Lake

Force Lake - Oregon

Nestled in Portland’s Historic Kenton District, Force Lake is an exquisite small lake that lies between the Portland Expo Center and Heron Lakes Golf Course.

It was once a recreational spot and swimming place in historic Vanport City. The lake is bordered by divine vegetation, which makes it a perfect spot for photography. 

Force Lake is home to magnificent wildlife with a great diversity of birds, including cedar waxwings. However, the lake is unsafe to swim as the water is clogged with trash, weeds, and runoff from vehicles. 


Historic significance and heritage

Close to Portland Expo Center and golf course

Scenic surroundings for photography

Serene location in Kenton District


Unsafe for swimming due to pollution

The parking is a bit limited

Must Do Things

Explore the historical significance of Force Lake as it was once a popular recreational and swimming destination in historic Vanport City

Pack a picnic basket and relish a peaceful afternoon by the lakeside. Enjoy a meal amidst the serene beauty

Learn about the environmental challenges faced by Force Lake. It's a place to gain insight into the importance of conservation.

Best For Kayaking

Smith Lake

Smith Lake - Oregon

Located within the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area, Smith Lake is a tributary of the Columbia River. It is a part of the country’s largest urban freshwater wetlands.

While you visit the lake, you can enjoy plenty of amenities, such as parking spaces, a covered shelter, a paved walkway, and restrooms. 

The lake has a paved wheelchair-accessible path for disabled individuals. The lake is worth a visit for boaters, wildlife lovers, walkers, bicyclists, birders, and anglers.

If you are into non-motorized boating, this is an ideal recreational spot for you. From canoes to kayaks to outriggers, you can enjoy all types of non-motorized boating here. 


Perfect for canoeing and kayaking

Variety of non-motorized boating options

Accessible amenities for visitors

Peaceful urban wetland setting


Limited motorized boating opportunities

Seasonal weather restrictions for boating

Must Do Things

At Smith Lake in Oregon you're in for an unforgettable adventure on the water. Rent a canoe or kayak and explore the serene and picturesque lake

If you're a fishing enthusiast you're in for a treat at Smith Lake. Cast your line into the lake's waters and you might reel in a catch to brag about

The paved walkways of Smith Lake and the surrounding trails are perfect for biking. Hop on your bicycle and explore the wetlands.

Best For Winter Beauty

Reed Lake

Reed Lake - Oregon

Located on the north side of Reed College, Reed Lake is the oldest naturally occurring lake in the city. The lake lies in the heart of the Reed Canyon, a watershed that extends east to west, covering an area of 28 acres.

There’s a beautiful nature trail that runs beside the lake, which is ideal for both hiking and sightseeing. 

Reed Lake is what makes Reed Canyon worth a visit. The lake is accessible via two pedestrian bridges and a land bridge. It is worth visiting, particularly during winter when the water is layered with a light dusting of snow, which makes the view even more beautiful.

As you stroll across the lake, you will get to see plenty of wildlife, including nutria, ducks, beavers, and muskrats. 


Scenic nature trail for hiking

A tranquil atmosphere

Oldest naturally occurring lake

Offers beautiful and unique views during winter


Limited accessibility in winter

Possible seasonal wildlife disruptions

Must Do Things

Explore the nature trail that meanders alongside the lake allowing you to immerse yourself in the peaceful natural surroundings

Visit Reed Lake during the winter months to witness its unique charm. The lake takes on a breathtaking appearance with a delicate layer of snow adding to its allure

Explore the history and unique geological features of this ancient aquatic gem surrounded by the lush landscape of Reed Canyon.

Best For Camping

Jewett Lake

Jewett Lake - Oregon

Jewett Lake lies in the interior of the Island State Recreation Area near Portland. It is a freshwater lake that houses a large variety of wildlife, including birds, bats, turtles, and salamanders. 

Jewett Lake is only accessible by boats and offers fishing, camping, and hiking. However, you will require a permit to hike the tricky trails in the area.

The lake is heavily fished for salmon, whitefish, grayling, trout, and char. The lake has a 208-foot-long frontage, which makes it a perfect summer picnic spot with amenities like picnic tables, barbecue grills, and pit toilets. 

If you’re into boating, you can indulge in various non-powered watercraft, including sailboating, canoeing, paddling, and kayaking. 


Boating and fishing opportunities

Tranquil atmosphere for relaxation

Scenic pond with wildlife


Permit required for hiking

Limited access by boat

Must Do Things

Plan a memorable camping trip surrounded by the beauty of the wilderness. Additionally hiking enthusiasts can explore the rugged trails but remember to obtain a permit

Enjoy a delightful lakeside picnic experience along Jewett Lake's 208-foot shoreline. Bask in the Oregon sunshine while savoring your favorite outdoor meals

Unleash your inner adventurer by opting for non-powered watercraft activities like sailboating canoeing paddling and kayaking.

Best For Fishing

River Forest Lake

River Forest Lake - Oregon

Located a few miles away from Oak Grove in Clackamas County, River Forest Lake is a famous picnic spot among fishing enthusiasts.

However, you may not want to take your children fishing here as the lake is overpopulated with some dangerous fish species.

The greenery surrounding the lake is mesmerizing. You will also come across plenty of fauna there, such as water birds and ducklings. If you want to enjoy a few hours of solitude, this low-traffic lake may be an ideal spot for you. 


Attracts water birds and ducklings

Solitude away from the crowds

A low-traffic and peaceful atmosphere


Over-populated with dangerous fish

Not recommended for children

Must Do Things

River Forest Lake offers an ideal fishing experience for enthusiasts. Cast your line into its tranquil waters and savor the thrill of reeling in your catch

For those seeking solitude this low-traffic lake provides a peaceful retreat. It's the perfect place to unwind relax and escape the hustle

Take a stroll or sit by the lakeside to enjoy a book or simply bask in the serene atmosphere.

Best For Urban Lake

Blue Lake Regional Park

Blue Lake Regional Park - Oregon

Blue Lake Regional Park is a recreational park in Fairview, in the Multnomah County of Oregon. The park has many covered and uncovered picnic areas and playgrounds for different sports. It also offers other recreational activities, such as fishing, swimming, and boating. 

Blue Lake Regional Park houses a beautiful lake, three ponds, wooded areas, and a wetland. The park also has paved pathways and trails well-suited for hiking and biking.

The place is worth a visit for hikers, birders, and wildlife lovers. The park is ornamented with exquisite verdure that includes cottonwoods, willows, cattails, and other wetland plants. 


Scenic lake for water activities

Ample picnic and play area

Hiking and biking trails

Offers versatile sports facilities


The food options are a bit limited

Limited shade in some areas

Must Do Things

Dive into the inviting waters of Blue Lake for a refreshing swim or bring your fishing gear to catch some local fish. Boating enthusiasts can rent a kayak

Explore the diverse ecosystems through its paved pathways and hiking trails. These trails offer a chance to observe local flora and fauna

Create lasting memories with your family through activities like frisbee volleyball or a leisurely game of catch. The facilities cater to all.

Best For Couples

Doane Lake

Doane Lake - Oregon

Doane Lake is a high-elevation lake located on the south of Cathedral Park, near Block Northwest Saint Helens. It is a freshwater lake with a dense population of fish belonging to the Sunshine family of ray-finned fish.

It is heavily angled for smallmouth bass and black crappie. 

Doane Lake is home to graceful, divine, and majestic swans, geese, and ducks, among other aquatic birds. The mahogany trees surrounding the lake make it an out-and-out photography spot. The place has a romantic touch and is an ideal picnic spot for couples. 


Abundant smallmouth bass and crappie fishing

It is an ideal picnic spot for couples

Tranquil photography with swans

A high-elevation serene escape


High elevation possible weather challenges

Limited variety of fish

Must Do Things

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and embrace the romantic ambiance of Doane Lake. It's the perfect setting for a romantic picnic with your loved one

Enjoy the company of graceful swans majestic geese and an array of ducks at Doane Lake

Capture the essence of Doane Lake's natural beauty by exploring the mahogany trees that encircle the area.

Best For Wetlands

Mud Slough

Mud Slough - Oregon

Located in the Willamette Valley, Mud Slough is a wetland that extends 2.5 acres to the west of Rickreall. It features water habitats for cattails, sedges, rushes, and willow.

While the place can be visited for afternoon strolls, it is not an ideal picnic spot as there are no sheltered campsites. 

Most of the area of Mud Slough is covered with ryegrass. In the heart of the wetland, there lies a pond that houses unique varieties of aquatic wildlife.

Though the place may not be an ideal spot for barbecues, it’s a must-see for wildlife lovers and nature enthusiasts. 


Natural beauty and serenity

Peaceful afternoon strolls

Rich aquatic wildlife


No sheltered picnic areas

Limited recreational facilities

Not suitable for barbecues

Must Do Things

Explore the 2.5 acres of wetland where cattails sedges rushes and willows create a picturesque landscape

For those interested in ecology and wetland ecosystems Mud Slough is an open-air classroom. Learn about the flora and fauna that thrive in this unique environment

Gain a deeper understanding of the importance of wetland preservation and environmental conservation.

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