Thousands of years ago, the top of a 12,000-foot-high volcano in the Cascade Range exploded. The massive pit left behind became known as Crater Lake, the centerpiece of a national park in southern Oregon that displays nature at its rawest and most powerful.
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Forests of towering evergreens and 2,000-foot-high cliffs surround the lake, where extraordinarily deep waters — at 1,943 feet, it’s the deepest lake in the United States — yield an intense sapphire-blue hue.
If winter hiking and cross-country skiing aren’t your thing, wait until early July to visit, when the roads have been plowed and the trails cleared. Rim Drive, a 33-mile road that encircles the lake, has picture-perfect views from all sides.
For a closer look, follow the mile-long Cleetwood Cove Trail to the shore. Brace yourself before diving in: The water temperature rarely rises above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nearby: The laid-back mountain town of Bend, 112 miles away, makes a nice home base for a Crater Lake day trip.
Alberta’s Lake Louise is the famous one, on all the postcards and posters. But Louise’s sister lake 29 miles north along Icefields Parkway, a two-laner that winds 142 miles through the Canadian Rockies, is even more picturesque.
Thanks to glacial rock flour that flows in when the ice and snow melt every summer, the waters of Banff National Park’s Peyto Lake are a brilliant turquoise more often associated with warm-weather paradises like Antigua and Bora-Bora.
For the most dramatic views of the 1.7-mile-long stunner, encircled with dense forest and craggy mountain peaks, pull into the lot at Bow Summit, the parkway’s highest point, and follow the steep hike to the overlook.
Nearby: The town of Banff, the heart of the park, is 62 miles south of Peyto Lake.
Home to 1,000 species of fish — estimated to be more than anyplace on earth — Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa) is Africa’s third largest lake at 363 miles long and up to about 50 miles wide in spots.
Located in a depression 2,300 feet below sea level, it’s positioned at the crossroads of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, and supports hundreds of local villages with its rich underwater stock (which is, unfortunately, gradually being depleted due to over-fishing).