You might not think of lakes when it comes to North Carolina, but you will find some beautiful spots. North Carolina has almost 60 lakes alone, and we wanted to share the lakes near Asheville NC!
Each lake has something special, whether it be somewhere hidden in the mountains, a prime spot for fishing, or maybe it is the best place for swimming! Asheville is a hub in the North Carolina mountains, and there are so many lakes just in this one area, all with special things to offer.
In today’s article, get ready to explore the world of lakes near Asheville NC! We will discuss what each lake has to offer, the best lakes for swimming, fishing, boating, and more. Stick around!
19 LAKES NEAR ASHEVILLE NC
1. Lake Lure
Have you ever seen Dirty Dancing? Well, Lake Lure is featured in the movie multiple times, including the famous lift scene. There is even a Dirty Dancing festival held every summer in the town! Besides its Hollywood moment, Lake Lure is gorgeous.
It has a perfect little beach to lay out on, it’s one of the best lakes in the area for swimming, and the scenery is just beautiful. You can see incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains, including Chimney Rock.
Lake Lure is a small, clear lake that is man-made and covers about 720 acres. It has less than 27 miles of shoreline, with a maximum depth of 104 feet. All watercraft, both motorized and non-motorized, must obtain and display a permit issued by the town, which must be renewed annually.
This includes any kind of stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes. There are limits on the number of annual permits they issue as well. They also allow you to purchase a daily or weekly permit.
- Resident Annual over ten hp – 1,000 total permits available
- Resident Annual weekday only – 250 total permits available
- Non-resident Annual over ten hp – 75 total permits available
- Non-resident Annual weekday only – 75 total permits available
The town of Lake Lure, NC, itself is a great little town filled with marvelous hiking trails, mountains, and pretty views of the lake from above. It’s a popular town for getting outside and exploring nature. Lake Lure, NC, is just 45 minutes from Asheville.
You will also find the Rocky Broad River Bridge, which was built in 1925 and closed to traffic in 2011. They reopened the bridge in 2013 as Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, with gardens that span across the 155 ft bridge.
You will find numerous garden beds with more than 200 species of plants. The bridge has been recognized by The National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Admission is free, but they are sustained by donations. Leashed dogs are allowed.
The address for Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is 3070 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure, NC 28746. There is free parking at the Bridge and at the Lake Lure Welcome Center nearby.
Lake Lure Beach and Water Park include 100 yards of clean, sandy beach for swimming and is owned by the Town of Lake Lure, but they have an agreement with Lake Lure Tours. They also have a water park with slides and water games. You’ll find picnic shelters on the beach, or you can enjoy individual picnics as well on the tables provided. Please note that grills are prohibited.
Lake Lure is open from Memorial Day till Labor Day. Admission is $10 per adult, $9 for seniors, and $8 for ages 4-12. Kids under 4 are free. Dogs are not allowed. Parking for 70 vehicles. Admission to the water park is included in the beach admission price.
Lake Lure Beach and Water Park
2724 Memorial Hwy
Lake Lure, NC 28746
2. Lake Powhatan
Lake Powhatan is the closest lake to downtown Asheville, NC. It’s just under 10 minutes away and includes some of the best camping in the area! The campground is part of Bent Creek Experimental Forest and is open all year round. During the summer months, there are 75 campsites that are good for tents and RVs to park with hookups.
During winter, there are 39 tent campers and RV campsites. These campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Swimming, biking, and hiking are popular activities. The swimming area is open from 10 am until 8 pm. Boating of any kind is prohibited.
Lake Powhatan is wonderful for camping; however, it is also a great place to just spend the day and have a picnic! Day use of the lake is $5 per person (April 1 – Oct 31). Day use season pass is $30.
Dogs are allowed in the campsite areas and on the walking trails. They are not allowed on the beaches.
3. Lake James
Some may argue that Lake James is one of the prettiest lakes in North Carolina. Lake James has over 150 miles of shoreline and is situated on 6,000 acres. The lake is a great lake for boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Add it to your list of Lakes Near Asheville NC, to visit!
Lake James State Park has many miles of beautiful hiking trails as well. The best part? Lake James has complete public access and is 100% free to all visitors. Picnic tables are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lake James isn’t too far from Asheville either, at about an hour away. Fun fact: Lake James State Park is North Carolina‘s largest waterfront State Park.
Don’t have a boat? Don’t worry! You have many options with Lake James Boat Rentals. You can rent anything from a pontoon boat to a fishing boat to a boat that is perfect for water skiing. There are also pet-friendly boat options. You can also consider renting a kayak or a jet ski with Noah’s Landing.
4. Lake Norman
Lake Norman is known for being the largest man-made body of water in North Carolina, and it does not disappoint. Lake Norman has 520 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 32,475 miles. In the area surrounding Lake Norman, you can find many different campground options, including RV sites.
Boating, jet skiing, swimming, paddling boarding, kayaking, and water surfing are all very popular activities on the lake itself. Surrounding the lake, you can find lots of beautiful hiking trails, shops, museums, and dining spots. Boat rentals are available through Lake Norman Boat Rentals.
Lake Norman’s dam was built between 1959 and 1964 after the Duke Power Company constructed the Cowan’s Ford Dam across the Catawba River. This massive lake feeds tons of water to power the generators that power the surrounding region! It’s a powerful and beautiful lake with a very interesting history.
It is free to be around Lake Norman; they have free boat launches, and you can pay for swim passes at Lake Norman State Park Beach.
5. Fontana Lake
Fontana Lake is the largest lake in Western North Carolina. It’s also the deepest lake in the whole state! It forms the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountains and the northern border of the Nantahala National Forest, so you already know that this lake has spectacular views.
It is also said that Lake Fontana is one of the cleanest lakes in the area, so the waters are bright and crystal clear. The Fontana Reservoir has 238 miles of shoreline. All along Lake Fontana, you will find little pull-offs that have picnic tables and are great areas for having a picnic or going swimming.
There are a few cute little campsites that have great views of the lake and some that have RV sites. There is a small boat rental place to rent boats for the day or the weekend on the lake as well! Kayaking, boating, and fishing are all very popular activities on Fontana Lake.
Fontana Lake is free to all visitors, though there is a small boat launch fee. Fontana Lake is about an hour and a half from Asheville.
One spot many enjoy stopping off at is the Fontana Lake Dam. The Appalachian Trail actually crosses over the top of the dam. They have a visitor center where you can learn all about the tallest dam east of The Rockies.
The Fontana Dam was built during World War II to provide electric power for the war effort. Construction started in 1942 and was completed in 1944. It’s 480 feet high and stretches 2,365 feet across the Little Tennessee River. You can visit the dam off of Hwy 28 in Fontana, NC.
6. Price Lake
Price Lake isn’t the largest lake, 47 acres, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful! The hike around the lake is a nice and easy 2.7-mile loop that is great for the whole family to enjoy. Swimming and motorized boats are not allowed on this lake. However, kayaking and paddling boarding are popular activities here, and they are free!
Julian Price Campground is a popular getaway near the lake. The campground has 185 sites and RV sites with dump stations (no water or electric hookups). At about an hour and a half away from Asheville, it’s a great little vacation.
7. Lake Glenville (Pines Recreation Area)
Lake Glenville is a great, clean little reservoir that’s a little under an hour and a half away from Asheville. Boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and fishing are all very popular activities at this lake! It gets pretty crowded here during the summer because of its beauty and because of all the available activities.
From the Pine Recreations Area beach, there is trail access to High Falls. Dogs are allowed on the trails and campsites in the area, but they are not allowed on the beach.
There are boat rentals, kayak rentals, and jet ski rentals available in the area. There is also a public boat launch and public access to the beach, so everything is free!
8. Lake Junaluska
Lake Junaluska is a census-designated place founded in 1913. It was created to be a peaceful retreat for the Methodist church among the tranquil mountains. Today, while aspects of its past are still surrounding the area, the lake has become a hotspot for beautiful mountain vacations.
It is a very popular area for cabin rentals and booking getaways at the lodge, where you can book full weekend trip packages. You can choose between The Terrace Hotel or The historic Lambuth Inn. It’s also a fantastic spot for a romantic lakeside wedding.
Lake Junaluska is 200 acres, and you can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing on the lake. Boat rentals are available, along with guided boat tours of the lake and its history!
They also have a fun and challenging 68 par 18-hole golf course. The lake is popular for its location, being only a half hour away from Asheville.
9. Lake Santeelah
Lake Santeelah is loved for its gorgeous location, situated right in the middle of the Nantahala National Forest, almost 2 hours from Asheville. Talking about the most beautiful lakes in North Carolina, this one might take the cake.
Surrounded by mountains and forests, this lake is well-loved. There are many outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and cabin rentals in the area.
There are primitive campsites scattered around the lake that include a picnic table and fire ring; they have no water or toilets but also require neither permits nor fees. It’s first-come, first-serve availability.
If you are looking for a few more amenities, check out Cheoah Point Campground. They have six RV sites with 15/30/50 amp electrical hookups. The entire campground has flush toilets, hot showers, and drinking water provided. The campground covers steep terrain, and many of the campsites overlook the lake.
Boating, kayaking, jet skiing, and swimming are all popular activities, and there are a few boat rental places in the area! The boat launch is free, along with swimming access.
Dog lovers love this place since all dogs are welcome everywhere, even in many restaurants in the area.
10. Burnett Reservoir
Burnett Reservoir, known as “North Fork” around North Carolina, is the watershed or water supply lake for Asheville. Because of this, Burnett Reservoir is mostly a no-trespassing area to preserve the lake. However, there are a few accessible fishing points, and fishing is popular here at the lake.
Burnett Reservoir has a shoreline of 5 miles and rests on 15,000 acres of undisturbed land. If you ever get a chance to see it from the sky, it’s a beautiful place!
Not only is Burnett Reservoir beautiful, but it is also a highly respected and important plot of land. Here is a picture of the Burnett Reservoir from The Blue Ridge Parkway near Craggy Gardens.
11. Wildcat Lake
Wildcat Lake is owned and operated by Lees-Mcrae College in Banner Elk, NC. It’s about 13 acres, with a beautiful white sand beachfront, fishing docks, and surrounded by green forest. Wildcat Lake is open for swimming from Memorial Day until Labor Day, when there is a lifeguard on duty.
It is a popular spot for a day picnic, a dip in the water, fishing, and exploring the grounds. Only boats with no motors, like kayaks and paddleboards, are allowed on the lake.
Wildcat Lake is associated with the Grandfather Home for Children, and it is run on donations. There is no fee to visit the lake, but donations are very appreciated! Across from the lake at Tufts Memorial Park, there are a small playground and picnic areas.
Pavilions are available for rent for $50 a day. Dogs are prohibited at Wildcat Lake and the Memorial Park.
12. Beaver Lake
Beaver Lake is only 3.3 miles from downtown Asheville. It is a beautiful place to take a stroll, go paddleboarding, or have a picnic. The loop around Beaver Lake is an easy 1.9 miles, so it’s great for a walk with the family or good for going on a jog.
Beaver Lake is very well maintained and is a friendly, safe environment. You will even find a beautiful little bird sanctuary on the property! Bird walks at the Sanctuary on the first Saturday of every month.
From April to September, the walks begin at 8:00 am, and from October to March, they begin at 9:00 am. They meet at the gazebo on the south end of the lake.
It is important to note that Beaver Lake is privately owned. The owners are often on the grounds, doing work or enjoying the land. Respecting their land is extremely important.
A pass is needed to bring your dog; otherwise, you will be fined, and you are allowed to fish in the lake, but everything must be released, and you have a fishing permit.
Swimming is also not permitted in the lake. An annual boating permit is $10 for residents and $100 for non-residents to enter the lake area; no fuel-motorized crafts are allowed.
13. Lake Tomahawk
Another very short drive from Asheville, Lake Tomahawk is a very relaxing and beautiful place located in the center of Black Mountain. There are many hiking trails in the area and around the lake. A popular trail is the Lake Tomahawk walking trail, which is just a half-mile loop. This is a great place for people to bring their dogs.
Dogs are welcomed in most areas around the lake, even off-leash in some places! Lake Tomahawk Park features many amenities, such as a fishing pier, restrooms, and a pavilion that includes picnic tables and a charcoal grill.
No motorized boats are allowed on the lake. If you are looking for peaceful fun, you’ve got it at Lake Tomahawk.
To thoroughly enjoy the lake and the gorgeous views, there are many vacation rentals right on the lake. A few camping areas are nearby as well. Lake Tomahawk is free to everyone.
14. Lake Julian
In Arden, NC, you will find the beautiful Lake Julian. Situated on 300 acres, Lake Julian is a great spot day spot for the family with playgrounds, recreation areas, picnic tables, horseshoe pits, and a sand volleyball court!
The lake itself provides a lovely backdrop for your day, and you can even get out and go paddle boarding or kayaking on the lake. Canoe and kayak rentals are available for the day, and boat rentals are available for a half hour or an hour. Swimming is not allowed or possible here because of the strong undercurrents.
There are six picnic shelters at the park in Lake Julian with tables and grills you can visit on a first-come, first-serve basis; it’s all free to visit the lake. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed here. However, they do hold a few dog days during the summer.
Lake Julian is mostly known for its “Festival of Lights,” which occurs this year in 2023 from December 3-23. Over 50 animated festive lights are set up in the country park in Lake Julian for all to joy and get into the festive holiday spirit!
You will drive through tunnels with animated and stationary light displays. The drive is about 10 minutes to go around, but if you are lucky, on slower nights, you can go around a second time for free. It is $10 per vehicle, or $25 for large vans, and $50 for buses or motor coaches. 20% of the proceeds go towards the local Special Olympics.
15. Lake Hickory
A whopping 4,223 acres, Lake Hickory stands out from a lot of other lakes in North Carolina. It has pristine emerald waters and a sandy bottom, making it an excellent place for swimming. Lake Hickory is located in the foothills of North Carolina, about an hour and a half from Asheville. Many claim it’s a fantastic place to live and visit.
You can enjoy swimming, boating, jet skiing, fishing, sailing, water skiing, and more on Lake Hickory! Bald eagles and ospreys can be sighted in the area.
On the lake, you’ll find 16 boat access locations, all of which can be accessed for free. There are many boat rentals in the area where you can rent anything from canoes and kayaks to pontoon boats and party barges. There is also boat storage and trailer storage available here.
About 14 miles east of Hickory, you will find one of the last covered bridges left in North Carolina; it’s one of the only two covered bridges left in NC called The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge. It spans 85 ft across Lyles Creek.
16. Bear Creek Lake
On the smaller side, Bear Creek Lake is only about 22 miles of shoreline, placed in the middle of Bear Creek State Park. Many say that if you are looking for a relaxing and peaceful vacation, Bear Creek Lake is the perfect place to go!
Tuckasagee is the closest town, and Asheville is about 85 miles away, making it a great place for a day trip or a fun weekend getaway. It is usually quieter there during the off-season or the weekdays when there aren’t as many loud boats on the small lake.
Kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, and swimming are all popular activities. There are many hiking trails in the surrounding areas as well! Note that a lot of the hiking trails may have slippery rocks, uneven terrain, and sometimes rock scrambling.
Please be aware that some trails aren’t suited for elderly people or young children. There is a small fishing dock you can sit on or find a quiet place by the shoreline to enjoy your afternoon.
Bear Creek State Park is full of many outdoor activities and has a full-service campground with almost 50 campsites. There are RV sites available as well. From April to the end of October, you can stay at any of the lakeside campsites or rent a yurt or a cabin!
17. Lake Louise
The town of Weaverville, North Carolina, houses the quaint little Lake Louise. At approximately 15.5 acres, Lake Louise isn’t a full recreation area, but it has many perks. It is a very quiet area that is one of the best spots for having a day picnic or doing light fishing.
You must have a fishing permit to fish here. Boating and swimming are prohibited. The 0.6-mile loop around the lake is great for taking a small walk with the family, going on a jog, or walking the dog.
Lake Louise is extremely close to Asheville, being only a 15-minute drive away. It’s a great place to go to get out of the city for the day! Everyone is free to enjoy the banks of the lake.
18. Lake Toxaway
Lake Toaxaway, North Carolina’s largest private lake, is on 640 acres, with 14 shoreline access points. This lake was designed for all the amazing lake recreational activities. It is a mountain-fed lake, fed by dozens of freshwater streams, making the waters so fresh and so beautiful.
Lake Toxaway allows all the water activities like motor boating, water skiing, jet skiing, kayaking, and canoeing. It is also a great place to go swimming on a hot day. The mountain runoff makes the water pretty chilly, so it’s best to enjoy the lake during the summer!
Since Lake Toxaway is privately owned, there are no public access points. To enjoy the lake, consider booking a luxurious stay at the lake’s resort, renting a luxury cabin, or even buying one of the lake’s private homes.
With any of these rentals or purchases, you have full lake access and access to the Lakes Country Club. For a more lavish vacation, this is the most beautiful spot to stay. Book a stay at The Greystone Inn, this luxury waterfront golf resort located on the shores of Lake Toxaway, which is 3.5 miles from US Route 64 and 6 miles from Rainbow Falls.
Lake Toxaway is about 25 minutes from downtown Brevard NC.
19. Lake Jocassee
Lake Jocassee is technically in northwest South Carolina, but it is less than 2 hours from Asheville, North Carolina. It is an extremely popular swimming spot in the summer with a small strip of beach and shallow water that is perfect for wading.
This lake is fed from Appalachian mountain water runoff, so the waters are pristine and very clean! Boating, jet skiing, kayaking, and paddling boarding are allowed here on the lake. Boat rentals and boat tours are a fun way to get out on the water, and you can do that through Devils Fork State Park.
There are a few camping areas situated on Lake Jocassee, the most popular one being Devils Fork State Park. Day use of the lake costs $8 for adults and $4 for children 6-15. Children under 6 are free. The admission lasts all day, so it’s really an inexpensive way to have a great day! Picnic tables and grills can also be found at the state park.
Here is a picture of Lake Jocassee from The Jumping Rock Overlook. The overlook is not easy to access, and I wouldn’t recommend using a car to drive to it. You need a high-clearance vehicle like an SUV or truck to access. It takes at least 45-50 minutes to drive one way in. Pack a picnic and enjoy the view from the top!
North Carolina, filled with some of the most spectacular views in nature, also holds some of the most spectacular lakes as well. There is a lake for everyone here; whether you are looking for quiet tranquility, or you are looking for more fun family adventures, or even luxury vacations, there are so many places to choose from. I hope after reading this, you’ve found your next North Carolina lake trip!