AVL Guides    Lifestyle

13 lakes to visit this summer

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Lake Santeetlah | Photo by @katievogel10

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With 4th of July just around the corner (how did that happen?), our team has been looking for ways to get outside and celebrate. The festivities this year will be a little different because of COVID-19, so we’re opting to head to one of the area’s nearby lakes to soak up the sun and cool off in the water.

We’ve rounded up 13 lakes within a two-hour drive from Asheville that you can head to next weekend – or anytime. Plus, we’ve included info on everything you want to know, from camping + vacation rentals to boating, swimming, fishing + more. Let’s get our feet wet in these local lakes. 

Remember: Driving a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal.

Note: COVID-19 restrictions are still in place at many area lakes. We recommend double-checking amenities and availability before you head out to enjoy #lakelife.

Beaver Lake, Asheville | 🕗 5 minutes from downtown Asheville

Located in a quiet residential community in North Asheville, the lake is surrounded by a walking path and shaded on one side by sycamores. Bonus: Swing by the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, maintained by the local Audubon Society.

🛶 Boating permits are $10 for residents and $100 for non-residents annually; no powerboats permitted

🎣 Single-day fishing is $5; $10 for residents and $100 for non-resident annually; catch-and-release only

🐕‍ Permits are free for residents and $100 for non-residents annually; dogs must be leashed at all times

🏊‍♂️ No swimming

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This is the life.. #kobebeefhusky

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Fontana Lake, Bryson City | 🕗 1 hour 35 minutes from Asheville

Created during World War II to supply power for war efforts, the lake is 29 miles long, with over 240 miles of mostly undeveloped shoreline. It has a reputation for being one of the best spots for smallmouth bass fishing in the US. Bonus: If you want to linger, check out houseboat rentals

🛶 Boat rental + docking services, including guided trips

🎣 NC or TN fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming allowed

🍺 Alcohol allowed except for at the Hilton Shelter and on TVA property

🧺 Picnic + cookout areas

Lake Glenville, Cashiers | 🕗 1 hour 42 minutes from Asheville

Lake Glenville has 26 miles of shoreline + is the highest elevation lake east of the Mississippi River, with depths of up to 80 feet. Bonus: Three waterfalls are accessible from the lake. 

🛶 Multiple boating access areas and boat rentals, including kayaks and SUP rentals, as well as guided trips

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed; No pets allowed at Pines Recreation Area

🏊‍♂️ Swim beach is located at Pines Recreation Area. Protip: Grab a loaner life jacket if you didn’t bring one and need it. 

🍺 Alcohol permitted

🧺 Picnic + cookout areas

Lake James State Park, Linville | 🕗 1 hour from Asheville

Comprising almost 7,000 acres, Lake James also offers 25 miles of trails (including 15 miles of mountain biking trails) of all skill levels. Bonus: There are three campgrounds onsite, including a remote boat-in campground

🛶 Boating permitted; rentals are currently on hold due to COVID-19. 

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming permitted; swim beaches currently closed due to COVID-19. 

🍺 Alcohol prohibited

🧺 First-come, first-served picnic + cookout sites available

Lake Julian, Asheville | 🕗 10 minutes from downtown Asheville

This Buncombe County park in South Asheville recently transitioned to a cold water lake after years of providing cooling for the nearby power plant. 

🛶 Boats allowed with a daily or annual fee; rentals currently on hold due to COVID-19

🎣 Permits are $4 per day and $25 annually; NC fishing permit also required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming prohibited

🍺 Alcohol prohibited 

🧺 Picnic shelters currently closed due to COVID-19

Lake Jocassee, Devils Fork State Park, SC | 🕗 2 hours from Asheville

The land surrounding the 7,500+ acre lake is mostly undeveloped, and the clear waters make it a destination for swimmers + scuba divers. RV and tent camping is available, and lakeside villas offer rooms for rent. Bonus: There’s a boat-in campground. 

🛶 Three boat ramps; boat rentals available

🎣 SC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming is permitted

🍺 Alcohol prohibited

🧺 Picnic areas + grills available

Lake Junaluska, Lake Junaluska | 🕗 35 minutes from Asheville

Right next door to Waynesville, this 200-acre lake has been a Methodist conference + retreat center since it was founded in 1913. The lake is surrounded by walking paths and there are multiple lodging options available.

🛶 No motor boats allowed; boat rentals + tours available

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Lakeside outdoor seasonal swimming pool

🍺 Alcohol prohibited

🧺 No lakeside picnic shelters or grills

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Lake Lure, Lake Lure | 🕗 50 minutes from Asheville

Just past Chimney Rock, this 720 acre lake in Hickory Nut Gorge is also close to hiking + rock climbing destinations. Bonus: If you’re a golfer, head to the municipal Lake Lure Golf Club. There are many vacation rentals around Lake Lure if you want to stay the night. 

🛶 All watercraft must display a permit from the town of Lake Lure; boat rentals + tours available

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs permitted (except for Lake Lure Beach); must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming allowed at Lake Lure Beach

🍺 Alcohol prohibited at Lake Lure Beach

🧺 No grills allowed at Lake Lure Beach

Lake Louise, Weaverville | 🕗 15 minutes from Asheville

This small, 5.5-acre lake north of Asheville is owned + maintained by the Town of Weaverville and is known for its holiday celebrations.  

🛶 No boating allowed

🎣 NC + Town of Weaverville fishing permits required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed (pets not permitted during events)

🏊‍♂️ No swimming allowed

🍺 Alcohol prohibited

🧺 Picnic areas + grills available

Lake Powhatan, Asheville | 🕗 20 minutes from downtown Asheville

Check out this rustic lake close to town for hiking, camping + glamping, plus swimming + fishing, in the middle of the forest. 

🛶 No personal watercraft allowed; boat rentals available

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming allowed at the beach

🍺 Alcohol prohibited

🧺 Picnic areas + grills available

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S/o to @parisadie.lee for the pretty pic

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Lake Santeetlah, Lake Santeetlah | 🕗 2 hours from Asheville

Surrounded by Nantahala National Forest, this lake has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful + unspoiled in the US. With 76 miles of shoreline and only about 50 permanent residents, it’s the perfect spot if you’re looking for privacy. Stay overnight at a campground or first-come, first-served primitive campsite. 

🛶 Boating permitted; Santeetlah Marina is the only full-service marina on the lake and offering docking + rentals

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️  Swimming permitted in designated areas

🍺 Alcohol prohibited; no alcohol sales in Graham County

🧺 Picnic areas + grills available

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A walk in Black Mountain.

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Lake Tomahawk, Black Mountain | 🕗 25 minutes from Asheville

This nine-acre lake owned + managed by the Town of Black Mountain is a community gathering place with a walking trail and multiple meeting areas

🛶 No motorized boats allowed

🎣 NC fishing permit required

🐕‍ Dogs must be leashed

🏊‍♂️ Swimming pool on site 

🍺 Alcohol prohibited 

🧺 Picnic areas + grills available

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Lake Cardinal #laketoxaway #828isgreat

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Lake Toxaway, Lake Toxaway | 🕗 1 hour 10 minutes from Asheville

NC’s largest privately-owned residential lake with 14 miles of shoreline is between Brevard + Cashiers. Vacation rentals available, as well as rooms in the historic Greystone Inn, which also offers tennis + golf. 

🛶 Boating allowed for residents + guests only

🎣 Permit required (about $20 for residents and $38 for non-residents); NC fishing permit required. Guided fishing trips available. 

🐕‍ Some rentals are pet-friendly

🏊‍♂️ Designated swimming area at Greystone Inn

🍺 Alcohol available in some locations

🧺 No public picnic or grilling areas

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