Kayaking in NC: 5 Lakes to Explore in Western NC

Posted by Shelly Salomon on April 25, 2024

One thing we love about Western North Carolina is that there are so many opportunities for adventure, no matter what your outdoor interests are. If your family loves to hike, you already know that Western North Carolina will give you just the intensity you are looking for, but if you need a break from hiking, it might be time to give kayaking a try! 

Western North Carolina is a nature’s paradise, with breathtaking crystal-clear lakes within towering peaks and lush forests. In this short guide we introduce five worth-visiting lakes in Western North Carolina for an unforgettable kayaking experience. And if you read to the end, you can find a special bonus. 

Ready to pack your kayak?


Kayaking in NC - Check These Lakes Out

Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake, nestled between the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the north and the Nantahala National Forest in the south, boasts the largest lake in Western North Carolina. The 29-mile-long lake offers more than 240 miles of remote shoreline, providing plenty of kayaking, fishing, and other water sports opportunities. Nature lovers can explore lakeside hiking trails, making it an ideal spot for a peaceful getaway just an hour from Bryson City. Boathouses floating atop its waters are unique to Fontana Lake, adding to its charm.


Lake Glenville

Boasting the highest elevation (3,500 feet above sea level) of any lake in the eastern US, Lake Glenville is a pristine reservoir with 26 miles of shoreline, 1,400 acres of water, and seven islands. Its white sandy beach, three waterfalls, lush foliage, and multimillion-dollar mansions create a picturesque setting for kayaking at every corner of the lake you explore. 

What’s more, Lake Glenville is only 15 miles south of Western Carolina University, making it an ideal destination for students who want to soak up some sun and enjoy a day at the lake while taking a break from homework. 


Lake Nantahala

At an elevation of 3,000 feet, Lake Nantahala is the second-highest lake east of the Mississippi.

With a rich history dating back to its creation during World War II,  Lake Nantahala is a serene and pristine lake with 30 miles of shoreline. The renowned Nantahala Outdoor Center offers guided tours and kayaking sessions, where visitors can experience the lake's beauty with experienced guides. The nearby Nantahala River Gorge is also renowned for its world-class whitewater rafting opportunities.

Lake Lure

Surrounded by lush green mountaintops and granite cliffs, Lake Lure is a popular man-made lake in the region. Its 27 miles of shoreline offer ample opportunities for water sports like water skiing, boating, fishing, and kayaking. Ideal for families, hikers exploring the nearby Chimney Rock, or couples seeking a romantic getaway, Lake Lure is a scenic destination that combines natural beauty with recreational activities.


Lake Santeetlah

Nestled in the remote Nantahala National Forest, Lake Santeetlah is one of Western North Carolina's most unspoiled lakes, renowned for its pristine beauty. With 76 miles of shoreline, it provides extensive opportunities for boating, water sports, swimming, camping, and kayaking. About 80% of the shoreline is undeveloped, making it a serene escape in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains. Located along the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway, about 100 miles west of Asheville, Lake Santeetlah is often praised as one of the country's most beautiful lakes.


Bonus: The French Broad River

While you're in Western North Carolina, be sure to visit the world’s third-oldest river. The French Broad River, which runs between the border of Tennessee and Western North Carolina, is a 218-mile waterway where you can kayak or canoe until your heart's content. Whatever outdoor activity you're looking for, this river can give you every water sport you fancy. Although not a lake, it’s still an unforgettable kayaking experience amidst region's stunning natural beauty.

Experience the Beauty of WNC First-Hand

Western North Carolina's lakes are a true gem for kayakers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. But keep in mind that these kayaking opportunities are just a drop in the bucket of what the state has to offer. 

If you're considering making this scenic region your home, Vista can help. With our expertise in custom home construction, you can enjoy not only the thrill of kayaking on these magnificent lakes but also the comfort and luxury of living in Western North Carolina's breathtaking surroundings. You can reach us by phone at (866) 519-2400 or contact us online at any time.

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