North Carolina is famous for its breathtaking coastline and beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain peaks. However many people might be surprised that you can enjoy the best of both worlds by visiting Western North Carolina’s high mountain lakes. These sparkling lakes encased by majestic mountains, are a well kept secret, and often overlooked when vacation planning. Filled with the pristine, crystal-clear waters that flow from mountain peaks, these lakes are faraway from urban life and offer an ideal place to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy a mountain and water escape!
Fontana Lake, Santeetlah Lake, Hiwassee Lake, Lake Chatuge, and Nantahala Lake are all less than forty-five minutes (and 35 mountain miles) to Andrews, North Carolina. Thus, making Andrews, North Carolina the perfect springboard to these five phenomenal mountain lakes!
Consider driving time-distances from these sparkling WNC lakes to Andrews, NC:
Fontana Lake, NC 45 minutes/33.8 miles
Santeetlah Lake, NC 43 minutes/28.3 miles
Hiwassee Lake, NC 20 minutes/15.5 miles
Lake Chatuge, NC 39 minutes/30.8 miles
Nantahala Lake, NC 30 minutes/17.8 miles
The perfect place to refuel and relax after a long day boating, swimming or just relaxing on a high water lake, Hoppy Trout Brewery and Restaurant, is located in the heart of downtown Andrews. This brewpub offers the best in refreshing craft brews as well as delicious and hearty brick-oven pizzas, sure to satisfy everyone in your crew. Hoppy Trout’s award winning beer is worth the drive alone to Andrews, North Carolina. All of their craft beer is brewed by Hoppy Trout Brewery and Restaurant owner and biermaster himself, Tom Rodeck. On par with the big city breweries, this small batch brewery (nanobrewery) features staples such as pale ales and india pale ales like “Juggling Molecules” and “Mountain Haze” and the award winning blonde ale, “Blonde Ambition”. Hoppy Trout’s beer list also pushes the envelope with new and exotic brews such as their signature “Best Day Ever,” Pineapple milkshake IPA and the medal winning “Pterodactyls in Suits” a jalapeno-cucumber saison. And dark beer lovers will be delighted with “Impress the King”, a noteworthy stout with cinnamon and Carolina reaper pepper heat on the finish. They’re beer can be taken to go in growlers or in cans.
The fourth deepest lake in the country, Fontana Lake has sparkling blue-green waters and is nestled between the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With more than 10,000 acres of water surface, this lake features 238 miles of shoreline and ample opportunity for water sports, fishing, swimming, hiking and lots of fun. Visitors can enjoy spectacular vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountain that create an incredible backdrop over emerald waters. Don’t miss the unique houseboats that are dotted about the lake. Over 400 of these novelty homes can only be reached by boat and sit in various fingers and coves on this immense body of water.
This man-made lake is controlled by the Tennessee Mountain Authority and also is home to Fontana Dam, the largest dam on the east of the Rocky Mountains. This dam has featured several movies such as Nell and Forces of Nature. Fontana Dam is 480 feet tall and 2,645 feet wide. Located on the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fontana Dam is a site unto itself, this incredible homage to man’s ability to harness nature and create power, this hydroelectric dam was built speedily during World War II to supply power to area industry.
One of the most remote lakes in North Carolina, Santeetlah Lake is a breathtaking oasis located in the Cheoah District of the Nantahala National Forest. This high mountain lake offers clean crystal waters, 76 miles of shoreline, and endless outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, hiking, boating, and much more. Visitors to this secluded lake can rent boats and kayaks at Santeetlah Marina to discover all this lake has to offer.
Anglers flock to this lake to catch a variety of fish including small mouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, bream, and lake trout. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy one of more than fifty primitive campsites surrounding the lake and over 200 miles of hiking trails in the Cheoah District. They can even traverse the Wauchecha Bald Trail to gain access to the Appalachian Trail.
Located just outside Murphy, North Carolina, Lake Hiwassee is a dazzling high mountain lake fed by three rivers, the Nottely River, Hiwassee River, and the Valley River. Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, Lake Hiwassee covers over 6,000 acres and features 180 miles of shoreline. Locals and visitors alike enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and just relaxing on this lake that stretches over twenty-two miles. Hanging Dog Recreation Area is a favorite spot among locals and the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, fish on it’s pier, or launch a water craft.
Lake Chatuge is a stunning high mountain lake with glittering blue waters steeped by a mesmerizing Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop. Likely the most visited of all the mountain lakes in Western North Carolina, Lake Chatuge spans over 3,700 acres in Clay County North Carolina and 3,500 acres in Towns County Georgia. A popular Atlanta retreat, this lake features the best in boating, water sports, fishing, swimming, hiking and much more.
Like most mountain lakes in North Carolina, this lake is man-made and was constructed by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) during the 1940s as a source of power and for the purposes of flood control. Visitors can enjoy all this spectacular lake has to offer on the North Carolina or Georgia side with ample lodging options.
Jackrabbit Mountain Recreation Area on the North Carolina side is the perfect location to take advantage of all Lake Chatuge has to offer. It features 92 wooded campsites for both RV and tent camping, a swimming/beach area, hiking trails and a boat launch. In addition Jackrabbit Mountain Recreation Area is well-known for its stellar mountain biking trails. This 15-mile stacked-loop system follows the picturesque border of Lake Chatuge and flows through wooded terrain or ridge-top.
While the Nantahala River Gorge is world famous for its first-class white water, few visitors to it visit the origins of this river, Nantahala Lake. This pristine mountain lake sits at over 3,000 feet in elevation and feeds the Nantahala River that flows through the gorge. Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains and Nantahala National Forest, this secluded lake features is the ideal place to get away from it all and really soak in the best nature has to offer.
Created in 1942 Nantahala Lake was formed by damming up the Nantahala River to form a clear water reservoir. Nantahala Lake features is popular for fishing and boating. Lakes End Marina is its only full service marina on the lake, and offers a wealth of boating options for leisure and exploration including: pontoon boats, runabouts, ski boats, jet skis, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. In addition Lakes End features cabin and luxury yurt camping.
Written by: Emily Eileen Carter