While Lake James was originally created to provide hydroelectric power to the surrounding region, it has become one of the leading destinations for outdoor recreation and one of the most scenic lakes in Southeast and Western North Carolina. Once the backdrop for the feature film, The Last of the Mohicans, this man-made haven is home to many ecological wonders. From the stunning wildflowers such as the pink lady slipper, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and Indian pipe to the regional plants such as mountain laurel, rhododendron, and flame azalea, to the colorful waterfowl such as the green heron and belted kingfisher, this lakeside community is teeming with vibrancy and life.
Lake James State Park
Pisgah National Forest and the Linville Gorge Wilderness border the tranquil waters of Lake James and South Mountains State Park sits just to the south. Lake James State Park is a recreation hub in its own right with an extensive trail system for hiking and mountain-biking, not to mention the endless options for water-based activity. The Lake is conveniently located east of Asheville and Black Mountain and just north of the town of Marion. The charming town of Morganton also neighbors Lake James and offers a variety of restaurants, cafes, breweries, and a place to relax and unwind and enjoy mountain culture after a day on the lake.
The State Park has two boat ramp accesses. The Canal Bridge boat ramp is open 24 hours a day, and the Hidden Cove boat access area is closed from December through February, but is open for use other times of the year when the park is open. Boating is also accessible to Lake James residents as many home listings include private docks. There are also multiple marinas located on Lake James.
Hiking and Mountain Biking
While water-based activities are often the natural choice at Lake James, Lake James State Park also has over 25 miles of hiking trails, and 15 miles of those trails are also open to mountain biking. For expansive views of Lake James and Linville Gorge, take a walk on the Lake Channel Overlook trail which is an easy to moderate 3-mile round trip hike.
The Linville and Catawba Rivers feed into Lake James and the lake reaches depths of up to 120 feet in some locations. Bass are a popular target in the waters of Lake James for sport fishing. For those looking to fire up the oven or grill after a day on the lake, walleye and crappie are a common target. Other fish in the lake include catfish, bluegill, and muskellunge. Make sure to have your fishing license if you plan to fish at Lake James.
Food & Drink
Described in Our State magazine as “Elegant Comfort”, this local spot has been in operation for almost a decade and serves only the highest quality food and service—preparing every dish from scratch. The menu is a concoction of French technique paired with Southern influence, and there are over forty drink options on tap. However, if beer isn’t your thing, they also have a variety of vintage craft sodas—including Boylan’s Sparkling Lemonade, MacFuddy’s Pepper Elixir, and the North Carolina favorite—Cheerwine.
McDowell Local Eatery
With locally-sourced ingredients and handcrafted dishes, this relatively new spot is proud of its place in the small, quaint town of Marion, affirming their motto “local is good, y’all.” This relaxed dining experience is designed to bring friends and families together over fresh and tasty food. The menu includes several small plate options like the deliciously southern Pimento Cheese and Pork Rinds, as well as sandwiches and burgers. “The Local” burger is a customer favorite made even more delicious by adding their specialty bacon jam. We think local is very very good, y’all.
This charming Appalachian brewery “integrates the soul of agriculture with the artisanship of zymurgy to create a menagerie of rustic and savory libations'' by using only locally-foraged ingredients. Set against the backdrop of the stunning and rugged Linville Gorge, their farmhouse brewery spans over 9 acres of land that is surrounded by Lake James State Park. With unique beers ranging from a Honeysuckle Imperial Stout to a variety of Gose in various fruit flavors like peach, blueberry, and paw paw, you’re bound to find the perfect drink to enjoy while taking in the incredible pastoral views.
Self-described as one of the “old guys” in the ever-expanding craft beer market and named after the Catawba River that winds down through Morganton, this brewery celebrates its roots by honoring the mountains, rivers, and Blue Ridge Parkway that make Western North Carolina home. In addition to their flagship favorites such as White Zombie and Hopness Haze, they also create small-batch beers such as the Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout and Imperial Pumpkin Ale. The ambiance at any of this brewery’s locations is hard to beat with live music, food trucks, and the passport program which allows visitors to “Tour the World of Beer” by collecting virtual stamps to earn rewards and enter grand prize drawings.
Lake James Real Estate
From pristine and private lakefront properties to high end homes and residential homes of all styles, Lake James may just hold the keys to the home of your dreams. Many lakefront home listings also include private docks and jet ski ramps so you can truly experience the best of lake life in the mountains.