Lake James, a 6000+ acre lake surrounded by the scenic Pisgah National Forest and the Linville Gorge Wilderness, is conveniently located just 45 miles east of Asheville and Black Mountain and just north of the town of Marion and Morganton. For many, Asheville's allure is well worth a short commute in order to enjoy easy access to Lake James boating, fishing, mountain biking, and hiking trails.
Boating and Swimming at Lake James
Lake James State Park, just 15 minutes north of downtown Marion, comes complete with two boat ramps located at Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge between the two day-use areas within the park. There’s also the Lake James Marina, Mimosa Boat Landing, and Benfield’s Landing, which offer lake access and boat rentals along with bait and tackle equipment.
Canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals (fee is $7 per hour) are available starting in May and running through September at the Paddy’s Creek Area concession stand. In addition to a concession stand serving refreshing quick bites, Paddy’s Creek Area also features a 700-ft mountain beach with sandy shores, protected swimming area, and restrooms, and the access fee is $6 a day. Open during Western North Carolina’s summer season (May 1- September 30), you’ll experience mostly sunny days with temperatures rising into the lower 90s and water temperatures at a balmy 60-70 degrees.
Hiking and Mountain Biking at Lake James
Lake James boasts over 25 miles of hiking trails (15 of which are also open to mountain biking) with 8 trails ranging from easy to moderate, spread out over two sections of the park—the Paddy’s Creek Area and the Catawba River Area. Map out your ride with Lake James biking map or peruse Lake James hikes so you can plan out your route. The Holly Discovery Trail (.75 mile) and Mill’s Creek Loop Trail (3.6 miles) are both easy hikes in the Paddy’s Creek Area.
The Sandy Cliff Overlook Trail (.5 mile) and one of our personal favorites, the Lake Channel Overlook Trail (1.5 miles), are both located in the Catawba River Area and provide a more challenging trek. The midpoint of the latter hike offers expansive views of Lake James, Linville Gorge, and the surrounding mountains. You need just follow the red diamond trails from the Catawba River Access parking lot.
Fishing at Lake James
Fed by the waters of the Linville and Catawba rivers that cut into hilly terrain to form a deep lake reaching as far as 120 feet deep in areas, Lake James’ cool, clean, and deep waters with warm surface temperatures provide numerous fishing opportunities. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill and redbreast sunfish, and catfish are just some of the varieties of fish you’ll find in this gorgeous area. Please keep in mind that a North Carolina fishing license is required, and all Wildlife Resources Commission regulations apply.
Staying Between Lake James & Asheville
Greybeard Rentals has rental homes located at Lake James and also offers a range of homes that are located within 30 minutes or less of Lake James, for a quick commute to all the varied outdoor activities that the lake offers. A few we'd recommend looking into include Moondance Cabin, Bear Tracks, Kibbin at Mackey Ford.