Cullowhee River Club is Mountain Riverfront Living
Riverfront and Mountain View Homesites. Mountain Cottage and Cabin Plans Available

Visit our Downtown Discovery Studio at Cullowhee River Club
556 W Main St, Sylva, NC 28779
Contact us Today!

Learn More Close

5 Best Lakes in Western North Carolina

Cool off with a lake day nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina. From paddleboarding and fishing to tubing and swimming, enjoy any one of the sparkling lakes carved out in the forests of some of America’s most beautiful National Parks. Paddle along the shoreline of North Carolina’s lakes and find the cascading waterfalls that give the state its moniker, “Land of Waterfalls”. Here is our list of the best lakes to enjoy in Western North Carolina. 

Lake Fontana 

Bordering both the Great Smoky Mountain and Nantahala National Forest, this 29-mile long river offers over 240 miles of shoreline and is the largest lake in Western North Carolina. Fontana Lake runs along the Little Tennesee River, forming as a result of Fontana Dam, a 480-feet dam built in the 1940s. Because of the dam, the surface of the lake is quite gentle. While the extensive shoreline, and surrounding mountains, make Fontana lake the ideal location for any water activity you could want to do. Spend the weekend in Cherokee, North Carolina, a short 34 miles from Lake Fontana.  

Lake Glenville

Lake Glenville is the perfect choice for a lake day. The reservoir is a popular lake for paddlers because of the waterfalls along the shoreline and boats glide along the lake top with friends and family enjoying any number of water activities. Lake Glenville is not only the lake with the highest elevation in Western North Carolina but of any lake east of the Mississippi. Doc at one of the mini islands in the middle of the lake. Visit Cashiers, North Carolina just 7 miles down the road and spend the day browsing the boutique shops and unique stores in this quaint mountain town. 

Lake Santeetlah 

Nearly encompassed by the Nantahala National Forest, Lake Santeetlah is made up of 76-miles of shoreline for you to dock your kayak. Plan a fishing trip by Lake Santeetlah and camp under the stars while you cook up the days catch. The lake can seem like a bit of a trek compared to other lakes in this list, but the largely undeveloped coastline makes for a serene experience. Just 37 miles away, spend some time experiencing all that Bryson City, North Carolina has to offer. 

Bear Creek Lake

Often called Bear Lake, this reservoir is a popular spot along the Tuckasegee River for anglers and paddlers alike. A popular feature for visitors is Sols Creek Falls, a cascading waterfall, where Sols Creek meets Bear Creek. Paddlers can dock and follow a short trail along the waterfall, while boaters can see it clearly from their deck. The lake’s position on the Tuckasegee provides a variety of fish for you to catch. 

Wolf Creek Lake 

At 183 acres, Wolf Creek Lake, along the Tanasee River, flows into Bear Creek Lake. Just 20 miles from Cullowhee, North Carolina, Wolf Creek Lake is a mountain getaway you won’t regret. The still, glassy surface of Wolf Creek Lake appeals to paddlers and swimmers everywhere. The surrounding slopes and lush mountain forest make for a pristine 360-degree view. Because of its location, visitors are able to visit any of the nearby mountain communities in Western North Carolina including Sylva, North Carolina. 

Popular Water Activities in WNC


  • Kayaking. Wake up and paddle onto any of the lakes in North Carolina and paddle towards the sunrise. Team up and race your friends on a tandem kayak or bring a fishing pole on your sit-on kayak.
  • Fishing. North Carolina lakes and rivers are a haven for novice fishing and professional anglers alike. Whether you are on a boat, a dock, or casting from the shore, there are plenty of lakes to hone your skills.
  • Guided Tours. Lake tours are a great way to enjoy the water and learn a few tips, skills, or routes to use on your own in the future. Go on a fishing expedition or a sunrise kayak tour and make memories you will look back on for years to come. 
  • Paddleboarding. Find your balance and walk on water on a stand-up paddleboard. Growing in popularity, Stand-up paddleboards are a great way to enjoy the lake while being able to stand, sit, lay down and float, or dismount very quickly.
  • Tubing. Tied to the back of a boat or riding down a twisting river, tubing is one of the most popular water activities in Western North Carolina.
  • Float. Want something a little more leisure friendly? Grab a float and just lay out on the lake. Read a book, listen to music, crack open a cold drink, whatever floats your b–well..float!
  • Swim. Maybe you just need somewhere to take the kids or cool off after tanning on the beach shore. Wade in and swim on any of the sparkling lakes that call Western North Carolina home.


Whether you are looking to cool off after a nearby hike, cast a line in the water, or simply have some fun in the sun, Western North Carolina is the perfect place for a lake day. No matter what lake you decide to visit, you are sure to appreciate the scenic landscapes that are found throughout North Carolina. Wish you could wake up to a waterfront view every morning or relax by the river and watch the sunset dance along the surface of the water every night? Come fall in love with mountain riverfront living in the beautiful Cullowhee, North Carolina.