Gorgeous Lake Junaluska opened as a mountain retreat for the Methodist church in the early 1900s. Many do not realize that this lake town is open for all to enjoy with plenty of things to do and places to stay. It's at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains near Waynesville and Maggie Valley, about 30 minutes west of Asheville.
Since the retreat's mission is to "renew the soul, mind, and body," it's a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in a very scenic setting. The town surrounds a 200-acre lake. Spend the night lakeside, explore 16 gardens, walk around the lake, play golf, enjoy scenic dining, or take a boat tour (to name a few!).
Lake Junaluska Things To Do
Lake Walking Trail and Rose Walk: A scenic 3.8-mile paved path winds around the lake with resting points to relax and soak in the views. Cross the lake on the Turbeville Footbridge for a shorter 2.3-mile loop. It's wheelchair and scooter friendly, and most sections are flat. Find plenty of parking at many locations adjacent to the trail, and take a break at Junaluska Gifts & Grounds coffee shop along the way. Read more about the Walking Trail.
Kayak, Canoe & Paddleboard: Have fun on the lake from Memorial Day through Labor Day with rentals available every day at Lake Junaluska Outfitters, a lakeside hub for outdoor recreation. You’ll find canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals, pool passes, lake cruises, recreation equipment, and more!
Boat Tour: Take an excursion on the Cherokee IV from 1-8 PM Thursday-Sunday during the summer (weather permitting). Cost is just $10 per adult, $5 for ages 4-12 and under 4 is free! Tickets are available online or at Lake Junaluska Outfitters located near the pool. Lake cruises are also included in several of Lake Junaluska's vacation packages. See 2021 vacation packages on their website.
Bird Watching: A favorite location for birding, with top spots along the lake near the pool, the parking lot near Memorial Chapel, the cross at Inspiration Point, across the dam on Lakeshore Drive, and the boat ramp. Find a checklist on their website.
Corneille Bryan Native Garden: Features 500+ species of native plants and a haven for birdlife.
Fish: The lake is stocked with bass, catfish, crappie, and others. You'll just need to have a valid North Carolina fishing license. No motorboats on the lake.
Golf: The 18-hole course offers affordable rates, spectacular views of the mountains and the lake, a layout designed for all levels, advanced tee times, and PGA instruction.
Swimming Pool, Mini Golf, Tennis, Pickleball, and Shuffleboard: Enjoy admission to the lakeside swimming pool, mini-golf, and more with a daily activity pass. Purchase at Lake Junaluska Outfitters.
Inspiration Point: Adjacent to the historic Lambuth Inn, enjoy the spectacular lake, mountain, and sky views. Inspiration Point features benches, along with gardens.
Labyrinth: Enter and walk this sacred path at your leisure, alone or with others.
Lodging: Lake Junaluska has a wide array of places to stay, including The Terrace lakeside hotel with scenic views and rocking chairs. Go to their website for more.
Charming and historic, Lambuth Inn sits on a hill overlooking Lake Junaluska with panoramic views of the mountains and lake. The recent renovation recaptured the original elegance of this stately inn, which was built in 1921 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This year the inn celebrates its 100th year! Rates are $95-$200/night. Go to their website for more.
Also find vacation rentals and economy options such as the Lake Junaluska Apartments. Lodging is open to the public all year.
Dining Options: Lakeside Bistro offers scenic indoor and outdoor dining with a patio overlooking the lake. Located on the third floor of The Terrace Hotel, the Bistro is open daily and serves a hot breakfast buffet for lodging guests and the general public. Junaluska Gifts & Grounds, located in the Harrell Center, offers specialty coffee, hand-dipped ice cream, smoothies, sandwiches, and snacks. See their dining options.
Camping: Find RV and tent sites, apartments, and a meeting lodge with full hookups, pet-friendly campsites, picnic tables, and fire rings. Open May-October.
Weddings & Reunions: The Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center is the perfect location for weddings of all sizes, family reunions, and friends' gatherings. Their lakeside conference facilities include a nice variety of venues for all sizes of events. And with plenty of dining and lodging options, your entire group can stay and play together without driving to multiple locations.
Lake Junaluska 2021 Events
April 4, 2021: Easter Sunrise Service
An outdoor Sunday sunrise service and delicious breakfast buffet at the Lakeside Bistro. 2-night packages are available. Go to their website for details.
July 1-4, 2021: Independence Day Celebration
Celebrate a special BBQ lunch to-go and fireworks at 9:30 PM. Overnight packages include lodging, a lake cruise on the Cherokee IV, and a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard rental. Go to their website for details.
September 4, 2021: Friends of the Lake 5K Road Race & Walk
Celebrate Easter at Lake Junaluska with their annual Friends of the Lake 5K. This event supports the annual maintenance and improvement of recreation areas at Lake Junaluska. Go to their website for details.
November 24-26, 2021: Thanksgiving at Lake Junaluska
Enjoy a Thanksgiving feast at the Lakeside Bistro and a peaceful waterfront setting with a lakeside trail to walk off extra calories, rocking chairs for relaxation, and plenty of festive holiday decorations. Stay the weekend or visit just for a day. Go to their website for details.
December 2-5, 2021: Balsam Range Art of Music Festival
Enjoy the award-winning bluegrass group, Balsam Range, as they perform alongside friends for a festival featuring some of the top bluegrass and acoustic musicians in the nation. Go to their website for details.
History: Lake Junaluska was founded in 1913 to provide space for fellowship, worship, and recreation along the shores of a tranquil mountain lake. The name comes from Junaluska Mountain, which was named after a Cherokee Indian Chief who saved Andrew Jackson’s life during a battle. Steeped in Wesleyan heritage, Lake Junaluska first opened its doors at Stuart Auditorium in 1913. Lake Junaluska is historically connected to The United Methodist Church and open to the public year-round for conferences, group retreats, recreation, weddings, reunions, family events, and vacations.
Directions: Coming from Asheville, about 25 miles:
- From I-40 West, take exit 27 onto US 19-23.
- Drive 3 miles and take exit 103.
- Drive about 1 mile until you see Lake Junaluska gates on the right.
- Bear right and follow the main road to the entrance.