Gorgeous Lake Junaluska opened as a mountain retreat for the Methodist church in the early 1900s. Many do not realize that this lake "resort" 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, 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.
Boat Tour: Take an excursion on the Cherokee IV at 6 PM Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the summer. Cost is just $10 per person! Tickets are available online or at the boat dock behind the Harrell Center one hour before the tour. Lake cruises are also included in several of Lake Junaluska's vacation packages. See 2020 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 $10 day pass. Purchase at the Recreation Hut.
Inspiration Point: Adjacent to the historic Lambuth Inn, enjoy the spectacular lake, mountain, and sky views. Inspiration Point features benches, along with gardens. (Photo at top of page.)
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. 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.
Restaurants: Dining options include the Terrace Bistro restaurant with lakeside indoor and outdoor dining Wednesday-Sunday. Junaluska Gifts & Grounds, located in the Harrell Center, offers specialty coffee, hand-dipped ice cream, smoothies, sandwiches, and snacks. The Recreation Hut also has drinks, snacks, and ice cream.
Camping: Find RV and tent sites, apartments, and a meeting lodge with full hookups, pet-friendly campsites, picnic tables, and fire rings. Open April-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 Singers: This 16-voice professional ensemble has performed nationally and internationally for conferences, dignitaries and major events. Their music ranges from classical choral and contemporary works to gospel, folk, and musical theatre styles. Plan a visit to one of their concerts.
Lake Junaluska 2020 Events
April 11-12, 2020: Easter Celebration (Canceled)
Take part in Easter egg hunts, a 5K and fun run, an outdoor Sunday sunrise service, and delicious breakfast and lunch buffets. 2-night packages are available. Go to their website for details.
July 3-5, 2020: Independence Day Celebration (Canceled)
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 4-5, 2020: Smoky Mountain Folk Festival (Canceled)
Hear traditional music and dance of the Southern Appalachian Region with fiddlers, banjo players, string bands, ballad singers, buck dancers, and square dance teams. 2-night packages include lodging, continental breakfasts, and access to all concerts. Go to their website for details. Go to their website for details.
November 25-27, 2020: Thanksgiving at Lake Junaluska
Enjoy an exquisite Thanksgiving feast in the mountains. Choose and cut your own Christmas tree at a nearby farm to take home with you. Tickets to Biltmore Estate may be purchased with packages. Go to their website for details.
December 2-5, 2021: Black Balsam Music Festival
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. The World Methodist Museum on the lake houses the largest collection of Methodist history, artifacts, and memorabilia in the world.
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.