Best of Both Worlds

Mountains and water mix for a getaway to suit everyone

A boardwalk hugs the shoreline on Lake Lure, where visitors can explore the mountain lake by rental boat, canoe and kayak, or by taking a guided boat tour.
A boardwalk hugs the shoreline on Lake Lure, where visitors can explore the mountain lake by rental boat, canoe and kayak, or by taking a guided boat tour.
A far-reaching view of Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Mountains awaits visitors at the top of Chimney Rock State Park.
A far-reaching view of Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Mountains awaits visitors at the top of Chimney Rock State Park.
The cascading waters of the Rocky Broad River flow through Hickory Nut Gorge in Chimney Rock, where they eventually run into Lake Lure, before continuing on into surrounding foothills. Caroline Morgan and Imanol Bautista of Gaffney, S.C., hike one of several scenic trails at Chimney Rock State Park.
The cascading waters of the Rocky Broad River flow through Hickory Nut Gorge in Chimney Rock, where they eventually run into Lake Lure, before continuing on into surrounding foothills. Caroline Morgan and Imanol Bautista of Gaffney, S.C., hike one of several scenic trails at Chimney Rock State Park.
Lake Lure’s 100-yard-long sandy beach is a cool place to be on a hot day. Its water games, slides, picnic shelter and fantastic mountain views attract visitors from all over, like Lindsay Wilson from Inman, S.C., who shoots down a water slide. “The lake water is really cool, and it’s closer than driving to the beach,” she says.
Lake Lure’s 100-yard-long sandy beach is a cool place to be on a hot day. Its water games, slides, picnic shelter and fantastic mountain views attract visitors from all over, like Lindsay Wilson from Inman, S.C., who shoots down a water slide. “The lake water is really cool, and it’s closer than driving to the beach,” she says.
Zach and Nicole Horn of Fletcher, N.C., enjoy craft beers while cooling their feet in the Rocky Broad River in Chimney Rock.
Zach and Nicole Horn of Fletcher, N.C., enjoy craft beers while cooling their feet in the Rocky Broad River in Chimney Rock.
Nana, a white Labrador retriever, gets nosy while Thomas and Annie Arvin of St. Simons Island, Ga., relax with Annie's mother and grandmother, Catty and Pat Franklin, during a visit to Fonta Flora Brewery near Lake James. Built on a former dairy farm with views of the Linville Gorge, the farmhouse brewery serves craft beer and farm-to-table foods “highlighting the land.”
Nana, a white Labrador retriever, gets nosy while Thomas and Annie Arvin of St. Simons Island, Ga., relax with Annie's mother and grandmother, Catty and Pat Franklin, during a visit to Fonta Flora Brewery near Lake James. Built on a former dairy farm with views of the Linville Gorge, the farmhouse brewery serves craft beer and farm-to-table foods “highlighting the land.”
Morganton resident Theresa Fox explores Lake James in her canoe at sunrise. The lake’s crystal-clear waters and striking mountain views are huge draws for nature lovers.
Morganton resident Theresa Fox explores Lake James in her canoe at sunrise. The lake’s crystal-clear waters and striking mountain views are huge draws for nature lovers.
Located inside the 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa, the Veranda Restaurant serves elegant meals along with views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. The historic, 69-room hotel at the heart of area attractions is popular for weddings, conferences or just lounging by the pool.
Located inside the 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa, the Veranda Restaurant serves elegant meals along with views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. The historic, 69-room hotel at the heart of area attractions is popular for weddings, conferences or just lounging by the pool.
The 535-million-year-old cliff at Chimney Rock State Park at is a must-see destination for those looking to connect with nature. The park is part of the Hickory Nut Gorge, a 14-mile-long canyon that cuts through the Blue Ridge Mountains to communities of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Visitors can climb the 500 steps to the top of the granite rock or take an elevator. The 6,956-acre park also offers hiking trails, waterfalls, rock-climbing, horseback-riding and educational programs.
The 535-million-year-old cliff at Chimney Rock State Park at is a must-see destination for those looking to connect with nature. The park is part of the Hickory Nut Gorge, a 14-mile-long canyon that cuts through the Blue Ridge Mountains to communities of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Visitors can climb the 500 steps to the top of the granite rock or take an elevator. The 6,956-acre park also offers hiking trails, waterfalls, rock-climbing, horseback-riding and educational programs.
A historic bridge spanning the Rocky Broad River, scheduled for demolition in 2011, remains open, but only to foot traffic visiting its flowering gardens. The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge was created by a group that campaigned to turn the structure into a garden and pedestrian walkway.
A historic bridge spanning the Rocky Broad River, scheduled for demolition in 2011, remains open, but only to foot traffic visiting its flowering gardens. The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge was created by a group that campaigned to turn the structure into a garden and pedestrian walkway.
A moderate hike at Chimney Rock State Park rewards trekkers who visit Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot waterfall that was featured in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.”
A moderate hike at Chimney Rock State Park rewards trekkers who visit Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot waterfall that was featured in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.”
Boaters will find plenty of room to play and explore on Lake James, west of Morganton. The lake also has a 600-foot sandy beach at Lake James State Park, and offers swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, camping and fishing.
Boaters will find plenty of room to play and explore on Lake James, west of Morganton. The lake also has a 600-foot sandy beach at Lake James State Park, and offers swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, camping and fishing.
Lake Lure’s 21 miles of secluded shoreline is home to more than 1,500 private houses, many of which are vacation rentals.
Lake Lure’s 21 miles of secluded shoreline is home to more than 1,500 private houses, many of which are vacation rentals.

From its sweeping mountain views to its spacious ocean vistas, North Carolina’s diverse geography offers vacations for all tastes. But if you can’t decide between mountains or beaches, experience the best of both worlds at Lake Lure and Lake James.

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about four hours west, these man-made lakes and bountiful surroundings include soaring cliffs and sandy beaches, pristine forests and cool, river-fed swimming holes.

Famous as the setting for the movie “Dirty Dancing,” Lake Lure lives up to its reputation as a secluded mountain retreat. Sitting at the base of the Hickory Nut Gorge in Rutherford County, the lake is surrounded by mountains, with lake homes tucked along a lush shoreline. Nearby are restaurants, lodging and a sandy beach.

Outdoor adventure awaits up the mountain at Chimney Rock State Park. Here you can climb (or take the elevator) to the top of a 315-foot granite monolith called the Chimney and enjoy the breathtaking views across the lake and the gorge. Or you can hike the Hickory Nut Trail and cool off under one of the state’s highest waterfalls. When you’re ready to relax, dip your feet in the Rocky Broad River while enjoying a craft beer at Chimney Rock Village, or you can meander through the blooms and blossoms at the Flowering Bridge.

Drive about an hour north, and you’ll find crystal-clean water at Lake James. Located at the base of Linville Gorge, “North Carolina’s Grand Canyon,” the 6,812-acre reservoir has 150 miles of shoreline bordering Burke and McDowell counties, about 45 miles east of Asheville.

Along with boating, swimming and fishing, Lake James has 25 miles of forested hiking trails along the Fonta Flora State Trail, many of which are open to mountain biking. After all the exploring, grab dinner in nearby Morganton, and sample the local flavors at Fonta Flora Brewery on Whippoorwill Farm in Nebo.

Whether you are looking for an elevated adventure or a sandy beach retreat, lake-life opportunities abound where mountains meet the lakes.

If You Go

  • The Belle at Avery/Bed & Breakfast. 404 Avery Ave., Morganton, N.C., (828) 403-6969
  • The Inn at Glen Alpine. 105 Davis St., Morganton, N.C., (828) 584-9264, innatglenalpine.com
  • 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa. 2771 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure, N.C., (828) 625-2525, lakelure.com
  • Fonta Flora Brewery. 317 N. Green St., Morganton, N.C., (828) 475-0153, fontaflora.com
  • Chimney Rock State Park. 742 Chimney Rock Park Road, Chimney Rock, N.C., chimneyrockpark.com
  • Lake James State Park. 7321 NC-126, Nebo, N.C., ncparks.gov/lake-james-state-park/home

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