9 Gorgeous Recreational Lakes near Boone, NC

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When it comes to lakeside fun, Boone has quite a few lakes on offer, most of which are within an hour’s drive.

And the best thing about them is the variety. There are small, cozy ponds where motorboating is prohibited, family-friendly lakes perfect for swimming, and massive reservoirs where anything goes. 

No matter what your hobbies are, Boone has an ideal option for you.

Lakes near Boone:

  1. Bass Lake
  2. Trout Lake
  3. Price Lake
  4. Watauga Lake
  5. Wildcat Lake
  6. Buckeye Lake
  7. W. Kerr Scott Reservoir
  8. Lake James
  9. Chetola Lake
Lakes near Boone North Carolina Comparison Table

1. Bass Lake

  • Official Page: Bass Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 9 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Canoeing, Nature Trips, Picnics, Hiking

Bass Lake is a 54-acre reservoir located in Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, just 20 minutes south of Boone. It’s a well-developed day-use location with stunning scenery.  

Despite its small size, the lake offers plenty of activities. For example, fishing is free to the public, and the lake is frequently stocked with catfish. You can borough fishing rods and even take home some of your catch. Look out for bass, crappie, and sunfish, too.

In addition to fishing from the pier, you can hire paddle boats, johnboats, and Gheenoe boats with motors and go on an adventure exploring the shoreline. But keep in mind that the lake doesn’t have launching ramps, and the use of personal craft is prohibited.

Another popular activity in the park is hiking. You can loop the lake, which is a 1-mile long stroll, or take the 4-mile trail that winds its way around the hills. Both options are easy, relatively flat, and gorgeous.

Although Bass Lake offers plenty to do, activities such as swimming and camping are prohibited here. Still, it’s a fantastic day-trip destination that shouldn’t be missed.

Related: 15 Stunning Lakes near Asheville, NC

2. Trout Lake

Trout Lake
  • Official Page: Trout Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 6 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Nature Trips, Hiking, Horseriding, Biking

Trout Lake is a small reservoir in Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. It is located 15 minutes south of Boone and can be easily accessed from Blue Ridge Parkway.

Compared to Bass Lake, Trout Lake is entirely undeveloped and enjoys very few visitors, making it an ideal spot for avoiding crowds and dissolving in nature.

The only activity that is allowed on Trout Lake is fishing, and, as the name suggests, you can expect to catch various types of prized trout here, as well as some warm water species. 

However, access to the water is difficult due to the dense woods and steep banks, limiting the perfect fishing spots to just a few. Still, this might be a good thing as it’s likely that the lake isn’t overfished, and there is plenty of trout.

Although you can’t swim, paddle, or boat on Trout Lake, there is plenty of hiking, biking, and horseriding trails in the area. You can climb the Rich Mountain, loop the lake, or hike all the way to Bass Lake.

Overall, Trout Lake is a peaceful destination set in a stunning location, perhaps best suited for solitude-seekers and nature trips.

Related: 11 Beautiful Lakes near Greensboro, NC

3. Price Lake

Price Lake
  • Official Page: Price Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 9 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Nature Trips, Hiking, Picnics, Camping

Price Lake is a popular stop on Blue Ridge Parkway and the most scenic lake near Boone. The reservoir is 47-acres in size and is part of the Julian Price Park.

In addition to its stunning location, the lake offers plenty of recreation activities. You can hire canoes, kayaks, and SUPs from the Price Lake Boat Rentals, fish from the pier, or enjoy numerous hiking trails that range from easy to strenuous.

Still, what makes Price Lake unique is its large campground with over a hundred sites for tents and RVs. Although it doesn’t have hookups, the campground is tidy, has plenty of space, and even offers a few sites right by the water.

Just like in Bass and Trout Lakes, swimming in Price Lake is prohibited. Yet, it’s one of the more versatile destinations around Boone and the perfect base for exploring the area and nearby lakes.

Related: 9 Fantastic Lakes near Fayetteville, NC

4. Watauga Lake

  • Official Page: Watauga Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 30 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Picnics, Camping, Swimming

Watauga Lake is a massive, 6,430-acre reservoir that dwarfs other lakes on this list. It’s located in northeastern Tennessee, some 30 miles from Boone.

Watauga is hands down the most versatile lake in the area. It offers a wide selection of activities with hardly any restrictions. You can swim, fish, paddle, and boat to all your heart’s desire here.

The reservoir has over a hundred miles of shoreline, half of which lies in pristine and undeveloped Cherokee National Forest. The lake is also known for its clean water, making it the top swimming destination in summer.

Naturally, the reservoir has a wide selection of recreation areas and marinas with beaches, boat rental shops, and campgrounds. The best way to find a spot for your needs is to check out the Cherokee NP page or try the Insider’s Vacation Guide.

Watauga Lake is a fantastic destination that will suit every type of adventurer. It’s developed enough to stay in comfort and large enough to offer primitive, secluded spots. The choice is yours!

Related: 15 Stunning Lakes near Asheville, NC

5. Wildcat Lake

Wildcat Lake
Photo: (kev)CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Wildcat Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 19 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Swimming

Wildcat Lake is a small 13-acre reservoir surrounded by densely covered hills. It is situated near Banner Elk, some 20 miles from Boone.

The lake is the best swimming destination in the area. It features a white sand beach, swimming dock, and a beach volleyball court and has lifeguards on duty.

In addition to swimming, you can go kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding here. Although seasoned paddlers may find the lake too small, it is perfect for beginners, especially stand-up paddlers who will enjoy the calm water.

Also, a few times a year, the reservoir is stocked with trout and largemouth bass. You can fish from the two fishing docks or the bank.

Although Wildcat Lake is free to enjoy, it is managed by Edgar Tufts Memorial Association – a non-profit that runs on donations. You can support the association to make sure the area stays open.

Perhaps the only drawback to Wildcat Lake is that dogs aren’t allowed here. Apart from that, it’s an ideal family destination for day trips, picnics, and of course, swimming.

Related: 15 Superb Lakes near Durham, NC

6. Buckeye Lake

Buckeye Lake
  • Official Page: Buckeye Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 22 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking

Buckeye Lake is a small reservoir part of the Buckeye Recreation Area in Beech Mountain; some 40 minutes drive from Boone.

The recreation center offers tons of fitness programs to its visitors, which is the main attraction here. But the lake itself only offers fishing and paddling. 

However, what makes the area unique is its stunning location. The pristine natural environment is gorgeous and rich in wildlife, with deer letting people as close as ten feet.

There are dozens of miles of trails that are the perfect way to explore the area, both on foot and by bike. 

Because Buckeye Lake isn’t the main attraction in this location, it’s frequently overlooked by anglers and paddlers, making it a lesser-known lake. So, it’s best suited to people looking for something new and peaceful.

Related: 11 Beautiful Lakes near Greensboro, NC

7. W. Kerr Scott Reservoir

W. Kerr Scott Reservoir
  • Official Page: W. Kerr Scott Reservoir
  • Distance from Boone: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing

W. Kerr Scott Reservoir is a 1,475-acre lake west of Wilkesboro. Although it’s located 30 miles away from Boone, the reservoir is easily assessable from Route 421 and can be reached in as little as 35 minutes.

The lake is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which means that most of the recreational areas around the lake are free for day use, and there are hardly any restrictions on activities.

Just like Watauga Lake, the reservoir offers multiple recreational areas, campgrounds, and day-use parks; check out their official page to find your ideal spot.

From fishing to swimming and paddling, you can do pretty much whatever you like on the water, including boating activities like wakeboarding, skiing, and jets.

And still, the area has more to offer. For example, there are dozens of miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking around the lake, mainly on the eastern side.

As you can see, W. Kerr Scott Reservoir is an adventurer’s Shangri-la; there is something here for everyone. And considering its size, activities, proximity, and affordable access, the reservoir must be the best lake destination on the list.

Related: 15 Stunning Lakes near Asheville, NC

8. Lake James

  • Official Page: Lake James
  • Distance from Boone: 54 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Swimming, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing

Although Lake James is over an hour away from Boone, it is a worthy destination with many activities and recreation spots. It sits between Morganton and Marion, just below the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The reservoir is comparable to Watauga and W. Kerr Scott Lakes in size, use, and amenities. You will find plenty of recreational areas here, including the popular Lake James State Park on the northern shore.

The park is free for day users and offers a swimming area, boat ramps, and a few campgrounds, one of which is boat-in. Also, there are kayak and canoe rentals.

Similar to W. Kerr reservoir, Lake James is great for hiking and mountain biking. It is a fantastic base for exploring the trails inside the state park, as well as the Linville Gorge Wilderness which has some of the highest-rated and challenging routes in the area.

Lake James is hands down the top lake destination for outdoor fans. And apart from the distance from Boone, it’s hard to find any drawbacks here. Best for multi-day trips!

Related: 9 Fantastic Lakes near Fayetteville, NC

9. Chetola Lake

Chetola Lake
  • Official Page: Chetola Lake
  • Distance from Boone: 7 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Chetola Lake is a private lake, part of the Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock. Yet, it’s only 7 miles away from Boone and can be a fantastic retreat.

The resort is known for its fishing clinic program that offers certified guides who can help improve your fishing technique, share their experience, and take you on fishing trips. 

Also, you can hire kayaks and canoes to enjoy the lake, but that’s pretty much it when it comes to water recreation.

Chetola Lake is best suited to people who enjoy the comfort stays or want to improve their fishing skills and catch big trout. 

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