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9 Fantastic Lakes near Fayetteville, NC for Fishing, Kayaking, and Swimming

There are plenty of lakes around Fayetteville, but few offer public access. We compiled a list of lakes that are open to the public and provide fantastic swimming, fishing, and kayaking.

There are dozens of lakes near Fayetteville. But as you probably know, many of them are private, and finding one with public access can be tricky.

We’ve done the leg work and compiled a list of lakes that anyone can enjoy. It includes urban parks where only fishing and paddling are allowed, as well as the larger lakes with no restrictions at all.

However, only Jones Lake and White Lake have campgrounds, so if you’re renting an RV for a lake trip, the options are limited.

But for reeling in the biggest lunker of your life or simply chilling on a beach, there are fantastic spots. Check them out!

Lakes near Fayetteville:

  1. Glenville Lake
  2. Lake Rim
  3. Hope Mills Lake
  4. Upchurch Lake
  5. Jones Lake
  6. Singletary Lake
  7. White Lake
  8. Shearon Harris Reservoir
  9. Blewett Falls Lake
Lakes near Fayetteville North Carolina Comparison Table

1. Glenville Lake

  • Official Page: Glenville Lake
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 3 miles (7 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Hiking, Picnics, Playgrounds

Glenville Lake is part of Mazarick Park, just 3 miles from downtown. It’s the nearest place where you can fish and boat.

The lake has a large fishing pier and the Fishing Tackle Loaner Program so everyone can try their luck, not just seasoned anglers. The most common species are largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill.

Also, the lake offers jon boats for hire. It’s an excellent way to explore and fish. But when it comes to water recreation, that’s really it. Swimming and motorized boating are prohibited at Glenville Lake.

However, Mazarick Park has a lot more to offer. It has miles of hiking trails, various sports courts, and children’s playgrounds. During the weekends, it’s a buzzing place, but at the same time, it’s large enough to avoid the crowds.

Obviously, it’s not the traditional lake destination with jet skiing and trophy fish. However, it’s close to home, and that’s the biggest advantage.

Related: 11 Stunning Lakes near Greensboro, NC

2. Lake Rim

Lake Rim
  • Official Page: Lake Rim
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 12 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Picnics, Playgrounds

Lake Rim is another excellent option within Fayetteville. It’s more versatile than Glenville Lake and fantastic for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city.

The lake has a boat ramp, a pier, and a parking area. Motorized boating isn’t allowed, but kayaks and canoes are welcome. 

Fishing is the most popular activity on the lake, and you can expect to catch largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. Naturally, it’s too small for trophy-size lunkers, but 3lbs+ largemouth is typical.

Swimming is prohibited at Lake Rim. However, Lake Rim Park across the road offers a public pool and a splash pad; it’s the perfect place to cool off in summer. 

Also, the park has several sporting fields, playgrounds, and a hiking trail; it’s an excellent addition to the day at the lake.

Although it won’t win prizes for the best outdoor spot, Lake Rim is close to home and essential to Fayetteville’s community. It’s fantastic for day trips or afternoon expeditions.

Related: 15 Superb Lakes near Durham, NC

3. Hope Mills Lake

  • Official Page: Hope Mills Lake
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 7 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming

Hope Mills Lake is an 88-acre reservoir at Hope Mills, just 7 miles from downtown Fayetteville. It’s the nearest spot where swimming is allowed.

The lake has a boat ramp, a pier, and a designated swimming area that operates during warmer months. It’s a popular kayaking and canoeing spot.

Fishing is quite good at the reservoir, and the usual suspects are largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. Recently (2020), the lake has been drained to fix the dam. So the new stock is still growing, and you’re unlikely to catch anything larger than a couple of pounds.

The atmosphere at the lake is urban. It feels more like a city park rather than a wild lake. It also lacks trails, and the parking area is small and gets full quickly.

Despite all the drawbacks, it’s a worthy destination close to home, perfect for day trips.

Related: 9 Stunning Lakes near Greenville, NC

4. Upchurch Lake

Upchurch Lake
  • Official Page: none
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 23 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Upchurch Lake is a small reservoir north of Raeford. It’s a remote place far from the cities, primarily used by anglers.

The lake offers a boat ramp, a fishing pier, and a parking lot. Otherwise, it’s relatively primitive without restrooms or even garbage bins.

Fishing is unpredictable, but there are plenty of places to cast from. As usual, the most common catch is largemouth bass, but you will have to get lucky to get anything above 4 pounds.

Also, it’s an excellent kayaking and canoeing destination. There is plenty of wildlife and shoreline to explore. And the atmosphere is serene and tranquil.

Not far from the lake lays All American Trail. The 10-foot wide and 12 miles long path is straight as an arrow and a great place for hiking and cycling. It’s an excellent addition to the activities in the area.

The only issue with this location is that it can be hard to find. To access Upchurch Lake, you have to take June Johnson Rd and look for the turning towards the lake. Here are the coordinates of the turn; it’s marked with brown recreation signs.

Overall, Upchurch Lake is the top spot for unwinding in nature. You can cast a line, go for a paddle, or simply come for a picnic.

Related: 7 Unique Lakes near Wilmington, NC

5. Jones Lake

Jones Lake
  • Official Page: Jones Lake
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 36 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Camping, Picnics, Hiking

Jones Lake is a 224-acre lake southeast of Fayetteville. It’s a highly-rated and well-kept destination with plenty of activities. If you’re renting an RV to go on a lake trip, this is the nearest option.

The best thing about the lake is that it’s a part of the state park. You are guaranteed to have clean facilities, campgrounds, and rangers’ expertise. The park’s top reviews are a testament to that.

Swimming is allowed at Jones Lake during the warm season. The park offers a designated swimming area with a sandy beach. The tea-colored water is good at absorbing the sun’s heat and feels like a bathtub in late summer.

Other water-based activities include boating, kayaking, and canoeing. You can make use of the launching ramp if your boat is under 10hp. Or go paddling and exploring the shoreline. During the warm period, the park offers kayak and canoe rentals.

When it comes to fishing, the lake isn’t really known for that. However, water acidity makes it different from other lakes, creating a habitat for lesser-common species like chain pickerel, yellow bullhead, and bluespotted sunfish. So if you’re tired of catching largemouth bass, this lake is a good option.

Also, the state park offers 7 miles of hiking trails, developed campgrounds with a few hookups, and a nature center. It’s more than just a lake destination.

Overall, Jones Lake is not far, it has lots to do, and it’s peaceful and crowd-free. What more can you wish for!

Related: 15 Superb Lakes near Durham, NC

6. Singletary Lake

  • Official Page: Singletary Lake
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 47 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Hiking, Cabins

Singletary Lake is 572 acres in size, located not far from Jones Lake. It’s also a part of the state park but with access restrictions in place.

The best way to enjoy the lake is to reserve one of the group camping spots that consist of cabins, group grills, and a mess hall. In this case, there are no restrictions on activities, and you can swim and use the park’s canoes.

Another way is to visit the park as you normally would but make sure it’s free from groups beforehand. In this case, you can still enjoy the lake and the trails, but swimming won’t be allowed.

Alternatively, you can just pop in and take your chances if in the area. There are a couple of other lakes nearby, so you won’t drive home without seeing one, guaranteed.

Such restrictions keep the crowds away, and if you’re lucky enough to visit the park, it will surprise you with stunning views and diverse wildlife. But don’t plan on fishing; it isn’t great.

Related: 9 Stunning Lakes near Greenville, NC

7. White Lake

  • Official Page: White Lake
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 43 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Camping, RVs, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Jet Skiing, Tubing

White Lake is a 1,200-acre reservoir southeast of Fayetteville. It’s a popular family spot and the nearest lake with no boating restrictions.

State parks manage the lake. However, the land around it is a private resort community with public access areas.

It offers a beach, several piers, various accommodation options, and a water park. It’s a highly developed recreational lake, but all these amenities come with a price tag. 

Swimming and boating are the most popular activities at the lake, but fishing here is average. Still, skillful anglers can expect to catch 4lb+ largemouth bass; it’s there. Kayaking and canoeing are not common.

White Lake is a buzzing place, especially on summer weekends. You won’t find natural serenity here as it feels more like a city on the water than a wild lake. But it’s excellent for lakeside fun!

Related: 11 Stunning Lakes near Greensboro, NC

8. Shearon Harris Reservoir

Shearon Harris Reservoir
Photo: JMMelee / CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Shearon Harris Reservoir
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 47 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Jet Skiing, Hiking, Picnics

Shearon Harris Reservoir, aka Harris Lake, is 4,100 acres in size. It’s located near Raleigh and is known for bass fishing and boating.

You can access the lake by using the two boat ramps, one is at the southern tip, and another is on Bartley Holleman Road. Both ramps are recently renovated (2022) and offer paved access with restrooms and parking.

Another option is to visit Harris Lake County Park, which offers the perfect mix of modern facilities and nature. It has traditional areas like picnic shelters and sports courts, as well as miles of natural trails, fishing piers, and access for paddlers.

Shearon Harris Reservoir is excellent for fishing. It’s the most popular activity here. Largemouth bass, channel catfish, and black crappie dominate the lake. And although it doesn’t hold any state records, fish gets to a decent size here. For example, 7lb+ largemouth is typical.

There are a few drawbacks to the lake. Unfortunately, swimming isn’t allowed at Harris Lake, although some people wakeboard and water ski. Also, there are no campgrounds here, limiting the lake to day use only.

Still, Shearon Harris Reservoir is an excellent destination that is large enough to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s especially great for fishing.

Related: 7 Unique Lakes near Wilmington, NC

9. Blewett Falls Lake

Blewett Falls Lake
  • Official Page: none
  • Distance from Fayetteville: 69 miles (1h 25min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Jet Skiing, Picnics

Blewett Falls Lake is a 2,560-acre reservoir on the Pee Dee River, just west of Rockingham. It’s an ideal destination for outdoors fans and a popular fishing spot.

There are no developed parks for lake access. Instead, folks have a selection of three boat ramps; one at the northern tip and two at the southern end (one on each reservoir side). All ramps have parking and restrooms and get quite busy during weekends.

Fishing is fantastic at Blewett Falls Lake. It scores excellent reviews and produces large fish. Various species of catfish are the most common catches, and 10lbs+ lunkers are typical. Also, the lake is stocked with striped bass, but it’s harder to find.

Swimming, kayaking, and canoeing are also popular at the reservoir, although there are no designated beaches. 

As a fully recreational lake, there are no restrictions on water activities. However, it’s not best for fast water sports like skiing or wakeboarding due to the shoal areas and standing timber. You have to know your way around before skiing safely.

Although it’s over an hour’s drive from Fayetteville, it’s a worthy destination, especially if you have your own boat or love fishing. But if you were planning on bringing small kids or renting kayaks, this isn’t it.

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