Fontana Lake

North Carolina

Located along the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park,
this lake is a true wilderness lake with unparalleled hiking and mountain views.

Check out these Ultimate day hikes.

More breathtaking pictures of Fontana

Fontana Lake is roughly 30 miles long and is at an elevation of around 1700'. It is one of the deepest in the region. I have measured the depth to well over 400' in places. The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam and other park trails are accessible by boat. In this very remote part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you can find old family cemeteries from the 19th century, the remains of old homesteads and moonshine stills, and great trails. I suggest the hike from the end of Forney Creek to High Rocks up the Bear Creek Trail. High Rocks is a 5200' peak with an abandoned park service lookout cabin at the summit. This is an advanced hike, about 16 miles roundtrip with a total climb of over 3400' in elevation. Due to the remote location, you probably won't see any other hikers on this hike. You can also hike to Shuckstack Tower from the lake. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to get up to the tower via the Appalachian Trail from the dam or by the Lost Cove Trail from the end of Eagle Creek. It's only about an 8 mile round trip but each route has some steep sections so it seems longer. The view from the Shuckstack tower is one of the best in the GSM National Park.
The Ultimate Day Hike:
From the end of Forney Creek on Fontana Lake, you can hike to Clingman's Dome and back to the lake in one day using the Forney Creek Trail but it's about a 25 mile round trip and a vertical climb of nearly 5000'. You could also start the hike from Clingman's Dome and go down to the lake and back to Clingman's Dome but I'd much rather start from the lake and get the hard part over first. (day hikers should start this by 6 am). This is perhaps one of the only day hikes east of the the Rockies that has a 5000' elevation gain! I first did this hike on 7/06/01. It took 6 hrs to hike to the Clingman's Dome summit from the lake. Even though it was mid-summer, during the hike the temperature never exceeded 72 degrees F. So nice!

The North Shore of Fontana Lake is the largest tract of wilderness in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The proposed North Shore Road sponsored by now defeated Representative Charles H. Taylor (R - NC) to build a highway through this virgin wilderness is apparently dead! The National Park Service has begun preparation of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which, as drafted, calls for a monetary settlement to Swain County. This is the agency’s preferred alternative based on its extensive review. No building in the GSMNP is a victory for everyone!! Seventeen members of Congress wrote Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne endorsing a $52 million cash settlement to Swain County instead of building the "Road to Nowhere." Full text of the letter


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