A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

On most Sunday afternoons, Carol Barnao paddles across Lake Junaluska in her kayak, the sun glistening off the water like glitter, the mountains surrounding her. “It’s my favorite place to

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On most Sunday afternoons, Carol Barnao paddles across Lake Junaluska in her kayak, the sun glistening off the water like glitter, the mountains surrounding her. “It’s my favorite place to

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On most Sunday afternoons, Carol Barnao paddles across Lake Junaluska in her kayak, the sun glistening off the water like glitter, the mountains surrounding her. “It’s my favorite place to

Summer Getaways at Lake Junaluska

On most Sunday afternoons, Carol Barnao paddles across Lake Junaluska in her kayak, the sun glistening off the water like glitter, the mountains surrounding her.

“It’s my favorite place to be,” she says. “It’s so idyllic.”

After countless visits to enjoy the lake and trails, Barnao moved to the lakeside community in Haywood County with her family five years ago. She often paddles with her husband, Matt, and their children Ethan, 9, and Lily, 6. The lake offers the perfect vantage point to look at the swans, ducks, and geese or engage in a friendly competition to see who can reach the opposite shore the fastest.



One summer afternoon, as Barnao was preparing to put a kayak in the water, a visitor approached and asked about renting kayaks. When Barnao shared that she lived at Lake Junaluska, the visitor said something she’ll never forget: “It must be amazing to live where people vacation.”

In 1913, Lake Junaluska opened as a mountain retreat for the Methodist church. On the grounds are a memorial chapel and the Lake Junaluska Cross, perched on a bluff, overlooking the lake. It remains sacred ground for faith communities and visitors alike, as well as a meaningful gathering spot for family reunions, weddings, conferences, and getaways.

“At one time, the gate at Lake Junaluska’s entrance limited visitors to the grounds, but that changed 60 years ago,” says Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska. “Lake Junaluska opened to the public and we continue today to welcome all to come here for renewal and transformation and to spend a weekend, a day, or just an afternoon in this beautiful, sacred place.”

Take in the beautiful views as you stroll along the paved trail that surrounds the lake. photograph by Lake Junaluska

Lake Junaluska is still a popular retreat for those seeking sanctuary, fulfilling its mission to be “a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body.” Meaningful moments happen not only at the chapel and the Cross, but also paddling across the water, enjoying the walking trail that follows the perimeter of the lake, walking the labyrinth, or meditating in one of the 16 beautiful, lush gardens.

The property is also a popular place for families looking for a spot to unplug and reconnect. Guests can take part in Lake Junaluska’s Summer Activities Program, which features free and low-cost summer activities from bonfires to devotions. Some families return year after year for Lake Junaluska’s Independence Day Celebrations to enjoy the music, barbecue, and fireworks over the water.

“We feel a connection here that we don’t get when we’re in the house, on our devices,” Barnao says.

Lake Junaluska is a popular place for families looking for a spot to unplug and reconnect. photograph by Lake Junaluska

In 2019, April Post brought her family to Lake Junaluska for summer vacation. She booked a room at the Lambuth Inn, a renovated hotel built in 1921 listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and purchased tickets to the circus, where acrobats, jugglers, and aerialists performed as part of the annual Lake Junaluska Independence Day Celebrations.

The children, Ashleigh, 12, Brooke, 10, and Colton, 3, loved the performance, and Post and her husband loved how much there was to see and do at Lake Junaluska. Post described the grounds as a tranquil, hidden gem.

“I didn’t realize there would be so much to do,” she says. “I wished we’d stayed longer and had more time to explore.”

The grounds are home to two hotels — the Lambuth Inn and The Terrace Hotel, which has modern accommodations with lake views — as well as vacation rental cottages and a campground.

It’s easy to spend your stay moving from one activity to the next: climbing on the equipment on the award-winning playground, canoeing or kayaking around the lake, swimming in the pool, playing a round of golf on the Lake Junaluska Golf Course or just a round of mini golf, taking a seasonal boat tour on the Cherokee IV, and roasting marshmallows around the Shackford firepit — with just enough time in between to snap a few photos and indulge in a scoop of ice cream from Junaluska Gifts and Grounds.

Activities abound at Lake Junaluska, including a round of golf on the Lake Junaluska Golf Course. photograph by Lake Junaluska

Post appreciated the walkability and diversity of family-friendly activities; after checking in to Lambuth Inn, she parked the car and walked everywhere. “I enjoy the community feel and walking places so that you get to enjoy the beautiful scenery,” she adds.

Take in the views from the meditation pier, stroll along the paved trail that surrounds the lake, or listen for the birds in the Corneille Bryan Native Garden.

The gardens burst into bloom in the summer, and each one, from the lakeside butterfly garden to the tucked away Susanna Wesley Garden, are filled with a diversity of colorful, fragrant flowering plants. You can literally stop and smell the roses on the Rose Walk; the lakeside garden boasts 200 colorful and fragrant rose bushes.

After a day of exploring, have dinner on the patio at the Lakeside Bistro. The spacious new restaurant in The Terrace Hotel serves modern Southern cuisine such as skillet cornbread, “angeled” eggs, and grilled chicken pimento sandwiches. The terrace, which overlooks stunning Lake Junaluska, is the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Guests can enjoy modern Southern cuisine and stunning views of Lake Junaluska at the Lakeside Bistro. photograph by Lake Junaluska

From tranquil lakeside nature walks to family fun at the pool, Lake Junaluska brings generations of family together — kids, grandparents, parents — with something for everyone to enjoy.

Plan your getaway at lakejunaluska.com/summer.

This story was published on Apr 16, 2021

Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer

North Carolina-based journalist Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment.