Bald eagles? Yes. Otters? Sure. Black bears? Yup. Bobcats? You betcha. Lake James and the land surrounding it are a paradise for wildlife. Winter is an excellent time to hit the woods and search for critters that can be easier to see now than any other season. Join Ranger Jamie Cameron for a hike on the Paddy’s Creek Trail, with plenty of views of the lake and great habitat for birds and animals. Meet at the Paddy’s Creek Area bathhouse breezeway at 10 a.m.
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Refresh! Relax! Ride! The Blue Ridge Travelers' Trails include refreshing waterfall and hiking trails, relaxing kayak and tube floats on the Catawba River and challenging, scenic rides on mountain routes like the Diamondback NC. Experience challenging, single track trails through the Pisgah National Forest, sip and savor the fruits of local boutique vineyards and explore our region of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls. You'll find something for everyone in Marion, Old Fort, Little Switzerland, Linville Falls and Lake James.
Marion - Where Main Street Meets The Mountains - Stroll down Main Street's scenic, historic section to find eclectic downtown shops, featuring the McDowell Arts Council's Gallery Gift Shop. Looking for a great place to play? The Joseph McDowell Greenway is bordered by the Catawba River. Easy access and this multi-use trail sees walkers, fishermen, bike riders and kayakers enjoying a slow float down the Catawba River.
Old Fort - Old Fort is a N.C. Mountain Trout Town. Mill Creek is a delayed harvest stream, flowing through downtown Old Fort. Fish the banks of Mountain Gateway Museum, to use the specialty license! This state museum interprets the region's pioneer-era and hosts several annual festivals. Stop by the county visitor center, next door and walk through Mill Creek Village. Old Fort is also well known for Catawba Falls, Andrews Geyser and its popular mountain biking and hiking trails.
Little Switzerland - In 1909, a Charlotte judge found the ideal vacation spot and founded the Switzerland Land Company. More than a century later, not much has changed and you can enjoy the same scenic mountain views and trails. Little Switzerland is located a few feet from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 334. You'll find hotels, inns, cabins/cottages and campgrounds in addition to great restaurants and local shops and attractions.
Linville Falls - This iconic region of the Blue Ridge is found at Milepost 316.4. The falls may be seen using multiple trail options. Stop by the visitor center to pick up maps and choose the best trail for your skill level. The falls are surrounded by 12,000 acres of protected forest land inside the Linville Gorge. The small tourist town is located nearby.
Lake James - Created in 1916 by Duke Energy, this lake is named for one of the company's founders, James Duke. Its surface area is approximately 6,812 acres with 150 miles of shoreline. There are two state parks offering tent camping sites, a swimming beach, canoe/kayak rentals, hiking and mountain bike trails. Two full service marinas and several public boat launch sites remain open year round. The lake continues to hold the national record for Muskellunge, recorded in 1988.