2020 was the year that shocked you into reevaluating your life. 2021 is when we start to absorb the lessons and integrate them into our new way of being.
If you need time to reflect and process this, Lake Junaluska in the North Carolina Mountains has the right kind of energy to complete your transformation.
This hidden jewel is tucked away close the busy I-40 interstate, and only a 10-minute drive from cute and historic mountain town of Waynesville and 30 minutes from Asheville.
About Lake Junaluska, NC
Since 1914 people have visited this sacred place nestled into the Smoky Mountains of Haywood County for renewal, peace, and solitude.
It’s slow and quiet, with the lack of amenities that typically distracts: loud music, bustling waterside restaurants, wine bars and breweries.
It was just Savannah and I on this road trip – our first mother daughter trip together.
As lakes are one of the things I treasure most about living in North Carolina, I decided this would be a good stop, especially since I found a good deal on Booking.com for the Terraced Hotel with lakeside views, and it was so close to Waynesville.
I’m glad I decided to bypass the bed and breakfast in Waynesville for this quiet lake enclave that transcends time.
I had no idea until we turned left into the Lake Junaluska region, that it is a spiritual retreat, mostly for the United Methodist Church, although anyone can come here for the much-needed time out and reflection.
It has that quiet space and energy to help you, as Matthew McConoughey says in his Greenlights book, reconnect to yourself:
“We need to place ourselves in places of decreased sensory output so we can hear the background signals of our psychological processes. As the noise decreases, the signals become clearer. We can hear ourselves again, and we can reunite.”
I was raised a Catholic, but it has been some time since I’ve aligned with any kind of religion. I am, however, open and accepting of all kinds, but prefer my solitary path for connecting with the divine power I feel so omnipresent in my life.
Curious Savannah was uncertain at first, but her questions lead to great discussions about religion, faith, spirituality, and the choices we have to embrace it as part of our lives.
So, we did not take a dogmatic path for our stay at Lake Junaluska, we instead walked together to soak up the peaceful, silent energy and see where it led us.
Here are a few things that await you in this pretty North Carolina lake.
Walk the Labyrinth
Start your process of renewal, at the Labyrinth on the lawn east of Memorial Chapel on the lake. A labyrinth is a walking meditation, or path or prayer found in many cultural and religious traditions around the world.
Set your intention as you begin – what you hope to release or find an answer to – and as you wind back and forth towards the middle, start to let it all go.
When you reach the middle pause, reflect, and wait to hear or feel the messages, and then on your way back in quiet reflection allow the new way to integrate itself.
The beautiful views along the labyrinths path of Lake Junaluska made it easy to tune into the silent retrospection.
Lake Junaluska Walking Trail
The best way to experience Lake Junaluska, NC is to join the contemplative walkers on the scenic trail winding around the lake – beautiful in Spring with the splashes of pink and white blooming flowers.
You can walk the 3.8-mile full perimeter of the lake or cross the footbridge to shorten it to 2.3 miles. There are several resting points for meditation and reflection along the way and to soak up the panoramic views the water and surrounding Blue Ridge mountains.
It’s a well-kept maintained path with a couple of small inclines to get your heart beating. Look for the giant hedge animals as you walk! We loved this one of the dog.
Cyclists can also ride the loop, and many continue cycling into Waynesville (or vice versa)
Find Inspiration at Lake Junaluska Cross
For many, a highlight to a stay at Lake Junaluska is the giant lighted cross perched high on Inspiration Point overlooking the lake.
Constructed in 1922 on the elevated ridge, knowns as Inspiration Point overlooking the lake. It reaches 25 feet high from a stone base and is illuminated with 156 lights.
It’s a place of enduring light and hope, especially during these turbulent times and glows across the lake at night.
Sunset at Lake Junaluska
Reflect with gratitude at the base of the iconic illuminated Junaluska cross at Inspiration Point as the sunsets behind the mountains bathing the area in glowing orange and pinks of dusk.
Lake Junaluska Sunrise
Catch the early rays shimmering across the lake as the mist rises and the birds start to sing. It’s the serenity and stillness you need to hear the whispers of your soul.
Lake Junaluska Activities
During the summer months, you can rent boats, kayaks, and paddle boards for your lake fun. Lake cruises on the historic Cherokee IV also run and will share the history of the area.
There is also a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts and picnic tables. The Rose Garden Spring – roses budding on the Rose Walk, daffodils and tulips blooming
Golfers will love the Lake Junaluska Golf Corse with its sweeping lake and Blue Ridge Mountain views as you tee off.
There is a small gift shop selling coffee and ice cream and a wide range of spiritually minded goods at the Junaluska Gifts & Grounds.
Savannah and I sat on the rocking chairs on the porch watching the birds fly over the lake as she ate her mint choc-chip Hershey ice cream.
Those visiting from a religious perspective, will enjoy the World Methodist Museum housing the largest collection of Methodist history, artifacts, and memorabilia in the world.
Stay: The Terrace Hotel at Lake Junaluska, NC
We stayed at the Terrace Hotel located lakeside near the Harrell Center, Stuart Auditorium, and the Rose Walk.
We had breathtaking views from our room out over Lake Junaluska. Just a few steps from the hotel door and you are lakeside and on the trail.
The rooms were modern and comfortable and the hotel was affordable.
Rocking chairs line the balconies and inside is a huge recreation room with a fireplace, comfortable chairs, and chess boards.
The Lakeside Bistro on the third floor Terrace Restaurant with their creative Southern cuisine paired with mocktails.
Lambuth Inn, Lake Junaluska NC
Perched atop Inspiration Point, just above the cross is the historic Lambuth Inn. Built in 1912 and renovated in 2018, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It has seen guests such as Elanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon.
There is also a campground just over the road from the Lake Junaluska retreat area set back on the hill.
You can also listen to Savannah and I chat about our Chattanooga road trip on this Chattanooga podcast episode.
Eat + Shop: Waynesville
Only 10-minutes from Lake Junaluska is the cute mountain town of Waynesville. You’ll find boutique shopping and plenty of restaurants and bars if you want a little more upbeat temp and choice during your stay at Lake Junaluska.
On our brief visit, we ate at Boojum Brewery which was a relaxed restaurant with tasty pub food and craft brew.
Frog Level Brewing Co was also a lovely spot to enjoy a local brew in the outside beer garden by the creek. I found their food a little overpriced. But many rave about their beers as being some of the best in the Asheville region.
Savannah and I loved shopping in the local store, Robin Blu – they had a wonderful selection of clothes, homeware, and gifts.
Plenty to do nearby in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Lake Junaluska’s close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains, Asheville and the Biltmore Estate offers you plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure and big-name attractions in the North Carolina Mountain region.
Check out the following posts with a few of our favorites:
- Top Places to go in the North Carolina Mountains
- Climb 499 steps to the top of Chimney Rock
- Slip into Serenity in Lake Lure
- Welcome to the Biltmore Estate
- Breweries and stunning waterfalls in Asheville NC
- 45 Things to do in North Carolina (your Bucket List)
- Things to do in Bryson City during the Holiday Season (includes Polar Express)
Comment: Have you visited Lake Junaluska before? Do you seek spiritual places when you travel? Share some of your favorites.