A Place to Stay and Play in Clay County, NC

Hidden amidst the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and surrounded by the inviting waters of Lake Chatuge, visitors to Hayesville, NC can find a place kick back, relax and play at the Clay County Recreation Park. A mere two hours from bustling cities like Atlanta, Chattanooga and Ashville, Hayesville is a tiny town tucked into the majestic Nantahala National Forest in the Western Carolina mountains. If you blink, you might miss all the treasures this small town can show you. Visitors might be surprised to find that such a quaint place offers such expansive recreational options.

Hayesville’s charming downtown is the perfect place to wander through quaint shops, try out local eateries and visit the resident ice cream parlor, but once you’ve seen the downtown, put on your running shoes or your bathing suit, and enjoy the area’s outdoor fun at the Clay County Recreation Park located just Southeast of the town’s center. It’s sure to give you a lakeside afternoon you won’t find in the big city.

Endless Recreational Options

Outfitted with camping areas, bathrooms, shower facilities, a pavilion, playground, pathway, swim beach, fishing areas, ballpark, and public boat ramp, Clay County Recreation Area has something fun for everyone.

Those looking for a great camping experience will love camping at the Clay County Rec Park where the majority of campsites are conveniently positioned directly on the shores of Lake Chatuge. Even campsites that are not on the lake still overlook it, and provide unmatched views of all that the Nantahala National Forest is known for – beauty, tranquility and outdoor fun. Fortunately for all campers and daytime visitors, the rec park is an open area that makes it possible for all types of visitors to have easy access to the water. While the area welcomes its daytime visitors, it also accommodates tent campers and all types of RV campers. This area is referred to by the locals as Gibson Cove. For availability, visit Reserve America, which allows you to pick a spot suitable to your interests and needs.

Whether or not you and your family are camping at the park, all visitors have access to recreational activities and are welcome to enjoy the park as they wish. The playground and pavilions are located next to the family beach and swimming area, making it the perfect place to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening. There is no lifeguard present and visitors to the park are advised to swim at their own risk; however, the swimming area is visibly roped off for your protection.

Go on a long walk or jog, give the kids time to play their hearts out on the playground, and then enjoy a picnic by the water or cool off with some swim time. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy the scenic views of the Chatuge waters and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The breathtaking, peaceful surroundings will be just what you need for a perfect afternoon in the Western Carolina mountains.

A Park for All Seasons

The Clay County Recreation Area also provides access for kayakers, canoers and paddle boarders. If this is your idea of outdoor recreational fun, Clay County will not disappoint. Visitors can use the area below the Chatuge Dam parking lot (known to locals as the spillway) or by the playground/swimming area to access the water. Either input option provides you with access to miles of lake water. With the exception of the peak summer season when boaters are out in abundance, non-motorized water recreation will find the waters peaceful and calm.

Fishing is another widely-enjoyed sport that can find fulfillment at Clay County’s Recreation Area. Lake Chatuge, as well as the surrounding creeks and rivers, are home to an abundance of fish species making it an ideal spot for fishing. It is not uncommon to find professional fisherman enjoying the waters of Lake Chatuge, and depending on the time of year you visit the dam and rec park, you may even get the chance to witness fishermen engaging in various fishing competitions.

Although walking trails, playgrounds and pavilions are open throughout the year, the season for camping, restroom facilities and swimming runs from April 1st through October 31st. Even outside of that season, though, the park can be found bustling with activity. Many locals use the Chatuge Dam path as their daily walking or jogging path, regardless of the season. The views and beauty of the area provide plenty of incentive to get outside despite off-seasons.

Certainly, summertime is the season to smell meat sizzling over open fires, to listen to children laughing and splashing in the water, and to feel the energy of boats speeding by pulling skiers and knee boarders, but other seasons bring their own charm. The fall finds the park’s pathways covered in crisp leaves, creating an ideal environment for getting outside before the weather turns cold. Winter at the rec area brings its own kind of charm as well. The calm waters provide a stark contrast to the frigid air and make walking or jogging outdoors worth the effort. Once spring rolls around, the park quickly bustles back to life as plants begin to bloom and the playgrounds and ballparks begin to have more visitors. The area leisurely makes way for a new summer of fun. As you can tell, Clay County Recreation Area offers a year-round connection to the great outdoors.

Navigating the Pathways at the Rec Park

For those interested in walking, jogging, or even biking, the pathways at Clay County's Recreation Area is the perfect location for getting in that mileage. The path totals approximately 4 miles when done in its entirety. To complete all 4 miles, begin at the top (the spillway parking lot) and work your way down to the playground and back.

From the spillway lot, you will take the paved path that goes straight across the dam towards the wooded area. Go through the winding wooded path, and continue past the first set of bathrooms. Below the bathrooms, you will notice lake shore campsites next to a parking lot with boat ramp access off Myers Chapel Road. Cross the parking lot and enter another, shorter, patch of trees. At the end of this section, make a left, and continue through the lower campsites. Circle around the pavilion, passing the playground and beach area, and return to your starting point at the spillway parking lot.

Although more than 4 miles inevitably means repeating all or part of the same path, the changing scenery of each section helps to break up the boredom. If 4 or more miles is not appealing to your tastes, simply take a leisurely stroll across the dam, taking time to enjoy the vast views and the calming waters. As they say, being outdoors and spending time in nature is good for the soul. With views as peaceful as the Blue Ridge Mountains and waters as calm as Lake Chatuge, Clay County's Recreation Area will be exactly what you need during your visit to the Western Carolina Mountains.