Lake James State Park
Lake James State Park
4.5
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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles100 reviews
Excellent
57
Very good
27
Average
9
Poor
3
Terrible
4

robertdTN
Rutherfordton, NC486 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2022
Our company had a health and wellness retreat at Lake James State Park. The park has covered pavilions with tables and grills. A decent amount of parking and restrooms. The beach offers sand and a roped off area for swimming and enjoying the sun. On this day, the heat and humidity were almost unbearable. However, we enjoyed the fun and fellowship in the picnic pavilion.
Written August 2, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MamaMac23
Hickory, NC11 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2013 • Family
We are a family who LOVES camping, backpacking, and all things outdoors! However, we will never camp here again (which is a bummer because it is only 45 mins from home and has a lot of potential). I grew up not far from Lake James and always loved the area, but the rangers and staff of this state park are ruining the camping experience. There is trash everywhere, especially along the hiking trails and near the beach, but the rangers are more focused on searching coolers for beer than on keeping the place well-maintained and clean. Our nine year old, who is learning and practicing "leave no trace," picked up trash for them, but we had to stop her at the condom wrappers at the overlooks. When the ranger showed up at our campsite just before 9 p.m., he was not at all interested in those experiences; he went straight to searching our cooler and pouring out our beer. It was just our small family, and we were very close to bed time. We have stayed in MANY NC state parks, and no ranger has ever searched our cooler or poured out our beer. Couple these experiences with the small campsites (which are completely fenced off from the lake) that are hard to access, we will definitely never camp here again.

We did enjoy our time swimming at the Paddy's Creek beach area, but it was very small with absolutely no shade. We had fun, but we'll just head to the pool when we want to swim (especially since we can't enjoy hiking or camping here).
Written July 1, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

lavoshar
Asheville, NC10 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2013 • Family
Beware, campsites are walk in, which we knew upon booking campsite. What they do not tell you is the elevation drops by 500 ft or more from parking lot, on top of the 100 yard distance. Booked a site on the water near boat ramp for using our kayaks. Could not lug them down the slope (wiped out after lugging tent, camping food, etc.) Camping area, Catabawa River does not allow swimming in the water off your site, disappointing when it is 90 degrees. Also only "allowed" swimming area is in Paddy's creek area, you have to drive to and they charge $5 per person. Left after one night, got a run around and would not refund other 2 nights fee. Never going there again!!!
Written June 25, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2014 • Couples
Lake James State Park is beautiful, as is the lake. Sadly, the lion's share of the beauty is reserved for personal watercraft and boats and largely inaccessible for swimmers. We drove 2 hours from Winston Salem because we heard the water was clean and clear and we desperately wanted to swim in a lake. When we arrived and saw the length of the swim area was not greater than 20-30 feet, we were very disappointed. We, along with others asked the life guards what was up with the tightly restricted swim area. They informed us that once upon a time the lake was fuller and the swim/beach area bigger but as the water went down, they never updated the swim poles which mark where you can swim to. Its basically a beach fit for little kids and wading, not really meant for swimming. There is also no shade on the beach. And most important of all...they only take cash or NC checks; we had to drive 30 minutes to get to a working ATM. Bring cash to pay for your entry!
Written July 12, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kelly W
Bluff City, TN16 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Couples
So starting with the bad....if you are kayaking to the boat in only Long Arm areas....

1) You cannot unload your boat anywhere near the water. Be sure to either bring a kayak cart or be prepared to carry them down the gated off authorized use only boat ramp that everyone seem to be using. Also be prepared to carry all your camping gear to the boats. A kayak cart would have sure been useful.

2) I feel you are taking your life into your hands when you try to paddle to the boat in sites. You have to cross the main channel and/or main waterway at least twice to get to area 3. At one point I literally had 6 ski boats and pontoons passing me on all sides. I've paddled in the ocean in calmer water. My friend was even got tossed out of his sit on kayak by passing boat wake. Again, paddle at your own risk.

3) Make sure you know where you are going. Don't depend on getting any help from the park officials. Only 1 of the 3 park employees/volunteers was friendly and didn't act like they were too busy to fool with us. We talked to 4 different groups of folks camping in our area and each one of them said they got lost and cruised around the lake for hours trying to find the camping areas on their first visit to the park. Now keep this in mind if you're not in a motorboat. Kayaking around this unmarked lake trying to find your camping site on a weekend afternoon with a lake full of motorboats, not a good idea. Our lakes have big huge numbers on various points so you know exactly where you are when reading a map. I guess NC hasn't thought of this yet.

Now with the good....

It is an amazingly beautiful park. The campsites were nicely laid out. However the tent pads were impossible to drive a tent stake in. Pretty sure it was concrete under the crushed gravel. No huge deal. The vault toilets were kept really clean and best of all even had hand sanitizer in them. First time I've seen a working sanitizer dispenser in a vault toilet.

All in all, I doubt we will return. Or at least until we have a motorboat ourselves. We really enjoy kayak camping and glad we tried out this park but let's just say it was a learning experience. One last note, I know this is a long review but hopefully it will help someone else out. We would definitely have been much better prepared if this had been in previous reviews.
Written June 2, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

glack7
Nebo, NC6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2015 • Couples
Loved #12. it was perfect for sunbathing and I had my kayak right out front! We were not to close to our neighbors so that was nice. The site itself had everything we needed. The bathrooms were very nice and clean. All staff and Rangers we very nice and informative.
Written August 29, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Roberts
1 contribution
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2019 • Friends
The campground is modeled like a suburban neighborhood with a paved cul-de-sac and curbs? Not isolated at all and there are no woods around that make it anything like camping should be like. You have neighbors so close to you and the host is extremely rude and demanding. their campgrounds literally resemble a suburban neighborhood blueprint. Except the lots are for tents. Not at all a camping experience anyone would like if they actually like the outdoors and to get away from the connected world we live in today.
Written April 19, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Whiteharts
12 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2017 • Family
Spent the weekend at the new Paddy's Creek section for "car camping." Overall, a pleasant experience.

Pros:

*This is a new camping area, so the bath facilities, roads, etc. are all new and in fantastic shape.
*Campsites are outfitted with a nice tent pad, fire ring on a fire brick/cement pad, picnic table, and individual bear box.
*The actual camping area of each site is flat with clean gravel.
*One camp site designated for handicapped access has a paved parking pad and is barrier-free from the site to the bath house, which also has handicapped access showers and toilets.
*Nice camp host.

Pros or cons (depends on your preference):

*Some sites are screened from others by trees, and some sites are more open.
*The sites are really variable in how steep a slope it is from the parking spaces to the actual camping site. (The site marked for handicapped access is one of a few with flat entry, though.) All of the ones with slopes have cement stairs with handrails.
*The newness makes it feel pretty tamed or manufactured. (For example, some slopes are still covered in erosion control fiber until the vegetation grows in.) This could be a plus for new or reluctant campers.

Cons:
*Despite the State Park's being centered on the lake--and most of its attractions relating to being on or near the water--there is no access from this camping area to the lake (or even a mountain stream.) Even the official hiking trail that goes around this part of the park is up quite a slope from the lake. (People have, of course, made unofficial trails through the woods to the shore.)
*You have to drive out to put a canoe or kayak in the water or to go to the swimming area in the other section of the park.
*There is no open space or playground for little kids to run and play, so they tend to play in the road.

Still, a very good addition to Lake James State Park and the NC State Park System.
Written October 2, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

yogahike
Lake Norman, NC22 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2014 • Friends
I spent one night tent camping at Lake James State Park. The ranger came around to the site to collect fees. The amenities and bathrooms were clean. The firewood was 5$ flat rate, take as much as you like from the pile. A big plus. Although it rained that night and put our fire out :)

Be prepared to walk. Although they are walk in sites, and clearly listed, be prepared the bathrooms are located back up the hill at the parking area. I did not mind, however my camping friend did not like having to trek back up the hill 5-7 minute walk for the bathroom.

Next time I visit, I will definitely be bringing my kayak. Lake James is beautiful lake. Nature abounds. Although it was fun to hike the trails around the shore line, I really would have liked to venture further and by water.

Fellow campers had kayaks, pontoons and jet skis anchored or tied up right in front of their sites. Great idea for longer stays. Public boat ramp is located within a mile (approx) of campground.

It was so humid with the pending overnight rain, we took a swim at sunset to cool us down. Lovely with the campfire going and a swim right in front of our site. Memories made.

ONLY down side.....the septic drain field odor was strong (located on top of hill near the firewood) it would waft down to the campsites every so often. not a pleasing smell. only reason it is not a 5 star.
Written August 10, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jessica F
Waxhaw, NC30 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
This lake is big, but everyone (and there mama) is there. If you are looking to do water sports like wakeboarding or skiing, you better get there very early or right at dusk (you can do water sports up to an hour after sunset). Views are ok. The shore lines are packed with houses and docks. One after another.
I would say a better lake is Fontana Lake because even on a lot quieter,the views are better and the majority of the lake is in national forest or state park land. Also it is not over developed.
Written September 10, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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