Escape to the mountains for vacation adventures at Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The lake begins at Fontana Dam, North Carolina, and extends eastward to Bryson City. There are many vacation rentals on Fontana Lake, so no matter where you stay, adventures await you in every direction, including hiking in the National Park, water activities on the lake, white water rafting on the rivers and zip lining in the forests. Leave your humdrum schedule behind and dive into excitement or respite, or a little bit of each.

1. Take Your Boat Out on the Lake

If you have a boat, drive on up to the lake and put her in the water. Fish in the deep waters or just enjoy driving your boat around the lake. Put on those life jackets, take along some cold drinks and snacks, and make some waves.

2. Go Sightseeing by Pontoon Boat

Make your adventure whatever you want it to be on a rented pontoon boat. Go sightseeing anywhere along the 17 miles of the lake, and take a picnic lunch along to make a day of it. Stop when you want and do some swimming or go ashore for exploring.

3. Hitch a Ride on a Zipline

Adrenaline junkies, check out the zip line adventures available in the breathtaking Smoky Mountains. Choose obstacle courses, swinging bridges and straight zip line for some thrills. There are even some kiddie zip line adventures for the little ones. Get the gear you need, instructions and safety guidance from the zip line staff.

4. Take the Kiddies Swimming

Ease into the soothing waters of the lake and feel the stress and tension simply melt away. Relax with the kids in some gentle splashing and water games. Take the water wings, tubes, air mattresses, beach balls and noodles into the lake to make the games more fun.

5. Brave the Rapids

Parents and older kids can enjoy a wonderful introduction to white water rafting on the Nantahala River, with a perfect balance between rapids and still pools. If your kids are too young for the Nantahala, the Tuckasegee River has Class I and II rafting trips that offer great outdoor adventures for the whole family.

6. Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fontana Lake is about 17 miles long, and the eastern end is near Bryson City. It forms part of the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the northern border of the Nantahala National Forest. Using a boat, you can access some of the most remote areas of the National Park. If you go up to Clingmans Dome on a clear day, you can see the lake that lies nearly a mile below. There is so much to see in this National Park that you might want to consider spending a few days in different parts of it.

7. Enjoy Birding

Take advantage of the natural surroundings of the lake and the beautiful North Carolina mountains to teach the kids about bird watching. Field glasses help, but with some patience, you can see many species, including the colorful cardinal. Pack some water and snacks in your backpacks and make a day of it.

8. Catch a Fish

Open up a whole new can of worms and show the kids what it’s like to catch a fish. Even the little ones can share the excitement of seeing a bobber go underwater when a fish is nibbling the bait. Stop by the marina to get everything you need.

9. Play in the Sand

A shovel, a pail, a child, and a sandy lakeshore make a wonderful opportunity for some fun and some great photos for the family album. Dig in and help build a sand castle to make some great memories that last long after you wash off the sand.

10. Go Horseback Riding

Travel the scenic trails near Lake Fontana on horseback and give the whole family a memorable adventure. Be sure to take some pictures to share back home of the beautiful mountain vistas and peaceful lake views. Saddle up and hit the trail with a professional trail guide.