North Georgia is known for its stunning landscapes, with majestic mountains for hiking, the lush Chattahoochee National Forest, and wondrous waterfalls seemingly everywhere you turn.
Nestled among it all, you’ll also some truly beautiful North Georgia lakes, whose tranquil waters offer mirrored reflections of the natural beauty that surrounds them.
Whether you’re looking for a scenic lakeside hike, a day of kayaking, or to try your luck at fishing, these lakes make for a perfect family trip or romantic getaway in North Georgia.
Here’s a look at our picks for the 20 best lakes in the North Georgia mountains, including some of our favorite activities to do while you’re in the area!
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Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains Guide
- Black Rock Lake
- Carters Lake
- Conasauga Lake
- Dockery Lake
- Fort Mountain Lake
- Lake Acworth
- Lake Allatoona
- Lake Blue Ridge
- Lake Burton
- Lake Chatuge
- Lake Lanier
- Lake Rabun
- Lake Trahylta
- Lake Tugalo
- Lake Winfield Scott
- Lake Yonah
- Nottely Lake
- Richard B. Russell Lake
- Tallulah Falls Lake
- Unicoi Lake a.k.a Smith Lake
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1. Black Rock Lake
(17 acres in Mountain City GA)
Located near the town of Clayton in Black Rock Mountain State Park, Georgia’s highest, picturesque Black Rock Lake is situated among beautiful forests of white pine and yellow poplar.
For an easy stroll to take in the sights, there’s a short 0.85-mile loop trail around Black Rock Lake that is especially serene in the mornings, before the lake gets more crowded with visitors.
On the trail, there are two wooden bridges that cross Taylor Creek and Greasy Creek (the two streams that feed into Black Rock Lake), and an 80-foot bridge located on the lake’s southwest corner over Cricket Cove.
As you pass by Taylor Creek, there are several tables you can stop at if you’re looking for a great picnic spot, or just a shady place to rest after an active day at the lake.
The lake is well-known among anglers seeking catfish, bream, yellow perch, and largemouth bass, some of which weigh over 10 pounds! It’s also regularly stocked with rainbow trout.
Small non-motorboats are permitted here, but there’s a 160-foot wooden boardwalk perfect for casting a line. There’s also wheelchair-accessible pier close to Turtle Rock.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Clayton GA
2. Carters Lake
(3,200 acres in Ellijay GA)
Carters Lake is one of several man-made lakes in Georgia’s Blue Ridge mountains. It was developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers by damming the Coosawattee River.
The Carters Lake Dam is 445 feet tall, making it the tallest earthen dam east of the Mississippi River.
At 450 feet deep, Carters Lake is the deepest lake in Georgia. And although it has 62 miles of shoreline, there are no private docks or commercial developments here, making it perfect for people who want a more private lake experience.
The vast shoreline is great for a beach day, as you can always find an open spot to put up some umbrellas, lay out towels, and soak up the sun right by the water.
There’s also a full-service marina where you can rent boats and kayaks to take out on the lake, as well as Ellijay cabin rentals if you’re looking to stay the night.
The lake is filled with largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped bass, walleye, crappie, bream, and catfish.
There are also several great hiking trails surrounding the lake, including the Oak Ridge Trail, which starts lakeside and concludes near a creek.
Other trails include the Hidden Pond Songbird Trail, which leads to a beaver pond, and the Carters Lake Nature Trail, which offers opportunities to spot lots of native flora and fauna.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Ellijay GA & Gilmer County
3. Conasauga Lake
(19 acres in Chatsworth GA)
Located near the summit of Grassy Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Conasauga Lake is the highest lake in Georgia (3,150 feet above sea level).
This spring-fed lake was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940, and is now known for its gorgeous blue water and the wide array of plants, Georgia birds, and wildlife found in the area.
There’s a roped-off area here specifically for swimming, as well as a couple of boat ramps if you’re looking to fish for the bass, bluegill, and trout that are kept well-stocked.
The lake’s scenic location makes for some truly breathtaking hiking trails.
The 1.7-mile Lake Conasauga Songbird Trail takes you along beaver ponds, a mountain bog, and a forest frequented by songbirds, while the 5.3-mile Grassy Mountain Tower Trail leads to a historic fire tower atop the mountain.
But while the area is filled with adventure, Lake Conasauga is also a great place for a quiet day off, packing a picnic, relaxing by the lake, and enjoying the beautiful waterfront views.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List
4. Dockery Lake
(6 acres in Dahlonega)
Although it’s a relatively small lake, Dockery Lake is surrounded by beautiful land that draws people in with its quaint and peaceful atmosphere.
The lake is tucked away deep within the North Georgia mountains about 12 miles north of Dahlonega, so it’s more remote than some of the other lakes on the list.
The Dockery Lake Recreation Area offers excellent camping, hiking, picnicking, and fishing opportunities.
There are 11 campsites with standard amenities like a grill, lantern post, and picnic tables. Restrooms and drinking water are also available.
If you want to explore more of the surrounding area, the 3.4-mile Dockery Lake Trail offers a chance to do just that. It also provides access to day hikes on the Appalachian Trail!
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Dahlonega GA & Lumpkin County
5. Fort Mountain Lake
(17 acres in Chatsworth)
Located at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains, close to the Cohutta Wilderness and Ellijay GA, Fort Mountain Lake is part of the historic Fort Mountain State Park.
This fantastic Georgia state park officially opened in 1936, with many of the park’s buildings and facilities (including the lake) being built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
There’s a lakeside beach where adults can relax and soak in the sun while kids play in the water. Kayak, canoe, paddleboard, Jon boat, and pedal boat rentals are also available here.
Fishing is not permitted from the beach or pedal boat dock, but it is allowed along other areas on the shore. Common catches on the lake include catfish, bream, and largemouth bass.
There are plenty of hiking trails to explore nearby, including the one-mile CCC Fire Tower Trail and the 8.7-mile Gahuti Trail. The 1.2-mile Fort Mountain Lake loop trail provides the best views of the lake.
The trail is short and flat, with interpretive signs that describe North GA wildflowers and fauna. So it’s a great educational trail for kids and adults alike!
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6. Lake Acworth
(260 acres in Acworth)
Located close to Lake Allatoona, Lake Acworth is a man-made lake that is a popular getaway from Atlanta.
The northern shore boasts a beach with a designated swimming area that’s open from dawn to dusk, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. There are bathrooms, a changing station, and showers close by.
Cauble Park is also on this side of the lake, with two playgrounds and picnic tables scattered throughout. There’s also a gazebo and pavilions available for rent, including a grill, electrical outlets, and lights.
The Community Beach House, which has space for up to 100 people, can also be rented. It includes a conference room, kitchen facilities, a dining area with plenty of tables and chairs, and restrooms.
On the east side of the park, you’ll also find a boat launch (only boats with trolling motors are allowed) and a fishing dock.
Fish commonly caught in Lake Acworth include largemouth bass, bluegill, red ear sunfish, crappie, carp, catfish, and bullheads.
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7. Lake Allatoona
(12,010 acres in Acworth GA)
Drawing in nearly 7 million visitors each year, Lake Allatoona is one of the most popular Georgia lakes managed by the U.S Army Corp of Engineers.
Between the 270 miles of shoreline and 25,000 acres of public land surrounding the lake, there’s no shortage of activities at Red Top.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day on the beach or an adventure hiking the trails that wind throughout the area, there’s always something fun to do here.
The sheer size of the lake makes every on-water adventure possible, including swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and standup paddle boarding.
There are eight privately-owned marinas on to the lake that provide fuel, boat and jet ski rentals, and more.
Off the water, there’s plenty to explore, with over 500 campsites and 150+ picnic sites. Red Top Mountain State Park is located on Lake Allatoona’s shores, offering lots of hiking trails as well.
Our favorite hike is the 5.3-mile Red Top Mountain Homestead Trail, which follows along the lake’s shoreline, explores the lush surrounding forest and features an authentic Appalachian cabin.
There’s also the 4.5-mile Pine Mountain Trail, offering stunning lake views from the top, and the quick .75-mile Red Top Mountain Lakeside Trail, which is family-friendly and ADA accessible.
Don’t miss the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center, which explains the area’s history through video exhibits and displays!
READ MORE: The 10 Best State Parks With Cabins In Georgia
8. Lake Blue Ridge
(3,290 acres in Blue Ridge GA)
With its crystal clear waters, stunning mountain views, and location just 3 miles from the awesome restaurants in downtown Blue Ridge, Lake Blue Ridge is one of the most popular and picturesque mountain lakes in Georgia.
The lake was created in 1930, when the Blue Ridge Dam was constructed on the Toccoa River by the Toccoa Electric Power Company.
Today it has around 60 miles of shoreline, 80% of which is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The surrounding area includes Cabins to Rent, 90 National Forest campsites and plenty of trails to explore. These include the classic 0.8-mile Lake Blue Ridge Loop Trail, which offers great views of the lake and opportunities to spot wildlife.
For access to the water, the Lake Blue Ridge Recreational Area is on the west side of the lake, offering a free boat ramp and recreational area with a perfect view of the mountains.
There is also the Morganton Point Recreational Area, which has a pebble beach perfect for swimming and enjoying the views.
The Lake Blue Ridge dam offers kayak and canoe access to the lake, and non-motorized boat access to the Toccoa River.
To rent pontoon boats, kayaks, and paddle boards, you can visit the Blue Ridge Marina. While you’re there, be sure to grab a bite to eat at the Boat Dock Bar & Grill!
READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge, GA
9. Lake Burton
(2,775 acres in Clayton GA)
One of the first Georgia lakes created for power generation in 1920, Lake Burton gets its name from what was once the largest town in Rabun County, Burton, which is now submerged under water.
Moccasin Creek State Park is located on the western side of the lake, where Moccasin Creek comes into Lake Burton.
The beautiful little park boasts hiking trails, campgrounds, a picnic shelter, playground, boat dock and ramp, as well as a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier.
There are also several waterfalls to explore nearby, including Hemlock Falls (not to be confused with the Hemlock Falls at northwest GA’s Cloudland Canyon State Park).
And Jones Bridge Park offers a scenic overlook of the lake as well as picnic shelters with tables.
If you’re ready to get out on the water, there are three Lake Burton marinas where you can rent boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards to take to the lake.
If you’re just looking to relax on a white sandy beach, there’s Timpson Cove Park.
Fishing is another popular activity here, thanks to a diverse population that includes largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish.
Lake Burton even holds Georgia state records for walleye (11 pounds) and yellow perch (2.5 pounds)!
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10. Lake Chatuge
(7,500 acres in Hiawassee GA)
Spanning the border of Georgia and North Carolina, Lake Chatuge is nestled in between beautiful NC forests and some of the tallest mountains in GA. Needless to say, the views are spectacular!
The lake was formed in the 1940s, when the Tennessee Valley Authority constructed a 2,950-foot earth-and-rock dam across the Hiawassee River. It now boasts over 130 miles of shoreline.
There are public boat ramps providing easy access to water sports such as skiing, with two marinas where you can rent everything from jet skis and pontoon boats to kayaks.
The shores are home to various Lake Chatuge campgrounds, but the Towns County Recreational Beach is the most popular spot to relax lakeside or jump in the water for a swim.
For more exploration opportunities, the Lake Chatuge Trail & Recreation Area has a low-impact wooded shoreline and a 1-mile round-trip hiking trail that explores a pine and hardwood forest while providing you with plenty of views of the glistening lake.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Hiawassee GA & Young Harris GA
11. Lake Lanier
(38,542 acres in Gainesville GA)
Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, Lake Lanier attracts several million visitors each year and is regarded as one of America’s favorite lakes.
Named after 19th century Georgia poet Sidney Lanier, the lake was formed when the Buford Dam was created in 1956, with water flowing in from the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers.
It’s now the biggest lake in Georgia, with nearly 700 miles of shoreline.
The lake has everything you would expect and then some, with great boating, kayaking, water skiing, swimming opportunities, and even golfing facilities in the area.
Fisherman tend to have the best luck here catching spotted bass, crappie, striped bass, and catfish, as well as white bass, walleye, bluegill, and redbreast.
There are plenty of picnic spots and camping opportunities as well, with over 40 parks and 10 campgrounds along the shoreline.
Lake Lanier is home to Don Carter State Park, Georgia’s newest state park, which has 4 miles of hiking trails, a recreational beach, and cabins for overnight stays.
There’s also the upscale Lanier Islands Resort, which offers a variety of lodging options, plenty of lakeside amenities, and one of our favorite North Georgia Christmas events.
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12. Lake Rabun
(835 acres in Rabun County GA)
Lake Rabun is one of six lakes in Georgia managed by the Georgia Power Company, which were created to generate hydroelectric energy for Atlanta.
Today it’s known as a perfect place for day trips from Atlanta GA, as it’s located just 90 miles from the heart of the city and offers plenty of outdoor activities.
The Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area is a popular spot, with 80 tent and trailer campsites, gorgeous picnic area, access to the public beach, and a boat ramp for easy water access.
Along with boating, water skiing, river tubing, jet skiing, and kayaking are all popular water activities. So is fishing, with largemouth bass, spotted bass, bream, and walleye all common catches.
At the Lake Rabun Beach campground, the 1.75-mile Angel Falls Trail follows Joe Creek upstream, reaching the stunning Panther Falls at just under .6 miles and Angel Falls shortly after.
On the south side of the lake, the Minnehaha Falls Trail is even shorter and more impressive.
After splashing in the water all day and hiking through these beautiful landscapes, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite.
The Lake Rabun Hotel and Louie’s On The Lake restaurants are perfect places to grab a bite to eat.
Lake Rabun is also known for their famous Fourth of July festivities. Every year the Lake Rabun Association sponsors a community BBQ, wooden boat parade, and a dazzling firework show over the water that’s nothing short of spectacular!
READ MORE: The 20 Best Easy Hiking Trails to Waterfalls in Georgia
13. Lake Trahylta
(22 acres in Blairsville)
Nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains of Blairsville, Vogel State Park is home to one of the most popular Georgia mountain lakes, Lake Trahylta.
The lake is surrounded by the beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest, making for some seriously stunning views. Especially in fall, when the warm autumn colors are reflected on the lake’s surface.
A variety of hiking trails wind through the area, including the 1.1-mile Trahlyta Lake Trail. It follows the shoreline of the lake and leads to the tumbling cascades of Trahlyta Falls, as well as jaw-dropping views of the magnificent Blood Mountain.
For fun on the water, the park’s Visitors Center offers seasonal kayak, canoe, paddle board, and paddle boat rentals.
They also have some bait and tackle supplies if you’re wanting to try your hand at catching one of the largemouth bass, bluegill, or trout that can be found in Lake Trahylta.
You’ll also find a pavilion next to the lake that’s perfect for a picnic or relaxing by the water, as well as an open beach area if you want to soak up some sun.
READ MORE: Fall in the Mountains of North Georgia (Where to See the Best Fall Colors)
14. Lake Tugalo
(597 acres in Tallulah Falls)
Lake Tugalo is owned by the Georgia Power Company and is created by the Tallulah and Chattooga River (whose headwaters begin in Cashiers NC).
Other than a few campsites, the lake’s 18 miles of shoreline is complete wilderness. Having no homes or shops near the lake gives it a remote feel that’s perfect for a nature escape.
There is a 25-horsepower maximum for boat motors and only one boat ramp, which limits boat traffic. But you can often find people paddling around the lake in kayaks or canoes.
A popular spot with anglers, Lake Tugalo has largemouth bass, walleye, spotted bass, white bass, bluegill, and one of Georgia’s most robust walleye populations.
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15. Lake Winfield Scott
(18 acres in Blairsville)
Located within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, high in a mountain valley, Lake Winfield Scott is one of the highest altitude lakes in North Georgia (2,854 feet).
The lake was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of FDR’s New Deal efforts to establish recreational areas throughout North Georgia.
It has definitely fulfilled its purpose, as the Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area is a popular recreation spot all year round.
The lake is great for kayaking and canoeing, and there’s a designated swimming area with restrooms, pavilions, and picnic tables close by.
Hand-powered and electric motor boats are also allowed in the water, with many fisherman having luck catching catfish, trout, perch, brim, and bass.
Hiking and mountain biking are also popular activities.
The scenic 0.4-mile Lake Winfield Scott Trail follows along the shore of the lake, while the 1-mile Jarrad Gap Trail and 2.7-mile Slaughter Creek start at the recreation area and connect with the Appalachian Trail.
In terms of overnight stays, you can rent a two-story cabin that holds up to 12 people, and there are over 30 campsites fit for both tent and RV camping, with fire rings and grills.
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16. Lake Yonah
(325 acres in Tallulah Falls GA)
Located between Toccoa and Tallulah Falls on the Georgia-South Carolina line, Lake Yonah is a perfect spot to take a break from the everyday hustle and bustle and savor the clear blue water and scenic views.
The lake was created by the Yonah Dam, with water flowing in from the Tugaloo River, and is owned and operated by the Georgia Power Company.
Kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating are all popular activities here, with the Yonah boat ramp providing access to the lake. There are also a few docks and a parking area, which is accessible from Georgia Highway 184.
Tugalo Park is a primitive camping area along the lake for those want to spend the night or just have a nice lakeside picnic.
There’s also a launch area for smaller boats, which anglers tend to utilize as they try their luck catching walleye and largemouth bass (the most populous species) as well as crappie, catfish, yellow perch, and bream.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for Ziplining in North Georgia
17. Nottely Lake
(4,180 acres in Blairsville GA)
Formed in 1942 by damming the Nottely River as a power and flood control project of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Nottely Lake is one of the lesser known Blue Ridge Mountains lakes.
But it’s widely considered a hidden gem by those who know the area.
Its location in the beautiful Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest makes for some sensational scenic views that have remained relatively undisturbed.
There are over a 100 miles of shoreline, with 70% being under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service.
So while the lake has become increasingly popular in recent years for people seeking lake houses in Georgia, the majority of Lake Nottely will remain undeveloped.
The area’s undisturbed nature is what draws people here to enjoy a classic day at the lake. Though it’s just outside the heart of Blairsville, it feels as though you’re a million miles away.
We love the relatively uncrowded hiking trails, like the 1.7-mile Nottely Reservoir Trail, which explores the wooded areas around Lake Nottely.
There are two marinas where you can rent a boat, kayak, canoe, or paddle board to take out on the water.
And don’t miss Poteete Creek Park, which has a white sand beach and swimming area with picnic tables and public restrooms.
Fishing Nottely Lake is known to be fruitful, with largemouth bass being the most popular fish, as well as spotted bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, and walleye.
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18. Richard B. Russell Lake
(26,650 aces in Elberton)
Named after U.S. Senator Richard Brevard Russell Jr., this lake was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the construction of the Richard B. Russell Dam.
Located on Georgia’s border with South Carolina, the lake has over 26,000 acres of water and 540 miles of shoreline. It’s relatively undeveloped, so you can enjoy the area’s pristine scenery and abundant wildlife.
Private boats are permitted, and fishermen flock to Richard B. Russell Lake to cast their line for largemouth bass, spotted bass, black crappie, and striped bass.
Richard B. Russell State Park is on the lake, and features a beach area that provides a perfect place to soak in the sun or splash around in the water. Kayak, canoe, and pontoon boat rentals are also available.
There are six miles of hiking trails in the park, including the relatively flat, 1.5-mile Cottage/Beach Trail, which connects the cabins and beach areas of the park.
If you want to stay overnight, there are also plenty of tent, trailer, and RV campsites in the park.
READ MORE: The 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List for the Blue Ridge Mountains
19. Tallulah Falls Lake
(63 acres in Tallulah Falls GA)
The Tallulah Falls Lake was formed in 1914 with the completion of the Tallulah Falls dam, making it one of the oldest of Georgia Power’s reservoirs.
It is part of the captivating Tallulah Gorge State Park, which is home to stunning terrain including the 1,000-foot deep Tallulah Gorge, various cascading waterfalls, and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through the area.
The lake itself, though quite small compared to others on this list, is a favorite for boating and fishing.
The most common catches include black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, redear sunfish, and spotted bass. Due to the small size of the lake, the limit for boats is 5hp.
The Terrora Day Use Area is a great spot for swimming and has tables if you’re looking for the right spot to enjoy an afternoon picnic.
There are also plenty of campsites across the state park fit for tent, trailer, and RV camping.
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20. Unicoi Lake a.k.a Smith Lake
(53 aces in Helen GA)
This picturesque lake is located in Unicoi State Park, one of the most popular Georgia state parks, just a few miles from Downtown Helen GA.
Because of this, there are plenty of activities and attractions on and around the lake, including the array of fantastic restaurants in Helen.
Kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and pedal boats can all be rented from the Unicoi Lodge for a day of fun on the water. There’s also a sandy beach and a small swimming area for kids to splash around in.
Around the edge of the lake, there are a number of fishing docks where anglers commonly catch catfish, bluegill, and bass.
Trout fishermen usually like to venture onto Smith Creek (which flows into the lake) and try their hand at catching brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.
Hiking trails in the area include the 8-mile Smith Creek Trail to Anna Ruby Falls and the 2.2-mile Unicoi Lake Loop Trail, which makes its way around the lake and past the unique Unicoi State Park Barrel Cabins.
It’s a wide, well-maintained trail with little elevation, so it’s great for an easy morning or afternoon stroll. -by Christina Maggitas; featured image of Lake Burton by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
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