The Lake Powhatan Loop Hiking Guide
The loop around Lake Powhatan is a relatively easy and short hike, clocking in at just 1.6 miles.
About the hike at Lake Powhatan
Trailhead location: 375 Wesley Branch Rd
Trail length: 1.6 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy. It’s great for all ages and skill levels.
Elevation change: Minimal
Distance from downtown Asheville: 12 miles
Drive time from downtown Asheville: 20 minutes
Parking for the Lake Powhatan hike
We typically park at the Hardtimes trailhead parking area. The trailhead is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Asheville.
The parking area at the trailhead can get pretty full at popular times, so keep that in mind! There’s a restroom facility here but it’s a pit toilet and not the most pleasant environment to enter.
The trail itself never felt full or busy even when the parking lot is full.
Hiking around Lake Powhatan
The Lake Powhatan trailhead is less than 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. While on the loop, you’ll see a creek, lake and a dam along the way. There is little to no elevation change but plenty to see with the lake and Bent Creek along most of the path. It’s a great trail for any age or skill. We typically pass several people with dogs (some are unleashed…) and a few runners and bikes.
The hike to Lake Powhatan
The first section of the hike is a nice wide gravel path, giving you a chance to get your legs warmed up. From there you quickly reach Bent Creek, the namesake of the forest. You’ll continue right to follow the trail along the creek. The creek is beautiful and is always the first highlight of the journey for our two kids.
After walking down the trail for a bit more you’ll find a bridge that crosses a manmade, stone-lined section of the creek. This is the spillway for the Lake Powhatan dam. This small channel always gives us old-world vibes when crossing it. It’s actually one of our favorite parts of the hike!
It’s at this bridge that you have to decide whether to take the loop around the lake in the clockwise or counterclockwise direction — either way, you get to see it all.
If you take it clockwise, you will soon be following the creek on a densely wooded narrow footpath full of hardwoods. We loved hearing the creek rushing alongside during this part of the hike.
The Lake Powhatan Dam and Swimming Area
As you approach the lake, you’ll unfortunately begin to hear the drone of the pumphouse located right next to the dam. It’s a good sign you’re close, but definitely not a sound you want to hear in nature. Soon enough you’ll arrive at the dam. It’s hidden by the trees but can be accessed by a small side path. We always spend a lot of time here watching the water cascade over the dam.
Once you’ve had enough water watching, you can continue the trail toward the Lake Powhatan swim area. It can be but quiet during the off-season– it kind of feels like an abandoned summer camp!
There’s a ton of space in this area to stop and explore a bit. We like to bring a picnic blanket and hang out for a bit before continuing on the loop.
Gear for the Lake Powhatan Loop
As far as gear goes, hiking boots aren’t required for this trail. I normally wear tennis shoes but my husband and kids wear trail shoes. We like to use this backpack carrier for our youngest on short hikes.
Camping at Lake Powhatan
You can camp at Lake Powhatan! The campgrounds are run by Adventure Pisgah and you can reserve a spot on their website. They even have glamping available. Glamping just 15 minutes from downtown Asheville! Click here to book a glamping stay at Lake Powhatan.