Blue Ridge Explorer: Lake Toxaway, NC

One of my favorite spots in the North Carolina mountains is Lake Toxaway.  

Hidden in the Sapphire Valley, roughly sixty miles southwest of Asheville, near Cashiers, NC,  Situated at 3100 feet, Lake Toxaway has long enchanted travelers to its peaceful and serene waters.  Its pure waters and meandering shoreline, nestled against rugged peaks and wild scenery have enticed generations to journey to the mountain resort community. Lake Toxaway has a ethereal air, that connects heart and soul with a peace that only mountain air can provide.

The history of the community of Lake Toxaway dates to the late 1800s when minted turn of the century socialites like the Vanderbilts, Fords, Reynolds and Rockefellers escaped the city to embrace the unspoiled beauty of the area.

George Vanderbilt developed much of the area of Asheville and western NC, including Biltmore Estate. His influence helped establish the area as a resort area and playground for wealthy aristocrats to enjoy nature.

In 1895, a group of investors from Pittsburgh formed the Toxaway Company building a series of exquisite resorts.  To attract tourists, they invested in a project to damn the Toxaway River to create Lake Toxaway. On the shores of the lake, they built the five-story, 250-room Lake Towaway Inn.  Able to rival the quality of any hotel on the east coast, the inn quickly became renown as a mountain respite for prominent individuals.

Unfortunately, in 1916 a terrible flood caused the dam to burst.  Residents reported a 30-foot tall wave devastate the area – leaving a wrath of debris nearly 4 miles downstream.  Scars of the flooding can still be seen today.  When the lake disappeared, tourism stopped and the Toxaway Inn closed permanently.

Lake Toxaway would have disappeared from history if not for the tenacity and aptitude of area residents like Lucy Moltz Armstrong and Reg Heinitsch who continued to advocate for revitalization of the Lake and the community.

Decades after the flood, in 1960, Reg Heinitsh and a group of investors rebuilt the dam.  Today Lake Toxaway is a hub of recreation and relaxation.  It covers 640 acres and over 14 miles of scenic, accessible shoreline.  Homes and development line the lake – providing an abundance of mountain rental opportunities…

To truly step back in time to the grandeur and history of Lake Toxaway, I recommend stopping (and staying) at the famed Greystone Inn.

The Greystone Inn dates back to 1915, when socialite Lucy Armstrong and her husband, George, a prominent Savannah businessman started vacationing on Lake Toxaway at the Toxaway Inn…Lucy fell in love with the land and she and her husband build a mountain chalet on the shores of lake Toxaway…Fortunately Hillmont was spared destruction from the 1916 flood.

Lucy never gave up on the area and invested in the local community.  She helped her neighbors through the Great Depression, by creating jobs on her estate and teaching women life skills such as canning and homemaking.  She adored children and would raise money to help support their education – helping over two dozen young people to attend college.  For more information about the history of the Greystone Inn. 

The Greystone Inn has been beautifully restored and is worth the investment for a special weekend away.  My mom and I could not visit the inn with COVID-19, but were fortunate enough to enjoy a visit in 2019 (enjoying drinks at the bar and overlooking the lake).  If you cannot chance to spend the night at Greystone – I recommend driving up and enjoying their bar and restaurant – you won’t be disappointed.

And the best way to explore the lake – by boat of course…several boat operators offer water tours of the lake.





















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