In 1960, construction began on the hydroelectric dam at Smith Mountain Gap that would create Smith Mountain Lake. On March 7, 1966, the lake reached “full pond,” and in 1983, Smith Mountain Lake State Park opened.
With 16 miles of lake frontage, the 1,248-acre Smith Mountain Lake State Park is indeed a water enthusiast’s paradise.
Trails overlook the water as do campsites and cabins.
A beach with a roped swimming area welcomes sunbathers and splashers alike to cool off in the heat of summer while rental boats and ramps allow boaters and fisherman to get on the water to pursue their passions.
Camping & Cabins at Smith Mountain Lake
Overnight visitors to Smith Mountain Lake State Park will find refuge at one of the 20 cabins or are welcome to pull their camper or RV in to one of the 24 full hook-up camping sites or pitch a tent in one of the 25 primitive sites.
Half of the campsites are available for reservation while the other half are determined at check-in. Campfire rings can be cooked on with the attached grill and firewood is available for purchase. A picnic table and lantern post round out each site’s amenities.
For campers and RVs, this dump station is free of charge for your use. Overnight guests who also wish to boat may launch free of charge.
Perks of cabins at the park are that many have waterfront views and each one includes a slip for dock access. Cabins are one- to six-bedroom and include equipped kitchen, woodstove, linens and towels, picnic table, grill, and a porch complete with rocking chairs. Your first bundle of firewood is provided and more is available for purchase. Each cabin is climate controlled.
Cabins are rented by the week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and with a two-night minimum the rest of the year.
Book Your Stay: Cabins & Camping Reservations >
Smith Mountain Lake Fishing & Boating
Not only does the park offer rental boats and a ramp for launching, an accessible fishing pier allows for fishermen and women of all abilities to cast a line and enjoy a great view of the lake.
Overnight guests can launch their boats for free but daytrippers will owe a fee to do so. Vessel rentals include canoes, kayaks, hydrobikes, paddleboats, pontoon boats, ski boats, and jet skis between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you want to get on the water outside of the peak season, an offsite concessionaire is available to assist.
Learn More: Virginia State Parks Equipment Rental Fees >
Smith Mountain Lake is a renowned fisherman’s destination with big catches like striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and catfish biting. Occasionally the park hosts fishing tournaments, but you’ll want to be prepared for it before your arrival. Registration is required at least two weeks in advance.
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries: Fishing at Smith Mountain Lake >
Smith Mountain Lake Beach Access & Swimming
The 500-foot beach is a great place to spend a day with all the necessities right at hand. A clean bathhouse and concessions ensure you need not venture far from the fun. That is, unless you want to partake in a good game of beach volleyball.
The snack bar is open Memorial Day through Labor Day and offers both hot and cold food, like hamburgers, wraps, and ice cream.
A lifeguard is on duty daily during peak season. There is a fee to swim for non-overnight guests.
Trails for Hiking & Biking
Thirteen trails weave around the park and range from a half-mile to three miles in length. Meander through the forests to happen upon a quiet cove or go higher in elevation to be greeted with expansive views.
A not-to-miss trail is the Turtle Island Trail. At 1.4 miles in length, it’s designated for hiking or biking and is considered moderately difficult. And the name is not a lie. A thin spit of peninsula points the way to a small bridge that lands you on none other than Turtle Island (pictured above).
A designated picnic area with 30 tables and grills is available, including a 50-person shelter and a playground area. The picnic grounds do not have water or electricity, but a restroom is available at the nearby parking lot.
With many great waterfront areas begging for a quilt and a couple with a picnic basket. We’re already envisioning romantic moments or special family memories in the making…
Smith Mountain Lake State Park - Activities & Events
The Discovery Center is the hub of ranger-led activities. Meet there to partake in outdoor-centered crafts (trick your stick, perhaps?) or to simply be introduced to the Discovery Center itself. Inside you’ll find a 150-gallon fish tank, a butterfly garden, and a touch table. There is also a small playground at the Center.
Kids love the playground, of course, and family fun can be had summer evenings at the amphitheater with activities like owl seeking and firefly campfires.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park - Nearby Places of Interest
Week-long visitors may find that a day off the water is in order, and that’s great because there are wonderful places nearby.
Visit Bridgewater Plaza & Marina for shopping, miniature golf, and dining and entertainment.
For history, you’ll certainly want to pay a visit to Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy and the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. The former is an interpretive site centered on the boy who was born into slavery and who went on to be an educator, well-respected orator, and presidential advisor. The latter is a memorial to all the lives lost on June 6, 1944, D-Day, the landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. You’ll see the names of every allied and US soldier who perished that day, and the larger-than-life sculptures will leave you breathless.
Enjoy all the wonders of the outdoors by becoming a #Trailsetter. Smith Mountain Lake State Park is just the beginning of your adventures. Plan additional excursions at Outdoor Adventures in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.