In Bedford County, approximately 40 miles from Roanoke, Virginia, you will find Smith Mountain Lake State Park, resting on the northern shores of the massive Smith Mountain Lake from which it derives its name. Smith Mountain Lake is not only the second largest fresh water lake in Virginia but also one of the cleanest, making it a must-see for the RV enthusiast. Initially created to help generate electricity, the lake is actually a reservoir that has risen over the years to become one of the favorite outdoor hubs in the region. Sitting on 1,148 acres, Smith Mountain Lake State Park has popular hiking and biking trails but is best known for its pristine waters and abundance of aquatic activities.
Whether you come for the hiking, biking, water sports, or just to enjoy the serenity of the park, you will love the breathtaking scenery. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and covered with forests, Smith Mountain Lake State Park is the perfect place for taking in the view on a morning stroll or catching the sunset on the shores of the crystal clear water. There's something to please everyone at this park, and once you experience it, you're bound to make this a yearly stop on your RV travel route.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park is approximately a 45-minute drive from both Lynchburg and Roanoke on Highway 460. Drive carefully as the narrow road leading to the park is rough, winding, and hilly with numerous curves and corners. For those with larger trailers, you can opt to drive along Highway 122, which is easy to navigate and more RV-friendly. Inside the park, the roads to the campground, cabins, and lake are easily accessible.
There are plenty of parking lots strategically located across all areas including at the entrance, beach area, lake view, overflow section, cabin, and campground.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park Campground is both family and pet-friendly. The campground is located in the woods with over 25 campsites to choose from. Fourteen of the sites are back-in and pull-through and equipped with water and electric hookups for RVs and trailers. Eleven sites are reserved for tents only. The campground is open every day of the year from the middle of March through the first week of December.
Some of the back-in campsites can accommodate RVs of up to 65 feet long while a few of the pull-through sites can fit an RV of up to 70 feet in length. Amenities include a dump station and hot showers. Each campsite features a sleeping area with a separate section furnished with a grill, a picnic table, and a fire ring. The internet service and cell coverage within the facility is fairly good.
There is an overflow parking lot available if needed to store your boat trailer or towed vehicle. Half the sites at the campground are open for reservations that can be made up to 11 months in advance, while the other half are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to the RV and tent camping, there are 20 cabins open for reservations. The cabins are divided into 19 two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit, with a few of them having excellent lake views. A bunkhouse for larger groups is available for rent during the camping season with a minimum of a two-night stay. There is a separate per night fee for those camping with their pets in these facilities. For groceries, you have the option of either driving to Lynchburg or Roanoke, both about 40 miles away. Reservations for cabins can also be made up to 11 months in advance.
As part of the larger campground, Smith Mountain Lake State Park holds half of the 25-site campground for first-come, first-served guests and the other half for reservations. There are 14 sites with water and electric hookups, which can accommodate 35-foot to 65-foot rigs in either pull-through or back-in spots. There are a few 70-foot spots, but without a reservation, you risk them not being available. Eleven sites are for tents only.
There is always something fun and educational to do at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, no matter how old you are or what time of year you visit. Occasionally, the park’s Discovery Center, together with Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park, hold special off-season programs for adults and kids annually in support of the parks projects and conservation efforts. From organized races around Smith Mountain Lake to junior rangers programs and winter lecture series, the park hosts multiple activities that support the environment and teach the public important information about the local ecosystem. For music lovers, there are live music performances at the beach pavilion on various dates throughout the year, so check for dates online to see who will be performing during your RV vacation.
The changing of the leaves is spectacular in Smith Mountain Lake State Park. In fact, several of the park’s trails are well-known for autumn hikes with the expressed purpose of leaf-peeping, as it’s called. In the area, the Thomas Jefferson Poplar Forest is said to sport all shades of vibrant reds from late September through November. A popular trail within the park is the Chestnut Ridge Trail, just north and east of Smith Mountain Lake. Both of these trails allow dogs and are not overly challenging.
Then there’s the Opossum Trot Trail and Turtle Island Trail that combine to make an almost two-mile hike where you are not only likely to view some beautiful fall colors, but also some rabbits, white-tailed deer, and opossum. If you are really lucky, you may see the bald eagles that summer in the park begin to fly south for the winter. You can try the half-mile Beaver Den Trail, which leads to the calm lake waters where you can spot mallards, waterfowl, and osprey year-round. The Striper Cover Trail lined with the changing trees offers endless photographic opportunities as well.
Every year hunters descend on Smith Mountain Lake State Park with their deer licenses and muzzleloaders in hand. Deer hunting keeps deer populations healthy in the park and surrounding areas. The hunt usually only lasts for four days and licenses go very quickly, so if you are interested, make sure you have your Virginia state hunter’s safety card and check into buying a tag as soon as they are available.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park is a paradise year-round. It’s especially popular for its winter holiday events. Park your RV as late as the first week of December and head into nearby Bridgewater Plaza to sip some hot cocoa and pick up some gifts for the season. Attend the Hickory Hill Holidays event at Hickory Hills Winery with a wine-tasting for adults and mulled cider for the kids and bring some back to sip in the camper or cozy cabin. Roanoke is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Smith Mountain Lake where you can experience a variety of autumn and winter events such as fall and Christmas festivals. End a chilly day of fun warm in your Airstream before heading out for a day of hiking in the park.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park offers the best boating experience around. The crystal clear waters are perfect to launch your watercraft. Whether you paddleboard, waterski, or just like to float around and take in the scenery, Smith Mountain Lake is a great choice. You may even want to try your hand at kayaking, canoeing, sky-boating, or hydro-biking during your visit. Don't have your own watercraft? All of these in addition to fishing and ski boats are available to rent at the local marina.
One item you will absolutely not want to forget before heading to the lake is the required life vest for every member of your party. There are some strict safety rules to be aware of in the park, so make sure to check in with the marina before launching your skiff.
After a fun-filled morning on the boat, your crew will be hungry and ready for some dry land. The park has some excellent picnic areas perfect for this purpose. There is a huge playground where kids can enjoy running around after refueling on some healthy food and snacks. Once you're dried off, you'll be hoping for some shade. The grill area is equipped with shaded picnic tables, and fresh drinking water is on tap. Restrooms are also available nearby for your convenience. After lunch, you'll be energized and ready for more fun in the sun.
For nearly three decades, this 500-foot beach has been a paradise for swimmers. Smith Mountain Lake's sandy beaches are usually open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During peak season, you can rest easy knowing your kids are safe as there are highly skilled lifeguards overseeing the swimming area. Of course, small children should never be left without parental supervision. Other amenities in the beach area include a volleyball court, amphitheater, and a spacious parking lot, so you won't have far to haul those beach toys. Note: There is a separate fee to access the swimming area.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park has always been known as a prime fishing destination in Virginia. You can park your RV near the boat launches and then proceed to the lake. Smith Mountain Lake is stocked with huge bass, muskie, and bluegill. Here you can fish from the ADA-accessible public fishing pier or from the shores. Smith Mountain Lake State Park holds regular fishing tournaments throughout the year such as Aspiring Angler Tournaments and Youth Fishing Clinics. If you're interested, you can inquire about their schedule in the park office.