Camping at Smith Mountain Lake State Park – July 14-16, 2020

When we visited Smith Mountain Lake State Park on New Year’s Day 2015, it was COLD! It was SO cold that we didn’t spend much time outside exploring, but we hoped to come back another time when we could really enjoy the park.

It took us a while (5 years!), but we finally reserved a non-specific site for two nights at the campground and down the road we went, with our Coachmen Clipper following along behind us!

When we checked in at the visitor’s center, the young ranger behind the desk said we’d have a choice of 3 pull-through sites, which she highlighted on a map. Cool! When we got to the campground, however, only one of those sites was available. Alrighty… (We later learned that the camp host was off the day we arrived, so the center hadn’t been updated regarding open sites.)

The road through the campground is one way, and our pull-through site was on the left side of the road. The hookups for electric and water were on the left side of the site (which is normal), but the picnic table and fire pit were also on the left side of the site–and up half a dozen steps…. Fellow campers, do you see the problem here? If we’d pulled into the site as we should have (given the one-way road), our door and awning would have opened towards the road and we would have had to walk around to the back side of the trailer to get to the table and fire pit. Fortunately, our trailer was small enough for us to make a u-turn into the campsite, and this gave us much more privacy and convenience.

We definitely liked some of the back-in sites in the campground better, but we had no complaints about the size of our site or the spacing between campsites! 🙂

After we had everything set up, we started to explore the park.

We drove down the Interpretive Trail Road to the Discovery Center (which we knew was closed) to get our first good views of the lake:

Next, we drove to the boat launch area and the swimming beach:

We got there a little before 6 p.m., and the concession stand was still open and lifeguards were on duty. We learned that the beach “officially” closes at 6, but people can swim after that–at their own risk–until dusk.

Back at our campsite that evening, Wayne fixed a simple and totally satisfying dinner: giant turkey, cheese, and cranberry sauce sandwiches! Yum!

It didn’t cool down much after dark, and since we’d been outside all day, we were ready to stretch out inside our air conditioned trailer. Just for the heck of it I decided to see if I could pick up any TV stations with our antenna, and I was astonished to find that we got over 25! Really?! That NEVER happens! So for the next few hours we thoroughly enjoyed watching shows on the H&I TV Network which featured Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. I wish we could get this channel at home!

The next morning we were ready to swim! As we expected, the beach was much more crowded than it had been the evening before, but we still felt comfortable about being there as most people were respectful about distancing.

We only stayed for about an hour (not wanting to get sunburned), but we went back again that evening. And it was absolutely perfect then, plus we saw several Ospreys and a Great Blue Heron flying over the lake. So yeah, if I ever decide to run away from home, a good place to start looking for me might be Smith Mountain Lake….

Before returning to our campsite, we drove back out to the Discovery Center area. It was an incredibly beautiful and peaceful evening, and we felt so blessed to have the opportunity to safely visit such a place during these strange and troubled times…

Purple Martin & baby
Eastern Bluebird
Amazing sunset over Smith Mountain Lake

Dinner that night was a delicious Bertolli frozen meal. We love having a small freezer in the refrigerator of our trailer, and after years of using a Coleman camping stove, we’ve really enjoyed the convenience of cooking outside in an electric skillet.

Wayne started a campfire, and we enjoyed watching it from a distance. It was just too hot to want to be close to it, plus we weren’t wild about walking up and down the stairs at night. We put our string of blue lights along the side of the stairs, just to put some light there. Again, the layout of the pull-through campsites aren’t really ideal, especially for folks of a certain age…. 😉

I always sleep extremely well when we’re camping, and the next morning I woke up, started the coffee, then went outside while Wayne was still asleep. When I looked down our driveway towards the back of the trailer, I saw what I thought was a long, thin branch. Hmm, wonder where that came from? Wayne had picked up all the sticks he could find to use as kindling for the fire….

It took my pre-coffee brain a second to realize that it wasn’t a stick!

Ah, I’d forgotten that July 16th was World Snake Day! I’m just thankful that it chose to do its celebratory pass-through BEHIND our camper instead of coming UNDER our camper (and potentially between my feet!) while I was sitting out there under the awning! 😉

Even though checkout time was at 1:00 p.m., it was drizzly with the threat of storms, so after a quick breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, we decided to pack up and head out a little early. On the drive down to Smith Mountain Lake State Park we’d followed our GPS, which had guided us on the shortest route, but not necessarily the best route when towing a trailer. A much better way to get to or from the park from Rt. 460 (East or West) is shown in the picture below:

Even with the rain and clouds, it was a beautiful drive home….

Smith Mountain Lake State Park is truly another gem in the Virginia State Park system, and I can certainly understand why this whole area is a popular vacation destination. With campgrounds, rental cottages, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, historical sites and more, Smith Mountain Lake offers something for everyone. We really shouldn’t wait another five years before visiting again!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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1 Response to Camping at Smith Mountain Lake State Park – July 14-16, 2020

  1. Jane says:

    Before moving to Washington State in ’79, we spent a good bit of time at Smith Mt. Lake, not at the campground. My father-in-law was in real estate and developed and sold property around the lake. They built a place on the lake – on the Roanoke River part of the lake. We went there a lot of weekends. We almost decided to build there too. But we were happier to live in Roanoke. In fact there is still a little piece of a development on the Blackwater finger of the lake, that I have a shared ownership in. My X and I are hoping the realtor will get going on selling it before we die. LOL. Anyway, it was fun to see you enjoying it and to think about that little piece of my past.

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