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Smith Mountain Lake
Travel Guide – Virginia

Smith Mountain Lake Travel Guide

Smith Mountain Lake is the largest lake in the state of Virginia. It is a man-made reservoir in the central part of the state, mostly in Franklin and Bedford Counties, and is not far from Roanoke and Lynchburg. It has been a major tourist destination since Smith Mountain Lake State Park opened in 1983, the beauty of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains being as much of a draw as the lake itself.


The idea of creating a reservoir on the Roanoke River first was considered in the 1920’s, but it was not until 1960 that the project actually began. The Smith Mountain Dam was completed in 1963, and the lake rose to its equilibrium level by 1966. At first, the area around the reservoir was mostly a place of tobacco farms and logging operations until resort homes began to be built along its shores in the 1980’s, and it has since become a major recreational zone.

Things to see and do in Smith Mountain Lake

Travel the scenic terrain of Smith Mountain Lake State Park, whether by hiking, biking, or horseback riding. Also consider a scenic flight over the lake in a small tourist plane or touring the lake by boat. There are boat tours offered at many local, shoreline restaurants. Other popular activities at the state park or on the lake’s waters include: fishing from shore or by boat, sailing, waterskiing, camping, picnicking, hunting, golfing, stargazing, swimming, picnicking, and stopping by the educational visitor center.

Tour the Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, where you will find additional hiking, fishing, and swimming opportunities, besides a large kids’ playground.

Learn to “wakeboard,” a sport that is growing in popularity on the lake. Wakeboarding is like riding on a surfboard, while holding a jetski rope, being towed by a motor boat, and doing acrobatic stunts. It is not to be tried without lessons, but luckily, lesson are available at Smith Mountain Lake.

Go on a winery and vineyards tour of the area. You will find there are a number of large vineyards nearby and that you will learn much about how wines are made, besides having a chance to taste some.

Visit the Smith Mountain Lake Dam, where you can be educated on how dams work and how they produce electricity. There are exhibits, a small movie theater, and a scenic overlook.

Climate conditions

The are around Smith Mountain Lake has fairly hot summers, with July highs averaging 86, and summer is the most popular time of year to visit the lake and the adjoining state park. Winters are somewhat cold, with January lows averaging 26 degrees. About 44 inches of rain and 26 inches of snow fall each year.