A free online encyclopedia about bed and breakfasts created and edited by travel writers

sign in or out
Smith Mountain Lake
Smith Mountain Lake destination large map

Click map for a larger view

Located in western Virginia, the Smith Mountain Lake Destination is home to a variety of geographical features and outdoor attractions. The namesake of the destination is a manmade reservoir that has over 500 miles of shoreline and has been referred to as the "Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains." It is the second-largest body of freshwater in Virginia and offers activities such as boating, swimming, and fishing.[3] The weather of the region fluctuates somewhat heavily depending on the season, with average "extreme" temperatures ranging from 16 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit. The most popular times to visit the area based on weather are in June and from August to September, due to the temperate climate at those times.[4] Apart from Smith Mountain Lake itself, the area has a few notable cities such as Roanoke and Lynchburg. The city of Roanoke is nicknamed the "Star City of the South," because of the massive neon star that is displayed on Mill Mountain. The city is also known for putting on various festivals throughout the year and being the center of railroad commerce in the area for over a century.[10]

What Smith Mountain Lake is known for

On the western end of Virginia in the United States of America lies the Smith Mountain Lake Destination, named for the reservoir that is found in the region's southeastern corner. The destination is home to a number of cities, with some of the more recognizable ones being Lynchburg and Roanoke. Some of the most prominent attractions to participate in either in or around the lake include hiking on one of the 13 trails that belong to the Smith Mountain Lake State Park, swimming in the lake, fishing, or boating. The reservoir has two primary beaches that are open to the public, one of which spans roughly 500 feet in length. At certain times of the year, the beaches have lifeguards on duty, and while they are absent, visitors are held to the understanding that they swim at their own risk.[1]

Fishing tournaments are occasionally conducted through the Smith Mountain Lake State Park office, which requires a special-use permit application that must be submitted at least two weeks before the competition begins. Some of the fish that are available in the reservoir include largemouth bass, catfish, striped bass, and smallmouth bass. It should be noted that using the boat launch requires a day-use fee or it's no cost if the visitor is spending the night in one of the state park's facilities. Boat rentals are available between Memorial Day and Labor Day of each year, with a list of available rentals that include kayaks, paddleboats, ski boats, jet skis, canoes, and pontoon boats.[1]

Though Smith Mountain Lake is described as "western Virginia's biggest playground," there are other activities that are available in the Smith Mountain Lake Destination.[7] For example, the city of Roanoke can be found to the northwest of the lake and is home to attractions such as galleries, museums, shopping centers, and biking trails.[9] Nowadays, the city is known as the "Star City of the South," in large part due to the neon Mill Mountain Star (or Roanoke Star). Additionally, the city has been known for its railroad-focused economy, hosting headquarters for the Norfolk and Western Railway in the past. The two companies merged with Southern Railway to create the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982, which continues its operations in current times. Another aspect of Roanoke's economy is the health industry, which is evident by the over 1,000 employees at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.[6]


The Smith Mountain Lake Destination comprises much of Virginia's western border with West Virginia and encompasses cities such as Roanoke, Lynchburg, Christiansburg, Buena Vista, and Pulaski. Lynchburg serves as the destination's eastern edge, Roanoke sits in the center of the region, and the namesake Smith Mountain Lake is to the southeast.
The reservoir that acts as the namesake for the Smith Mountain Lake Destination is occasionally referred to as the "Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains" and is the second-largest body of fresh water in the state of Virginia. The overall expanse of the reservoir is somewhere around 40 miles, and there are roughly 500 miles of shoreline. The lake's aforementioned nickname comes from the fact that it is located within sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which comprise much of the destination's western edge. Because Smith Mountain Lake is a prominent geographical feature of the area, it is home to a state park with more than 1,500 acres of land which include picnic areas, hiking trails, and guided ranger programs such as canoe trips or night hikes.[3]

Home to various mountains, lakes, forests, and parks, the Smith Mountain Lake Destination is geographically diverse and as such, is home to a variety of wildlife. White-tailed deer are common around the reservoir and serve as potential game for visiting hunters. Bears, coyotes, and bobcats are some of the region's indigenous carnivores, and the bears, in particular, have been known to swim in the middle of the lake to get from one end to the other. They are most commonly spotted in early spring of each year because they are in search of food after months of hibernation. With regards to the lake itself, black and striped bass, carp, and yellow perch are common fish to be caught. Some of the rare species that populate Smith Mountain Lake include muskies, walleyes, and fingerlings.[8]

The destination as a whole has a diverse range of weather throughout the year, with summers that are described as "warm and humid" and winters that are "very cold and snowy." The most common type of weather for the Roanoke area specifically is "partly cloudy." Temperatures can range anywhere from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 87 degrees on average in a given year, though more extreme temperatures can push those boundaries out to 16 and 94 degrees, respectively. With regards to tourism, the best times of year to visit Roanoke have been reported to be the entire month of June and also from early August to late September. During those times, average temperatures are not quite at their peak, or they are on the decline, allowing visitors to avoid the maximum and minimum temperatures for the region. Rain is a notably common occurrence in the Smith Mountain Lake Destination, with the summer months, in particular, averaging roughly 11 "rainy days" each year. Rains are generally light, with most months of the year seeing three or fewer inches of precipitation on average.[4]


When compared to other geographical features, Smith Mountain Lake can be considered relatively new. As a reservoir, the body of water was manufactured with dam construction beginning in 1960. The primary purpose behind the lake's creation was to generate electrical power for the Appalachian Power Company, similar to its "older sister" to the north, Claytor Lake. By damming the river and creating Smith Mountain Lake, the company has increased its electrical output by around 605,000 kilowatts. The construction of the reservoir lasted approximately six years and involved the transportation of 300,000 cubic yards of mountain forests in order to create the space necessary for the 175,000 cubic feet of concrete that would be used to create the dam. The walls of the dam were completed in 1963, but it would take an additional three years for the capacity of the structure to be reached. Since its completion in 1966, the Smith Mountain Lake has served as "the recreational capital of Southwest Virginia."[7]

One of the destination's more notable cities is Roanoke, which is situated directly next to some of the mountains in the Blue Ridge mountain range. Roanoke is the eighth largest city in Virginia and has served as a railroad hub for much of its history. When the town was initially established, it was called "Big Lick" because there was a large outcropping of salt that drew in wildlife. This formation took place in the year 1852, and it wouldn't be for another 30 years (in 1882) that the town would adopt the name "Roanoke" instead. The name is said to have come from an Algonquian word that meant "shell money."[6]

With the city's renaming in 1882, it also became a crossroads for an essential railroad in the area. This railway would eventually become the Norfolk and Western Railway. The town began to see an increase in its growth after the creation of the railroad, which led to its formal charter as the City of Roanoke in 1884. The economy of Roanoke is still influenced by its railway system in modern days, serving as "an anchor of downtown commerce."[10]

Roanoke has two primary nicknames, which are "Star City of the South" and "Festival City." The former is due in large part to a giant neon star—referred to as the Mill Mountain Star or Roanoke Star—that serves as a tourist destination. The structure is 100 feet tall and stands as a "symbol of the friendliness, industrial and civic progress of Roanoke." The latter nickname can be attributed to the various festivals that the city hosts each year. Some of these festivals include the "Festival in the Park," "Roanoke GO Outside Festival," "Strawberry Festival," and the "Henry Street Festival."[10]

4.97 (249 Reviews)

The Inn at Forest Oaks is a historic inn that is located in the city of Natural Bridge in Virginia and is found a few minutes to the west of Natural Bridge State Park. The Inn at Forest Oaks is found on about 50 acres of land and consists of a four-story building that has six available bedrooms and one large cottage that can be rented out for much larger groups and sleeps up to 10 people. The main building has been around for over two centuries and has seen many years of renovations to maintain it. Natural Bridge State Park is about five minutes away by car and offers several hikes as well as tours of the caverns underneath the state park. For those who talk to one of the owners, they are also able to cater to guests who would like to host events, including weddings, birthdays, and more.

...Read More
View Property
4.47 (256 Reviews)

Located in Roanoke, Virginia, the King George Inn Bed & Breakfast is a lodging establishment that has a total of four units. Described as a "turn of the century mansion" by its owner Lynn Hunt, the building has distinct red brick walls and a covered front entrance with white columns. The property is known by some for its breakfast, as well as perhaps being a more upscale lodging option in the Roanoke area. Another unique feature of the inn's management is that Lynn is known to do watercolor portraits of the guests who stay there. One of the city's most prominent attractions is the Mill Mountain Star, which is an artificial construction that is visible from miles away. The King George Inn is open during every season of the year, though it is often closed in January.

...Read More
View Property
0 (0 Reviews)

The Depot Lodge is a lodging company that can be found in Paint Bank, Virginia, which is a small town that can be found about three miles away from the border between Virginia and West Virginia. Paint Blank has roughly 150 people in total living within the city boundaries. There are a total of 20 available units for guests to rent that range from hotel rooms to cabins to glamping tents. The Depot Lodge is open year-round, but some of the units, such as the glamping locations, close for the winter. Though the town is small, the property itself offers a number of other features, including a restaurant called Swinging Bridge, a convenience store, a gas station, and more. A number of the buildings that are used by The Depot Lodge were initially built decades ago, with one building, a mill, having finished construction as far back as 1856.

...Read More
View Property