Located in Bedford County, Smith Mountain Lake is the second largest lake in Virginia. As you can imagine, lake life is bustling in summer months.
Everybody wants to get to the lake and get out on the lake, making fall a fantastic time for Smith Mountain Lake. The weather is still lovely, but it is much less busy.
This 20,600-acre reservoir got its start when the Smith Mountain Dam was completed in 1963. The Blackwater River and Roanoke River filled the lake.
Beautiful Smith Mountain Lake boasts more than 500 miles of shoreline. In fall, you can hear the crunch of the leaves and take in the vibrant foliage.
Things to Do at Smith Mountain Lake
Truly, fall is a wonderful time for lake life. Even early-winter can also be enjoyable when crowds are light and you can have the lake nearly all to yourself.
If you’ve got Smith Mountain Lake on your mind, here are a few of the best things to do at the lake once the summer crowds have come and gone.
#1: Hiking Trails
Naturally, hiking is among the top activities to do in fall at Smith Mountain Lake. Smith Mountain Lake State Park has 14 easy and moderate hiking trails.
In fact, there are more than 15 miles of trails that allow visitors to savor the natural beauty of the woods and surrounding area of Smith Mountain Lake.
Among my favorite Smith Mountain Lake hiking trails for colorful foliage, quiet hiking and lake views are Turtle Island, Chestnut Ridge and Osprey Point.
There is also an easy, beautiful 2.0-mile nature hike at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park in Moneta, which is just across the lake from the state park.
#2: Family Camping
Smith Mountain Lake State Park is home to cabin rentals, as well as a family campground with RV sites and tent sites that have picnic tables and fire rings.
The campground is open through early-December, but cabin rentals are available year-round. In the off-season, a two-night minimum stay is required.
#3: Disc Golf
Bedford County is known for disc golf. In fact, Bedford County is home to five scenic public disc golf courses and at least one world champion disc golfer.
The closest disc golf course to Smith Mountain Lake is at Moneta Park. This 18-hole course is an easy 15-minute drive from the state park.
Fishing is popular at Smith Mountain Lake, whether from a boat or a fishing pier. Chances are good too that you may reel in the big one at this freshwater lake.
Among the prize fish you may catch are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass and catfish. You can also hire a fishing guide to up your chances.
#5: Apple Picking
Fall is prime season for apple picking, and Smith Mountain Lake is the perfect place to find dozens of varieties of apples that are ripe for picking.
Nearby Bedford is home to both Johnson’s Orchards and Gross Orchards, which allow you to pick apples, sample apple cider and eat apple cider doughnuts.
Johnson’s Orchard shares a location with Peaks of Otter Winery, so you can pick apples, then settle in with a glass of wine and vineyard views.
#6: Local History
The family history buff will love that Smith Mountain Lake is a short drive from military sites, like the National D-Day Memorial and Bedford Boys Tribute Center.
It’s also not far from the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, which has a visitor’s center, walking trails, picnic areas and ranger-guided tours.
Bedford County is also home to Poplar Forest, a former retreat home of President Thomas Jefferson. Take a docent-guided or self-guided tour.
#7: Wine Tasting
Sampling wines along the 11-stop Bottled in Bedford Craft Beverage Trail is a fantastic way to spend the day near Smith Mountain Lake.
Stops that are a short drive from the state park include Fables & Feathers Winery, Ramulose Ridge Vineyards, Hickory Hill Vineyards and Seven Doors Winery.
Settle in at a tasting room or outdoor patio to enjoy wines with beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains as your backdrop for the day.
#8: Fall Festivals
The lake comes alive in the fall with special events, like lively festivals. A favorite is the Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival at Crazy Horse Marina in late-September.
The Smith Mountain Lake Chili Festival in early-November at Bridgewater Plaza is also worth the drive for bowls of chili, live music and gorgeous lake foliage.
These annual events are a staple of lake life in the fall, when you can enjoy the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains off the water with family and friends.
#9: Sightseeing Cruises
The whole family can enjoy a two-hour sightseeing cruise on Smith Mountain Lake with Virginia Dare Cruises. They have a waterfront marina in Moneta.
Virginia Dare Cruises run cruises through the end of October, then on select dates in November and December for family cruises around the holidays.
Water enthusiasts can go boating on Smith Mountain Lake in the fall, whether on board a personal watercraft or a rental, like a family-friendly pontoon boat.
Bridgewater Marina, for example, books boat rentals through November. As a bonus, they offer off-season pricing after Labor Day.
You may also find fall boat rentals and houseboat rentals, typically through late-October, at Parrot Cove Boat Rentals and Mariners Landing Boat Rentals.
Fall is a great time to get to the boat docks and out on the lake. It’s when the sun is shining and the lake traffic is light, which is a plus for first time boaters.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Destination Bedford. However, all views and opinions expressed here are my own.