I've been surprised to find that a large number of you have never visited our local state park! Sure, most know that it exists, but do you know all that it offers?
My family of origin has camped up and down the east coast since I was very young. We discovered SML State Park for the first time back in the '80s - not long after it opened. The park itself is huge - one of the largest in the commonwealth, in fact!
What kept drawing us back here was the wonderfully shaded campground with space to breathe between sites. If you're a camper, you know that elbow room between RVs can be hard to come by! The bathhouses are spacious, though they are starting to get a little age on them - like everything from the '80s right about now. The camp hosts we've encountered over the years have always been kind and welcoming as they keep the sites, facilities, and fire pits clean and at-the-ready. It's still our favorite campground in Virginia, and even though it's now only 30 minutes from where we live, we camp there often!
In addition to the main tent/RV campground, there's also a cluster of climate-controlled cabins available if you enjoy a rustic getaway experience but prefer the comfort of being surrounded by four walls.
The swimming beach, open Memorial Day through Labor Day, is wide and ample. Adjacent to the beach is a snack bar with covered picnic tables for when the afternoon munchies hit. Swimming is free for overnight guests and $5 adult/$4 child for the general public. If you're lucky, you might even catch the Ice Cream Boat docking nearby!
The park runs a full programming schedule that reaches its peak in the summer months but does continue on a smaller scale through the shoulder seasons. Park Rangers and Interpreters lead talks, hikes, boat rides, demonstrations, campfires, and more. These events are not only available to vacationing guests but are open to the public as well! This summer while on a camping trip with my nieces, we attended a talk with Ranger Jet on Monarch butterflies, and the girls got to make their own caterpillar to take home with them. It was so much fun, and we all learned a wealth of interesting facts! To find out what is being offered on any given day, you can check out their calendar or, if you're already at the park, stop by the Visitor's Center to pick up a flyer that has all the happenings for that week.
You'll also find live musical performances (and sometimes clogging) on the docket quite a few times throughout the year!
Many of these offerings require only the daily parking fee ($7) and showing up at the scheduled time and place, but some do require pre-registration and tickets, so read the descriptions carefully.
One last way we love to utilize the park is by docking our boat near the Discovery Center. We walk our two pups up to the amphitheater point for a picnic under a thick stand of trees. There is always a lovely breeze, and the boat watching right there on the s-curve is primo!
If you've not yet explored all that this jewel of the lake has to offer, I hope you will soon! For a perfect Sunday afternoon picnic spot that's close to home and showcases some of the most beautiful views of the lake, you just can't beat it.
Yearly entry/parking passes can be purchased if you are a park enthusiast. They are good for every state park in Virginia - and are just $85 ($40 for seniors)!