Smith Mountain Lake - Flatwater Paddling

A lake

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smith Mountain Lake is the largest and most popular lake in Virginia, perfect for fishing, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. - 23penguin


Destination Highlights
Most Of A Day

Dog Friendly

Land Website
Smith Mountain Lake

Spring, Summer, and Fall

0.1 miles

Time To Complete
0.25 hours



Set in a broad valley of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Smith Mountain Lake (SML) is the largest and most popular lake in Virginia. Though this reservoir was created for electricity production with the construction of the Smith Mountain Dam in 1963, it is now the focal point for a bustling recreation scene. The lake and its surrounding area are best known as an ideal place for boating, sailing, flatwater paddling, fishing, swimming, hiking, golf, watersports, and camping.

SML—as locals commonly call it—features more than 500 miles of coastline, with the majority of the lake’s southern portion in Franklin County and most of the northern part in Bedford County. It's less than two hours from Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and about three hours from Raleigh, North Carolina. Lakefront houses and rental properties draw in large summer crowds and a full-time community with many retirees.

What Makes It Great

Local Virginians know Smith Mountain Lake as the ultimate vacation destination, especially in the warmer spring and summer months. While there’s no shortage of motorized boat activity (and the accompanying watersports like wakeboarding and tubing), there’s plenty of room on this 20,600-acre lake for flatwater paddling.

Those sporting kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and canoes will be happy paddling on the calmer and quieter waters close to shore and in tucked away inlets on the lake. Smith Mountain Lake Community Park and Smith Mountain Lake State Park Beach offer gently sloping beaches that make for a great spot to put in.

For kayak and SUP rentals (along with paddles and life jackets), head to Bridgewater Marina on the northwest shore in Moneta or Mitchell’s Point Marina in the town of Huddleston on the east shore. The former is in Franklin County and is closer to people coming from Rocky Mount or Roanoke, while the latter is easier to access for those coming from North Carolina.

Who is Going to Love It

Anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Smith Mountain Lake at a slower pace will enjoy a leisurely paddle here. Spending an hour or two exploring the plentiful hidden alcoves or simply sitting back and relaxing in your boat or on your board gives you a chance to soak up the beautiful natural surroundings (you’re in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, remember!) and find areas of peace and quiet on this generally bustling waterway.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Rocky Mount (the center of Franklin County), heading east on state highway 122 takes you right into Bridgewater Plaza where you can start your day at the rental shop there. Once you have your boat or board ready to go, head back west on highway 122 for just a few miles before heading south down Scruggs Road to reach Smith Mountain Lake Community Park.

Written by Jenna Herzog for RootsRated in partnership with Southwest Virginia and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network.