Take The Plunge: Can’t-Miss Southwest Virginia Water Destinations
Take the Plunge: Can’t Miss Southwest Virginia Water Destinations
It’s summer, the temps are climbing, and the water is calling! If you’re looking to cool off and enjoy some of Southwest Virginia’s most beautiful sites, you’re in luck because the region is overflowing with incredible water destinations.
From rivers and lakes to falls and parks, there are a number of must-visit locations in Southwest Virginia that we know will make a big splash with our visitors. Here are a few of our favorites:
Contrary to its name, the New River is part of an ancient river system – the second oldest in North America and second only in terms of age to the Nile, the world’s oldest river. It covers about 160 miles and spans various cities and towns as it winds through the cities of Galax and Radford and counties of Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, Pulaski, Montgomery, and Giles before meandering into West Virginia.
Throughout its journey in Virginia, the New River flows through stunning mountain scenery, craggy rock cliffs, and magnificent gorges. The river is great for whitewater rafting with several major Class II-III rapids and an abundance of flatwater for tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. It also supports populations of just about every major freshwater game fish in the state and is considered one of Virginia’s top three fishing rivers.
New River Trail State Park parallels the river for over 50 miles from Pulaski to Fries and Galax, allowing hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists to take in the beauty of the river as it sweeps through southwestern Virginia.
Located in Giles County, Cascade Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Virginia. The gorgeous 69-foot falls, located within Jefferson National Forest, are a result of Little Stony Creek and other streams meeting on this spot and create the surrounding pool, providing an incredible view for visitors.
And it’s not just an exquisite sight during warm weather. During the winter, ice forms along the 200-foot cliff walls that surround Cascade Falls, creating a winter wonderland. The hike to the Falls is a four-mile loop with an upper and lower trail, so it’s not a difficult walk. The upper trail offers cool views of the creek, while the lower trail is the portion with the most spectacular perspective of the falls.
Little Stony Falls
Situated between Coeburn and Dungannon in Wise County, Little Stony Falls is a short stroll (rated easy to moderate) – and once you’re there, you’ll enjoy a truly gorgeous sight!
You’ll walk along the 2.8-mile Little Stony National Recreation Trail, following a stream (where fishing is allowed) through a 400-foot deep, 1,700-wide gorge. The Northern Trailhead is a quick and easy route to this dazzling 24-foot high waterfall that features scenic views of deep gorges and a lush grove of hardwood trees.
The Devil’s Bathtub in Scott County is definitely one of Virginia’s to travel destinations as visitors come from all over the country – and world – to see this stunning, natural creation.
Be prepared to walk a bit – it’s a four-mile-plus hike that takes you across more than a dozen stream beds, and past Cascade Falls. To get to the lower swimming pools of the Tub, you must cross a narrow ledge. There is also a diving area but proceed with extreme caution as you have to clear a rock ledge before hitting the water.
The beauty of the Devil’s Bathtub, which is solid rock, which is about 20 feet long and eight feet wide, is unquestionable. The clear, cold water in the 12-foot-deep depression in the creek bed is pristine – a crystal-clear aquamarine hue that is created by the algae on the bottom – and shaped just like a bathtub.
Hungry Mother State Park Lake
Located in one of Virginia’s most striking state parks, Hungry Mother Lake in Smyth County is a hot spot of activity from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Popular for its scenic location, which features both woodlands and water, the lake spans 108 acres.
Fishing and boating are extremely popular at the lake, as is swimming. Hungry Mother Lake, the centerpiece of the park, features a lovely sandy beach and a dive tower. The beach area also offers canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals.
The park also offers overnight accommodations for travelers looking to spend the weekend or a full week enjoying the sites and scenic views.
Smith Mountain Lake
Featuring 500 miles of shoreline, magnificent Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County, which is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, is the second largest freshwater lake in Virginia.
One of the most popular and scene destinations in Virginia, the lake features swimming, boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, and fishing. The lake has hosted several professional fishing tournaments and Smith Mountain Lake State Park features a great beach area for swimming.
The lake features several public access points and a state park just across the county line in Bedford, Virginia.
Laurel Bed Lake
Laurel Bed Lake, located in Russell County on the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, covers about 330 acres and sits on top of Clinch Mountain.
Surrounded by woodlands, the lake is known for its spectacular scenery, along with its excellent fishing. It also attracts a great deal of of swimmers and boaters. Kayakers, in particular, enjoy the lake’s 29 acres of sparkling surface water.