How to Pull Off a Memorable Camping Trip at Philpott Lake
Friday August 10, 2018
Crystalline water pools around my feet and I drag my kayak into the lake at Twin Ridge Park. As I dip my paddle into the water, eyes on the horizon, all I can see is water, forest, and sky. It’s early spring, and I am on a mission—to find the perfect waterside campsite at Philpott Lake.
Tucked away in the wrinkled foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Philpott Lake adorns the southwest corner of Virginia, reaching into Franklin, Henry, and Patrick counties. Although the 2,880-acre lake was constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers 65 years ago, the surrounding landscape remains wild. Framed by 20,000 acres of protected federal and state lands, including vast hardwood forests, trail-laced recreation areas, and kid-friendly beaches, Philpott Lake is a pristine paradise for outdoor lovers.
Nothing beats taking a dip in the deep, clear lake on a hot summer day, or exploring all the enticing nooks and coves via kayak. In addition to the mountain views, there are a number of waterfalls cascading into this pristine, undeveloped lake for you to find and enjoy. For anglers, there’s plenty of fishing to keep you busy: Both large and smallmouth bass are in good supply here, in addition to walleye, muskie, bluegill, and the staple of the south, the catfish.
The medley of recreation areas bordering the lake are also teeming with blissful campsites, providing options for all sorts of campers—from backcountry aficionados searching for a rustic retreat to first-time glampers ready to escape the city for a weekend.
Play Castaway for a Weekend
Paddling along the craggy shoreline, the surface of the lake is silky smooth, interrupted by only one looming disturbance—Deer Island. The pine-tufted atoll is my first destination, and one of the most unique camping destinations in Virginia. The idyllic island is sprinkled with 21 secluded campsites, all ideal for casting for Philpott Lake’s resident largemouth bass by moonlight.
For me, Deer Island is just one pit stop along the Philpott Lake Blueway, a network of water trails offering 25 miles to explore, easily accessible from nine different boat launches scattered around the lake. As soon as my kayak crunches onto the stony shore, I hop out and scour the island. Each of the campsites is stunningly picturesque, nestled into groves of fragrant white pine. Suddenly, I stumble onto the perfect spot, tucked away on the eastern edge of the island, away from the other sites. Number 21. I make a mental note. I’ll be back in the summer.
Back on the water, I push off from Deer Island and float past a ribbon of sandy beach, part of Salthouse Branch Park, just one of the recreation areas edging Philpott Lake. While there are plenty of secluded escapes for primitive campers, Philpott Lake also has plenty of options for campers seeking amenities and activities.
Historic Jamison Mill Park provides a glimpse into the life of some of the lake’s 19th-century inhabitants, while also providing access to the Philpott Lake Blueway and six miles of multi-use trails, tailor-made for mountain bikers. For families, Salthouse Branch and Horseshoe Point parks offer perks like playgrounds, pristine beaches, and picnic spots. Hikers and runners love the Dogwood Glen Trail, beginning at Salthouse Branch and running along to lakeshore for 4.5 miles, ending at Philpott Dam.
Meanwhile, wildlife lovers and campers with cozy pop-up trailers should check out the pine-fringed campsites at Goose Point Park, spread along the southwestern edge of Philpott Lake.
Goose Point Park at Philpott Lake is a camping facility that provides a variety of outdoor recreation activities. A boat ramp with courtesy dock is one of the many amenities available to campers. We have 63 campsites available, some primitive and others with water and electricity. Enjoy a nice picnic in our picnic area with shelter. If you simply want to have fun, take a swim or let the kids play on the playground. Flush toilets, hot water showers and sanitary dump station are also available. The park is open year-round, but only offers primitive camping, no water or electric hook-ups, at a limited number of campsites during the off season, November-March. Portable toilet facilities are available during the off season. Day Use Fees apply for non-campers. More information, rates, regulations & hours can be found on our website
For roving RV enthusiasts, there are spots with water and electrical hookups at Salthouse Branch, Horseshoe Point, Jamison Mill and Goose Point parks. But, for real big-rig drivers, the roomiest spots are located at Salthouse Branch Park.
Just west of Philpott Lake is Fairy Stone State Park, which has its own unique camping options. The park is actually connected to Philpott via Fairy Stone Lake, and visitors staying here can choose from cozy cabins and four yurts available for rent. The cabins, which range in size from one-room efficiencies to six-bedroom lodges, have kitchen facilities and comfortable sleeping quarters, making them a good way to enjoy camping without roughing it.
The yurts—a modern take on the traditional nomadic shelter—are a cross between a tent and a cabin. Each yurt features a wooden deck, a picnic table, and a fire ring with cooking grate. Two of the hurts require a short hike to reach, while two offer parking. There’s no water or electricity in the yurt, no kitchen, and guests bring their own sleeping bags or linens. But unlike tent camping, you get a full-size structure with beds, a wood floor, sofa, chairs and a table.
For equestrians, Fairy Stone State Park also features horse campsites. The amenities vary, but you’ll find some have electricity, water, and are close to a bathhouse. Others are more primitive. See the website for complete details, but if you want to explore the area by horseback, this is the way to go.
As the sun slips closer to the silhouetted peaks of the Blue Ridge, I haul my kayak out of the water at Twin Ridge Park and head for Highway 57, the motorway dubbed Fairy Stone Park Highway. Cruising the scenic ribbon of roadway, I catch the occasional flash of white-tail deer in the leafy woodlands surrounding Philpott Lake. Besides the wildlife, I’m driving through foothills steeped with history. Ancient staurolite crystals nicknamed ‘fairy stones’ still remain hidden in the mixed hardwood forests and secluded glens. But the landscape is also steeped in legend and lore, dating back to Franklin County’s heyday as the ’Moonshine Capital of the World’ during the height of Prohibition.
If you think Philpott sounds like the perfect summer getaway, you’re not alone and campsites can fill up fast. Call 877-444-6777 and ensure you get a spot by making a reservation at your ideal campground. Before you know it, you’ll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of living on the lake and taking advantage of everything this Southwest Virginia gem has to offer.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated Media in partnership with Martinsville - Henry County.