Philpott Lake is a natural sanctuary in Southwest Virginia that provides a welcome escape from the everyday workings of modern life. This sprawling lake region offers not only the quiet beauty of time on the water, but is surrounded by almost 20,000 acres of pristine wilderness with the Blue Ridge Mountains rising up in the distance. The setting makes for the perfect place to enjoy a day (or more!) of boating, fishing, and swimming, all while taking in the scenic vistas unique to this part of the state. Here are just some of the ways to have a memorable time on your next trip to our neck of the woods.
Serene Swimming Beaches
On a balmy summer day, the cool, clear water of Philpott Lake is irresistibly inviting. The lake is scattered with sandy swimming beaches, perfect for splashing around and sure to induce nostalgic memories of summer camp for adults that might be long overdue for a vacation. There are six designated swimming areas surrounding the lake.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Philpott Lake is a paddler’s paradise, featuring flatwater that’s easy to navigate and filled with hidden nooks to explore. From secluded waterfalls to isolated fishing holes, the lake has something for everyone to enjoy. A dozen different parks ring the lake, and canoers and kayakers can craft tailor-made adventures to fit their interests, from family-friendly canoe trips to multi-sport expeditions combining kayaking, hiking, and biking.
Explore the Philpott Lake Blueway, the 25-mile water trail that connects the lake’s boat launches, recreation areas, and scenic gems. Visiting paddlers can rent canoes or kayaks and arrange guided trips in the region at Smith River Outfitters in Bassett.
Located at the southernmost edge of the lake, the amenity-loaded Philpott Marina is the perfect basecamp for any boating adventure. The newly built and modern marina is more than just a scenic launch spot— there are also rentable boat slips, short-terms use slips for visitors, fuel, and a store with snacks and fishing supplies. You’ll also find plenty of picnic tables and a full-service campground (with electrical hook-ups).
Other points of entry for boaters on Philpott Lake include: Philpott Park, Bowens Creek, Goose Point, Salthouse Branch, Twin Ridge, Horseshoe Point, Jamison Mill, Ryans Branch, and Runnett Bag Park.
Philpott Lake is one of the most popular fishing destinations in this part of Virginia. The fishing scene is one of the biggest draws of Philpott Lake, which is a hotspot for walleye and harbors brawny largemouth bass in large numbers. Patient anglers can also hook more reclusive smallmouth bass, black crappie, and catfish. On the water, anglers can troll the rocky ledges along the shore for largemouth bass or seek out smallmouths in crystalline pockets of deep water in southern portion of the lake, near the Philpott Dam. Anglers have plenty of room to hook fish from the shoreline at the recreation areas ringing the lake. Stake out the Runnet Bag branch of the lake for the seasonal walleye spawn in the early spring, or fish for catfish in the shadowy water of Ryans Branch with smelly dough baits or chicken livers. The Twin Ridge Recreation Area is known for its fishing tournament facility, which is also handicap accessible.
Featuring a postcard-worthy setting, Philpott Lake has become popular for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). The placid, flatwater conditions make the lake ideal budding paddleboarders still getting their sea legs. With all the acreage to explore, experienced boarders will find enough open water to be entertained, too.
Fairy Stone State Park
Fairy Stone State Park is known for the unique crystals found in the region. Spread along the southwestern edge of Philpott Lake, Fairy Stone State Park is an idyllic detour. One of Virginia’s first five state parks created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s named for the stunning staurolite crystals founds within its forests—storied to be the preserved tears of ancient fairies. Fairy Stone State Park is anchored by its own lagoon, the 168-acre Fairy Stone Lake, which sits beside sprawling Philpott Lake. Throughout the summer, and on weekends in the spring and fall, the park rents canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. By boat, cruise to the scenic waterfalls where Fairy Stone Lake tumbles into the Philpott Lake.
Camping Like a Castaway
One of the most unique on-the-water experiences at Philpott Lake is the chance to camp like a castaway at Deer Island. Located between the Twin Ridge and Goose Point recreation areas, the lake’s largest atoll is covered with 21 pine-shaded campsites scattered along the water, treating campers to both scenery and seclusion. If you’re looking for a more traditional campsite, you have your choice of options as well.