Cave Mountain Lake is a little-known sandy beach tucked away in the mountains surrounded by incredible things to see and do. We’re sharing everything you need to know to make the most of your time at the lake whether you’re camping for a week or simply visiting for a day.
Cave Mountain Lake is a quiet 7 acre lake surrounded by our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The recreation area is open seasonally from April through October and is one of the area’s best kept secrets.
Like almost all lakes in Virginia, this beautiful body of water isn’t naturally occurring, but was instead created by the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC.
Before we get into the tips for a great visit, here is the basic info you need to know about the area.
Cave Mountain Lake
Open Season: Open from early April 1 – late October
Hours: Gates are open from 6 am – 10 pm, Day Use area is open from 6 am – Sunset
Fees: $8/vehicle, large groups are welcome and cost $2/person for passenger vehicles with more than 8.
Nearest Town: Natural Bridge, Virginia
Camping Fees: Tent sites are $20/night for groups up to 10 or $40/night for groups up to 12. If you are going to be group camping check the US Forest Service site to confirm pricing.
Best time to visit Cave Mountain Lake
You can expect to have a great time at Cave Mountain Lake anytime during the open season, but some times are better than others. In early April we are just coming into spring and frequent rains and still barren forests make this less than stellar for being in nature.
It’s not until late May or early June that the water has warmed enough to make swimming pleasant. June through August have the best weather for swimming.
On early weekends you can expect to find some crowding at the small beach and swimming area, though it never truly gets crowded.
If you can visit on a weekday mid-morning you might find you have the entire lake to yourself, which is nice because the beach and swimming area is small.
Fishing at Cave Mountain Lake
Those of you looking to fish at Cave Mountain Lake will have to wait awhile into the season. Visitors over 15 years old are prohibited from fishing at the lake until after June 15 due to the trout stocking program in Virginia.
You will also need to purchase a fishing license prior fishing at the lake. You can read the rules and regulations or purchase a license on Virginia’s website.
The other thing to know is that there aren’t any nearby sporting goods stores to grab that last minute item you forgot. At best, you are looking at a 30 minute drive and really interrupting your visit so double check your gear before you head out.
There are a few trails to visit in and around Cave Mountain Lake. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do, but not all hikes are amazing. The trails around the recreation area are less maintained than most visitors will be used to. These trails don’t lead to any waterfalls or amazing views, but do offer a pleasant walk through the woods.
The trail that is best to try is the short trail that winds around the lake. The trail around the lake is about a mile out and back. If you decide to hike around the lake grab a stick to knock down all the spider webs. Trust me.
Camping at Cave Mountain Lake
There are 41 sites at Cave Mountain Lake campground. All are non electric and some can house campers. It is important to pay attention when booking a site to make sure it can accommodate your camper if it is especially large. You will find that the sites vary in how large a camper will fit.
You shouldn’t have too much difficulty booking a site a week before your visit. When you are ready to book your camping site, the easiest way is to book through recreation.gov. Booking can only be done during the open season and all six months of the open season are available to book April 2.
There are flushing toilets and sinks in the restroom as well as showers that are free to use. Aside from that, there is an amazing picnic area near the lake. Cave Mountain Lake is the perfect place to camp for a visit to the Natural Bridge area if you like quieter, more nature-filled camping experiences.
Those staying a few days might decide they want to explore outside of the recreation area. There are a few nearby adventures to enjoy you won’t want to miss.
If you’ve never been to Natural Bridge then you are missing out. You can visit the naturally formed tunnel and do nothing else and it would have been worth it, but there’s more. There are a few hiking trails that are part of the state park and a newly registered dark sky park qualification.
Skyline Trail is your best bet for a great hike and this is where you can take a self guided dark sky tour.
If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way, there are some resources for planning. We used a calendar from Capture the Atlas last year when we travelled out west and it really helped.
Avid hikers can’t skip checking out this amazing rock scramble. The trail is only a little more than 3 miles but that’s just the walking part. The real fun of the trail is climbing up, over, and around the hundreds, probably thousands, of boulders strewn across the mountain.
If you don’t know what rock scrambling is that’s okay. We have a guide that breaks down what rock scrambling is and have a few tips. Most likel, you’ve been rock scrambling and didn’t know what it is.
If you have small kids, Devil’s Marbleyard may not be for you, but the next recommendation is perfect.
Boxerwood Nature Center
Sometimes you stumble across a place that is hard to descibe but it’s perfect. That’s what Boxerwood is.
The center has an outdoor play center with a huge play kitchen, tons of easy trails, a hidden fairy forest, and a few other secrets to uncover on your visit.
You can find the center in Lexington, Virginia. It’s about thirty minutes from Cave Mountain Lake, but worth the drive. The Center is free to visit but they accept donations to fund the work they do.
Cave Mountain Lake may slip under the radar of most out-of-towners, and most locals for that matter, but it’s a great place to visit. You may just find after visiting that this becomes your new favorite swimming hole.