This picturesque 326-acre public recreation area managed by the Virginia State Park system is nestled around a small lake adjacent to 16,000 acres of state forest land.
The adjoining Cumberland State Forest has 4 small lakes, trails and the Willis River winding through it.
This entire area, along with Bear Creek Lake State Park, provides ample opportunity for hiking, camping, boating, fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing.
During the late 1930s the Virginia Department of Agriculture built the lake, 2 pavilions, a concession stand and 6 fireplaces. While much of this has been long gone there are still remnants from that era that you may notice while exploring the trails and forest.
Check the park’s event page to discover their history programs, campfire get togethers, archery programs and nature hikes.
And if you’re interested in hosting a special event, reunion or meeting at the park check out their meeting facility – Bear Creek Hall. It has a large kitchen and dining area with seating for up to 65 people.
Here’s a list some other activities that you can do during your stay at Bear Creek Lake State Park:
Swimming at Bear Creek Lake State Park
There is a beach area at Bear Creek Lake State Park and swimming is only allowed in designated places within this area.
A lifeguard is usually on duty seasonally (between Memorial Day and Labor Day) and an additional fee is required to swim during those months.
Swimming at other times of the year doesn’t include this additional fee and is considered ‘swim at your own risk’.
Located next to the beach area is a playground, snack bar, restrooms, picnic tables and grills.
The Lakeside Snack Bar is also seasonal and has sandwiches, pizza, drinks, ice cream and other snacks.
Boating at Bear Creek Lake State Park
There are boat launches for the lake inside Bear Creek Lake State Park and additional ones on the river inside Cumberland State Forest.
Boat rentals are available between Memorial Day and Labor Day and include canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddle boards and paddle boats.
Fishing at Bear Creek Lake State Park
Fish for bass, bream, crappie and channel catfish from your canoe, small boat or pier.
You can also fish from one of the 4 small lakes inside of Cumberland State Forest as long as you have a state forest use permit in addition to your regular freshwater fishing license.
Trails at Bear Creek Lake State Park
Bear Creek Lake State Park has a few hiking trails plus access to the trail system inside The Cumberland State Forest.
Two popular trails inside Bear Creek Lake State Park are:
- Channel Cat Trail – a 2 mile easy hike
- Bear Creek Lake Trail – a 3 mile mostly flat loop around the lake
If you need more variety in your hikes, nearby Cumberland State Forest has many more miles of trails.
This trail system, inside of the state forest, is open for not only hiking but also bicycling and horseback riding. However, you will need a permit if you want to ride either.
The 15.7 mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail and the 16 mile Willis River Trail are both popular and worth exploring if you get the chance.
Archery at Bear Creek Lake State Park
A 10-range archery range with excelsior bales and 3D targets is located inside of Bear Creek Lake State Park.
The range is open March through December but you will need to bring your own equipment as none is currently available to rent at the park.
Wildlife at Bear Creek Lake State Park
Bear Creek Lake State Park is next to a 16,000 acre forest area which means plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing.
Of course you’ll see common wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, deer and frogs. But also keep an eye open for raccoons, beavers, porcupines, foxes, elk, eastern painted turtles, salamanders and possibly a black bear or two.
It’s also a birder’s paradise and many native and migratory species may be seen near the lake, in the fruit bushes and in the trees.
Some you may see include Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, northern parulas, pine warblers and yellow-billed cuckoos. Plus woodpeckers, robins, green herons, ducks and bald eagles
Lodging at Bear Creek Lake State Park
Bear Creek Lake State Park has tent and RV camping with modern bath houses nearby plus a group site, bunk house, a small lodge and rustic cabins.
And to make your stay more comfortable Wi-Fi is available throughout the park and you can purchase ice and firewood at the Park Office.
There are 48 campsites spread amongst 3 separate sections inside of the park:
- Acorn Loop has 11 tent only sites with views of the lake but no electricity or water. And another 5 sites with water and electricity but no lake views.
- Black Oak Loop has 20 sites with water and electricity and 9 that are large enough for RVs.
- Chestnut Loop has 11 tent or popup sites with electricity and water.
Most sites are shaded and all sites have picnic tables and fire rings.
A bunkhouse is located next to the group camping site and has 2 rooms, 7 bunk beds, a refrigerator, microwave and outside grill.
The bunkhouse doesn’t have a bathroom or kitchen (no cooking is allowed inside).
Bear Creek lodge has 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and sleeps up to 16. An open floor plan includes a kitchen, dining area and living room with a large fireplace. You will need to bring your own towels and bed linens.
Each of the 13 rustic cabins have wraparound porches with rocking chairs plus a picnic table and fire ring. The cabins are available year round and some have views of the lake.
Pets at Bear Creek Lake State Park
Pets are allowed in the park but must be leashed while outside and are not allowed in the beach area. There is an additional fee for pets staying in the lodge or cabins.
Attractions Near Bear Creek Lake State Park
The town of Cumberland is only a few miles away if you need laundry facilities, supplies or a home cooked meal. If you love Italian food check out the highly rated Vito’s Italian Restaurant located on 1631 Anderson Highway.
Richmond, the capital of Virginia is less than an hour’s drive from Bear Creek Lake State Park. It is one of the oldest cities in the US, full of historical sites and many great places to shop and dine.
Charlottesville, one hour north, is home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s mountain-top plantation and former president, James Monroe’s home. The city is also located near Shenandoah National Park.
Monticello is located at 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy. Visit this stately 1769 mansion and plantation that was the primary residence of Thomas Jefferson. Guided tours are offered plus there’s a museum and café.
Highland is located at 2050 James Monroe Pkwy. Across the street from Monticello is the 5th US president (1799-1823), James Monroe’s stately home. Formerly known as Ash Lawn, this beautiful house, garden and estate is open for viewing, special events and has a scenic trail system on the grounds that you can explore.
Another interesting place to visit if you get the chance is Old Town Farmville, located an hour east of Bear Creek Lake State Park.
Bear Creek State Park
22 Bear Creek Lake Road
Cumberland, VA 23040
Open daily 8am until dusk
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Bear Creek State Park: