Nestled in the heart of the Cumberland State Forest in central Virginia, Bear Creek Lake is less than an hour west of Richmond. It's the perfect getaway for the outdoor enthusiast. Activities center on the 40-acre lake with a boat launch, fishing pier, boat rentals and a swimming beach. Other attractions include a meeting facility, cabins, camping, picnicking, an archery range and playgrounds. Guests also enjoy the park's trails and access to the adjoining 16,000-acre Cumberland State Forest, including the 14-mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail, which is available for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Note: There is limited cell phone service in the park. Emergency phones are in the Acorn Campground Loop and outside the linen building in the cabin area. WiFi is available year-round in the campground and at Lakeside Diner from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. WiFi is also available by the cabin area's linen building, which has ample parking next to it.
8 a.m. to dusk.
The park is about 4.5 miles northwest of the town of Cumberland. From U.S. Route 60, go west on Route 622 and south on Route 629 to the park entrance.
Note: Those coming from the west and using GPS may be directed through a gravel-covered section of Oak Hill Rd. through the Cumberland State Forest. They should instead continue on Route 60 East through the Cumberland Courthouse area and then turn left on Trents Mill Rd. (Route 622) to reach the park's main entrance.
Drive Time: Northern Va., three hours; Richmond, one hour; Roanoke, two hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, three hours
329 acres; lake size, 40 acres.
Camping and cabins. For information on availability of overnight accommodations, particular park amenities or to make a reservation, you can reserve online or call 1-800-933-PARK. Reservations are highly recommended.
During prime season, a day of guarded beach swimming per night's stay is free to overnight guests. (Parks will not refund rental fees should guarded swimming be unavailable.) Read more about swimming in the park's Recreation section.
Click here for details on reservation cancellation and transfer policies.
Visit a photo collection of Bear Creek Lake's overnight accommodations.
During prime season, cabins and the lodge are rented by the week beginning on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. A two-night minimum stay is required the rest of the year, but guests who wish to stay less than a week during prime season may call 30 days prior to desired arrival date to see if there is vacancy. The cabins and lodge are open year-round and can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. Extra beds are unavailable for these dwellings.
Directions for cabin and lodge guests to registration office: Register at the park office near the campgrounds on Bear Creek Lake Road off Route 629. Late arrivals should call the park beforehand to obtain the dwelling's entry code. Those arriving late will find information, including directions to their cabin, posted outside the park office door.
From Feb. 15 through April 30, a burn ban is in effect from midnight to 4 p.m. No open fires, including charcoal fires, are allowed until after 4 p.m. unless a camp host is on site.
Bear Creek Lodge (universally accessible)
Cabins: During prime season, weekly rental for cabins 6 through 9 starts on Friday, cabins 1 through 5 on Saturday, and for 10 through 13 on Sunday.
Total sites of each type: two-bedroom frame, 6; two-bedroom frame waterview, 4; three-bedroom frame, 1; three-bedroom frame waterview, 1; Bear Creek Lodge, 1
Two-bedroom frame cabin, maximum capacity six, one queen bed, two sets of bunk beds (room sleeps four); no bed rentals.
Two-bedroom frame waterview cabin, maximum capacity six, one queen bed, two sets of bunk beds (room sleeps four); no bed rentals. Cabin 5, which is universally accessible, has a queen bed, one set of bunkbeds and a full-size, pullout couch in the living area.
Three-bedroom frame cabin, maximum capacity eight, one queen bed, two single beds in second bedroom, two sets of bunk beds (room sleeps four) in third bedroom; no bed rentals; two bathrooms.
Three-bedroom frame waterview cabin, maximum capacity eight, one queen bed, two single beds in second bedroom, two sets of bunk beds (room sleeps four) in third bedroom; no bed rentals; two bathrooms.
Bear Creek Lodge - six bedrooms, maximum capacity 16, three bathrooms, universally accessible, a queen size bed in each of two bedroom, two single beds in two bedrooms, two sets of bunk beds each in two bedrooms (each room sleeps four); no bed rentals.
Please note that the camping lodge described below is a simple, bunkhouse; it's not Bear Creek Lodge. The camping lodge is next to the park's group campsite.
Bear Creek Lake allows guests to reserve specific campsites for the 2017 season. Here's a chart of those campsites.
From Feb. 15 through April 30, a burn ban is in effect from midnight to 4 p.m. Open air fires are prohibited during this time.
Number of each site type: EW, 28; RV35, 9; Waterview TENT, 11; BC Group Site, 1
EW – Electric-water sites; gravel parking area; can hold various equipment up to 20 feet; accepts outlets 20 and 30-amp current.
RV35 – Electric-water sites; gravel parking area; holds equipment up to 35 feet long; accepts 20 and 30-amp current; all in Black Oak Loop.
Waterview TENT - Tents only. No hookups. Gravel parking area; tent pads and natural surface for setting up tent.
Total: 48 sites
Camping Lodge (bunkhouse) - no weekly requirement.
The park rents a camping lodge (bunkhouse) that's next to the group campsite and near Chestnut Loop. The bunkhouse is not a full service lodge. It has two rooms and seven bunk beds, a refrigerator, a microwave oven, a coffee pot, and heating and air conditioning. The bunkhouse also has a charcoal grill and deck outside. Cooking and smoking are prohibited inside the lodge. Five vehicles are permitted with rental of the lodge; the daily parking fee must be paid for additional vehicles.
This facility becomes available in January each year; unlike most overnight facilities, it is not sold 11 months in advance. Check-in is 4 p.m., and check-out is 10 a.m. Late arrivals should call the park beforehand for directions and the lodge's entry code.
The transfer deadline and cancellation and pet fees are the same as those for cabins.
Bear Creek Lake rents a group campsite that has no hookups and is for tents only. It's near Chestnut Loop and next to the bunkhouse. The site accommodates up to 36 and is near a restroom. It has six picnic tables, a stone fire pit and a large pedestal grill. All equipment must be set up on gravel-covered areas. The campsite is available April 1 through Oct. 31. From April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day and from Labor Day through Oct. 31, the Chestnut Loop restroom is open only on weekends. Group campsite guests may still use the Acorn Loop restroom, which is about 200 yards away. There is a nonrefundable overnight fee plus a cancellation fee when reservations for this site are cancelled. The fee to cancel any group site that accommodates more than six people is greater than that for single campsites.
All trails within the park allow only hiking. The park also provides access to the Willis River Trail, a 16-mile long trail winding through Cumberland State Forest. Also, the 15.8-mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail is available for bicycles, horses and hikers (this trail does not loop back to the park and is located in the state forest). Those interested in riding horses or mountain bikes in the Cumberland State Forest must obtain a State Forest Use Permit; call (804) 492-4121 or visit the state forest department's website for details
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of Bear Creek Lake trails.
Between the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, guarded beach swimming is available for a fee. Weather and other issues may at times force suspension of guarded swimming. When guarded swimming is unavailable, guests may swim at the beach’s designated area but do so at their own risk. Swimming elsewhere in the park is prohibited.
The swimming beach has a bathhouse and Lakeside Diner, which offers sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Click here for park fees.
A 40-acre lake supports largemouth bass, crappie, bream and channel catfish. The Willis River, a small, slow tributary of the James, winds through the Cumberland State Forest. Those with a canoe or small boat can enjoy fishing there. Two canoe launches with access to the river are in Cumberland State Forest. A boat ramp at Bear Creek Lake is available for non-gasoline powered boats. The park also has a universally accessible fishing pier.
Boat rentals are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Shoulder season rentals are offered on weekends only from May 1 through Columbus Day Weekend. Parental supervision is required for all rentals. Rentals are sometimes cancelled during the shoulder season because of bad weather or staff shortages.
Canoes, rowboats, trolling motors, paddleboats, paddleboards and kayaks are for rent. Call the park for prices. A valid Virginia fishing license is required for fishing. Those 16 and older must have a license with them. A gas station near the park entrance sells fishing licenses.
Those interested in fishing in the Cumberland State Forest lakes, including Arrowhead, Bonbrook, Oak Hill and Winston lakes, must obtain a State Forest Use Permit (in addition to a regular freshwater fishing license). Call 804-492-4121 or visit the state forestry department's website for details.
None within the park. There is a trailhead to the 15.7-mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail, which is popular for horseback riding. It's a day-use only trail. Those interested in riding horses there should call 804-492-4121 or visit the state forest department's website for details. Riders are required to carry a copy of a negative Coggins report for each horse brought to the park.
Hunting is allowed in nearby Cumberland State Forest. Call the state forest at (804) 492-4121 for specific dates.
The park has a 10-lane archery range with excelsior bales and 3D targets. The range, which is managed by the park and Friends of Bear Creek Lake State Park, is open from March 1 through the first Monday in December. No archery equipment is available for rent. Call 804-492-4410 for details.
Click here for the park's trail guide.
The park offers lakeside picnicking near the swimming beach. Picnic facilities include drinking water, grills and restrooms. Picnic shelters are available by reservation by calling the Customer Service Center at 1-800-933-PARK. Click here for park fees. Shelters can be rented from 8 a.m. to dusk (all day). The shelter is rented April 1 through Oct. 31; boat rentals and swimming are available Memorial Day through Labor Day. Shelter parking is very limited so carpooling is recommended.
Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.
Bear Creek Meeting Hall
Reserve by calling 1-800-933-7275. It's a great place for weddings. This is a day-use facility.
Tables and chairs are available at no additional charge. Guests should call the park at least two weeks ahead of time to arrange their event's setup. Many sizes and configurations are available. The facility seats about 40 for sit-down meal and about 65 without tables. In warm weather, up to twelve 48-inch tables with four chairs each can be set up on the facility’s stone patio.
Reservations must be paid in full within 14 days of the date the reservation is made. Cancellations can be made up until 14 days prior to the start of the reservation for a 10 percent cancellation fee or $100, whichever is less. Within 14 days prior to the first day of the reservation period, a 30 percent cancellation fee is charged.
The park also rents family lodges that may be used for small retreats and get-togethers.
Merchandise can be purchased at the office, concession stand and boat house.
None but the park's Lakeside Diner is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. A small market just outside the park entrance carries a limited supply of grocery items and some camping supplies. The Town of Cumberland located on Route 60 approximately seven miles from the park has a post office, convenience stores and three small restaurants.
Closest public laundry is 7 miles away in Cumberland Court House.
The swimming area and boat rentals are available from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday - Friday and 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Lakeside Diner is open during prime season from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Please call the park about availability in early June and late August.
Campfire get-togethers, music activities, archery programs, junior rangers programs, history programs, nature hikes, nature crafts, survival skills, canoeing, fishing and many more activities on most days from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Programs are offered on weekends during spring and fall. Groups may request special programming any time of year if they provide advance notice and the subject matter is relevant to Bear Creek Lake's natural and historic resources. Click here to view all parks' events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
Bear Creek Lake was built in 1938 as a project of the Virginia Department of Agriculture through the State Forestry Division. Although this project was undertaken during the closing days of the Great Depression, the 100 men who built the lake were not members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They were simply carpenters, farmers and unskilled laborers seeking jobs. Along with the lake, these men built two pavilions, a concession stand and six fireplaces. The land was given to the Division of State Parks in 1940, and it was operated as a day-use recreation area. In 1962 the division added campgrounds and the area's name was changed to Bear Creek Lake State Park.
Feel like lending a hand? The Friends of Bear Creek Lake State Park group is a hands-on volunteer 501c3 organization dedicated to preserving and supporting the park. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to become a member.
Master plans must be written for parks before they're built. The plans are updated at least once every 10 years thereafter. The plans cover the size, types, infrastructure and locations of facilities as well as the site's special features and resources. Three public meetings are held during the initial development of each plan. Click here for this park's master plan.
Virginia State Parks are great places to discover and reconnect with the wild world. Bring a camera and share your captures with the world. But please don't disturb or get too close to the animals. The park is, after all, their home. Here are a few recent natural encounters others have had at Bear Creek Lake State Park.
View all wildlife encounter photos from Bear Creek Lake State Park.