State Parks to Check Out

March 8, 2018

Written by: Danielle Ledgerwood

       Virginia has a total of 37 state parks, each individual in their own way, with a diverse range of activities, habitats, and accommodations. Their website boasts that “There is something for everyone!”

If you live in Lynchburg, you’re only an hour away from two of the commonwealth’s nicest parks: Smith Mountain Lake State Park and James River State Park.

The next time you want to take your friends on a weekend getaway, consider visiting one of these great parks.


Smith Mountain Lake State Park—Huddleston, Virginia (45 minutes)

Nestled along the north end of the second largest freshwater lake in Virginia, this 1,148 acre park offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor people.

As far as camping amenities go, the park has 50 campsites that range from primitive (for tents and hammocks) to electricity and water equipped sites.

The park boasts a 500 foot beach for swimming, one of two total public beaches on Smith Mountain Lake (SML). During the summer, these beaches overflow with vacationers and families trying to escape the heat.

If you’re coming to take advantage of absolutely everything SML has to offer, there’s a boat launch in the park to accommodate any sized boat.

The park has plenty of fishing opportunities: there are several docks and a pier to cast a line from. Fish in SML range from small sunfish, varying types of catfish, muskies, perch, to small and largemouth bass.

For families with children visiting the park, there are several quiet picnic areas, a small playground, an amphitheater, and depending on the time of year, different Junior Ranger events and other families activities.

Starting in 2018, the park will introduce a series of geocaching events, a type of scavenger hunt that involves finding hidden items and logging your discovery.


James River State Park—Gladstone, Virginia (1 hour)

Tucked away under the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 1,561 acre park boasts 15 miles of trails and 3 miles of coveted

shoreline along the James River.

In the late spring to early autumn season, there are canoeing, kayaking, and tubing trips available on the James.

For primitive campers, there are 30 sites, equipped with tent platforms, water and electricity hookups, plus a bathhouse and laundry facilities.

For those campers who are less comfortable sleeping in a tent, they can enjoy one of the park’s 16 cabins.

One of the park employees, Joyce Bailey, who has been working there since 2005, says that the cabins stay popular all year. She claimed that in the winter months, people like to come stay in the cabins on site to get away, relax, curl up with a book, and expectantly wait for it to snow.

For bigger groups that need a lot of space, but would rather not camp, there are two lodges available.

Guests who also wish to bring their horses along can utilize the facilities available to house them, then they can ride on the trails winding throughout the park.

       These two parks provide plenty of opportunities to get outside and immerse yourself in nature for a weekend. They both take about an hour drive to get to from Lynchburg: the same amount of time people are willing to drive to Krispy Kreme in Roanoke.

       The state park system has been slowly dwindling in popularity the past few years, and it’s up to the upcoming generation to rekindle the interest and preserve these parks for future generations to enjoy.

Spring at Hydaway

February 15, 2018

Written by: Jacen Hamilton

Photo by Alexandru Tudorache on Unsplash

        Winter can be a dreary time of the year when it comes to the outdoors. This is the bad news. The good news is that spring is right on the horizon! March 20th marks the first official day of spring.  Soon the flowers, wildlife, and greenery will emerge. The better news is that Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center will be opening on February 22nd, just in time to combat the winter blues.  Hydaway has so much to offer, including camping, mountain biking, disc golf, and boating on the lake. Though there are so many opportunities at Hydaway, these are three of my favorite activities to take advantage of this spring!

  1. Go Fishing
    We stocked Hydaway Lake with over 300 rainbow trout last fall! These fish love the cold water temperatures and will be biting all semester. In addition to the new trout, Hydaway Lake contains other fish species like largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and pickerel who will be eager and hungry when the water temperature warms up.  No fishing equipment? No problem. Hydaway has a variety of fishing rods and tackle for your use to catch fish all spring long!

  2. Rent Camping Equipment
    Did you know you can rent hiking and camping equipment from Hydaway for all of your spring adventures? We have top-notch equipment, from Kelty tents to Mountain Hardware sleeping bags. We have a lot of equipment available and this gear is certain to keep you warm throughout the chilly spring months. Some of my favorite college memories include grabbing a tent, stove, and handful of sleeping bags with my buddies and weekend fishing trips to the Shenandoah valley.


  3. Plan a Bonfire
    Did you know you can make a facility reservation for our bonfire area at Hydaway? I love seeing teams, groups, and friends come together around a fire here on Liberty Mountain. We will provide the firewood, just bring a lighter, food of your choice (s’mores are my obvious go-to), and a bunch of friends! Making a facility request is easy and be sure to request early to secure your date! 

Hydaway is a special place to me and I hope to see you at our facility at some point this spring semester! If you have questions, check out our website or give us a call at (434) 592-6284. Happy spring!

Winter Camping

February 1, 2018

Written by: Jordan Tatro

       Our cold Virginia winters don’t have to limit the fun you can have in the outdoors! The same beautiful picturesque landscapes you have enjoyed in the warm months are just as alluring in the winter, especially when snow is involved. Not only is it still beautiful, but some of your favorite spots will be void of people and bugs.

       If you are an experienced camper, or new to the game, winter camping can be a rewarding and fun experience. All you have to do is plan and prepare properly, and you will be set for a great adventure.


Here are some tips and tricks to make your winter excursions enjoyable and safe!



  • Go with a group of friends, preferably someone who has experience with winter camping.



  • Share exact locations, and contact times with a responsible friend.



  • Study the area and the route you will be taking, come talk to us if you want advice!



  • Think wool, synthetic, down, and Gore-Tex fabrics! Make sure your outer layer is not flammable so you can stand near the fire.



  • Bring a sleeping bag that is rated 10 degrees lower than the coldest temperature you will face
  • It is wise to use two sleeping pads during the winter, the higher the “R” value of sleeping pad, the better it insulates.

2017 Deep Hollow Course Guide

October 5, 2017

Written by: Race Director, Mike Ellsworth

It’s that time of year.  The Deep Hollow half marathon and 5k is upon us. This year, I want to take the time to give a nice course description to help you prepare for the race.  Earlier this week, I took the time to rough mark the half marathon a bit.  Using the permanent markings and the pink streamers that I tied along the course you should be able to get a full run in before race day!  Be sure to look at the map as you follow along below.  Good luck on the 14th!

  • Mile 1 and 2:  These are the easiest miles to get lost on, so be on the lookout for the pink streamers the entire way.  The course follows the portion of Trail Too Far that meanders through the disc golf course, Spirit and a rogue trail.  So, be sure to stay focused here.  The elevation is just a slow and steady uphill as you approach the first Aid Station!
  • Mile 3, 4 and 5: Can be a lot of fun and is my favorite section.  You will have a mile long* downhill along Lake Hydaway Road before dropping onto Lake Trail. Lake Trail is another long mile* uphill, though I think it is one of the prettiest (and coolest temp) on the mountain.  Lake Trail climbs to the Snowflex parking lot where Aid Station 2 awaits at the 5k turnaround.  Be sure to fill up your water bottle here and get hydrated!  Running the next stretch fast is a great way to make up some time.  Aid Station 2 is also great location for your loved ones to wait and cheer you on!
  • Mile 6 and 7:  This is all double-track mountain road.  A great surface to kick it hard and make up some time.  These roads are dusty right now due to dry conditions, so practice a couple rinse & spits along the way!  Aid Station 3 sits at 5 points, this is the first Aid Station with GU energy gel and cookies!  I’d grab one and run with it if you think you will need it before Aid Station 4!
  • Mile 8:  Right around here you will hit Aid Station 4 and drop back onto the single-track A Walk in the Park.  Though, it isn’t exactly a walk in the park.  Around this section you will hit your highest elevation!  Aid Station 4 will also have gels and cookies.  Fuel up!  I also think this Aid Station is the right one to take a longer breather.  Stretch, re-tie your shoes and eat a cookie.  Get ready for the rest of the race.


  • Mile 9-12: Great Escape the whole way!  This section is switchbacks, hill climbs/falls, and single-track the whole way.  It will include the most technical sections and you will be getting tired, so be careful as you run.  You will get some aid as you cross Clearcut Rd (around mile 10) and Champion Rd (approx. mile 12).
  • Mile 13: You are on the home stretch as you get into sight of Hydaway.  Be sure to follow course markings here at the end, we have had runners get off-track in this last mile.  You will begin to hear the waterfall at the dam (or maybe that’s just your exhausted brain splashing around in your head).  Either way, in just a bit you will have a finish line full of friends and spectators to cheer you on!  Oh, and pizza J
*Distances and descriptions are approximated.  Be sure to be familiar with the race course and follow course markings appropriately.


Semester Must Do's

August 30, 2017

Written By: Jacen Hamilton      

        August in Lynchburg is often filled with excitement and new beginnings for many students attending Liberty University. Campus quickly thrives with enthusiastic students ready to begin another chapter of their college lives. As a seasoned veteran, I have compiled a list of 4 (some practical, some fun) “Must Do’s” to help you succeed both academically and socially this fall!

  1. Buy a Planner

    Open up a tab in Amazon right now and pick a planner. This Moleskine Weekly Notebook is my all-time favorite. Starting a planner at the beginning of the semester and writing down big assignments, projects, and important events to remember throughout the year can be a saving grace once the semester starts to get hectic. Maybe I’m extra nerdy, but I carry a mini-notebook and calendar with me wherever I go. The iCalendar works great for a lot of people, but a tangible notebook is my personal choice because I can cross things out and see tasks being accomplished. Buy a planner and get organized.  It will help you start your semester off right!

  2. Visit the Hydaway Outdoor Rec Center
    I’m slightly bias as a manager of the department, but Hydaway is one of my favorite places on campus to unwind. Located about ten minutes from campus on the opposite side of Liberty Mountain, Hydaway offers a variety of amenities for students including a 8-acre lake, 50+ mile trail system, campsites, equipment rentals, mountain bikes, kayaks, a challenge course, and much more. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach for a few hours or going on a mountain bike ride, Hydaway provides an outlet for every LU student. For more information about Hydaway, keep up to date on Instagram (@luoutdoors) or check out the Outdoor Recreation website.

  3. Go to Block Party

    Student Activities knows events and concerts like the back of their hand. If camping outside isn’t exactly your idea of a fun experience, there are numerous concerts and events throughout the semester piloted by this great department. My favorite SA event of the fall is Block Party. Who can argue with carnival rides, tons of delicious treats, and a live concert? Block Party is a great opportunity to hang out with old friends and make some new ones, all whilst enjoying some of the last warm days of summer. Block Party is on September 2nd this year and you won’t want to miss out on this exciting event!

  4. Plan a Trip
    Last but not least, plan your own adventure! Some of my favorite memories from college are from road trips with friends. From spring break adventures in Colorado to fall break excursions in Tennessee, taking time to plan a trip with your friends this semester is completely worth spending a little bit of money and some pre-trip preparation. If you don’t know where to start, cities like Asheville, Washington D.C., or Charlottesville are some of my personal favorites. If you enjoy the outdoors, we make it real easy to plan a trip with our new DIY page! If you have any questions about trip planning or need some gear to take on a cross-country road trip, come speak to our friendly staff at Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center for tips and tricks when it comes to local spots.

        Whether you’re attending a concert, hiking a mountain, or even studying for an exam, don’t forget to stop and enjoy the journey. I know first-hand being a student is stressful at times, but taking time to pause and thank God for the season of life He has placed you is not only important, it is humbling. Get out there and give it your all this semester!