Reviewed by go4dagreen on August 21, 2014
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We camped at Lake James State Park for the first time on 8/19/14 with our two 8-year-olds. We all loved this place. There are 20 campsites, 15 of which are very close to the lake with very nice views, 3 are slightly farther inland, and the other 2 are near the parking lot and reserved for persons with disabilities. Most of the campsites are heavily shaded. We stayed in campsite #5 which we liked a lot. It was high above the water and had beautiful views of the lake and Linville Gorge through the trees. Campsite #4 was next to us and unavailable when we reserved online. #4 had slightly better views since it was on the corner and you could see out in two directions. We also walked through campsite #12, which had the best access to the lake. If we brought kayaks, this would be the ideal spot to set up camp. We were pleasantly surprised that the insects were not much of a nuisance. We saw no mosquitoes...only a few ants and bees which did not bother us too much.
The entire campground was very well maintained. The trails were clearly marked, and the restrooms/shower building was modern and clean. The camp host and the park ranger that we met were friendly and helpful. We reserved the campsite online 1 day in advance. The park ranger came around to all sites at around 8pm to explain the park rules, and to make sure everyone was in the right area. We bought firewood for $5 a bundle. The nightly rental for the campsite was $17, plus there was a $3 fee to reserve it online. I thought the fees were well worth it for the experience we received. Fresh drinking water was available between the campsites, and our daughter said it tasted delicious.
We did not use any of the dedicated hiking or mountain biking trails, because our kids are small, and they got enough hiking in between the campsite and the restrooms/parking lot area. The trail from the campsite to the parking area is uphill almost the whole way, and will give you a workout, especially when loading out the camping gear.
We went to the Paddy's Creek area of the park on both days, which was about a 5-10 minute drive from the camping area. On day 1 we rented canoes and paddled around the lake for awhile. The rental fee was $5 for the first hour, and $3 for each additional hour. They also offered 1-person kayaks. There were a few power boats out there, but very low lake traffic overall. On the second day we came back for swimming. The swimming is normally priced at $5 for adults and $4 for children up to 12 years, however on the day we visited there were no lifeguards on duty so the swimming was free. The swimming "beach" was wide but not very deep. The ropes were about 40 feet out from the shore, and the max depth in the swimming area was about 3.5 to 4 feet. The water was clear and a refreshing temperature for swimming. We saw small minnows in the swimming area and there were many small children near us. We bought cold drinks at the snack bar one day and they were very reasonably priced and the staff was friendly. The shower/restroom facilities at Paddy's Creek area were very modern and clean.
We are ready to go back!
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