Wild swimming at Lake Anna State Park

The drive time from Charlottesville was just about an hour. I was a little surprised that there wasn’t anyone at the entrance booth, but it was a Tuesday afternoon in early April, so I guess it makes sense. I stopped and put my money in one of the provided envelopes and tore off the parking tag for my rear view mirror. The weekday fee is $7. I had a ten dollar bill and four ones. I just stuck the ten dollar bill in there and figured I was fine giving the state park an extra $3. The park office was open so I could have stopped and got change if I really wanted to.

I parked at the beach parking area. There were about a dozen other cars there, but it was a big lot so it still looked pretty empty. I was really disappointed to see that the beach was actually closed, though. The website had said it was open, but it was roped off and a bulldozer was spreading out piles of fresh sand.

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There were people wading and splashing about in the water on either side of the roped-off section, but the website said swimming was only allowed at the main beach. I decided to go for my run and hope that they finished with the bulldozing by the time I was done, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen.

I started out on the Fisherman’s trail, which is a short trail along the water that connects the swimming area to a fishing and picnic area. From there, I got on the Ware Creek Trail, which was by far my favorite trail of the day. There’s a nice section down by the water and then a more wooded section. It felt secluded and peaceful and I didn’t pass a single person. There are several exercise stations along the path.


I headed back by the beach to the Railroad Ford trail and took mental notes of places I could possibly swim along the way. I passed a few groups and couples, but it was still far from crowded. I was getting hot and thirsty and starting to wonder if I’d made the hour drive and paid $10 just to run on some trails. The Railroad Ford trail connects to the Glenora trail and I had planned to take it, but there was a sign that said “Registered campers only beyond this point.” I didn’t really think that meant only campers could use the trail, but I was also really thirsty (it was almost 80 degrees and there weren’t any leaves on the trees yet, which meant I had been running for 40 minutes with the sun beating down on me) so I decided to head back to the water fountain I’d seen at the beach.IMG_20210406_142625231_HDR

I was happy to find the water fountain in working order and took a nice long, refreshing drink. Instead of heading out on the questionable Glenora trail, I decided to just do another loop of the Railroad trail, knowing that there were a few places along the way I could swim if I decided to. The park website had said that swimming was prohibited anywhere other than at the official beach, though. And I do generally try to follow the rules. So I ended up just running around the loop and back to the beach. 

I saw a couple of rangers talking to some of the people who had been swimming in the area right next to the beach and went over to see what they had to say. I figured they were telling them they weren’t allowed to swim there, but that wasn’t the case. The beach was indeed closed, but when I asked if they were telling people they weren’t allowed to swim outside of it, they said no, that it was a public lake and people could swim wherever they wanted to. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear that.

I found a fairly secluded spot along the Fisherman’s trail and had myself a nice little swim. The water was clear near the shore, but quickly turned murky. I didn’t wade too far out before I dove in. The water was cold, but not bad at all. The swimming holes here in the mountains are colder in the middle of summer than this water felt the first week in April. Since I was alone, I didn’t swim very far out, but I did swim around a little bit. 


I didn’t do quite as much swimming as I would have if the big sandy beach with the buoys around it had been open, but my private little swim was really nice, too.

There is no way I would go to Lake Anna State Park on a busy weekend in the summer, but I would love to go back on a weekday before the beach officially opens and explore the rest of the trails and spend a little more time swimming.

One park down. Five to go.

Author: healthyincville

Nemophilist Trail runner Introvert Animal-loving vegetarian * My ideal city would be car-free. I love my cats.

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