Though Washington D.C. is located on a beautiful body of water — the Potomac River — during the summer it’s often nice to escape city life and enjoy a nice week or weekend escape to one of the many nearby lake towns in Virginia and Maryland. Though those willing to road trip a little farther can venture past these states, here are some fantastic lake locations all within four hours of the city.
Top Lake Destinations Near D.C.
1. Spotsylvania, Virginia
Just over 70 miles south of D.C. lies Lake Anna, a reservoir that has been turned into a state park. The lake itself offers boating, fishing, sailing, and swimming. The area around it has become a popular vacation destination and retirement spot, making it easy to find rustic cabins for rent. There’s also a little bit of history at Lake Anna State Park — it’s where gold was first discovered in Virginia.
2. Oakland, Maryland
A little farther from D.C., about 170 miles away, lies Maryland’s largest man-made lake, Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County. In the summer visitors can fly fish, white water raft, and jet ski. Also nearby is Swallow Falls State Park, named after its star attraction, Maryland’s highest free-falling waterfall. When travelers are tired of nature, they can visit the historic downtown area of Oakland, home to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church where four presidents have attended services.
3. Cumberland, Maryland
Cumberland is located nearby Lake Habeeb, a reservoir now surrounded by the Rocky Gap State Park. The lake allows fishing and boating 24/7, year round, and the lake is home to trout, catfish, and bass. In addition, in the summer, canoe and kayak rentals are available. In town, Cumberland hosts many significant homes and other buildings in its Washington Street Historic District.
4. McHenry, Maryland
Also located on the large Deep Creek Lake in Maryland, McHenry is a small community known for two things: inspiring the movie Shrek and its Wisp Resort, which has both golf and skiing. In the winter, visitors can hit the slopes at Wisp, which, in addition to the traditional skiing and snowboarding, also offers snowshoeing and snowmobiling. For those who want to enjoy lake life, however, all the usual water activities in Oakland are available as well as rafting.
5. Pembroke, Virginia
Pembroke is home to Mountain Lake, a breathtaking freshwater lake in Giles County (and one of only two natural lakes in the state), a couple hours south of Washington D.C. Though the lake itself isn’t large, it is home to the Mountain Lake Nature Conservancy, which has a host of nature-related activities for both adults and children. You might recognize some of the sites from the town’s claim to fame as the main set of Dirty Dancing in the 1980s.
6. St. Michaels, Maryland
Though St. Michaels is technically on a bay, the Chesapeake Bay, not a lake, it is much like a lakeside town. The historic village, which was attacked by the British back in the day, has historical cruises, sailing tours, pedal boats and paddle boarding.
7. Smith Mountain Lake
Though the two have similar names and are located in the same state, Smith Mountain Lake shouldn’t be confused with Mountain Lake. Smith Mountain Lake is one of Virginia’s most popular lakes, located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The lake was originally created to generate electricity, but today is a popular destination for water activities such as water skiing, wakeboarding, parasailing, jet skiing, and boating.
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This article was written by Isabella Sayyah.