Mountain Lake is about 17 miles from Blacksburg, VA. Directions from Blacksburg: take 460W, turn right onto Mountain Lake Road (State Route 700), and drive on Mountain Lake Road for seven miles. Outdoor recreation includes hiking, mountain biking, and frisbee golf but pets, camping, and picnicking are not allowed. Parking requires either a day pass (purchased at parking lot) or an annual pass (purchased at the Visitor Center). There are two parking lots: a year-round lot one mile north of the hotel (and the starting point for the hike described below) and a part-year lot at the south end of the lake (in front of the Visitor Center). The year-round lot does not include restrooms or water but the barn across from the Visitor Center does. Cell phone service is weak to medium while on the trails.
From the year-round parking lot, it is about 2.5 miles around the horseshoe-shaped Indian Trail. It is easy to hike a full loop by connecting both ends of the horseshoe with a short walk around the southern end of the lake. The following elevation chart was generated from a hike that started at the year-round parking lot and ended at the gazebo on the east side of the lake.
It is easier to start from the hotel parking lot (when it is open during warmer months). To start from the year-round lot, hike the wide dirt path towards the barn.
Turn right onto the Middle Jungle Trail, hike for about a 100 feet, and then turn right at the following sign.
Follow light green trail markers through a densely wooded forest down to the lake.
Around the lake, the trail is marked with red paint. At the intersection with the first red marker, I turned left to hike around the eastern side of the lake.
The trail is rarely smooth and, at times, has huge rocks to cross. This trail is probably too rugged for most toddlers. In addition, parents with a child in a carrier should be careful.
In addition to Hemlock trees, there are numerous rhododendron trees near the trail (seen in the background of the next picture). The next picture also illustrates one of the many sections that have large tree roots protruding in the middle of it.
For the most part, the trail’s forest canopy obstructs views of the lake. The following picture highlights one of the unobstructed views.
The eastern half of the horseshoe shaped trail ends at a Gazebo.
A short walk around the southern end of the lake can connect you to the western half of the horseshoe-shaped Indian Trail. The following picture shows the hotel.
The western side of the trail starts near a small playground with a yellow slide. Follow this trail to return to the year-round parking lot. I found the trail along the western side of the lake to be a little easier (i.e., less rugged) than the trail on the eastern side. As a whole, this trail is very peaceful. It includes several covered benches that provide an opportunity to take a break and soak up the beautiful scenery.
The hemlock trees I inspected near the trail were not visibly infested with hemlock woolly adelgid; read about Pandapas Pond to see what an infested hemlock looks like.
The year-round parking lot is also the starting point for a nine hole Frisbee Golf course. I have not played it yet but it looks both fun and challenging.
In sum, the hike around Mountain Lake is rugged and scenic but may not be fun for toddlers. Other hiking trails nearby include Cascades Waterfall and War Spur Loop. Read mountain biking at Mountain Lake for elevation charts, pictures, and descriptions of other trails near the lake.