Cuddle Adorable Alpacas at this Virginia Alpaca Farm

Cuddle Adorable Alpacas at this Virginia Alpaca Farm

We wanted to grab selfies with alpacas, so naturally, we headed to the Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca farm in southwest Virginia to meet up with their adorable alpacas.  With fur as soft as a teddy bear, who wouldn’t want to take part in this one-of-a-kind experience?

Scott and I love animals. Although whenever we meet an animal, we want to hug, squeeze, feed, and love it to pieces, we’ve learned in our travels that human contact is not always good for the well-being of the animals. This was the case during our visit to the Toucan Rescue Ranch in Costa Rica, where touching sloths was strictly prohibited for a number of reasons. The alpacas at Smith Mountain Lake, on the other hand, are social animals that enjoy human interaction!

If you love animals as much as we do then make sure to add this Virginia alpaca farm to your next family-friendly road trip!

Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca Farm

The Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca Farm is more than a typical petting zoo. You could say they focus more on educational agri-tourism – they breed and raise their alpacas, create sustainable products, host shows, and make your visit an educational experience. The farm is home to over 70 premium alpacas ranging in all colors, shapes, and sizes. In fact there were 5 or 6 new born crias (baby alpacas) during our visit.

Alpaca tours are available daily by reservation only. Each 90-minute tour is guided, so you learn about the alpacas before you meet them. You start with a seated orientation; get a quick lecture; and then you’re off to feed the alpacas, feel their incredibly soft fiber, and even take photos with them. Following the tour, visitors are welcome to peruse the on-sight shop of sustainable products made from alpaca fiber.

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Orientation

Unlike most petting zoos where you are in and out fairly quickly, these tours are truly educational and interactive and therefore a little longer in duration. As a former professor, the owner’s passion and respect for these gentle creatures is communicated throughout the tour beginning with a thorough orientation.

While educational, you won’t feel like you are sitting in a classroom. The owner’s husband, Jay, does an excellent job of engaging kids in the conversation through storytelling, hands-on demonstrations, trivia and prizes. (Encouraging “classroom participation” with lollipops is always a good teaching strategy.)

Here are a few alpaca facts I was surprised to learn:

  1. Alpacas do not spit like llamas or camels. Whereas llamas spit because they are territorial, alpacas generally only spit at each other when they are competing for food or trying to establish dominance. Female alpacas will also spit at a male a few days after mating if she has been successfully impregnated. As a human, you generally do not have to worry about being on the receiving end of an alpaca’s spit.
  2. Alpacas do not like to be pet on the head. We are so used to petting dogs on the head so it only seems natural to reach out and do the same with an alpaca. Unfortunately, they do not like this one bit. As tempting as it might be, avoid petting their fuzzy soft heads and instead give them a nice scratch down their neck.
  3. Alpacas typically give birth at the same time of day. 90% of alpacas give birth on sunny days between 10am and 4pm.

Feeding the alpacas

After our orientation, we proceeded to a large fenced-in area where the female alpacas were kept separate from the males. We were each equipped with a red solo cup filled with animal feed. Entering through the gate, I walked right into the middle of the herd hoping to be like Snow White surrounded by her fluffy new friends. It worked and it was magical!

Alpacas are naturally curious – and hungry – so they quickly surrounded me waiting for their turn to nibble out of my hand. I am 4’11”, so I was standing directly eye to eye with most of these alpacas. It was an incredibly fun and immersive experience.

Feeding alpacas Smith Mountain Lake alpaca farm

Jay let us know it was time to hold an alpaca and asked for a volunteer. As a kid I would always shy away from raising my hand. Now that I’m an adult and that this volunteer opportunity involves adorable animals my hand shot straight up.

He let me know how to hold the alpaca. Place one leg in front, gently wrap my left arm around her neck, and then push my hips into her body.

“And no matter what, don’t let go of the alpaca.”

I stood there in amazement thinking about what a therapeutic experience it is to bond with this gentle creature. Her fiber was so soft and thick under my fingertips. What an incredible moment!

“Alright, who’s next?”

Still in La-la land, I dropped my arm allowing the alpaca to seize her opportunity and escape back into the herd. I felt horrible. I swear all of the kids in our group were looking at me with evil eyes thinking “Ugh this lady.” Thankfully, this was not the only opportunity for our group to pet an alpaca.

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Petting an alpaca: attempt #2

Our group relocated to a separate enclosure holding a sire (male alpaca). This particular alpaca had been isolated from the herd for showing constant aggressive behavior toward other males. With a large pen all to himself, we would need to corral him in place. Jay instructed a few members of our group (I didn’t volunteer this time) to form a line. With arms outstretched they slowly walked forward guiding the sire into a comfortable space where Jay could calmly put his arm around him.

Again he gave us the instructions of how to properly handle an alpaca. One by one, each person had the opportunity to hold the alpaca. Scott even hopped in there to give him a quick neck scratch.

Shopping for sustainable Alpaca products

Alpaca fiber is one of the most luxurious and expensive fibers in the world. Not only is it incredibly soft, it is also flame-resistant, water-resistant, and hypoallergenic. Alpaca fiber is almost 3 times warmer than sheep wool making it an ideal material for keeping warm in colder temperatures. The on-site gift shop sells various alpaca products including scarves, blankets, and the original alpaca sleep pillow for which Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca Farm owner Robbin Martinelli was awarded the 2013 NAPW Professional Woman of the Year Award.

Website: http://www.smithmountainlakefarm.com/
Address: 169-463 Morewood Road
                 Hardy, VA 24101
Phone: (540) 719-0281


Visit Alpacas. Virginia Alpaca Farm

This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. I luuuuurve alpacas. They are so so cute. I’ve only seen them for afar while cycling in the countryside of Belgium. Never have I ever managed to cuddle or pet one and that would be something I’d really want to do, esp., now more so, with my toddler. I love visiting farms. Indeed they are so insightful. Good to know about his 90min guided tour which is both adorable & educational.

    1. Alpacas are very good with kids, or so we were told during our tour. This type of animal encounter would be perfect for your little one!

  2. They look so adorable. Seems like a smaller version of Camel. I think I have seen them once in Colombia on the roadside. Bring back those memories 🙂

    1. Could have been an Alpaca, but I think Llamas are more common in Colombia. They do look very similar!

  3. So cool! I love animal encounters like this and always looks for them to take my daughter to. It would be so cool to be able to interact with Alpacas and learn about them. I find it so fascinating that Alpacas tend to give birth at the same time of day. I had a similar experience with Llamas and it was a lot of fun. I will definitely keep this place in mind if I am ever able to make it to the area.

  4. Alpacas are such cute animals. I want to visit Alpacas At This Virginia Alpaca Farm. I add it to my road trip itinerary when I visit this state. I had no idea that Alpacas do not spit like llamas or camels. Great that you provide such exciting information.

    1. We hope you enjoy your visit to this Alpaca Farm as much as we did!

  5. This sounds like a wonderful experience! I never realised alpaca wool was so soft and much warmer than sheep’s wool. I also was surprised that alpacas don’t spit so I’ve learnt some very interesting facts from this article. I now want to visit an alpaca farm and learn more about them (as well as stroke one, but not on the head!). Lovely and interesting post ?

    1. Their fiber is so incredibly soft and warm. Throw in the fact that it is also hypoallergenic and I can see why it is so expensive!

  6. Oh my… they are so cute! I know my kids would go crazy there. I love it that they let people also feed them, it adds on the experience. We are huge animal lovers and always include things about nature or animals on our trips. This is a great tip for our next trip to Virginia.

    1. The Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca farm is such a fun experience for kids and adults alike!

  7. Wow, that’s so interesting to know that 90% of alpacas give birth at the same time, how fascinating! I have touched the Llamas and I always thought even alpacas like llamas spit. I would love to visit this alpaca farm, they are super cute.

    1. Alpacas do spit at each other on certain occasions such as when they are mating, however, they don’t spit when they are irritated or threatened the ways that alpacas and camels do.

  8. Awwww… how sweet:) I have never petted an alpaca or llama. to be honest never even thought about it. And, it WV of all places – who knew:) Nikki

    1. Alpacas are sweet. Llamas on the other hand are known to be the guardians so they aren’t quite as nice to strangers.

  9. I too want grab selfies with these cute and adorable alpacas. I never knew about these lovable creatures but now I want to visit Virginia to see them in person. Wow feeding them in person would be too interesting and also direct eye to eye contact. Good to know they are very friendly and how they surrounded you for having their food one by one.

    1. It was a little intimidating at first because some of those alpacas are at eye level with you. It only takes 2 minutes before realizing what gentle and sweet animals they are and then it becomes a comfortable and memorable experience.

  10. This sounds like such a fun and educational experience!

    1. It really was! It’s a great family-friendly activity too!

  11. This place is my dream come true! Those llama are so stinking cute! I’d spend my entire day cuddling them! Someone would have to drag me away from them at the end of the day! What a fun place! Thanks for the great guide!

  12. The first thing I thought was they seem cute but I wouldn’t like spit on me. Thank you for confirming that they dont do that. Great to know where not to pet them too.

    1. When I first arrived I would have gone straight for their heads like a puppy dog, so glad the owner/guide let us know this interesting fact about alpacas!

  13. The alpacas are so adorable. I would love to visit them . Thanks for sharing your experience and helpful tips .

    1. So glad you found this helpful. Do let us know if you end up visiting one day!

  14. This looks like such a cute farm to visit! I would love to go here as part of a stop on a road trip around the area.

  15. What an awesome experience and how cute are those Alpacas! I’d definitely want to hug one too. That is so interesting that they give birth always in the afternoon on a sunny day! Lol. I guess it makes sense to bring your baby into the world on a nice day. I also like that they don’t spit! Would love to visit this farm one day!

    1. This Virginia Alpaca Farm was a great combination of education and excitement. I was surprised to learn as much as I did about Alpacas!

  16. How could anyone not love an alpaca. This looks like great fun. Putting it on my list.

    1. Totally agree. I love that they are also so gentle and friendly with humans…as opposed to llamas which can be more territorial and aggressive.

  17. This is absolutely ADORABLE. I thought they did spit like llamas. This is good to know! What a cool and unique day activity.

    1. Alpacas are much friendly and less aggressive than llamas. We had such a great time learning about alpacas and being able to engage with them so closely.

  18. I would love to have this experience in life..seems your enjoyed a lot and it was worth.

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