{p}{div} {/div}{div}From paved paths to mountain adventures, there’s plenty of hiking opportunities throughout the area.{/div}

When summertime rolls around, more and more people head outside to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful views.

“It’s a way to help maintain your personal health, getting out and exercising. Exercising is a big part of being healthy,” said Adam Layman, the park manager at Fairy Stone State Park. “What better way to do that than on a well maintained trail with gorgeous mountain views?”

The trails at Fairy Stone feature approximately 15 miles of hiking opportunities, from short walks to longer treks.

“It ranges from very easy trails around the lake and to some of our facilities to some that are not a difficult hike, but a moderate rating with some slopes, up and down,” Layman said. “We’ve got a lot of different views you get from the trails, looking at the mountains or the lake.”

One of the most popular hikes takes adventurers up to a breathtaking natural setting not often seen in the Martinsville region.

“Little Mountain Falls Trail actually has a waterfall off to the side of it,” Layman said. “That’s a real popular hike.”

There are also opportunities for history buffs and those wanting to learn more about the park’s past.

“We’ve got trails that lead past several of the old, abandoned iron mines in the park,” Layman said. “You can stop, and we’ve got signs up where you can learn about the history of the iron mining that was on this site.”

Whether a family’s camping out or a person simply needs to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the trails at Fairy Stone are open to everyone.

“A lot of our overnight guests take part in hiking the trails, and there are others who come in just to hike the trails, so they get used quite a bit,” Layman said.

Engaging with nature, people are almost guaranteed to run into some of the wildlife living in the mountainous habitat. Deer, squirrels, bears and a variety of native birds share the trails.

The wildlife at Fairy Stone is about the same assemblage of creatures found closer to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where Mabry Mill is located.

Nestled at Mile Post 176, the famous gristmill housed at the national park underwent construction in 1905 and started operating three years later. Now, it serves as one of the most-photographed sites of the parkway, welcoming an estimated 80,000 visitors each year.

Open for 27 weeks from the last Friday in April to the first Sunday in November, the site also features a restaurant, blacksmith shop and a cabin.

To get from place to place, guests walk on paved pathways and can venture off the trail.

While the park operates a little more than half of the year, general manager Scott Fretwell said that there are two seasons when the most guests visit.

“October is ridiculously popular with the leaves changing,” Fretwell said. “A lot of people come to see the rhododendrons in mid to late-June. We’re actually waiting on a few of them to bloom, too. So early summer is another busy time for us.”

Over the years, visiting the site has become a tradition for many families.

“I do hear a lot of stories about people whose parents used to come up here and they’ve come up on road trips with their parents. Or they’ve heard stories from their grandparents and they want to see what it’s about,” Fretwell said. “Just things like that, passed down from generation to generation.”

When guests come to Mabry Mill, they’re surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.

“The one thing that everybody wants to see if they park in the restaurant parking lot, there’s a sidewalk that leads right down over to the mill, where everybody takes the famous picture of the mill with the pond in front of it,” Fretwell said. “That’s what everybody wants to see.”

Another popular mountain spot in Patrick County is the Lovers Leap Scenic Overlook.

Legend has it that in the 1600s, a European settler and a Native American chief’s daughter fell in love. Their love blossomed, but they knew they could never be together publicly. Ensuring they would be together forever, the couple leaped off of the mountain and fell to their deaths.

Now, that area is one of the most iconic sites in Patrick County.

At nearby Fred Clifton Park, visitors to Lovers Leap may take a short trek up the mountain. There’s parking at the base and more at the top for those who prefer the views without the workout.

“That little park has just as good of a view as Lover’s Leap,” said Sandra Belcher, Patrick County Tourism director. “You can have a picnic with a view, and it’s a little more private. It’s a cute little trail that goes through there.”

The hike isn’t strenuous, but provides young and old alike an opportunity to see the valley from above.

Fred Clifton Park has one of five new sculptures sprinkled throughout Patrick County.

“We just started promoting a project called PC Trail Hands,” Belcher said. “This is a wonderful project that features trails in different parts of the county and these huge hands that you can sit in and do a photo shoot.”

A different artist contributed to each unique piece.

“Each hand is different,” Belcher said. “One hand has leaves. Another hand is mosaic and had a pond and some scenery. The hand at the mountaintop park has a banjo.”

The location of each hand is available on the Patrick County Tourism website, along with information about the trails at the various parks.

For outdoor enthusiasts looking to hit a different type of trail, there’s an over 14-mile loop nestled in Patrick County. Just don’t forget to bring a helmet.

“I.C. DeHart Memorial Park in Woolwine has a Virginia State Championship mountain bike trail,” Belcher said.

The single-track trail is also open to hikers and runners.

Just because Martinsville doesn’t have mountains in the city limits doesn’t mean that outdoor recreation opportunities fall to the wayside. The Dick and Willie Rail Trail is a popular, paved pathway that winds through portions of Henry County and Martinsville.

The trail is currently four and a half miles long. Once completed, the Dick and Willie will be about 10 and a half miles long, and will stretch from El Parrel to the Smith River Sports Complex.

“The Dick and Willie used to be a railroad track,” said Roger Adams, Henry County Parks and Recreation director. “All across the country, people are converting old railroad tracks to hiking and biking trails. With the railroad track being there, you already essentially have the trail – it’s just finishing it out and paving it.”

Martinsville’s rail trail provides a convenient, low-impact walk for people living in and around the city.

“By having quick access to that trail, you can get on it. You have miles of uninterrupted trail where you can hike, jog, run, bike and roller blade without having to worry about traffic,” Adams said. “Having a rail trail also brings visitors to the community, so that helps with tourism and supporting local businesses.”

Catered more to the everyday person than the avid hiker, the Dick and Willie Rail Trail gives locals a scenic walk without a long drive to get there.

“It provides a long, continuous trail to exercise on,” Adams said. “It’s just such a great place to go out and walk or run.” {/div}