Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Crystal Springs Recreation Area

Thursday                                                                      Most Recent Posts:
September 8, 2022                    New River – An Unusual Linear State Park
Stony Fork Campground                         Another Visitor – Lucky Me!
Site 46
Wytheville, Virginia

Today is my last hike from  Stony Fork.  I spent this afternoon wandering all around the trails at Crystal Springs Recreation Area.

It’s 1800 acres owned by the town of Wytheville.  The land was preserved as a watershed for the Town, and the remnants of an old reservoir remain. The recreation area is surrounded by the 7500 acre Big Survey Wildlife Management Area.


There are 13 miles of hiking trails but the majority is on the boundary trail around the entire 1800 acres.  I wasn’t interested in that.  But it also said there were 6 other shorter trails.  No mention was made of any actual spring. 

This is how the parking lot looked when I arrived in the early afternoon.  If it’s not busy now, when is it?  On the week-end perhaps??

The trails were marked but very hard to find.  Thank goodness I had their barely adequate map with me.  Several times I thought I might be lost and wandered around until I found a sign for one trail or the other.

I approached the entrance with “the trail”.  Thank goodness there was this cute kiosk?? with a map.


But as you can see in the picture above, “the trail” didn’t lead anywhere except into a huge grassy field where you could climb up the hill or not.


So I walked up to the top and still no trail markers.  This sort of looked like a trail so I followed it for a ways but it wasn’t going anywhere.  So I came back and went another direction.  Later I determined that this was probably the boundary trail.


I won’t go in to how long I wandered around before I found this first trail sign.
At least I knew where I was at this point.  This is the Salamander Meander and was on the map.  I followed it.


And it dead ended into an area with all these wooden things.


I couldn’t imagine what they were doing here.


I finally found this sign map, the only sign I found all day.  It told me I was in Terrain Park between the Waterline Trail and the Crystal Springs Loop.  Neither trail had I seen.


But I did see the Venrick Run.  Now how to get to it.

A closer look showed me what the wooden things were, several balance beams, a log crossing and challenge log (whatever that is), a teeter totter (which I did not see) and more.  Turns out these  balance beams, teeter totters, rock gardens, log crossings, and other obstacles are for mountain bikers to play on.  Might have been fun to see them but none today.

IMG_4070I’m not sure how I got from there to here or what this trail was called but it looked like a genuine trail so I followed it.  No signs.

It led into the woods where there was this orange something on the tree.  I later learned that orange was the High Rock Spur but there was no indication of that anywhere but on the sketchy map I’d gotten at the beginning.  So where did it go?

IMG_4079Somehow from there I ended up on what was marked by its white blaze as the Boundary trail.   The map below told me it was 7 miles and difficult.  It didn’t look difficult so I followed it gradually up until it started steeply climbing.  This was apparently the beginning of the difficult part.

I wasn’t into a mountain climb today so I turned around and retraced my steps.  I later read that the southern portion of the Boundary Trail I was on follows an old wagon road that crossed Lick Mountain. Stories passed through the generations tell of moonshiners using this road to move their product out of the sight of law enforcement.   I am in south west Virginia after all a hot bed of moonshine at the time especially the Cumberland Gap area where VA, KY and TN meet.  Virginia actually borders 5 states and DC.  Check your map.

Here’s a look at the only trail map I had.  At least it told me what the colors meant


I became concerned when I saw the sign on the right which said I was entering a hunting zone.  Must be that 7500 acres Wildlife Management Area.  Boy could you get lost. 

I didn’t think it was hunting season, I hadn’t heard any shots but I took the next path off of there and back in the other direction.


Always mushrooms if I’m watching.




Not sure how I ended up on this trail that crossed Venrick Run the main stream that cuts through the property.  But glad to find it.


But it took me to what is left of the reservoir built in the early 1900’s.


It was actually a sweet place with remains of  rock walls and a teen tiny “waterfall”.



Nice sandy “beach”.  If I’d brought a chair, I could sit and read.  Who knew.



I took these steps up wondering what they led to.  Whatever it was, I couldn’t figure it out so I just came back down and back in the direction I’d come from.


Ok, here’s the bridge.  Where does that trail on the left go.  This is pretty much what my afternoon had been like.  Where does this go, where does that go?


But AHA – the sign says this is the Woodpecker Run trail with an obvious blue blaze.  It is actually on my map and goes in the direction of the parking lot.


And up hill to get there.


Saw this beauty.


This little patch of partridge berry caught my eye because of the red berries and made me think of Christmas.  It’s a native ground cover which is great.


Sure enough, the blue trail led to the red trail which opened out into the field I recognized.  There was no blaze or sign at this end of the red trail.


And after just over 2 hours, the same two cars were in the parking lot.  I did 9934 steps for 4 miles of hiking.


I was starving and stopped again at Moon Dog Pizza to try their “Absolute Pizza” with a lot of toppings.  It wasn’t as good as the 5 topping “Beauty” I’d had with Mary last week.  But it provided 3 days worth of meals for someone who has tired of cooking.  Pizza is a seriously favorite food of mine.



  1. Sounds like this place needs a bit more organizing in terms of trail markers, but interesting regardless.

    1. Ah William you are johnny on the spot. First comment and so right about the trail markers. More painted colors on trees would help.

  2. You are definitely the queen of hiking trails through hardwood forests. I think that may be the cutest, tiniest waterfall you have photographed. Yes, Virginia, it was a surprise to me when we traveled through that part of the country and passed through West Virginia and Virginia several times. Love that complex part of the map. Pizza...yeah...major food group. Mo loves pizza a lot more than I do actually. We have it at least twice a month. I cannot imagine how I would cook if I wasn't cooking for two of us. I wish I could remember how I cooked for the years I lived alone, which were many. Something like 2000 to 2010. I think. No clue what I ate, but I am pretty sure it wasn't what I cook now for Mo who enjoys our evening meals. I read somewhere that being an adult is having to decide what is for dinner EVERY SINGLE NIGHT TILL YOU DIE.

    1. It's true that I do love hardwood forests. And also true that I was happiest when David was my cook. He liked to do it.

  3. How confusing! Glad you didn't get lost. Looks like very narrow trails, possibly dirt bike riders. Crazy !

    1. With that map I figured it I just went down hill I was bound to run into something that was marked. I think obstacles and narrow trails were for mountain bikes not any kind of motor bike.

  4. I think you answered your own question as to “Where is everybody?”
    when you summarized your confusing trek with “Where does this go? Where does that go? “

    Based on your seemingly disappointing experience, ask yourself if YOU’LL be returning…… I kinda think not. (Meaning now even one less car in the lot) …..!

    You are more than qualified to make observations and offer constructive criticism to owners/managers of these facilities. As an established travel blogger with a large following, you really should say something, and these proprietors need to listen and heed your suggestions.

    I’m curious what current reviews have to say….

    1. If I were in the area again, I might return to hike the couple of trails I liked and see the reservoir again. it was a sweet place. LOL at the idea of my large following. Your comments are great!

  5. How’s your cell service when wandering around on these trails? I’d get SO lost!

    1. Cell service really varies from place to place. I actually wasn't worried about getting lost just irritated that I never knew exactly where I was.

  6. That pizza was a well deserved reward for all the trail wandering you did. Amazing that not only did you find the trail but you found your way BACK from the trail. You have incredible intestinal fortitude, a weaker person probably would have given up in the parking lot. :cO

  7. Glad you didn't get totally lost and we're rewarded with pizza.

  8. I loved the "Salamander Meander!" LOL. I was going to guess those wooden structures on the trails were for mountain bikes. You have some excellent navigational skills, my friend. And that's another delicious looking pizza!

    1. Yes, the trail name made me laugh. And David would find it hilarious that you think I have navigational skill. Hope your house is sold- again.

  9. Poor signage is a pete peeve for me. Bridges and stairs to nowhere and paths that might or might not be trails frustrate me. Love the ruffled fungi, so pretty!

  10. Well done keeping yourself on track. Maybe that's why the parking lot was so empty...trails need to be better marked. Stairs to nowhere...what was it once? This post has made me want pizza. Not a huge fan of the yellow peppers, but still...pizza...

  11. The wooden planks you weren't sure about reminds me of where people ride bikes to test coordination and do some light stunts.
    The pizza, oh my, yes, I'm definitely jealous right now!!


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