Fall Leaves at Beaver Creek Reservoir

Our peek leaf color for 2021 was in November. If asked, I would normally tell you to expect it the second week of October but that certainly wasn’t the case this past year.

On November 14th, the Homestead Hikers hit the trail at Beaver Creek Reservoir and we caught some breathtaking color. The Homestead Hikers is a hiking group through the College for Older Adults with the Reynolds Homestead. Annual dues in 2021 were $10 and it’s a very fun and friendly good. There’s probably not a better investment in fun in the area.

Beaver Creek Reservoir Trail Head

First off, our Beaver Creek Reservoir is NOT the reservoir built in 1964 for the town of Crozet. That one is about three hours northeast of here, just east of Staunton, Virginia. (This is not the only place in Henry County with a more famous counterpart, so you have to pay attention).

The Martinsville Reservoir is 174 acres and is about 8 minutes from downtown Martinsville. It has a fishery maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The game fish population includes largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, catfish and yellow perch.

It also has a beautiful trail that is just incredible when the leaves change.

Meeting Up at the Trail Head

Now that we’ve established that there is some confusion over the name of this place, I’m going to call it the Martinsville Reservoir going forward. That’s how the state has it.

Both the trail and the reservoir are open for public use only on the weekends between sunrise and sunset. They are very literal about this. Memorial Day and Labor Day Mondays do not count and you will arrive only find the entrance barred by a metal gateway.

When open, there are two entrances to the park but either will get you to the trail head.

Starting the Trail

The trail is easy for all ages and abilities. It wanders all around, snaking its way down to the shoreline of the lake and then back again. If you take a gander at the Homestead Hiker’s Facebook page, Betty Kirkpatrick took an absolutely stunning photo of the group all gathered on a point that juts out into the lake a little, canopied by bright yellow and orange leaves.

The Upper Part of the Reservoir Through the Trees

It was a fun hike out and back, starting from the picnic shelter.

Picnic Facilities at Martinsville Reservoir

The picnic shelter accommodates sixty (60) people, has restroom facilities, water access, three grills, four large trash cans, and electric outlets. It can be rented from the city for $50 for the day or $30 for a half day. Check the Martinsville Parks & Rentals page for more info (and, pro tip, the area code is 276).

Just below it is the boat launch/parking area.

The Boat Launch at Martinsville Reservoir

We crossed the road after having circled back to the picnic pavilion and continued along a trail that was less obvious and more densely wooded. The trees are blazed so you should be able to find your way. The walk through fall foliage was gorgeous.

Walking Through Fall Foliage

This trail crested at a spot that overlooks that reservoir and has features left over from some previous use. I asked a private Facebook group that specializes in area history if anyone knew what the history of these were and the consensus was that this used to be a picnic area.

An Old Spigot at the Old Picnic Area

Thanks to them, I can now see that the picture below is of an old grill. I imagine that there would have been a metal grate over it back in the day. The stonework is beautiful. I can see where the black metal grills on poles are probably safer but they lack the character of this one.

Someone mentioned that there used to be numbered picnic areas here so there may be more stonework grills like this tucked away in the woods. It’s something to look for if you decide to try to follow the blazed trees on this side of the road.

An Old Stonework Grill

The trail eventually leads down to the banks of the reservoir, not far from the dam. The PHCC Loop Trail, so named because of its connection with Patrick & Henry Community College, approaches the dam from the other side. Our hike leader said that extensions to the existing trails are planned.

The Dam at Martinsville Reservoir

From there, it is a short walk to the boat launch and picnic area. The open metal shelter visible on the boat launch houses kayaks that are available to the public for kayaking from April through October. The rental for a kayak/canoe is $10 a day plus there is a $10 refundable deposit for the key needed to unlock them. There is a Canoe Rental Form available on the city’s website here.

Martinsville Reservoir Boat Launch

Non-gasoline powered boats are allowed on the reservoir but must have a permit. The permit fee posted to the Virginia DWR webpage in February of 2022 is $3 a day or $15 for a calendar year. This water is the water supply for the City of Martinsville so there may be other restrictions on what kinds of motors or boats will be permitted. The Lake Warden can answer more specific questions.

Boating fees for active, retired and disabled military veterans are waived.

If you like to fish, you might be interested in the 2020 video below where they show the construction and launch of “fish attractors” along the banks of the reservoir. They put in twenty in 2019 and another thirty-four in 2020. The attractors are made out of concrete and corrugated drainage pipe so that the fish have some structures that won’t be as prone to snag hooks as other materials might be.

Another Hidden Gem: Laurel Ridge Trail and Twin Ridge Park

On the heels of having made it out to Hamlet Vineyards for the first time, I have found another local attraction hiding in plain sight. I’ve been here since 2014 and I had never heard anything about how pretty Twin Ridge Park is on Philpott Lake or seen any pictures of the amenities there.

In fact, prior to this, the only true access point for Philpott Lake that I had been to was the Philpott Marina (The yellow 1 in the shot below, lower right).

Imagine a trail going around this

Today I want to share some photos from a recent hike with the Homestead Hikers. Homestead Hikers is a hiking club (dues are $10 a year) connected with Reynolds Homestead, a historic property and extension of Virginia Tech. This extension is host to the College for Older Adults and they have some AMAZING programs. Honestly (and I am not kidding) I was looking forward to turning 50 because of the programs for seniors here. But I digress. Again.

Trail Head Sign

Twin Ridge Park is actually in Franklin County, Henry County’s neighbor. The trail we were hitting today was the Laurel Ridge Trail heading to Salthouse Branch. We would do a 3-mile round trip out-and-back hike.

There is parking along the side of the road at the trail head. A small stretch has stone put down for traction while the rest is mown grass. There’s room for maybe 8 to 10 cars parked perpendicular to the road. The boat launch is about a half a mile down the road so there is additional parking there but add a mile onto your hike if you park there.

The trail head sign says that this is a 2.5 mile long trail of moderate difficulty (1 hour to complete one way) and that it is open to hikers, bicyclists, and hunters. It describes the trail this way:

“Laurel Ridge Trail traverses through beautiful forested mountains, with stretches that hug the Philpott Lake shoreline, connecting Salthouse Branch Park and Twin Ridge Park. The trail is marked by trees with blue markings.”

A woodland path

Don’t worry about the “forested mountains” part. If that is true, it is in only the most technical sense. This is a nice woodland walk with only a slight decline as you progress along the path. It wouldn’t have been noticeable at all except that we did notice the slight incline when we reversed for our return.

The blue markings are critical. This is a beautiful path that is very visible most of the time but there are times when the trail forks and you need to know which way to go.

A fork in the trail

There were some things we all enjoyed looking at along the path. This tree had grown up right next to the path and then fell away from it, leaving a canopy of roots for an opportunistic woodland vine to climb.

A fallen tree

While this trail is going from point A to point B along the lake, the lake’s shoreline narrows until it becomes little more than a creek. You have to go a distance away from the body of the lake before you can get to a crossing. At one point, it is no more than a foot or two wide and it winds back and forth like a snake.

There, before we crossed, we found a foundation or basement for a structure now long gone. No one knows what its history is.

A foundation for a farm or a mill?

You do eventually have to cross the water but, by the time that you do, it’s not a significant crossing. At least, this is what it looked like when we did it.

The water crossing

We saw a turtle. It was right on the trail but it blended in so well that it very nearly got stepped on.

Can you see the turtle?

Being woodland, much of the trail looks alike and it was challenging to get good photos. I would see something I considered beautiful, snap a shot, and then, once I got home, not be able to make out what in particular I was seeing. I think that it is worth continuing to try.

It really is a beautiful trail

We were all pleased with our hike. Afterwards, some of our group went on down to the boat launch area to investigate and swim.

Twin Ridge Boat Launch

This is Philpott Lake, standing on the Twin Ridge Ramp. In the photo below, I’ve labeled the horizon (loosely) with the points of interest. That whole mass on the right is Goose Point Campground. Turkey Island is the only island on Philpott Lake that allows camping. There is an island behind it that does not have a name. Deer Island is somewhere over towards the shore between Salthouse Branch and Turkey Island.

Points of interest standing on Twin Ridge Park boat ramp

There is a placard that gives you this information, a little more accurately. I, honestly, had not paid any attention to the new Philpott Lake Blueway Water Trail went I first heard of it. Every time I saw a photo of Philpott Lake, it was from the same vantage point. I thought that that must be all there was. I was incredibly wrong. There so much more to see. I could take a whole season to see all of the points of interest, maybe more.

The informational placard at Twin Ridge Park

The placard also suggests the following kayaking trips:

Deer Island Kayak Trip – 4 miles round trip – From the ramp, paddle southeast across the mouth of the cove and continue along this shoreline. Deer Island is the landmass on your right as you round the point. The scenic and secluded shores of the largest island on the lake it is only accessed by boat, and the only island on Philpott used for camping. Continue around Deer Island between Turkey Island and the western side of Deer Island.

Rabbit Island – 3.5 miles round trip – The open water of the lake must be crossed to reach the secluded shores of Rabbit Island. It is recommended this trip not be attempted by paddle craft during high wind or heavy motorized boat traffic conditions. Head west from Twin Ridge to make the scenic round trip to Rabbit Island. A compass is always recommended when negotiating large open water. No camping is allowed on Rabbit Island.

Pavilion at Twin Ridge Park

The park itself is beautiful. The pavilion is big, well maintained, and clean. The person emptying the trash bin while I was there ducked out of the shot above.

There is a dedicated swimming area. River shoes might be a good idea for the rocky terrain.

The swimming area at Twin Creek Park

They also have concerts in the park designed for an audience of boaters, kayakers, and paddle boarders. One of our cohort was local to this particular area and he said that it is a very safe area and that the concert series have been well managed.

Boat dock at Twin Ridge Park

There is a lot here. I didn’t expect so many photos from a short hike but, there you are. The dappled light of the path was too challenging for me to come away with any truly good shots but that only means that I need to try again. The launch photos have not been tinkered with for saturation. It is just, honest to God, is that pretty.