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Two hikers traverse the Little Smith Mountain trail as it hugs the shoreline along a slough

Hiking season started early this year when the lake area population grew as part-time lake homeowners, summer renters and other visitors sheltered from the coronavirus at Lake Martin.

“The biggest news for Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association has been the massive usage of the trails, starting in spring and continuing all through the summer,” said CRATA President Jerry Bynum. “That’s unusual because people tend to avoid the heat and bugs in the summer and do most of their hiking in the cooler months, but people are doing a tremendous amount of hiking.”

To keep up with the trail use, board members and work crews were out en force this summer, keeping the trails clear and in good repair, Bynum said.

“Mike Wilson, Jimmy Lanier, Walt Hutchison, Matt Campbell and others have done a lot of maintenance at Smith Mountain all summer long. They’ve been busy with more people on the trails, and we’ve had some things happen, too,” he added. “There has been a lot of rain and storms this year. We had some flooding in the parking lot at Yates for the John B. Scott Trail. We’ve had some graffiti but have got rid of that, and we had someone bring some rocks up to the fire tower, presumably for a fire pit.”

CRATA’s 26 miles of footpath-only trails on the lake have earned excellent reviews on trails.com and other national trail websites, Bynum said. Comments on the new outdoor education center at the Smith Mountain fire tower have complimented the venue, especially in the last few months.

“It’s been more so since the spring when COVID-19 hit. Hiking around here gives people a great option to do something as a family that’s not around other people,” Bynum said.

Learn more at crata.org.