Stuart’s Knob: Iron Mines & Scenic Views at Fairy Stone State Park
There are more than 15 miles of hiking trails across Fairy Stone State Park in Stuart, as well as 168-acre Fairy Stone Lake and, of course, the mystical fairy stones.
I was originally drawn to this state park for a hike to Little Mountain Falls. I completed that hike, but then was eager to hike the trails of Stuart’s Knob.
Stuart’s Knob, as I learned, was the site of an iron mining operation from the late-1700’s to the early-1900’s. This hill was mined with picks and shovels for 100+ years.
By 1905, steam power was used to mine for iron ore, but the boom was short-lived. Within 15 years, the operation was kaput. Equipment was sold as scrap metal.
The parcel of land was donated to Virginia in 1933. Three years later, Fairy Stone State Park opened to the public. It was one of six original state parks in Virginia.
|Elevation Gain||371 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & rock trails|
|Fee||$7 per vehicle weekdays ($10 per vehicle weekends, Apr-Oct)|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
The bulk of this state park’s hiking trails can be accessed once you pass the ranger station. Stuart’s Knob, however, is located within the park, but before the pay station.
There is a parking lot for this trailhead on Union Bridge Road. Once you park, look for the yellow honor drop box with envelopes to pay your day-use park fee.
Four trails are located at Stuart’s Knob, including Whiskey Run, Lower Stuart’s Knob, Upper Stuart’s Knob and Iron Mine. The latter three trails connect for a 1.8-mile loop hike.
The First Steps
At the front of the parking lot, you’ll see a large trail kiosk on the left. The honor drop box for park fees is on the right. The trail begins just between the two.
You’ll see a couple of wooden benches, then a trail marker at the .1-mile mark. Turn left onto the Iron Mine Trail. In a few more steps, you will see the remains of an old mine.
Peer into the old mine and read up on the history of surface mining on a placard. Mine openings like this one were dug once all the ore near the surface was mined.
Continue on to the beach overlook at the .3-mile mark for delightful views of Fairy Stone Lake. A wooden bench allows for rest after a mild ascent to the overlook.
Stay on the yellow-blazed Iron Mine Trail. You’ll see a bench on the right with a placard on the town of Fayerdale (1900-1920), which was home to the Stuart’s Knob mines.
At the .4-mile mark, you’ll see a trail marker. Turn left here for the orange-blazed Upper Stuart’s Knob Trail. A tree blocks the path, but step over the tree to proceed.
Turn left at the .6-mile mark to go toward the Bull Mountain Overlook by way of the red-blazed Lower Stuart’s Knob Trail. You will reach this vista at the .8-mile mark.
Re-trace your steps from the overlook, then stay left to jump back on the Upper Stuart’s Knob Trail. You’ll pass a wooden bench for a quick rest.
At the 1.1-mile mark, turn left for the Iron Mine Trail. Then, turn right at the 1.4-mile mark for the out-and-back Iron Mine Spur Trail that leads you to another mine site.
The spur trail is rather steep, but it’s not a long trail. You will reach the mine within .1-mile. Learn how mining operations were modernized with jackhammers in 1908.
Re-trace your steps to the Iron Mine Trail. Then, at the 1.6-mile mark, you’ll see a trail leading off to the left (Whiskey Run), but continue straight to return to your vehicle.
In a few more steps, turn left to remian on the Iron Mine Trail. This will guide you on the final steps to the parking area.
From the parking area, this Southwest Virginia hike took me nearly 50 minutes to complete, including stops at the scenic overlooks and mine sites.
If you have more time, add on the 1.5-mile Whiskey Run Trail. This hiking trail can also be accessed from this parking lot and skirts along the base of Stuart’s Knob.
For those eager for fairy stones, pick up a brochure in the park office. I also recommend a primer from the on-duty ranger on what they look like and how to hunt for them.
Fairy stones can be found at a parcel of state park adjacent to Fairystone Pit Stop (10705 Fairystone Park Highway). It’s less than a 10-minute drive from the park.
The park office and the Fairystone Pit Stop both sell raw and polished fairy stones. If you can’t find any, it’s nice to bring a couple home, even if you need to buy them.
Erin Gifford is the editor of Go Hike Virginia. She has completed more than 300 hikes in Virginia. She is also the author of three hiking guidebooks from Falcon Guides. Need help finding a hike? Check out the Trail Finder feature or send Erin a message.