Recreational Routes in Highland County
Nearly every road in Highland County could be described as a scenic drive with its rural character, scattered villages, rolling farmlands and mountain vistas. Some scenic drives include:
Routes 678 and 614 – Roads through the Bullpasture and Cowpasture River Valleys south of McDowell, including the beautiful Bullpasture River Gorge.
Rt. 642 and 640 – Roads through the Blue Grass Valley west of Monterey, one of the most scenic valleys in the country.
Route 607 – Winding, paved road through “Big Valley” located just east of the Jackson River Valley south of Monterey.
Route 617 – Road between McDowell and Doe Hill runs along the western slope of Jack Mountain and parallels the Bullpasture Valley through the area known as “Seldom Seen”.
Route 644 – Known as Hardscrabble Road, north of Blue Grass. This road is well known for birding.
Route 600 – Follows the length of Back Creek Valley. This partially paved road borders National Forest in the westernmost valley of Highand County.
Route 642 (gravel) – Crosses Middle Mountain into Laurel Fork and borders the National Forest.
There are no designated bikeways in Highland County, but the vast majority of the county’s roads are ideally suited to cyclists. Some popular loops are:
Williamsville Loop – 21-mile loop on gravel and paved roads along Bullpasture and Cowpasture Rivers, 1.5 mile climb across Bullpasture Mountain.
Wallace Tract – 20-mile loop near Williamsville with views of the Bullpasture and Cowpasture Rivers.
Laurel Fork Trail – 18-mile loop on a combination of Forest Service roads and creek beds in the Laurel Fork Special Management Area, 30 miles northwest of Monterey.
With large tracts of open space and thousands of National Forest and state-maintained lands, there are ample opportunities for hiking and enjoying nature:
Laurel Fork Trails – Over 28 miles of hiking trails, mostly on historic tram logging roads. Hunting, fishing and camping are permitted. Within parts of the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests, these hardwood forests contain an abundance of wildlife, including flying squirrel habitat. Key trails include:
Laurel Fork Trail - 6.5-mile trail runs along Laurel Fork, well-known stream for anglers.
Back Run Trail – 2.9-mile trail located on historic logging tram with spectacular views of beaver ponds, open glades and unique vegetation.
Locust Spring Run Trail – 3.1-mile trail in remote area of northern hardwoods ideal for viewing deer and wild turkey, native brook trout in streams.
Highland Wildlife Management Area – Comprises over 14,283 acres of upland forests with access to 20 miles of roads and trails, offers hiking, hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities; managed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Sounding Knob – The highest point in Highland County, at 4,390 ft., the former site of a fire tower built in the 1930’s (now removed).
McDowell Battlefield Trail – approximately one-mile trail leading to the top of Sittlington Hill and the core of the McDowell Battlefield. Access from Route 250 at the Battlefield Park one mile from the top of Bullpasture Mountain or from the junction of Routes 250 and 678 in McDowell.
Confederate Breastworks Trail – 0.5 mile interpretive trail along the top of Shenandoah Mountain, connects to the Shenandoah Mountain Trail (Augusta County).
Monterey Walking Tour – A self-guided tour (brochure available) through historic Monterey. The history of Victorian homes, the Courthouse, early churches, and an old-time general are provided.
McDowell Walking Tour – A self-guided tour (brochure available) of historic McDowell detaining highlights of the Civil War battle, which took place here in 1862.
Birding and Wildflower Trails:
These “thematic” trails were developed primarily as driving tours, but could also be enjoyed by cyclists or on foot. Interpretive brochures are available.
Blue Grass Valley Trail – 13-mile loop from Monterey through the Blue Grass Valley and Hightown.
Bullpasture Valley Trail – 31-mile tour from McDowell through the Bullpasture and Cowpasture Valleys.
Blue Bird Trail – From Monterey to the Bath County line on U.S. 220. Road is lined with birdhouses for bluebirds. Approximately 15 miles one way.
Monterey – the Town of Monterey is a designated bird sanctuary. Bird feeders and nesting boxes abound in yards throughout the town.
Laurel Fork – 21 miles of gravel roads in remote wooded area of Highland County. Abundant wildflowers and wildlife.
Highland Wildlife Management Area (Jack Mountain) – Gravel road best suited to foot or horse traffic and four-wheel drive.
Big Valley – Approximately 16 miles one-way from Monterey to Mustoe through Big Valley and Bolar.