Highland County, Virginia welcomes you!
In front of your eyes on Shenandoah Mountain resides a rural mountain community characterized by endless vistas, unspoiled forests, pristine waterways, open farmland, and small towns. There is much to discover in Virginia's least populous county among the peaceful rolling hills and relaxing valleys nestled in between.
416 square miles of spectacular mountain terrain were formed into Highland County out of portions of Bath and Pendleton counties in 1847. The county received its name from its prevailing altitude that is on full display here. It has one of the highest mean elevations of any county east of the Mississippi River.
Continuing to drive west on Rt. 250, a part of the historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, takes you into the heart of Highland County. The winding roads and back country are perfect for motorcyclists and bicyclists seeking less traffic and more open terrain. There are opportunities for hiking, hunting, fishing, and bird watching throughout the county, including on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and on over 14,000 acres of Highland County’s Wildlife Management Area. Highland County contains the headwaters of the Jackson River and the South Branch Potomac River. Clear skies with low light pollution offer breathtaking views of the night stars and Milky Way. Grab your camera or artist’s brush for exceptional fall foliage or green springtime scenes. Elevate your travel experience with a climb up over 100 steps of the restored Sounding Knob Fire Tower, just east of Monterey, or try to spot all the colorful barn quilts that adorn old buildings with Virginia’s first Barn Quilt Trail. There are opportunities each season for festivals, music, and arts.
Highland County’s lofty elevation with freezing temperatures at night and warm sunny days in late winter create an ideal environment for the production of maple syrup. Since 1959, the county has celebrated being one of the most southernmost places in the United States that this sweet delicacy can be made with their annual award-winning Maple Festival in March. Each year, tens of thousands of visitors are drawn here to celebrate the “opening” of the trees and observe the process of maple syrup-making at local sugar camps. It’s quite the cultural and culinary adventure! In 1999, The Library of Congress designated The Highland County Maple Festival a “Local Legacy.” In 2014, the Governor of Virginia signed a bill into law designating the festival as the “official maple festival of Virginia.” The popularity of the event has initiated the Virginia Maple Syrup Trail and the exploration of producing syrups from other nut trees.
Much of the landscape looks the same as it has for hundreds of years. In May of 1862, the eastern portion of the county experienced the Civil War firsthand at The Battle of McDowell. Today, the Mansion House at the Highland County Museum and Heritage Center retains information about the history of the area with interesting exhibits. The classic 1921 silent film, Tol’able David, was filmed mainly in the western portion of Highland. The annual Highland County Fair began in 1952 and continues to be a popular family-friendly destination to begin the celebration of the harvest in late summer.
For those seeking tranquil solitude and a refreshing sense of freedom, Highland County awaits.