Highland County offers gorgeous views on hiking trails; however the lack of cell service on the more remote trails can be a bit intimidating. Rest assured. Pre-planning and safe hiking practices can lower the risk of potential issues and reduce your worry during excursions.
Here are a few pieces of advice for anyone planning a trail adventure:
HIKE #1: MCDOWELL BATTLEFIELD TRAIL
Take a trail through history when you hike the same grounds the Civil War soldiers did during the Battle of McDowell. This approximate two-mile hike is an easy to moderate excursion that will take hikers to the top of Sitlington Hill for an expansive view. There’s not much shade on this hike so be prepared with necessary sunscreen, water, and other provisions and protection.
Trailhead: From Monterey, travel east on Rt. 250 over Jack Mountain heading towards McDowell. Pass through the town of McDowell, and continue another two miles (approximately) to the parking lot and trailhead, which is located at the start up Shaw’s Ridge. (Still on Rt. 250 east).
Additional Tip: Stop in the Highland County Museum before your hike to learn more about the historic happenings that took place on the hill.
HIKE #2: LAUREL FORK PROPOSED WILDERNESS AREA
Laurel Fork is definitely a remote location; however with some of the most diverse scenery and old growth forests in the state of Virginia, it’s something all nature lovers should see. At approximately 4,000 feet, this adventure offers a cool break from high temperatures of other locales. And for the advanced hiker and adventurer, trails within the Laurel Fork area can be combined for a multi-day backpacking excursion. (Definitely exercise good communication if you decide on the backpacking option!)
Trailhead: From Monterey, travel west of town on Rt. 250 over Monterey and Allegheny mountains. A short distance past the Virginia/West Virginia border, turn right onto WV28. Then, turn right onto FR106 and travel .4 miles, left onto FR60 for .3 miles, right onto FR142 for .2 miles, and finally, park at the Locust Spring Picnic Area. You will see the trail head for the Locust Spring Run Trail at the bottom right of the picnic area.
For more detailed information, we recommend visiting the Laurel Fork profile on HikingUpward.com.
HIKE #3: HIGHLAND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
Approximately three to four miles east when traveling on Route 250 out of Monterey is a pull off on the right at the top of Jack Mountain. Upon further inspection, you will see a gravel road, which leads to the Highland Wildlife Management Area. (Click on the link for usage fees!) When you travel this road (AKA: Sounding Knob Road), you’ll find a small piece of the larger 14,000+ acre area that includes diverse habitats, a plethora of wildlife, and a variety of views – an area where you can customize the length and features of your hike! As always, be aware of wildlife such as snakes, bear, fox, and more. These critters are usually fairly elusive but are present, nonetheless.
Trailhead: From Monterey, travel east on Rt 250 up Jack Mountain and look for a gravel pull off area labeled “Sounding Knob Road” at the top of the mountain. Drive in, decide on a hiking area, find a parking spot, and enjoy!
For more info, visit the Highland Wildlife Management Area profile on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.