Tucked away in the Alleghenys of northern Virginia is Blue Grass Valley, a little-known haven where the vistas along this scenic road never fail to comfort and charm.
Scenic Roads: Sheep graze in a serene setting along an inviting farm road near the town of Blue Grass, Virginia.
Story and Photos by Pat and Chuck Blackley
From our home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we enjoy making frequent visits to Highland County, often called Virginia’s Little Switzerland for its steep mountains, deep valleys and abundant snowfall.
The drive of less than 50 miles or scenic roads can be a challenging trip of hairpin turns and some white-knuckle moments, but our arrival in this little piece of paradise reminds us why the trip is so worth the effort. Located in the Allegheny Mountains, within what’s called the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachians, Highland County borders West Virginia to the west and the Shenandoah Valley to the east. Named for its lofty altitude, the county has one of the highest average elevations east of the Mississippi.
The region, isolated by mountains, is home to only about six people per square mile. With only a few small towns or hamlets, it is known and loved for its gorgeous scenery and rural charm. While other areas have been overdeveloped, Highland remains much as it was when we were children: no four-lane highways, no subdivisions, no fast-food restaurants or shopping malls; just miles of peaceful countryside and tightly knit farming communities.
We’ve traveled countless country roads all around the United States and into Canada, but the quiet, winding drive on Blue Grass Valley Road remains our all-time favorite.
Turning off State Route 220 north of the county seat of Monterey, we are met by the wooded hills and pretty farms of Blue Grass Valley Road. The drive begins as Route 642 goes through the village of Blue Grass, then continues on Route 640 for about 15 miles to the intersection with Route 84, having briefly passed through Hightown.
Meandering through the scenic road’s namesake, the beautiful Blue Grass Valley, the route reveals breathtaking wide-open vistas that stretch into the mountains beyond, reminding us of scenery we’ve found in Wyoming and Montana.
The fence-lined road passes barns and neatly kept farmhouses scattered among the rolling hills and broad pastures tucked in among the wooded mountain ridges.
Cattle and sheep graze in lush meadows and drink from the waters of the Potomac and James rivers. The headwaters for both rivers are located here. According to local legend, there’s a barn in Hightown where rain from the roof’s north side runs to the Potomac and rain from its south side runs to the James.
Each season here is alluring, especially for photographers like us. Winter’s snow-covered landscape provides a tranquil beauty that grips our souls. Spring and summer bring wildflowers, baby farm animals and farmers working their fields.
In March, the Highland Maple Festival celebrates syrup season with events like sugar camp tours where you can learn learn more about this beautiful area from the people who live and work here. A fiddlers’ convention, farmers market and delicious trout dinners bring us back each summer.
Our favorite season, though, has to be autumn, when the sugar maples that produce Highland’s famous syrup in spring turn the most glorious shades of red, yellow and orange, painting this magnificent landscape with vibrant color.
An unhurried drive along this peaceful, scenic road reminds us of the way life used to be in earlier times. Selfishly, we hope it never changes, so that we’ll continue to enjoy its remote and pristine beauty for years to come.
Blue Grass Valley Road is one of Country’s 2013 Best Scenic Roads. Click here for the full list.