Alleghany County – The Highlands Experience

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About a one-hour drive from Roanoke and three hours from Richmond and Washington, DC, Alleghany County   is often described as a tranquil place to slow down and escape the frenetic pace of modern life.

And while that slower pace may certainly be found, Alleghany County’s summer fun calendar is anything but sedate. Here, with the extraordinary beauty of the Alleghany Mountains as the background, one can find festivals, cycling events, marathons, swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, tubing and more.

To list just a few of the events being held this summer:

June 3, 10:00 to 5:00: The sixth Annual Alleghany Highlands Heritage Day and C&O Heritage Festival

This festival celebrated the area’s deeply rooted railroad history. Events took place at various venues, such as: the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge, C&O Heritage Center, Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center, Clifton Forge Public Library and Clifton Forge School of the Arts. More than 80 artisans displayed arts and crafts of the region in addition to a dozen food vendors. Much live music, experiential activities for kids and adults, plus Scottish games, a quilt lecture and WW1 and WW2 presentations were on the calendar, too. A train show was also held with storytelling and vendors selling railroad memorabilia.

June 24: Jackson River Scenic Trail Marathon

It’s not just a marathon; choose also from the Half Marathon, 10K, 5K or one-mile family fun run. The Jackson River Scenic Trail, starting just outside Covington, is built on an old railway and generally parallels the beautiful Jackson River. Plus, the races run simultaneously with the Annual Cork and Pork festival. Sign up for the run by June 21.

July 22: Gran Fondo Alleghany (Covington – Clifton Forge)

While not a strict translation, what “Gran Fondo” means to cyclists, is “Big Ride” or “Big Challenge.” The Gran Fondo Alleghany delivers on that meaning. Riders can choose from four routes:  the Gran Fondo is a 116-mile mountainous course, the Medio Fondo is a 69-mile hilly course, the Medio Mountain is a 69-mile mountainous course or the Piccolo Fondo a 29-mile hilly course. All rides have course timing, technical support, rest stops and food and beverages at the finish.  While there is fantastic cycling throughout much of the Shenandoah Valley, the Alleghany Highlands is quietly gaining a reputation as a premier place to pedal.   More info can be found here. 

August 5: One Mile Open Water Swim

The One Mile Open Water Swim will be held on the serene Lake Moomaw, a 2,530-acre impoundment well-known for its beauty and excellent fishing. The Alleghany Highland Chamber will co-host the event with Dave Holland, United States Masters Swimming Long Distance Chair.

If you prefer sightseeing over cycling, marathoning and long-distance swimming, we urge you to visit:

The Humpback Bridge—One of the most photographed sites in Virginia, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located three miles from Covington, it is the sole covered, humpback bridge remaining in the United States. Built in 1857 and restored in 1953, the bridge’s covered, arched construction was designed to increase its lifespan and keep the middle point above flood levels.

The C&O Railway Heritage Center, Clifton Forge– This center is a railway heritage museum, interpretive, educational, and visitor’s center that tells the story of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The purpose of this center is also to honor the memory and contribution of all those who built the railroads that allowed our nation to prosper. Highlights include – the 1896 Freight Depot Visitor’s Center, the Replica Signal Tower for Train Watching, the 1922 Gadsby’s Tavern Dining Car, Restored C&O Cabooses and much more.

Where to stay? Give serious consideration to the Hill Crest Bed and Breakfast in Clifton Forge, recently named one of the “Top Ten Romantic Inns” in the U.S. by  Guests will find spa retreat bathrooms in all seven guest rooms. Enjoy in-room massages, afternoon wine on the front porch, three or five-course meals, and nightly turn-down service with a nightcap and chocolate.

Campgrounds and cabins are also available in Douthat State Park, five miles from Clifton Forge.

Alleghany County is easily accessible via I-64, and Amtrak runs service to Clifton Forge. There is much more to this region than we have room to cover. Investigate further at: Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism

Banner photo courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation/Bill Crabtree, Jr.








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