Tour 11 -- Monterey to Goshen Pass, via Hot Springs
Maple syrup, sheep, mineral spring baths, and no stop lights
This tour begins by taking the backroads traveler to a place just beyond the Shenandoah Valley, but still very much a part of it, historically and culturally. Highland County, across three mountains west of Staunton, has always had more sheep than people. It may take a while to get there, but the trip is worth it, especially if you like to avoid sitting at traffic lights—that won’t happen on this tour. There is only one, and it is just a blinking light. Leaving I-81 near Staunton, you’ll drive on U.S. 250 West, the old Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike, for about 45 minutes to McDowell. The tour pauses for a food and shopping break in Monterey before heading south along tree-lined backroads into Bath County (which has no traffic lights at all). The tour ends near Lexington and I-81 with a drive through the dramatic and lovely Goshen Pass.
Quiet little McDowell was the scene of General Stonewall Jackson’s second battle in his 1862 Valley Campaign, the Battle of—what else—McDowell. As you detour to see the area where the fight took place, try to imagine more than 12,000 soldiers at war here. Visitors can stop at the Highland Museum and Heritage Center, usually open on weekends, and the Sugar Tree Country Store, which sells local crafts and products made with Highland County’s main export, maple syrup.
Monterey is the county seat with shops, lodging, and cafes, and—not to be missed—the H&H Cash Store, one of the last surviving old-fashioned general stores. Their motto: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The town attracts crowds from all over during its annual Highland Maple Festival in March.
From Monterey, the tour makes a turn south for Bath County and its main towns of Warm Springs and Hot Springs. Both towns have been long-time mineral springs resorts, with the Homestead Resort’s origins going back to the mid-1700s. Today the Homestead offers lodging, spa services, fine dining, golf, and skiing.
Goshen Pass is the final destination on this tour. Running about three miles long, the road passes through a mountain gorge carved out eons ago by the Maury River. People come here in the summer to picnic and wade in the rocky, shallow part of the river. In June, hundreds of wild rhododendrons and mountain laurel fill the surrounding woods with blooms of pink and purple flowers. The tour winds back to I-81 through the villages of Rockbridge Baths, Bustleburg, and Brownsburg, offering dramatic views of the Blue Ridge in the distance.
To learn more about the Shenandoah Valley’s history and its scenic backroads, and for detailed driving directions and more in-depth information for the tours on this website, get a copy of Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads (2nd ed., 2010; ISBN 978-0-89587-3-866; $19.95) by Andrea Sutcliffe.
It’s available through your favorite bookseller (go to www.indieBound.com to find an independent bookstore near you), at many Shenandoah Valley gift shops and museum stores, or directly from the publisher, John F. Blair www.blairpub.com, 1-800-222-9796.
Original text and photographs for the tour descriptions on this website © 2012 by Andrea Sutcliffe