Southern Highlands

Since there wasn’t enough area to spread out all the beauty of southwest Virginia, it had to be stacked as high as 5,000 feet in some places, just to get it all in. Thus, the mountains of Southwest Virginia. 

A quick look at this map invites you to miles and miles of byways through mountains of spectacular beauty. 

You’ll come upon villages where churches have steeples with bells, and they are still rung.  Don’t be surprised if the residents wave to you as you pass by. 

Big Walker Mountain LookoutA typical byway drive would be Route 52 north out of Wytheville. A stop at Big Walker Mountain Lookout is highly recommended – the view is breathtaking. Then follow Route 42 southwest to Route 16.  At that point, whether you head north or south, you’re in for a treat. Going south will take you to Mount Rogers, and this is as lofty as it gets in Virginia – 5,729 feet. 

If you opt for heading north on Route 16, you head toward Tazewell, which typifies towns that can be “discovered” on Virginia’s byways.

East of Tazewell is Burke’s Garden, often called “God’s Thumbprint” because of its geological formation. Only 260 people live in its 20,000 acres, sharing the area with an abundance of wildlife.  

At any turn in the road you might find a whitetail deer curiously staring at you. Tourist-watching apparently is a favorite pastime of the wildlife in this relatively unpeopled area.

Don’t try to cover southwest Virginia in a byway tour of just a day or two – there’s just too much of it.  

And beware of an overload of the senses: the sound of songbirds, the sweet scent of honeysuckle, the feel of warm daytime sun and cool evening breezes and the sight of mountains that touch sun, moon and stars.  

Page last modified: Nov. 16, 2017