Highland County is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains in west-central Virginia. The county is known for its pristine scenic beauty and rustic rural charm , attributes that have brought accolades from residents and tourists alike. Indeed, Highland has been nicknamed 'Little Switzerland' by area residents as a tribute to its mountainous beauty. The Town of Monterey, the county seat of Highland, is located 45 miles west of the intersection of Interstates 81 and 64 in Staunton.
In 1847, 416 square miles of spectacular mountain terrain were formed into Highland County out of portions of Bath and Pendleton counties. The County received its name from its prevailing high altitude; it has one of the highest mean elevations of any county east of the Mississippi River.
The County has a rich historical tradition. During the Civil War, the Battle of McDowell, a significant battle in Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign, was waged in Highland County. The Town of Monterey was established in 1848. Originally named Highland, the Town was renamed in honor of the Mexican town where General Zachary Taylor defeated the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War.
Highland County was built around the richness of its natural resources. Wool remains one of Highland's major agricultural commodities. In 1990, the County ranked third in the State in the number of sheep. The County is typically one of the largest wool-producing counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Not surprisingly, early industry in the County was tied to the land. In 1950, Hooke Brothers Lumber Company opened their sawmill. They were followed in 1960 by another lumber company, Taylor-Ramsey Corporation, and in 1980 by Westvaco.
Both Bath and Highland lie within the Allegheny Mountains and are part of the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province. The counties are characterized by high, narrow, mountain ridges that run northeast to southwest and that form relatively narrow river valleys. Most of the level areas are found on the terraces adjacent to streams and rivers. Elevations range from 4,546 feet above sea level in Highland County to 1,140 feet above sea level in Bath County where the Cow-pasture River flows into Allegheny County.
The Jackson, Bullpasture, and Cowpasture rivers and other streams within Bath and Highland Counties are subject to moderate to severe flooding during periods of heavy rains or rapid thawing. Soils in both counties are primarily mountain soils derived from the weathering of acidic sandstone, shale, quartz, and granite parent material. These soils are often shallow, rocky, and excessively drained. Soils in the valleys range from carbonate soils to alluvial soils along rivers and streams. Colluvial soils resulting from the weathering of the sandstone and shale mountains are also found in the valleys. The predominant geological structure underlying the area is a complex formation of sandstone, limestone, shale, and dolomite.