Highland Mountain Trail

  • Highlights: History, wildlife, wildflowers
  • Distance: 3.6 mile loop
  • Elevation change: 558 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Highland, 2050 James Monroe Parkway, Charlottesville
  • Website: James Monroe Highland
  • Beer Pairings: Decipher Brewing Co.—Scytale Stout & Broken Logic IPA

The Hike:

We have had several requests for shorter, easier hikes. This short hike travels to the top of a small mountain and is located on the grounds of Highland, 5th President James Monroe’s home near Charlottesville. Monroe and his friend Thomas Jefferson were neighbors and the Saunders-Monticello Trail is located just a few miles down the road.

The trail is well marked and well maintained by a dedicated team of volunteers. The trailhead is located near the Visitor Center. The trails are free and open to the public while there is an admission fee to tour the house and grounds. Please check-in at the visitor center so they know you are hiking and also note the closing time when the gate on the driveway is closed and locked. Also note dogs are NOT allowed on this trail.

From the Visitor Center, a nearby kiosk has a map and trail information. follow the yellow-blazed Access Trail along the white fence. A meadow will be on your left and the grounds of Highland will be on the right. At .4 miles, reach a junction with the red-blazed Mountain Trail. There is also a trail map kiosk here. Turn right and follow the red trail up the mountain.

At .6 miles, reach a trail junction. The red-blazed Mountain Trail is a loop so you can go either direction here. We followed the trail to the right through a pine forest. Several small footbridges cross over streams and in the spring wildflowers line the trail. Trail signs describe the watershed area and the geology of the mountains.

The pine forest gives way to hardwoods and oaks and maples predominate. At 1.7 miles a short spur trail travels to the summit of the mountain at 890’. There are no views from the summit, so bypass this spur trail unless you want to add .2 miles and a bit of elevation to this hike. The trail begins a gradual descent through the forest returning to the junction with the yellow-blazed Access Trail. Turn left here to return to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Decipher Brewing in Charlottesville is located just 15 minutes from the trail head. This veteran-owned brewery has great beer, food trucks on weekends, and is super dog friendly. Pete really liked Scytale (5.7% ABV, 28 IBU), an oatmeal stout on nitro. This stout has hints of coffee, caramel and chocolate and the Nitrogen/CO2 mix gives this brew a velvety roundness and a smooth finish. Kathy was very pleased with Broken Logic IPA (7% ABV, 65 IBU), a West Coast-Style IPA brewed with Citra and Centennial hops.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.