Our next public tour is May 18, 2019, when we will head out to the mountains of beautiful Highland County for a History Hike up Sitlington’s Hill. This tour is free/pay-what-you wish.
Stonewall Jackson and McDowell
How did Jackson morph from an awkward, small-town science teacher into a feared commander whose character and campaigns are still studied in military academies around the globe? That transformation largely came in the 79 days between late March and early June 1862, and the most stunning and revealing act in that period was Jackson’s bold strike into the Allegheny Mountains at McDowell, where he won his first independent victory. We will narrate the story of the fight, the conduct of the troops and the leadership on both sides.
Sitlington’s Hill History Hike – 2.2 miles
This is a rewarding climb up a moderate hill to the McDowell Battlefield. The broad woodland trail rises about 600 feet in 6/10ths of a mile to the battlefield, where trails and markers allow us to explore the story of the fight. The hike takes about a half hour to the top and another 1.5 hours or so to tour the battlefield and to descend the hill to the parking area. We stop frequently for breathers, stories and explanations. The group leaves at 11:30 am from the well-marked parking area on the Highland Turnpike (see photo and directions below), and we will end the tour at the parking area around 2:15 p.m.
Wear hiking shoes, bring water and a bite to eat for energy. No dogs, please, but we highly recommend this hike for kids who like history or nature — they will find plenty to interest them. The climb is moderately strenuous for older hikers, and some might find the walk too challenging. All participants must consent to a STANDARD LIABILITY WAIVER.
The village of McDowell is about 40 minutes west of Staunton via Route 250. The circle on the map represents about 30 miles from Staunton. If you are coming from Interstate 81, follow Rte. 262 to Rte. 250 and then head west. When you see the signs for Churchville, you will be on the right track.
About a mile before you reach McDowell, you will pass this sign at the battlefield parking area (below), where the hike begins at 11:30. If you are coming from Staunton, you will be descending the road in the photo, moving toward the camera, so the sign will be on your left. Google says the McDowell Battlefield parking lot is at 38.324304. -79.465793.
If you need a stop between Staunton and McDowell, we highly recommend White’s Wayside on Rte. 250, about 5 miles past Churchville. It has been serving travelers since 1929 and the renovation by new owners has breathed fresh life into this historic roadside landmark. The place is neat-as-a-pin and the food is good. Check out the hours and the menu and plan a stop before or after the hike. The address is 2175 Hankey Mountain Hwy, Churchville, VA 24421. They open at 7 am on Saturdays.
If you want to pick up a picnic lunch to eat during one of our rest stops on the hike, two local business in McDowell offer fresh made-to-order sandwiches and other fixin’s: Stonewall Grocery (31 Doe Hill Rd. in the center of the village) or Mountain Oasis (8555 Highland Turnpike, just west of the Obaugh Funeral home).
What you will see the most of between Staunton and McDowell is trees, farms and mountains. If you need fuel, you can fill the tank in Churchville or 10 miles farther out at West Augusta (Mountain View General Store). Once in McDowell, fuel and supplies are available at The Mountain Oasis, 8555 Highland Turnpike.
The Highland County Museum
The Highland County Historical Society maintains a great small museum in the historic Mansion House, shown above during a tour conducted with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation in 2018. The museum is very much worth a visit. The address is 161 Mansion House Rd. McDowell, VA 24458. It opens at 11 am on Saturdays and admission is free, but donations are welcomed.