Paddle the Alleghany Highlands

Get lost in the mountains and enjoy the waters of the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia. 

Grab your kayak or paddleboard and float the many lakes, rivers, and streams that make up the Alleghany Highlands Blueway. Explore the Jackson River as it flows through the two downtowns, Covington and Clifton Forge, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Follow the river on foot or bike as the Jackson River Scenic Trail runs for 14 miles along its banks. Paddle the Cowpasture River, with a few smaller rapids, as it converges with the Jackson River to form the headwaters of the James River. 

Kayaking on the Cowpasture River, photo courtesy Alleghany Highlands

Visit Douthat Lake at one of Virginia’s oldest parks, Douthat State Park. Swim, boat, or fish on the 50-acre lake. Or explore more than 40 miles of top-notch biking and hiking trails, offering breathtaking views of the mountains. At the other end of the Alleghany Highlands, you’ll find even more paddling opportunities at Lake Moomaw. Located at the base of the Gathright Dam, the 2,530-acre man-made lake is perfect for boating all year. Camp in the national forest and sleep among the stars. 

Head to Alleghany Outdoors, located beside the Jackson River and Scenic Trail, for all of your gear needs while in town. They provide kayaks, rafts, tubes, and mountain bikes for a variety of adventures. They also operate a shuttle service, so you don’t have to worry about getting back. 

Kayakers on Douthat Lake, photo by Sam Dean, courtesy of Alleghany Highlands

The Eastern National Children’s Forest is the perfect place to get your young one outside and exploring the natural world around them with easy hikes and towering trees. A trip to the Alleghany Highlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Falling Spring Falls. View the 80-foot waterfall from the overlook on Route 220. While you’re in your car, head over to Humpback Bridge. Picnic beside the bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as you listen to the sound of the stream flowing past. 

Spend the night in the area known for its deep railroad history. Stop into the Alleghany Arts and Crafts Center or the Clifton Forge School of the Arts to enjoy a number of classes or unique exhibits. See a show at the newly restored Historic Masonic Theater. Keep an eye out for several events in the area, including the Jackson River Scenic Trail Marathon, Alleghany Gran Fondo, and Lake Moomaw Open Water Swim.

All of this, and more, is what makes this part of Virginia Uniquely Alleghany.

Places to Go, Things to See: