Southwest Mountains

Coordinates: 38°05′45″N 78°20′12″W / 38.09593°N 78.336639°W / 38.09593; -78.336639
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Southwest Mountains
Southwest Mountains.JPG
The Southwest Mountains, northern Albemarle County
Highest point
PeakCarters Mountain[1]
Elevation1,573 ft (479 m) Edit this on Wikidata
Length70 mi (110 km)
Width3.5 mi (5.6 km)
CountryUnited States
Parent rangeAppalachian Mountains

The Southwest Mountains of Virginia are a mountain range centered on Charlottesville, parallel to and geologically associated with the Blue Ridge Mountains, which lie about 30 miles (50 km) to the west.[3] Some of the more prominent peaks include Carters Mountain,[1] Fan Mountain, Brush Mountain, Peters Mountain, Walton's Mountain, and Hightop Mountain.


The Southwest Mountains are not particularly large. They are one of the easternmost ranges in Virginia (along with the geologically associated Bull Run Mountains and Catoctin Mountain) and the viewshed for the Blue Ridge Mountains through Nelson and Albemarle Counties.[4]

The range bisects Nelson, Albemarle, and Orange counties. A portion of the Southwest Mountains in Albemarle County has been designated a Rural Historic District by the National Park Service,[5] though none of the range is designated as state or national parkland.[6][7] Mineral resources of soapstone and vermiculite continue to be mined here.[8]


The Southwest Mountains are underlain by a belt of Catoctin greenstone, which forms the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge anticlinorium. The Catoctin Greenstone belt extends north into Maryland and also supports the Bull Run and Catoctin Mountains. The basalt flows which were metamorphosed to greenstone were deposited during the latest Precambrian age and first uplifted during Grenville Orogeny then again during the Alleghenian Orogeny, in which they were also transported westward to their present location.[9]

History and culture[edit]

Castalia Farm in the Southwest Mountains in 1899.

In its designation as a Virginia historical landmark, the Virginia Board of Historic Resources described the northern Albemarle portion of the Southwest Mountains as "some of the Piedmont's most pristine and scenic countryside."[10] They went on:

Characterized by undulating pastures, winding roadways, forested hills, and small hamlets, the district contains a broad range of 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century rural architecture, reflecting the evolving cultural patterns of more than 250 years of settlement.

The estates of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe are all located within the Southwest Mountains, as are many non-presidential estates, including Castle Hill.

These mountains were at one time also referred to as the "Chestnut Mountains".[11] The plateaux of the Southwest Mountains in southern Albemarle were once referred to as the "Green Mountains."[12]

Virginia Governor James Barbour, who lived in Orange County, wrote in 1835:[13]

Let us, the inhabitants of the South-West Mountains, rejoice and be grateful that our benefits greatly preponderate over our ills. And so far as my testimony goes, resulting from actual observation of near one-third of the entire circumference of the earth, I feel no hesitation in declaring that I deem them the most desirable abode I have ever seen.


  1. ^ a b "Carters Mountain". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. September 28, 1979. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  2. ^ Woodward; Hoffman (1991). "The physiographic provinces and subregions of Virginia" (JPEG). Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ecological Communities of the Northern Virginia Blue Ridge" (PDF). Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. October 4, 2003. Retrieved September 28, 2006. [T]he area covered by this presentation is the physiographic northern Blue Ridge that stretches from Roanoke to Harpers Ferry. It also loosely includes the higher, western Piedmont monadnocks such as the Bull Run Mountains in northern Virginia and the Southwest Mountains east of Charlottesville. This is a more limited area than the geological Blue Ridge anticlinorium, which includes the entire physiographic western Piedmont.
  4. ^ K. Edward Lay (2000). The Architecture of Jefferson Country. University of Virginia Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-8139-1885-3. The first mountains encountered along its path from Richmond were the Chestnut or Southwest Mountains just east of modern Charlottesville.
  5. ^ "Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  6. ^ "Park Locations". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  7. ^ "National Park Guide". National Park Service. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  8. ^ "Project Pivotal-Rig". Virginia Tech. Of the county's many rich mineral deposits, soapstone, sand, and aplite are at present of commercial importance. One of the county's largest manufactures [sic], Alberene Stone, produces locally-cut stone.
  9. ^ Frye, Keith. Roadside Geology of Virginia.
  10. ^ Loth, Calder (1999). The Virginia Landmarks Register. University of Virginia Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8139-1862-4.
  11. ^ Woods, Edgar (1901). Albemarle County in Virginia. The Michie Company. p. 19. chestnut mountains albemarle.
  12. ^ Duke Jr., R.T.W. "Albemarle County and City of Charlottesville in War Time: A Community History". Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  13. ^ "History of Keswick Area". Keswick Vineyards. Archived from the original on February 6, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
38°05′45″N 78°20′12″W / 38.09593°N 78.336639°W / 38.09593; -78.336639