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Southwest Mountains
Southwest Mountains.JPG
The Southwest Mountains, northern Albemarle County
Highest point
Peak Carter Mountain
Length 70 mi (110 km)
Width 3.5 mi (5.6 km)
Country United States
State Virginia
Region Piedmont
Parent range Appalachian 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. Some of the more prominent peaks include Carter Mountain, 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.

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, though none of the range is designated as state or national parkland. Mineral resources of soapstone and vermiculite continue to be mined here.


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.

History and culture

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." 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". The plateaux of the Southwest Mountains in southern Albemarle were once referred to as the "Green Mountains."

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

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.

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