62nd Annual Highland County Maple Festival: March 14 – 15 & 21 – 22, 2020
For 62 years, people have been following the sap to beautiful Highland County for the mid-March Highland Maple Festival. Festival goers can visit working sugar camps to see the “opening” of the trees and learn the history behind maple syrup production. They’ll enjoy delicious treats like pancakes and maple donuts, hear lively music, and shop the wares of over a hundred juried vendors. The festival also includes scenic drives and mapped tours of the maple camps and points of interest.
Staunton is just an hour away from Monterey, the seat of the festival, so set up a home base in Staunton before heading out for a day in Highland County. Read on for our suggested itinerary.
5:00 PM: CHECK INTO YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS
One of the great things about Staunton is that you can find a mix of fine accommodations in downtown, so dining, shopping, and entertainment options are literally steps away. Check out our historic hotels, unique lodging, and charming B&B’s.
5:30 p.m.: UNWIND WITH A DRINK
Plan tomorrow’s excursion over a glass of wine or pint of craft beer at one of Staunton’s wine bars or breweries. The Green Room and Yelping Dog have quiet atmospheres perfect for sitting and sipping with friends. Both offer snacks like cheese plates and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. If craft beer is your drink, earn the first stamp in your Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail Passport at a Staunton brewery. Participating breweries include Redbeard Brewing Co., Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company, and Queen City Brewing. Just outside of the city is Skipping Rock Beer Company.
6:30 PM: GRAB SOME DINNER
You’ll need to fuel up for a weekend of touring sugar camps, so come hungry! Staunton’s culinary offerings are varied and delicious. Many of our chefs get creative with farm-to-table seasonal menus. We also have global cuisine eateries with bold flavors and worldly influences. Even the pizza scene is pretty special. The best part is that everything’s within walking distance of our historic main street.
8:00 AM: WAKE UP AT A LOCAL COFFEE SHOP
Start your day with a cup of freshly brewed coffee at one of our coffee shops.
8:30 AM: PACK SOME SNACKS AND YOUR CAMERA AND HEAD WEST ON RT. 250
Before You Go
- Highland County Maple Festival hours: Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Pancake meals may start earlier and end in the mid afternoon. See brochure.
- Dress in layers and boots – you know what they say about March weather!
- Monterey is a rural mountain community served by only two main roads (Rt. 220 and Rt. 250), so expect some traffic during the festival.
- Cell phone service might be limited in some places.
- Coming soon: Highland County’s Maple Syrup Trail will encourage visitors to visit 10 sugar camps throughout the year to earn a prize.
Points of Interest
Highland County Museum | 161 Mansion House Rd: The Highland County Museum is a 1851 home that served as a hospital during the Civil War. The exhibits focus on the Battle of McDowell and the rural history of the area.
Sugar Tree Country Store | 185 Mansion House Road, McDowell: The Sugar Tree Country Store is right along the main route to Monterey, and it contrasts the old and new with both a display of antique maple production tools and tours of the “modern reverse osmosis concentrator and oil-fired evaporator” that’s in use today. Plus, the country store offers all kinds of maple products and handicrafts.
Duff’s Sugar House | 3118 Mill Gap Road, Monterey: For a chance to participate in the sap-gathering process and to see how syrup was traditionally made, stop at Duff’s Sugar House.
Mill Gap Farms | 2760 Mill Gap Road, Monterey: Mill Gap Farms is located right down the road, but they use cutting-edge technology to create their organic syrup. Kids will enjoy meeting the sheep, chickens, and alpacas that live on the farm.
Downtown Monterey: The heart of the festival is located in downtown Monterey. Here you’ll find arts and crafts vendors, food, musical entertainment, and activities for the entire family at The Highland Center.
Other Sugar Camps: There are nine sugar camps on the tour. See the map for more information. Witness different methods of tapping maple trees and reducing sap to syrup. Learn how to grade syrup based on color and flavor, and see production and packaging methods. You’ll also get a chance to purchase the freshest syrup there is!
Pancake Dinners: Several towns will be holding pancake breakfasts for the festival. See the brochure for times at Monterey, McDowell, Bolar, Blue Grass, and Williamsville.
Late Afternoon: Make your way back to Staunton.
Pull over to photograph the incredible view from the top of Shenandoah Mountain and the ½-mile Confederate Breastworks interpretive trail. You’ll see why this was used as a lookout point during the Civil War.
6:00 PM: HOW ABOUT DINNER & A SHOW?
A long day of hiking to sugar camps will leave you famished. Plan to put away a big steak or some pasta at The Depot Grille or design your own bowl at 101 West Beverley. Get seats for a show at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre. Here’s what’s playing.
10:00 AM: End a fun-filled weekend with brunch.
Reliving your adventure over a delicious brunch before heading out of town should be a no-brainer. Zynodoa, The Shack, and Table 44 are known for their modern twists on traditional Southern cooking with an emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients. Check out who else is serving in Staunton’s Brunch Bunch.