A Visit to the Sounding Knob Fire Tower is an Interesting Outdoor Activity

The fire tower at Sounding Knob in Highland County is now open every day.  It’s ninety feet tall, with one hundred eleven steps to the top, and it provides quite a view of Monterey and beyond.

Hamill D. Jones, Jr., who’s known as Skip Jones, is the tower’s owner.

“You can easily see about thirty, thirty-five miles in virtually every direction,” says Jones.  “If one knows where to look you can see Spruce Knob to the north, which is the highest mountain top in West Virginia.”

The fire tower now sits at just under 4,000 feet elevation.  It originally stood at the top of Sounding Knob about four miles from its present location.

“In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps under Franklin Roosevelt, built what was known as the CCC Road, which is now Sounding Knob Road which starts at the intersection of Route 250 on the top of Jack Mountain above Monterey and goes about five miles south to the top of Sounding Knob,” says Jones.  “The purpose of that road was to be able to have access to the top of Sounding Knob where the Virginia Forest Service built the fire tower in about 1934.  In the 1960’s, more or less, fire towers became obsolete as forest fires were spotted more efficiently by small aircraft.  In 2002 the fire tower was deemed a liability by the Commonwealth of Virginia and it was disassembled and John Wright, with the Virginia Department of Forestry, Steve Good with Highland Welding and a number of Highland concerned citizens raised the money and removed the fire tower down to the Highland Welding site on Route 220, north of town, where it stayed until 2016, disassembled.”

In 2016 Jones purchased all the tower parts and had it restored and rebuilt on his property.  Jones grew up in Arlington, Virginia, but the eight generations of his family before him grew up in Highland County.

“My great-grandfather and grandfather were instrumental in forming the local bank in Monterey and my grandfather was president of it for awhile,” says Jones.  “As a result I was fortunate to inherit through my Dad and my grandfather a significant amount of bank stock which wasn’t worth a whole lot of money at that time, but then the bank was bought by Summit and so all of a sudden I had some extra cash which I didn’t expect to have.  Since it came from Highland County I wanted to put it back into Highland County and I thought that was a good way for me to do this and pay something back to Highland County which I love so much.”

The fire tower is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year.  To get there, take Route 250 two miles east of Monterey to the top of Jack Mountain.  Turn onto Sounding Knob Road and go approximately 1.3 miles.

For more information, Skip Jones can be reached at  hjones@fgb.com

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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