Tour of Franklin County, VA

Franklin County in Virginia's Blue Ridge

Franklin County is made up of rolling farmland, picturesque lakes, scenic trails, and small towns rich with Blue Ridge folk history. Part of the 500 miles of Smith Mountain Lake’s shoreline is also located in Franklin County, where you can cruise on a jet ski or take a guided fishing excursion.

Its small towns of Boones Mill and Rocky Mount are rich with heritage, craft artisans, music and moonshine. Uncover the ‘spirit’ of a town and surrounding region once known as the “wettest county in the world.”

Mural of farmers working in a desolate field under a deep blue sky. 

Town of Boones Mill

Aptly named, Boones Mill was developed by the Boone family in 1786 around the site of a mill. Just 525 acres in total, this small town is the gateway into Franklin County from Roanoke.

Franklin County has a deep-rooted history in moonshine - so deep that it’s often referred to as, “The Moonshine Capital of the World.” It was even the subject of Matt Bondurant’s book, “The Wettest County in the World” and the 2012 movie, “Lawless.”

Craft Spirits - Roanoke, VA

During the Prohibition Era, it is said that more sugar (a key ingredient for making hooch) was delivered to Boones Mill than to New York City! 

Start your small town tour in Boones Mill at Franklin County Distilleries - the first legal distillery in Franklin County since Prohibition. Get a *taste* of history for yourself while checking out the historic photos of stills and ‘shiners that line the tasting room walls.

Franklin County Distilleries - Boones Mill

Franklin County Distilleries is part of the larger VBR Cheers Trail, comprising over 30 craft beer, wine, and spirit producers. Find another stop along the trail in our next town of Rocky Mount

Town of Rocky Mount

Continue your VBR Cheers Trail adventures and stop by Twin Creeks Distillery’s tasting room to try a flight of seasonal moonshine cocktails.

Cocktails - Twin Creeks Distillery - Franklin County, VA

Head distiller Chris Prillaman is a direct descendant of bootleggers who earned a living making spirits in the hills and hollers of Franklin County. He uses age-old distilling methods passed down from his Grandpap Peg to make high-quality spirits.

Moonshine Conspiracy of 1935 - Franklin County, Virginia - Black and white photo of Grandpap Peg.

Twin Creeks Distillery works to preserve what’s been called a “dying art” - the hands-on, woodsy way of distilling in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chris has a deep passion for the craft, and the stories surrounding it still impact the community today.

Chris Prillaman - Twin Creeks Distillery - Holding a bottle of liquor.

The Town of Rocky Mount has been the hub of industry and culture in Franklin County since 1786. Its farmers market, performance venue, and local restaurants and shops make this place a must-see main street in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Rocky Mount, Virginia 

The Harvester Performance Center brings national artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, Gov’t Mule, The Black Lillies, and more to Franklin County. The acts at this mid-sized venue are worthy of planning an entire trip around.

Harvester Performance Center - Rocky Mount, VA

Stay nearby at a local B&B, such as the Early Inn at the Grove or The Claiborne House, for charming hospitality and a restful stay.

Brick home with red shutters and red door sits behind a wide lawn, surrounded by pine trees as sunlight peeks through.

Shop for handmade artisan treasures, local produce and treats, and other unique goods in downtown Rocky Mount. The Rocky Mount Farmers Market operates year-round.

Rocky Mount LOVE Letters 

Seasonal Events

The Downtown Rocky Mount Scarecrow Trail features over 50 festive displays made by local businesses that take part in the annual competition. During the entire month of October and the beginning of November, you can find dozens of photo-op-worthy scarecrows scattered throughout downtown.

Rocky Mount Scarecrow Trail - Band

April is Moonshine Heritage Month and there are a variety of ways to celebrate in The Moonshine Capital, including a themed car show, specials at local bars & restaurants, and tours.

If you enjoy getting on the water, don't miss the fun of the annual River Ramble Weekend, featuring opportunities for paddling and tubing on the scenic Pigg & Blackwater River Blueways.

Blackwater Blackout - River Ramble - Franklin County

Another fantastic water option is the special Concerts by Canoe series, where a band plays on a floating stage at Philpott Lake and guests listen to the music from their kayaks, boats, and seating area on the bank of the lake.

Concerts by Canoe - Philpott Lake, Franklin County 

Franklin County - The Moonshine Capital of the World

Franklin County Moonshine Still

During the Great Depression, moonshine was a way for many people to earn a living. In the 1920s, it is believed that 99 out of every 100 Franklin County residents played a role in the industry.

By the 1930s, folks were so intertwined with moonshine that it brought a national spotlight to the county. 

The federal government claimed it had been defrauded $5.5 million in ‘excise whiskey taxes’ (an equivalent of $95 million today), and thus brought forth the “Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial” of 1935.

Moonshine Still - Twin Creeks Distillery, Franklin County, Virginia

You can get the full history of moonshine in Franklin County, including the end results of the great Conspiracy Trial, at the Blue Ridge Institute & Farm Museum in nearby Ferrum. For those who can’t make an in-person visit yet, the Blue Ridge Institute has shared an extensive virtual moonshine history exhibit. It’s packed with stories of Prohibition days and tons of historic images. 

Outdoor Adventure in Franklin County

Old Buzzard - Waid Park - Mountain Biking

Head beyond Rocky Mount’s town limits to find a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities - from mountain biking and fishing to jet skis and tubing - all within Franklin County.

Waid Park has become a top spot for mountain biking in recent years. With over 500 acres and 15 miles of trails that continue to grow, Waid Park is an excellent spot to experience why Virginia’s Blue Ridge is America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital.

Waid Park also features access to the Pigg River, a popular option for paddling and tubing. During the summer months, Franklin County Parks & Recreation operates a tubing rental program within the park that's perfect for families and groups.

Pigg River Tubing - Franklin County

Philpott Lake is best known for its excellent fishing. Covering 3,000 acres and 100 miles of shoreline, it’s considered Virginia’s best smallmouth bass and trout lake.

Twin Ridge Recreation Area - Philpott Lake 

Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake is known as “The Jewel of the Blue Ridge.” As the second largest lake in Virginia, it’s a popular destination for visitors seeking world-class fishing and recreational boating activities.

Smith Mountain Lake Virginia

Connect with a local marina and fishing guide to plan your complete “lake-cation.” 

Smith Mountain Lake Boat

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Visitors shouldn’t miss the opportunity to step into history at the Booker T. Washington National Monument. Located just 10 minutes from SML’s Bridgewater Marina, this monument commemorates the life of a remarkable educator, orator, writer, and presidential advisor.

Booker T. Washington National Monument - Franklin County, VA

Walk the meandering forest trails and explore the reconstructed nineteenth-century tobacco farm on the same land where Booker T. Washington was born into slavery and later freed.

Homestead Creamery 

Homestead Creamery - Franklin County, Virginia

No excursion is complete without dessert, so finish your afternoon at The Homestead Creamery & Farm Market.

This sweet Southern destination distributes its popular dairy products to over 200 stores across the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states while still serving the local community through farm tours and an expansive home milk delivery service.

Homstead Creamery Ice Cream

Find fresh seasonal produce, dairy (including 16 flavors of milk!), and canned goods as a treat or souvenir from your visit to Virginia’s Blue Ridge!

We hope you take advantage of the opportunity to be a #Trailsetter and explore Franklin County in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The following pages feature additional information to help you plan your next visit to Franklin County. 

Roanoke Region Spotlight