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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.”
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.”
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.
Prefer local craft beer over the hard stuff? No problem. Hammer & Forge Brewing Co. is also located in Boones Mill, and Chaos Mountain Brewing is just up the road. Both breweries and Franklin County Distilleries are part of the larger VBR Cheers Trail, which is made up of over 30 craft beer, wine, and spirit producers.
Find another stop along the trail in our next 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Connect with a local marina and fishing guide to plan your complete “lake-cation.”
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.
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.
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.
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.