Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians

The Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, also called the Ridge and Valley Province or the Valley and Ridge Appalachians, are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian division and are also a belt within the Appalachian Mountains extending from southeastern New York through northwestern New Jersey, westward into Pennsylvania and southward into Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. They form a broad arc between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau physiographic province (the Allegheny and Cumberland Plateaus). They are characterized by long, even ridges, with long, continuous valleys in between.

The ridge and valley system presents an important obstacle to east–west land travel even with today's technology. It was a nearly insurmountable barrier to railroads crossing the range as well as to walking or horse-riding migrants traveling west to settle the Ohio Country, Northwest Territory and Oregon Country, before the days of motorized transportation. In the era when animal power dominated transportation there was no safe way to cross east–west in the middle of the range; crossing was only possible nearer its extremes except for a few rough passages opened mid-range during the colonial era such as Cumberland Gap, Braddock's Road and Forbes Road, later improved into America's first National Roads (respectively Wilderness Road, Cumberland Road, Lincoln Highway or designated U.S. 40 and U.S. 30 in later years).

Bristol tenn ridgelines2
Ridges and valleys near Norton, Virginia


The eastern head of the Ridge and Valley region is marked by the Great Appalachian Valley, which lies just west of the Blue Ridge. The western side of the Ridge and Valley region is marked by steep escarpments such as the Allegheny Front, the Cumberland Mountains, and Walden Ridge.


Appalachian map
Appalachian zones in the US – USGS

These curious formations are the remnants of an ancient fold-and-thrust belt, west of the mountain core that formed in the Alleghenian orogeny (Stanley, 421-2). Here, strata have been folded westward, and forced over massive thrust faults; there is little metamorphism, and no igneous intrusion.(Stanley, 421-2) The ridges represent the edges of the erosion-resistant strata, and the valleys portray the absence of the more erodible strata. Smaller streams have developed their valleys following the lines of the more easily eroded strata. But a few major rivers, such as the Delaware River, the Susquehanna River, the New River, and the Potomac River, are evidently older than the present mountains, having cut water gaps that are perpendicular to hard strata ridges. The evidence points to a wearing down of the entire region (the original mountains) to a low level with little relief, so that major rivers were flowing in unconsolidated sediments that were unaffected by the underlying rock structure. Then the region was uplifted slowly enough that the rivers were able to maintain their course, cutting through the ridges as they developed.

Valleys may be synclinal valleys or anticlinal valleys.

These mountains are at their highest development in central Pennsylvania, a phenomenon termed the Pennsylvania climax.

Significant ridges (from north to south)

Name State
Shawangunk Ridge New York
Kittatinny Mountain New Jersey
Bald Eagle Mountain Pennsylvania
Blue Mountain Pennsylvania
Jacks Mountain Pennsylvania
Nittany Mountain Pennsylvania
Tuscarora Mountain Pennsylvania
Tussey Mountain Pennsylvania
Wills Mountain Pennsylvania and Maryland
Sideling Hill West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania
Cacapon Mountain West Virginia
Knobly Mountain West Virginia
Mill Creek Mountain West Virginia
New Creek Mountain West Virginia
North Fork Mountain West Virginia
Patterson Creek Mountain West Virginia
Sleepy Creek Mountain West Virginia
South Branch Mountain West Virginia
Spruce Knob West Virginia
Allegheny Mountain Virginia and West Virginia
Great North Mountain Virginia and West Virginia
North Mountain Virginia and West Virginia
Shenandoah Mountain Virginia and West Virginia
Massanutten Mountain Virginia
Pine Mountain Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee
Clinch Mountain Tennessee and Virginia
Powell Mountain Tennessee and Virginia
Bays Mountain Tennessee
House Mountain Tennessee
Sharp's Ridge Tennessee
White Oak Mountain Tennessee and Georgia
Missionary Ridge Tennessee and Georgia
Stringer's Ridge Tennessee
Lookout Mountain Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama
Red Mountain Alabama

Photo gallery

WV plateau

Shaded relief map of Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley Appalachians on the Virginia/West Virginia border


Pennsylvania's ridge country from Clarks Knob


Oblique air photo of Massanutten Mountain, looking southwest. The south fork of the Shenandoah River is visible to the left, as well as a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Oblique air photo facing north of central Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in December 2006, showing Wills, Evitts, and Tussey Mountains from center to right.

See also


  • Stanley, Steven M. Earth System History. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1999. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6
Bald Mountain (Pennsylvania)

Bald Mountain is a prominent peak in Lackawanna County which stands above the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area and the Wyoming Valley. On the summit is an outcrop of Catskill conglomerate (Devonian age) known as the "Pinnacle Rock". From the summit you may view the northernmost extension of the geologic province known as the Glaciated Low Plateaus section. The mountain itself is in the Ridge and Valley Appalachians. It is a great place for photography.

To access the summit you can take the Pinnacle Rock trail. The trailhead is on the west side of the mountain and is a nine hundred foot vertical gain.

Bear Garden Mountain

Bear Garden Mountain is a forested mountain ridge of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians in Hampshire County, West Virginia and Frederick County, Virginia.

Big Schloss

Big Schloss is a peak in the Great North Mountain range of the Ridge and Valley Appalachians, with an elevation of 2,964 feet (903 m). The peak is located in George Washington National Forest on the border of Virginia and West Virginia, though according to Topozone, the actual summit is in Virginia. The trail is part of the Lee Ranger District. It features a rocky outcropping of white sandstone with expansive views into Trout Run Valley in West Virginia and Little Schloss Mountain in Virginia.German settlers gave Big Schloss its name. Schloss is German for "castle", and the name is a reference to the rocky outcrop. German was the common language in the area for several years.A number of hiking trails lead to Big Schloss. Hikers may ascend from Wolf Gap via the Mill Mountain trail, or a circuit hike coming from FDR Rt. 92. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains the trails leading up to Big Schloss. A bridge provides access to the Big Schloss rock outcropping. In the Fall of 2010, the bridge was replaced with new stairs, 20' of new handrails, and two new concrete abutments.

Clarks Knob

Clarks Knob is a summit in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It is the highest point on Blue Mountain, the eastern front range of Pennsylvania's Ridge and Valley Appalachians region.

Cumberland Valley

The Cumberland Valley is a northern constituent valley of the Great Appalachian Valley, within the Atlantic Seaboard watershed in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Appalachian Trail crosses through the valley.

Horsepen Mountain

Horsepen Mountain is a mountain of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians on the border of Logan and Mingo Counties, West Virginia, United States. It is the highest point in Mingo County. The Mingo Lookout Tower is located on the mountain.

Keeney Knob

Keeney's Knob is a mountain of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians in Summers County, West Virginia. It is the highest point in Summers County. The mountain is the site of the WVNS-TV transmitter. The city nearest to Keeney's Knob is Alderson.

Knobly Mountain

Knobly Mountain is a ridge and part of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, located east of New Creek Mountain in Mineral and Grant counties, West Virginia, in the United States.

The summit was so named on account of its uneven outline.

List of mountains in Virginia

This is a list of mountains in the U.S. state of Virginia.

Little Cacapon Mountain

Little Cacapon Mountain (locally kə-KAY-pən or locally KAY-pən) is a mountain ridge of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians in Hampshire County, West Virginia, United States. The mountain takes its name from the Little Cacapon River, a Potomac River tributary that lies on its western flanks. Little Cacapon Mountain reaches its highest point of 1,575 feet (480 m) in the vicinity of Barnes Mill. It spans from the Frenchburg area, where it is joined by Chestnut Oak Ridge, to the Slanesville Pike where Crooked Run forms a gap between Little Cacapon Mountain and Queens Ridge near Higginsville.

Massanutten Mountain

Massanutten Mountain is a synclinal ridge in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, located in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is near the West Virginia state line.

North Mountain (Virginia-West Virginia)

North Mountain is a mountain ridge within the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians in the U.S. states of Virginia and West Virginia.

Parnell Knob

Parnell Knob is a mountain in the Ridge and Valley Appalachians region of south central Pennsylvania. This knob rises above the village of St. Thomas, where Front Mountain and Broad mountain come together. It is a feature sculptured by the hard dense Tuscarora quartzite of the Silurian age. Parnell Knob is conspicuous in that it rises abruptly above the relatively level Great Appalachian Valley.

Red Rock Mountain

Red Rock Mountain is a mountain located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. This summit is actually on the North Mountain escarpment. The escarpment in which Red Rock Mountain is located is a part of the Allegheny Plateau. This summit features a firetower, known as "Grandview" all located within the Ricketts Glen State Park.

The views from the top of the mountain are impressive and varied. To the south you view the Ridge and Valley Appalachians region, in the other three directions you look out over the deeply dissected Allegheny Plateau. Huckleberry and North Mountain summits may be seen to the west. These mountains are some of the higher peaks in this region of Pennsylvania.

Schaffenaker Mountain

Schaffenaker Mountain is a forested mountain ridge of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians in Hampshire County in the U.S. state of West Virginia. The ridge runs southwest northeast between Edwards Run (and its surrounding Parks Valley) and Dillons Run. Schaffenaker Mountain takes its name from the Schaffenaker family that settled in the immediate area. The Northwestern Turnpike (U.S. Route 50) climbs Schaffenaker Mountain to the west of the town of Capon Bridge offering a bird's eye view of the community and of the Cacapon River. Until recently, the mountain had remained mostly undeveloped but its views and proximity to Capon Bridge have made it a prime location for real estate development by companies such as the North American Land Corporation.

Signal Knob

Signal Knob is the northern peak of Massanutten Mountain in the Ridge and Valley Appalachians with an elevation of 2,106 feet (642 m). It is located in George Washington National Forest in Shenandoah County and Warren County in Virginia.

The peak offers expansive views into the northern Shenandoah Valley and the town of Strasburg, Virginia.

Signal Knob was used by Signal Corps in the American Civil War by both the Union and Confederate armies. The Confederates occupied it from 1862 to 1864, and it was a key observation point for the Battle of Cedar Creek. On August 14, 1864, a group of Union troops won control of the peak by defeating a detachment of the 61st Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Remains of Civil War era fortifications can still be seen around the area.The Massanutten Trail, maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, leads hikers and mountain bikers up to Signal Knob. There are many loop options of varying lengths which may be combined with the Tuscarora Trail. Trails in the Signal Knob area are known to be less crowded than Shenandoah National Park, to the east.

Sleepy Creek Mountain

Sleepy Creek Mountain is a mountain ridge in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians on the border between Morgan and Berkeley counties in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. The long-distance Tuscarora Trail traverses the southern ridge and northern bench of the mountain.

Together with Third Hill Mountain to the east, the two mountains form a blind valley that contains Sleepy Creek Lake and the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area. Sleepy Creek and Third Hill Mountains are distinctive for their height in the relatively level terrain of the far Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

South Branch Mountain

South Branch Mountain is a mountain ridge that runs southwest to northeast through Hampshire and Hardy counties in the Eastern Panhandle of the U.S. state of West Virginia, rising to its greatest elevation of 3,028 feet (923 m) above sea-level in the Nathaniel Mountain Wildlife Management Area. South Branch Mountain is among the largest and most prominent of the mountains in the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians of the Eastern Panhandle region. It forms the eastern edge of the South Branch Potomac River Valley from Springfield to Moorefield. The mountain was originally named Jersey Mountain by colonial settlers in the eighteenth century after Jersey.

The Northwestern Turnpike (U.S. Route 50) climbs South Branch Mountain between Shanks and Romney in an area known as Sunrise Summit. The forested wetlands that were once located here on the mountain's top were destroyed by the expansive commercial and residential developments in the Sunrise Summit area along US 50. Further south near Moorefield, the construction of Corridor H has caused increased disruption to South Branch Mountain's forests, habitats, and topography.

Timber Ridge

Timber Ridge is a mountain ridge of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians straddling the U.S. states of Virginia and West Virginia. Timber Ridge extends from the forks of Sleepy Creek at Stotlers Crossroads in Morgan County, West Virginia, to Lehew in Hampshire County, West Virginia. The ridge is predominantly forested, as its name suggests, with the exception of a number of orchards and open fields. From WV 127/VA 127 at Good to Lehew, Timber Ridge serves as the boundary line between Hampshire County, West Virginia, and Frederick County, Virginia.

Allegheny Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains
Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians
Mountains of New Jersey
New York–New Jersey Highlands
Ramapo Mountains
Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians
Mountains of Pennsylvania
Allegheny Mountains
Allegheny Plateau
Blue Ridge Mountains
Reading Prong
Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians
Mountains of Tennessee
Blue Ridge Mountains
Cumberland Mountains
Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians
Allegheny Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains
Cumberland Mountains
Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians
Allegheny Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains


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