Discover the Largest Volcano in Virginia…Yes, Virginia!

volcano erupting
© Thorir Ingvarsson/Shutterstock.com

Written by Mitchelle Morgan

Updated: September 14, 2023

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Virginia is famous for its natural and diverse landscape comprised of mountains, rivers, lush rolling hills, and a breathtaking coastline. But usually, only the geology geeks among us have heard of the volcanoes. Although they haven’t been active in millions of years, their environmental impact is still evident.

Virginia boasts three major volcanoes that erupted millions of years ago and are now considered dormant. This article provides in-depth coverage of the three Virginia volcanoes. It covers their history, when they last erupted, and nearby vegetation and wildlife.

The largest Volcano in Virginia, Mole Hill, is also one of the last volcanoes to have erupted in the U.S.

Volcanoes in Virginia

These are the three major volcanoes in Virginia:

  • Mole Hill
  • Trimble Knob
  • Battle Mountain

Which is the largest volcano of the three? Well, Trimble Knob is the tallest in feet.

But Mole Hill is the largest volcano in Virginia, covering 47 acres.

Disclaimer: Many people refer to Mount Rogers as the tallest volcano in Virginia, but that’s not the case. Although Mount Rogers is the tallest natural point in Virginia, it is not a true volcano. It is remnant rock of volcanic eruptions from over a billion years ago.

1. Mole Hill

Mole Hill volcano in Virginia

The largest volcano in Virginia is Mole Hill.

©LD Kirklin/Shutterstock.com

Mole Hill is considered among the youngest volcanos in the United States. And it’s also among the last to have erupted. This natural creation is found outside Harrisonburg in the small town of Dayton, Virginia.

The Location

The exact location of the Mole Hill Volcano is at 38°26′55″N and 78°57′12″W. It is in Dayton, which is part of Rockingham County, just west of Harrisonburg.

It is 577 meters tall (1,893 feet above sea level) and is the most popular of the three Virginia volcanoes.

The volcano is a result of the formation of magma eruptions between the Paleogene period and the Eocene period, which was between 43 to 56 million years ago.

Who Owns it?

Initially, the Mole Hill Volcano was the private property of a local Virginia resident who sought to make it protected land. The resident died without accomplishing his goal, and his neighbor later bought and donated it.

It now belongs to the Department of Conservational Easement of the Virginia Outdoor Foundation.

However, a review on TripAdvisor states that the volcano is still private property, and the only way to visit it is through collaboration with Mole Hill Bikes, a bike shop in Dayton.

The owner requires that you complete a waiver detailing the time you expect to arrive and leave the property. You’ll even receive precise locations to ensure you don’t stray from the designated area.

Eruption Activity

The Mole Hill Volcano’s first and last eruption, as per age-dating techniques, was around 47 million years ago, and it is one of the youngest volcanoes on the East Coast.

The volcano is currently dormant, with no sign of a future eruption.

Volcanic Formation

Mole Hill Volcano formed due to the rapid collision of magma and groundwater. This was caused by the breaking off of tectonic forces that slid back into the mantle.

The activity, known as delamination, causes the water to turn into hot vapor, which erupts from the ground through the sediments at the superficial layer, shattering the bedrock.

This volcanic activity created a crater filled with magma and broken rocks. The crater may have once formed a lake due to accumulated rainwater until erosion expelled it.

Today, geologists believe the hill formed due to differential erosion of over 1,100 feet of volcanic residue within the last 48 million years. The topography is also altered due to the difference in the erosion of igneous remnants, limestone, and dolomite.

Vegetation

Mole Hill is 350 meters above a limestone valley. This valley is full of a dense population of trees but lacks grass. The volcanic vegetation includes rare flowers that attract flying insects during summer and spring.

Wildlife

Mole Hill has hundreds of creeping creatures, with many tourists detailing loads of bugs and spiders.

Due to the lack of grazing grounds, Mole Hill is less endowed with wildlife. However, a few deer can be found here and there.

Mineral Composition

Mole Hill is basalt, a dark rock whose erosion is slow compared to other rocks like limestone. Some of the basalts of Mole Hill are greenish grey, owing to their crystallization in the orthorhombic system.

Such color also indicates the availability of minerals such as magnesium, iron, aluminum, and silica.

Mole Hill is also endowed with obsidian rock glass, a shiny black glass formed upon the super-cooling of magma.

Additionally, tons of carbonate minerals on this volcano have proven quite valuable for geochemists in recognizing the timeline of eruptions. They can tell how long ago the first eruption took place by measuring the affluence of an argon isotope in each crystal.

Tourism Activity

Mole Hill is quite an uphill climb to the top, with steep slopes. But the adventure is rewarding if you are up for a challenging hike.

The Department of Conservational Easement has done much to make your climb bearable. They placed benches around the area and marked trails to help tourists find their way.

Those who tackle Mole Hill are rewarded by its breathtaking views from the top.

If you are “anti-bug,” know that Mole Hill has loads of them. While tons of spiders are fascinating to some of us, we understand if you want to skip this hike and admire Mole Hill from ground level.

How To Get There

Visitors coming from Harrisonburg will take US-33 west for about four miles. You will then turn left on State Route 733, also known as Date Enterprise Road.

2. Trimble Knob

Rural countryside farm with sheep grazing on green grass hill pasture fall season in Blue Ridge mountains pastoral landscape in Blue Grass, Highland County, Virginia

The extinct Trimble Knob Volcano is in Monterey in Highland County, Virginia, seen here.

©Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

Trimble Knob Volcano is another natural wonder found in Virginia. The geological formation of the volcano is similar to Mole Hill. Let’s take a look!

The Location

Trimble Knob is in the southwestern part of Monterey, located in Highland County, Virginia.

Its coordinates are 38°24’17”N and 79°35’17”W, 952 meters tall (3,123ft).

Like Mole Hill, Trimble Knob Volcano also dates back to the Eocene epoch; it last erupted over 35 million years ago.

Who Owns it?

Trimble Knob is privately owned, with no provision for touring; hence, there is little information on it compared to Mole Hill.

Eruption Activity

If dates are correct, the volcano last erupted around 35 million years ago, making it the youngest volcano in Virginia.

There is still controversy surrounding these dates, as some geologists believe Trimble Knob and Mole Hill erupted once simultaneously, with no other eruptions taking place. However, other geologists claim the age dating of the carbonate rocks of Trimble Knob state otherwise.

In any case, the volcano is now extinct, with no signs of another eruption.

Volcanic Formation

Like Mole Hill, Trimble Knob is also a diatreme, resulting from an eruption of magma, which interacted with shallow groundwater.

The groundwater turned into hot vapor, which exploded from the shallow creeks onto the surface, forming a crater of cooled magma and fragmented rock.

The volcanic formation of Trimble Knob, like that of Mole Hill, has also been attributed to tectonic forces that may have occurred while the basin of the Atlantic Ocean was being formed or destroyed.

More information is still needed to explain this, and most of the information gathered relies on the knowledge of the exact period within which the rocks date.

Vegetation

Unlike Mole Hill, Trimble Knob has fewer trees and more grassland. It is full of shrubs and ferns that are not distinctive to the surrounding area. The property has many grazing local sheep.

Wildlife

There has not been any reported wildlife in Trimble Knob, which is a result of its vegetation and private ownership. However, loads of sheep are in the vicinity, attracted to the vast grassland.

Mineral Composition

Like Mole Hill, Trimble Knob is also of basalt igneous rocks, an excellent tectonic force explanation.

The availability of basalt indicates a wealth of mineral ores such as bauxite, magnesite, magnetite, and haematite.

Tourism Activity

Although Trimble Knob is a conical-shaped landmark of high elevation with no real striking features, many are wowed by its rich history.

There is, however, very little tourism activity since the volcano is on private property.

A four-mile trail around the volcano will instead give passersby an excellent look at Trimble Knob and an excellent view of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains while exploring these trail roads.

How Do You Get There?

Finding Trimble Knob is simple; just travel through Highland County until you get to Mill Gap. Since the topography of the area is well known, your GPS will be your best guide.

3. Battle Mountain Volcano

View of hills and farmland in Virginia's Piedmont, seen from Sky Meadows State Park.

Located in Virginia’s Piedmont region (pictured here), Battle Mountain is surrounded by lovely scenery.

©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com

Battle Mountain is an igneous volcanic rock dating back 740 million years ago and is considered extinct. In the Northern Piedmont region of Virginia, the volcanic mountain in Rappahannock County hails from the larger volcanic belt of the Robertson River igneous suite and the Blue Ridge Mountain belt.

The Location

It has an elevation of 1,162 ft and a width of 232 meters and has a longitudinal and latitudinal coordinate of 38°39′26″N 78°3′36″W, respectively.

Its eastern border is Amissville, via Route 211. It is bordered on the west by Castleton.

Who Owns It?

The predominantly volcanic part of Battle Mountain (the crater and peak area) is on privately owned land.

Eruption Activity

According to findings by geologists, Battle Mountain last erupted 750 million years ago and is currently a dormant volcano with no signs of future eruption.

Volcanic Formation

Like Mole Hill and Trimble Knob, Battle Mountain results from the rapid collision of magma and shallow groundwater due to tectonic forces.

The volcano, however, came into existence during the Cryogenic period, over 750 million years ago, as deduced from age-dating techniques.

Vegetation

On Battle Mountain, you will most likely come across grazing vegetation for the local cattle and tons of hardwood trees for commercial timber.

Locals have taken advantage of the soil and mineral-rich water, growing crops such as corn, hay, and pumpkins. In fact, Battle Mountain pumpkins are well-known for their large sizes.

Wildlife

Apart from the local cattle grazing on the grassland area of the volcano, there is little to no wildlife.

Mineral Composition

Battle Mountain is unique, as its eastern side in Amissville comprises rhyolitic, while the entire western side in Castleton comprises alkali feldspar granite.

The composition of feldspar granite indicates an abundance of dark minerals such as mica, pyroxene, and amphibole. Other earth crust minerals are potassium, sodium, calcium, and barium.

Basalt, an igneous rock, forms the volcano. It indicates the existence of minerals such as magnesium, iron, and aluminum.

The areas of Amissville and Castleton also have an abundance of large quartz boulders, indicating the existence of silicon oxide minerals.

Tourism Activity

Most of Battle Mountain is privately owned, and tourists must contact the landowners to visit the property.

Even the remnants of the Virginia Battle of 1863 are on private property and cannot be easily accessed.

Where is Mole Hill Located on a Map?

To get a glimpse of Battle Mountain, you have to travel by road to the nearest town of Amissville, and there, you can ask the locals about the areas with the best views.

The town is about four miles from the mountain’s peak, which you will need permission to access.

Final Thoughts

Though we don’t usually associate Virginia with volcanoes, the state’s now-extinct rock formations are truly fascinating. All three volcanoes are a great wonder to geologists, enabling them to discern crucial information about past volcanic activity in the United States.


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About the Author

Mitchelle is a content writer who loves nature. She loves writing about animals and plants. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and going for nature walks.

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