A Local Reveals the 8 BEST Hikes Near Charlottesville, VA

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Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Virginia is the perfect home base for hiking enthusiasts. With an array of mountain trails and forest paths to choose from, and with breathtaking views and panoramic vistas to match, hikers of all skill levels will be able to find the best hike to fit their needs. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most amazing hiking trails in the Charlottesville area.

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a road trip planner on iOS and Android

Riverview Park

With 27 acres alongside the scenic Rivanna River, Riverview Park has everything you’ll need  for a day spent outdoors. Conveniently located just outside of downtown Charlottesville, the park is full of paved walking trails, a playground, and a picnic area. There is a parking area with plenty of parking right at the start of the trail.

Make it a family affair and bring the kids along for a hike along a portion of the Rivanna Trail –a walking path that actually encompasses the entire city of Charlottesville. 

Dogs are allowed in the park too, so don’t forget to bring your furry friends along. And once you’ve finished your hike, grab your pack lunch and snag a table in the picnic area. 

This hike is ideal if you’re looking to enjoy nature, but don’t necessarily want to leave the city for it. 

Crabtree Falls

Only an hour drive from Charlottesville, the waterfall at Crabtree Falls is one hiking spot you won’t want to miss. Located in beautiful Nelson County on the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 27, Crabtree Falls has the highest cascade drop of any waterfall east of the Mississippi River. 

You can view the falls at the first overlook spot, which can be easily reached off of Virginia State Route 56. But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can hike the three-mile Crabtree Falls Trail for a better view of the waterfall, along with beautiful views of the Tye River Valley. 

This trail is rated moderate to difficult, and can be steep at times, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing a hiking path.

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A word of caution: if you’re looking online for information about this hike, be sure not to confuse it with the other Crabtree Falls, which is also on the Blue Ridge Parkway but in North Carolina. It’s also a great trail, but it’s over 5 hours from Charlottesville, so you don’t want to make that mistake! You can find information on that trail here.

Skyline Drive

If you’re interested in seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains at their best, then head over to Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park. You can access the drive at Rockfish Gap Entrance Station, which is located about thirty minutes west of Charlottesville.

After paying the entrance fee, take a drive along this famous 105-mile stretch of road through the Shenandoah National Park and soak in the natural beauty and wonder. 

You can find access to the Appalachian Trail along Skyline Drive at various spots, including the Riprap Trail, Wildcat Ridge, and Turk Gap. Each of these trailheads have parking lots, so you can park the car and head out on the trail right from the road. 

No matter which trail you choose to start from, you are guaranteed to have spectacular views of the mountains either way. And once you’re finished, you can hop in the car and head down the road to the next trailhead, especially since each of these trails are only a few miles apart along Skyline Drive. 

Ivy Creek Natural Area

Slightly north of the city, you’ll find Ivy Creek Natural Area. On this 291-acre nature preserve, you’ll find over seven miles of walking trails with varying levels of difficulty on each trail, so you’ll be able to find the right one that suits your needs. 

Explore the Red Trail and wander down wooded paths along a babbling creek, while catching sights of the local flora and fauna. The preserve was once the site of River View Farm, and visitors can learn all about the history of the area on a visit to the original barn, which still stands in Ivy Creek today. 

Kemper Park

Situated along the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Parkway, Kemper Park consists of 89 acres of wooded paths, an arboretum and scenic pond, and bountiful idyllic views.

Located near Thomas Jefferson’s historic home Monticello, you can explore the different trails throughout the park in a rustic setting, with easy hikes perfect for all ages. There are a lot of trails here, so be sure to check the website for a trail map before you go.

Take the Saunders-Monticello Trail to Carter Overlook, which leads to scenic views of the city of Charlottesville, as well as the Blue Ridge Mountain range beyond. 

Perfect for nature lovers and those looking to learn, the arboretum at Kemper Park offers an array of native species of plants that you can observe in “outdoor rooms” dedicated to highlighting the local flora in different seasons. 

Walnut Creek Park

Walnut Creek Park offers up 525 acres of forest and lake vistas along fifteen miles of trails that run throughout the entire park. Located in North Garden, Virginia, Walnut Creek Park is just a short twenty-minute drive from Charlottesville, so it’s perfect for a day hike and picnic lunch. 

Travel along the James River Loop and spot some of the local birds at the park, which include the Red-Headed Woodpecker, the Northern Flicker, and Bald Eagles. And if you’re there in the summertime, you can cool off after your hike by going for a swim in the manmade lake from one of two beaches located in the park. 

Forest Hills Park

If you’re looking for mountain views and don’t want to leave the city, Forest Hills Park is the perfect spot to visit and get that full mountain vista. The park includes seven acres of shady oak trees, rolling hills, and a spectacular outlook of nearby Carter’s Mountain. 

Head down one of the paved walking trails for a family-friendly day hike, and visit the water park afterward for a cool-down, complete with a “‘spray ground” that kids of all ages will enjoy. 

The park also has several picnic shelters, so don’t forget to pack your lunch to enjoy in the beauty of nature, without leaving the city limits.

Ragged Mountain Natural Area

Don’t let the name fool you… Ragged Mountain Natural Area offers stunning views, scenic trails, and 980-acre forest with a variety of different tree species. Along your hike, you can spot hickory, oak, poplar, and maple trees, as well as local wildlife. 

Located just fifteen minutes outside of Charlottesville, Ragged Mountain is full of rugged terrain and rustic forest, making you feel as if you’re deep out in the wilderness. Be sure to print the trail map on the website and use the statues as a landmark while you’re out there. The trails go around a lake, too, so you can get some pretty water views.

Check out the different statues erected along the trails, including those of an owl, a mountain man, and a bear. If you’re looking for hiking on trails that are a little less polished, then make sure to check this one out.

No dogs are allowed on this trail, so you if you’re traveling with your best friend you may want to try a different hike.

The Bottom Line

Charlottesville and the surrounding areas offer a lot of different hikes, from easy and moderate hikes within the city limits to more strenuous hikes taking you up mountains and through some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state.