Charlottesville, VA

10 best hikes around Charlottesville, Virginia (according to hikers)

Peter Watson

These are the 10 best hikes around Charlottesville, Virginia, voted for by hikers on America’s most popular hiking app.

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Charlottesville in Virginia has access to some charming hikesBram Reusen/Shutterstock

Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is regularly listed as one of the best places to live in the US.

In fact, only recently Charlottesville was ranked 18th in a list of America’s 100 best small cities with the report describing the small city as an "ideal hometown" full of "history, smarts and sweet isolation".

Charlottesville's rich cultural, natural, and artistic history is showcased in a selection of first-rate museums, galleries, wineries, shops, and parks scattered throughout the city.

Charlottesville is a culturally rich town (Video: Virginia is for Lovers)

The city is also home to some wonderful nature parks, scenic walks and urban trails. As such, I've compiled a list of the 10 best hikes around Charlottesville, Virginia, voted for by hikers on America’s most popular outdoor app.

How I chose these Charlottesville hikes

With over 100,000 trails to choose from, AllTrails is one of the world’s leading hiking apps. It has over 20 million users worldwide and is extensively downloaded across the United States.

Everyone will have an opinion on what justifies being labelled "the best", but with reviews running in the hundreds of thousands, the crowdsourcing approach seems like a reasonable way of selecting the best hiking trails around Charlottesville, Virginia.

AllTrails user reviews are calculated using a five-star rating system with one star being terrible, two stars poor, three stars average, four stars very good and five stars excellent.

10 best hikes around Charlottesville, Virginia

To find the hikes around Charlottesville, Virginia, I've whittled down the extensive list of trails – with more than 2,000 reviews – to the best-rated hikes according to their average score on the app.

1. Ragged Mountain Natural Area Trail

Location: Ragged Mountain Natural Area

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 10.6 km

Duration: 2-3 hours

Ragged Mountain Natural Area is a 980-acre preserve located around the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. There are 7 miles of well-maintained trails and views of the surrounding valleys from the top of Round Top Mountain.

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Ragged Mountain Natural Area near Charlottesville, VirginiaGerry Bishop/Shutterstock

The trail is a popular loop trail that features a lake. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and mountain biking and is accessible year-round.

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the trail because of the proximity to the reservoir.

2. Saunders-Monticello Trail

Location: Kemper Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 6.3 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

Kemper Park occupies 89 acres of land along the Thomas Jefferson Parkway. The park is designed for passive recreational use, such as walking, jogging, biking, and bird watching.

The Saunders-Monticello Trail is a popular out and back trail amid a pretty forest setting and is good for all skill levels. The park hours are from 7am to 7pm.

3. Ivy Creek Park Red, Yellow and Green Trails

Location: Ivy Creek Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 6.4 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

Ivy Creek Natural Area (ICNA) is a 219-acre preserve that dates back to 1870 when former slave Hugh Carr purchased the land as a family farm.

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Ivy Creek Park in CharlottesvilleGerry Bishop/Shutterstock

The combo hike is a moderately trafficked loop trail that features a lake and is suitable for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round.

4. Rivanna River Trail

Location: Darden Towe Memorial Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 6.9 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

The Rivanna River Trail is a well-marked paved running, walking, and biking trail along the river with access at various points for swimming.

It is a heavily trafficked out and back trail that features a river and is suitable for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

5. Old Mills Trail

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 15.6 km

Duration: 3-4 hour

The Old Mills Trail is a greenway trail along Albemarle County's side of the Rivanna River.

The half-day hike is a moderately trafficked out and back trail and features a river. The trail is suitable for all skill levels and offers a number of activity options en route.

6. Round Top

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 6.3 km

Duration: 2-3 hours

Round Top is a moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a lake primarily used for hiking and nature trips. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Kemper Park in Charlottesville, Virginia (Image: gunslingercait)

7. Hartman Orchard and Mountain Trail Loop

Location: Kemper Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 4.8 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

Another option in Kemper Park, which occupies 89 acres of land along the Thomas Jefferson Parkway. This route is off the main Saunders-Monticello Trail described above.

This option is a moderately trafficked loop trail that features beautiful wildflowers and is also suitable for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

8. Ivy Creek Park Orange, Peninsula and Red Trail

Location: Ivy Creek Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 5.3 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

Ivy Creek Park Orange, Peninsula and Red Trail is another great option in this popular park. The moderately trafficked loop trail features a river and is suitable for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options en route.

Ivy Creek Natural Area (ICNA) is a 219-acre preserve that dates back to 1870 when former slave Hugh Carr purchased the land as a family farm.

9. Jungle, Luke's, Wilkins Way, and Chimney Loop

Location: Walnut Creek Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 6.9 km

Duration: 2-3 hours

Walnut Creek Park is centered on a large manmade lake, Walnut Creek, surrounded by mixed deciduous forest. Thirteen miles of trails, throughout the entire area, provide the perfect opportunity for mountain biking, running and hiking.

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Walnut Creek Park in Charlottesville, VirginiaCharlottesville Albemarle CVB

Summer is the best time for butterflies and other showy insects. Check the prolific flowering plants for eastern tiger swallowtails, Aphrodite fritillaries and an array of sulphurs, dusky wings and skippers.

Jungle, Luke's, Wilkins Way, and Chimney Loop follows the lake's edge before branching off to explore the forest and take in the major sights within the park.

Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

10. The Blue Wheel

Location: Walnut Creek Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 3.5 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

A shorter version of the above hike that still takes a short stretch of lakeside as well as a moderate amble through the forest.

Canoes and kayaks are also available for rental from $5.00/hour (from Memorial Day weekend through the summer swim season). Three canoes & four kayaks are available to rent from the lifeguards during swim hours.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

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