Charlottesville, Virginia is located in Albemarle County in Central Virginia, about 71 miles from Richmond, and 100 miles from Northern Virginia. The city is famously home to Monticello and the University of Virginia.
Charlottesville is also close to Washington Jefferson National Forest, Shenandoah National Park, and the Appalachian Trail, which makes it a great location for some of the best Virginia trails and plenty of hikes with beautiful views!
Hiking is one of my favorite activities. It combines a great workout with nature. It’s a great activity with friends, family, or just by yourself. Hiking can also be a great opportunity to be in touch with nature and with oneself.
Below are some of my top recommendations for great hikes near Charlottesville, VA.
Please note that there can be minimal to no cell service on some of the below hikes, particularly further outside of Charlottesville, and so it is good to have an offline map saved on your phone ahead of time.
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Top photo by Dale Nibbe on Unsplash.
Table of Contents
- Crabtree Falls
- Rivanna Trail
- Saunders-Monticello Trail
- Humpback Rocks Trail
- Riprap Trail
- Highland Rustic Trails
|My Top Recommendations for the Best Hiking Boots|
|Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Lightweight Waterproof Shoe Hiking Boot. I own these hiking boots, and they are incredibly durable, with great ankle support, and excellent traction for slippery surfaces. Plus, they’re waterproof for extra protection. |
Brooks Women’s Adrenaline. I also own these shoes, and they are my absolute favorite, go-to running shoes. They are also excellent for long walks and hikes. They have great traction, great heel stability, and they’re very comfortable.
|Where to Stay in Charlottesville|
|Omni Charlotteville Hotel |
Great for all the Amenities
(Click to Book)
* * *
Great Boutique Hotel
(Click to Book)
* * *
Inn at Court Square
Great for Historic Charm
(Click to Book)
Nelson County, VA
2.5-mile loop trail
One of my favorite hikes in the Charlottesville area is Crabtree Falls. This is also one of the best waterfall hikes in the state. It is located in the George Washington National Forest in Nelson County, Virginia, not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The waterfalls are over 1,200 feet total in height, making them one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.
Much of the trail ascends upwards along stone stairs located right beside the waterfalls. There are several overlooks along the way to allow hikers to stop, take pictures, and let other hikers pass. Because much of the path is located next to the waterfalls, it is a very scenic trail. However, the path is rocky, steep, and can be treacherous. Hikers should use caution and make sure to always stay on marked trails.
Hikers can choose to either reach the falls on a 0.9-mile trail and then head back the way they came to the parking lot, or they can continue on to walk the full 2.5-mile loop trail.
The longer 2.5-mile trail continues in a steep ascending switchback that runs beside the waterfall. The longer trail provides lovely up-close views of the beautiful waterfalls, however, it is steep, rocky, and can get crowded. The trail then levels off and continues along Crabtree Creek before returning to the parking lot.
Crabtree Falls can be quite crowded, particularly on weekends and in the warmer months. Spring can be the best time to go to avoid the crowds in Summer.
There is a parking lot, which can fill up quickly on crowded days. There is no entrance fee but there is a donation box at the entrance to the trail where you can leave a $3 donation to support the park.
Easy to Moderate
The Rivanna Trail Loop is one of the most popular hikes in Charlottesville. It is an extensive, 20 mile, urban wilderness trail located within Charlottesville. It provides a great hiking, walking, running, and cycling trail that circumnavigates the city.
The trail connects six city parks. It includes a 2.5 mile stretch that is paved, though much of the path is gravel and dirt.
You can find a great guide for all of the diverse sections of the park here.
|Here are My Top Must-Have Items to Bring on Your Next Hike!|
|1. Mountain Top 40L Hiking Backpack. This is my go-to favorite backpack! I’ve brought it all over the world. It has a rain cover, lots of room, plus it’s super durable and comfy. |
2. Running Belt Waist Pack. For smaller hikes, this pack is a great way to bring your cell phone along for the journey. It’s thin and sleak.
3. Trekking Sticks. For more strenuous hikes, these walking sticks fold up for compact and easy travel.
4. Liquid I.V. This miracle powder will keep you hydrated in even the hottest conditions. Just mix with water.
5. Off Deep Woods Insect Repellant. The perfect weapon to keep pesky mosquitos away.
The Saunders-Monticello Trail, as the name suggests, is located near Monticello, and it runs along the Thomas Jefferson Parkway. The trail provides another great hike in the city of Charlottesville. It is located with the 89 acre Kemper Park, and it features lovely views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains from Carter Overlook.
Some highlights of the scenic trail include a 2-acre pond, an arboretum with native plants and trees, and the Palmer Woodland Theater.
Humpback Rocks Trail
Milepost 5.8 Blue Ridge Parkway, Lyndhurst, VA 22952
0.25 miles to 3.9 miles
Easy to Strenuous
Humpback Rocks Trail is located 30 miles west of Charlottesville, but it is well worth the visit. There is a short but steep 1-mile trail that leads up to Humpback Rocks, which is a rock outcropping with gorgeous views of Rockfish Valley and Shenandoah Valley.
There are several trails within the area:
- Humpback Rocks Trail: This trail includes a 1-mile hike to Humpback Rocks. There is also a 2-mile trail to Humpback Mountain and a 3.9-mile trail to the Humpback Rocks picnic area.
- Appalachian Trail: You can access part of the massive 2,000-mile trail, which extends along the east coast from Maine to Georgia, from the Humpback Gap parking area.
- Mountain Farm Trail: The trail is 0.25 miles in length, and takes visitors through a recreation of an 1890s farmhouse. In the summer, they also have interpreters to teach visitors more about life on the farm.
- Catoctin Trail: The trail is 0.3 miles and leads to lovely views of the Shenandoah Mountains. It begins at the Humpback Rocks picnic area.
Grotteoes, VA 24441
2.2 miles to 9.8 miles
Easy to Very Strenuous
The Riprap Trail is located along Skyline Drive about 40 miles from Charlottesville. The trails in the area also connect with the Appalachian Trail.
The area includes several great hikes that range in difficulty from easy hikes to very strenuous hikes, which makes them great for different skill levels:
- Riprap – Wildcat Ridge Hike: This challenging hike is 9.8 miles long and is very strenuous. The trail has several stream crossings and a waterfall.
- Chimney Rock Hike: This trail is 3.4 miles long and is moderate in difficulty. It features a series of switchbacks, plus a view of Calvary Rocks and Chimney Rock
- Turk Mountain Hike: This trail is 2.2 miles long and is easy. The trail ends with a lovely summit view to the west.
You can find a great trail map online here.
Highland Rustic Trails
2050 James Monroe Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902
0.3 miles to 2.5 miles
Easy to Moderate
The Highland Rustic Trails are located just 6 miles south of Charlottesville, which makes them a great and convenient location for a weekend hike. There are several trails that make up the area:
- Access Trail (0.4 miles)
- Inner South Pasture Loop (0.3 miles). This is an easy hike with a picnic area along the way.
- Middle South Pasture Loop (0.5 miles)
- Outer South Pasture Loop (0.8 miles)
- Mountain Trail (2.5 miles). This is a more moderate hike with some steep inclines.
You can access a map of the trails here.
Want to learn more about all things Charlotteville?
Check out my recommendations for the Best Things to do in Charlottesville.
Learn all about my top hotel picks for Where to Stay in Charlottesville.
Find out Where to Eat in Charlottesville.
Learn all about the Best Wineries in Charlottesville.