The Rivanna Trail In Virginia

Here is everything you need to know about the The Rivanna Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Virginia
  • Length: 20 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use.
  • Surface: mixed
  • Managed By: Rivanna Trails Foundation
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website:

The Rivanna Trail is a scenic and historic trail located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Its history dates back to the early 20th century when the city began to recognize the importance of preserving natural spaces for recreational purposes. The idea of a trail system around the Rivanna River was first proposed in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the project gained momentum.

In 1973, the Charlottesville City Council established the Rivanna Trail Foundation (RTF) to oversee the development and maintenance of the trail. The RTF worked tirelessly to acquire land and secure easements along the river, ensuring public access to the trail. Over the years, the trail has expanded to cover approximately 20 miles, encircling the city and offering a diverse range of landscapes and historical sites.

The Rivanna Trail not only showcases the natural beauty of the area but also highlights its rich historical heritage. Along the trail, hikers can discover remnants of the region’s past, including old mills, bridges, and historic neighborhoods. For example, the trail passes by the ruins of the Woolen Mills, a former textile factory that played a significant role in the city’s industrial history. Additionally, the trail traverses the grounds of the historic Monticello, the plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, offering visitors a glimpse into the life of one of America’s founding fathers.

Overall, the Rivanna Trail is not only a recreational resource but also a testament to the city’s commitment to preserving its natural and historical heritage. It serves as a reminder of the importance of connecting with nature and understanding the historical context of the places we inhabit.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Riverview Park: Located in Charlottesville, this park serves as a popular access point for the Rivanna Trail. It offers parking facilities and connects to various sections of the trail.

2. Darden Towe Park: Situated on the eastern bank of the Rivanna River, Darden Towe Park provides access to the Rivanna Trail. It features parking, picnic areas, and restrooms.

3. Rivanna Greenbelt Park: This park is located near the confluence of the Rivanna River and Meadow Creek. It offers parking and connects to the Rivanna Trail, providing access to scenic views and recreational opportunities.

4. Pen Park: Situated in the northern part of Charlottesville, Pen Park serves as an access point for the Rivanna Trail. It offers parking, sports fields, and playgrounds.

5. Rivanna Trail Foundation Office: Located on Chesapeake Street in Charlottesville, the Rivanna Trail Foundation Office serves as an access point for the trail. It provides parking and serves as a resource center for trail information.

6. Rivanna River Company: Situated on the southern bank of the Rivanna River, the Rivanna River Company offers kayak and canoe rentals, providing access to the Rivanna Trail from the water.

7. Rivanna Trail at Free Bridge: This access point is located near the Free Bridge in Charlottesville. It offers parking and connects to the Rivanna Trail, providing access to scenic river views.

8. Rivanna Trail at Rivanna River Reservoir: Situated near the Rivanna River Reservoir, this access point offers parking and connects to the trail, providing access to the reservoir and surrounding natural areas.

9. Rivanna Trail at Quarry Park: Located near Quarry Park in Charlottesville, this access point offers parking and connects to the Rivanna Trail, providing access to the park’s trails and scenic views.

10. Rivanna Trail at Rivanna River North Bank Trailhead: Situated on Earlysville Road, this access point offers parking and connects to the Rivanna Trail, providing access to the northern bank of the Rivanna River.

Transportation Available

1. Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) – Local bus service in Charlottesville.
2. Yellow Cab of Charlottesville – Taxi service available in the area.
3. Uber – Ride-hailing service accessible in Charlottesville.
4. Lyft – Another ride-hailing service operating in Charlottesville.
5. Enterprise Rent-A-Car – Car rental agency with a location in Charlottesville.
6. Avis Car Rental – Car rental service available in Charlottesville.
7. Hertz Car Rental – Car rental agency with a branch in Charlottesville.
8. Amtrak – Train service with a station in Charlottesville.
9. Greyhound – Intercity bus service with a stop in Charlottesville.
10. Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (CHO) – Local airport serving Charlottesville and the surrounding area.


The Rivanna Trail offers several amenities for visitors to enjoy. Some of the amenities available at the trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail, including at trailheads and parks.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at different access points along the trail, making it convenient for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping sites: The Rivanna Trail does not have designated camping sites. However, there are nearby campgrounds and parks where visitors can camp, such as Darden Towe Park and Walnut Creek Park.

4. Picnic areas: There are several picnic areas along the trail, providing visitors with a place to relax and enjoy a meal. These areas often have picnic tables and benches.

5. Water fountains: There are water fountains available at some trailheads and parks along the Rivanna Trail, allowing visitors to stay hydrated during their hike or walk.

6. Dog-friendly: The Rivanna Trail is dog-friendly, allowing visitors to bring their furry friends along for a walk or hike. However, dogs must be kept on a leash and owners are responsible for cleaning up after them.

7. Bike-friendly: The trail is also bike-friendly, providing cyclists with a scenic route to explore. Bicycles are allowed on most sections of the trail, but it is important to follow any posted rules or regulations.

8. Trail maps: There are trail maps available at various points along the Rivanna Trail, helping visitors navigate the different sections and plan their route.

Please note that amenities may vary depending on the specific section of the trail and the access point. It is always a good idea to check with local authorities or trail organizations for the most up-to-date information on amenities and facilities available at the Rivanna Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Hilton Garden Inn Charlottesville: A comfortable hotel offering modern amenities and a convenient location near the Rivanna Trail.
2. Residence Inn by Marriott Charlottesville Downtown: A stylish extended-stay hotel with spacious suites, complimentary breakfast, and easy access to the trail.
3. The Boar’s Head Resort: A luxurious resort featuring elegant accommodations, multiple dining options, and a range of recreational activities.
4. The Local Restaurant and Catering: A popular eatery serving locally sourced American cuisine with a cozy atmosphere.
5. Riverside Lunch: A casual diner known for its delicious burgers, fries, and milkshakes, located near the Rivanna Trail.
6. Martha Jefferson Hospital: A reputable medical facility providing emergency services and healthcare support to the community.
7. Charlottesville Police Department: The local police department responsible for maintaining law and order in the area surrounding the Rivanna Trail.
8. Charlottesville Fire Department: The fire department serving the city, equipped to handle emergencies and provide fire protection services.

The Rivanna Trail Difficulty Notes

The Rivanna Trail, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a moderate difficulty level for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning approximately 20 miles, the trail encompasses a variety of terrains, including wooded areas, open fields, and riverbanks. While some sections of the trail are relatively flat and easy to navigate, others present more challenging inclines and uneven surfaces. Additionally, the trail features several stream crossings and rocky areas that require careful footing. Overall, the Rivanna Trail provides a rewarding and enjoyable experience for individuals of varying fitness levels, offering a balance between accessible paths and more demanding sections.

Features And Attractions

1. Riverview Park: Located along the Rivanna River, this park offers stunning views of the water and surrounding natural beauty. It is a popular spot for picnicking, hiking, and birdwatching.

2. Darden Towe Park: This park features a beautiful trail along the Rivanna River, offering scenic views and opportunities for fishing and kayaking. It also has historical significance as it was once the site of a 19th-century plantation.

3. Meadow Creek Gardens: This botanical garden is a hidden gem along the Rivanna Trail. It showcases a variety of native plants and flowers, providing a peaceful and scenic environment for visitors.

4. Rivanna River Company: This kayak and canoe rental company allows visitors to explore the Rivanna River and enjoy the natural beauty along the trail. Paddling through the calm waters offers a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape.

5. Woolen Mills: This historic neighborhood along the Rivanna Trail is known for its charming architecture and picturesque views. It was once home to a thriving textile industry and has retained its old-world charm.

6. Rivanna Trail Bridge: This iconic bridge spans the Rivanna River, offering breathtaking views of the water and surrounding landscape. It is a popular spot for photography and enjoying the tranquility of the river.

7. Rivanna Trail Gardens: Located near the Rivanna Trail, these gardens showcase a variety of plants and flowers, including native species. It is a peaceful and serene place to take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the natural beauty.

8. Pen Park: This expansive park offers scenic views of the Rivanna River and features walking trails, sports fields, and picnic areas. It is a popular spot for outdoor activities and enjoying the natural surroundings.

9. Rivanna Trail Overlook: This overlook provides panoramic views of the Rivanna River and the surrounding countryside. It is a great spot for photography and taking in the beauty of the area.

10. Rivanna Trail Dam: This dam along the Rivanna River offers a unique sight and is a popular spot for fishing. It provides a tranquil setting and a chance to observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

These are just a few examples of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks along the Rivanna Trail. Exploring the trail will reveal many more hidden gems and opportunities to connect with nature and history.

Usage Guidelines

1. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pets and dispose of waste properly.
3. Bicycles are allowed on designated sections of the trail only.
4. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
5. Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
6. Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during hunting seasons.
7. Do not disturb or harm wildlife or plant life along the trail.
8. No camping or open fires are allowed on the trail.
9. Leave no trace – pack out all trash and litter.
10. Be considerate of other trail users and yield to pedestrians.
11. Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at specific trailheads or sections of the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Rivanna Trail, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a scenic and diverse outdoor experience for hikers, runners, and nature enthusiasts. The best times of the year to visit the trail largely depend on personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in. However, the spring and fall seasons are generally considered the most favorable for exploring the Rivanna Trail.

In the spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom and trees regain their lush foliage. The weather is usually mild, making it an ideal time for hiking or jogging along the trail. The Rivanna River, which the trail follows for a significant portion, may also be more inviting for water activities such as kayaking or canoeing during this time. Additionally, birdwatchers will be delighted by the increased bird activity as migratory species return to the area.

Fall is another fantastic time to visit the Rivanna Trail. The trail is adorned with the stunning hues of autumn foliage, creating a picturesque backdrop for outdoor adventures. The cooler temperatures make hiking or running more comfortable, and the trail is less crowded compared to the summer months. Fall is also a great time for photographers, as the changing colors provide ample opportunities for capturing breathtaking shots.

It is important to note that the Rivanna Trail has seasonal closures in certain areas. During the winter months, some sections of the trail may be closed or inaccessible due to snow, ice, or hazardous conditions. It is advisable to check the trail’s official website or contact local authorities for up-to-date information on closures and trail conditions before planning your visit. However, even during these closures, there are still plenty of nearby parks and trails in the Charlottesville area that offer outdoor activities and scenic beauty.


1. Trailhead Parking: Accessible parking spaces are available at various trailheads, providing convenient access for wheelchair users.
2. Paved Pathways: Some sections of the trail are paved, allowing for smooth and accessible travel for individuals using wheelchairs.
3. Gravel Pathways: While not fully accessible, certain sections of the trail have compacted gravel surfaces that may be navigable with assistance or specialized equipment.
4. Boardwalks: The trail features boardwalks in certain areas, providing accessible passage over wet or uneven terrain.
5. Benches and Rest Areas: Along the trail, there are benches and rest areas that are designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities, offering a place to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
6. Accessible Trail Loops: There are specific trail loops within the Rivanna Trail system that have been designed to be fully accessible, allowing wheelchair users to enjoy a complete trail experience.
7. Trail Signage: The trail is equipped with accessible signage, including braille and tactile elements, to assist individuals with visual impairments in navigating the trail.
8. Accessible Restrooms: Some trailheads or nearby facilities provide accessible restrooms for individuals with disabilities.
9. Trail Maps: Accessible trail maps are available online or at designated locations, providing information on accessible routes and amenities.
10. Accessibility Guidelines: The Rivanna Trail follows ADA guidelines to ensure that individuals with disabilities can enjoy the trail to the fullest extent possible.

Safety Information

1. Stay on the designated trail: Stick to the marked path to avoid getting lost or wandering into unsafe areas.
2. Carry a map and compass: Always have a map and compass with you to navigate the trail and find your way back if needed.
3. Inform someone of your plans: Let a friend or family member know your intended route and estimated return time for safety purposes.
4. Dress appropriately: Wear sturdy shoes, comfortable clothing, and dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions.
5. Stay hydrated: Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout your hike, especially during hot weather.
6. Use sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect yourself from sunburn and insect bites by applying sunscreen and using insect repellent.
7. Be aware of wildlife: Respect the wildlife and keep a safe distance, avoiding any interactions that could be potentially dangerous.
8. Watch out for poison ivy and ticks: Learn to identify poison ivy and take precautions to avoid contact; check for ticks after your hike.
9. Be cautious near water bodies: Exercise caution near rivers, streams, or ponds, as water levels can change rapidly and currents can be strong.
10. Avoid hiking alone: Whenever possible, hike with a companion for safety and assistance in case of emergencies.
11. Carry a first aid kit: Have a basic first aid kit with you to treat minor injuries or provide initial care until help arrives if needed.
12. Respect private property: Stay on public trails and respect private property boundaries to avoid trespassing.
13. Be prepared for emergencies: Carry a whistle, flashlight, and extra batteries in case of emergencies or getting lost after dark.
14. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to your surroundings, be cautious of uneven terrain, and watch for any potential hazards.
15. Follow trail etiquette: Yield to other hikers, keep noise levels down, and leave no trace by packing out all trash and waste.
16. Check weather conditions: Before heading out, check the weather forecast to ensure safe hiking conditions and avoid severe weather.
17. Stay on the trail during hunting season: If hiking during hunting season, wear bright colors and stay on the marked trail to ensure visibility to hunters.
18. Trust your instincts: If something feels unsafe or uncomfortable, trust your instincts and make decisions that prioritize your safety.

Conservation Notes

The Rivanna Trail is a popular and significant trail system located in Charlottesville, Virginia. In terms of conservation status, the trail is well-maintained and protected through the efforts of various organizations and volunteers. The Rivanna Trails Foundation (RTF) plays a crucial role in the conservation and preservation of this trail system.

The RTF actively works towards maintaining and improving the trail’s condition, ensuring that it remains accessible and safe for hikers, runners, and cyclists. They regularly organize volunteer events to clear debris, maintain signage, and repair any damage caused by natural elements or heavy usage. This commitment to upkeep helps to preserve the trail’s natural beauty and ensures its longevity for future generations to enjoy.

Furthermore, the Rivanna Trail is surrounded by protected lands, including parks, nature reserves, and conservation areas. These areas are managed by local and state authorities, who prioritize the preservation of the natural habitats and ecosystems found along the trail. This conservation status helps to safeguard the diverse flora and fauna that call the Rivanna Trail home, ensuring their continued existence and promoting biodiversity in the region.

Overall, the conservation status of the Rivanna Trail is commendable. Through the dedicated efforts of the Rivanna Trails Foundation and the protection of surrounding lands, this trail system remains a cherished natural resource within the Charlottesville community. The ongoing commitment to conservation ensures that the Rivanna Trail will continue to provide recreational opportunities while preserving the ecological integrity of the area.

Leave a Comment