The Rivanna Trail, Charlottesville, Virginia

This 8-mile urban trail and greenway is part of the planned 50-mile pedestrian and bicycle facility that will parallel the oldest inland transportation route in North America and connects Williamsburg to Richmond in a unique way.

by American Trails Staff


Young visitors learn about the world of nature; photo by Diana Foster

Featured
National Recreation Trail

Designated in 2007


• View more details for this trail
in the NRT Database

• Learn about the NRT Program.

The Rivanna Trail is bounded by the Rivanna River, two of its tributaries (Meadow and Moore's Creeks), and a small undeveloped mountain called Observatory Hill. The twenty-mile rustic footpath meanders through the natural greenbelt that surrounds the City of Charlottesville. The area provides a scenic opportunity for hiking, and residents and visitors alike can quickly and easily leave behind the stresses of modern city life. The trail is unique in that it is truly an urban wilderness trail.

The Rivanna Trail is a well-used well-loved urban treasure. It was built and is maintained entirely by community volunteers. The Trail passes through six City parks; connects neighborhoods and schools; skirts community garden plots; lies within reach of restaurants, hotels, and medical facilities; takes hikers safely under busy roads through culverts; traverses University of Virginia land; and provides hikers with views of historic mills and dams.

The community highly values the opportunity to have a wilderness experience right outside their doorsteps. Within minutes, a hiker can reach a place where he hears only the sounds of nature: rushing water, wind in the trees, birds— no cars or machines.

Visitors can walk through wetlands, streams, floodplains, and fields transforming into forests, shaded by trees more than a hundred years old. Sightings of foxes and bear are not uncommon. The Trail has been nominated as a Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail due to its rich birdlife and valuable habitat for a variety of species. Environmental groups whose mission it is to interpret nature routinely use the Trail as a resource.

Most importantly, because it completely encircles the City, the Rivanna Trail is accessible to every member of the community. The Trail is within walking distance of all neighborhoods. People who are not fortunate enough to have the time or money to travel to wilderness areas or national parks have the opportunity for hands-on experiences with nature right outside their doors.

The trail system includes accessible routes as well as rustic footpaths

The trail system includes accessible routes as well as rustic footpaths

Children have a safe nearby environment in which to learn about forests and streams. Teachers walk with their students along the Trail to reinforce science lessons. Members of the Senior Center and several churches sponsor weekly Trail walks. Residents commute to work, school, and university along the Trail. People with accessibility needs can visit a two-mile stretch of riverside trail.

The Rivanna Trail has made possible invaluable lessons to the community about watershed protection. Virginia has recently experienced several years of severe drought and now one year of record heavy rains. The Rivanna Trail and the greenbelt through which it passes have provided effective and natural illustrations of the valuable role riparian buffers play in preserving streams and rivers.

Hundreds of citizens walk on the Rivanna Trail daily. They have seen for themselves how a forest and its floodplains can protect both a stream and our downstream neighbors. Trail users are passionate protectors of both the Rivanna Trail and of the streams along which it travels.

For more information

Rivanna Trails Foundation, P.O. Box 1786, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (434) 964-1022