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Spanning more than 20 miles, the Rivanna Trail surrounds Charlottesville, connecting several parks along the way and providing a recreational outdoor amenity for city dwellers. The trail has a mix of surfaces, but the route is clearly marked with green trail blazes for the main loop and brown trail blazes for spur trails.
A good place to begin your trail journey is in Riverview Park on the east end of the city. There's a large parking lot there and, as the pathway winds through the park, it's paved and offers views of the Rivanna River. You'll follow the river going north, head under US 250, and then journey through the city's northeastern neighborhoods. Here, you can access Pen Park, Charlottesville's largest park, which has a playground and several sports facilities. From there, the trail heads west, following the curves of Meadow Creek.
Norfolk Southern Railroad bisects the city and, west of the tracks, the trail traverses Greenbrier Park, then begins to head southwest under a pleasant tree canopy. As the trail meanders through the northwestern corner of the city, it skirts the Darden School of Business campus. This section ends at Old Ivy Road. There's a short gap in the trail here, just before the trail begins its more southerly route, which loosely parallels US 29. The trail picks up again south of the CSX Railroad tracks and US 250.
As it curves around the southern end of the city, the trail follows Moore's Creek. Here, the pathway passes through Azalea Park, Jordan Park, and Quarry Park.
The best parking access areas for Rivanna Trail visitors are:
If you’re looking to go biking, do not use Azealia Park. The trail is best fit for hiking not any kind of biking. If one person comes the opposite direction you will probably run into a tree because the trail is very thin.
The entire loop is walkable but only a small part can be biked. The two mile paved section along the river is good for biking. I usually just use it as a connector for a longer cycling route.
If you start at riverside park, it’s a nice 2-2.5 mile ride before it goes dense and dark. If you have a MTB you’d be fine or if you’re looking to hike, again - great. We also tried the start point next to the Fontaine research center and it’s good for MTB.
The trails are nice paved for 1-2mi sections at the parks but you have to go on street with traffic or carry bike up steep rocky hills in woods between the parks. Sand before a bridge is prime for sliding down incline then missing the bridge will land you in ditch. Expect the paved paths in the parks easy level for everyone. The dirt path was thin but okay then you better be expert mountain biker for the steep cliff. parts.
Park at Riverside park. Head toward the river and follow the trail (it only goes one way from this point). It’s paved and not too hilly with lovely views of the river along much of the path. We turned around at the overpass as the neighborhood began to look a little sketchy at that point. But by the time we got back to Riverside Park, we had completed a nice 3 mike loop.
The longest non-road paved section is at Riverview park at 2.1 miles. It is level. Beyond that you will need mountain bike or go on streets.
We started in Riverview Park and had a nice ride north for 2 miles then the trail turned to a path that you needed a mountain bike to navigate, so disappointed we returned to our car. We were excited to read about a trail around Charlottsville but very disappointed to learn that it wasn't a reality.
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