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While the Saunders-Monticello trail leads to the home of one the United States most prominent presidents, it is quickly becoming a destination in itself. It’s less than ten minutes’ drive from Charlottesville, but offers an immersive escape into nature and history.
You can begin your journey at the parking lot just off State Route 20 (SR 20). From there, head south on the wide gravel trail, cross SR 53 (Thomas Jefferson Parkway) into Kemper Park. It’s a lush, wooded park with a man-made pond and many smaller off-shoot trails threading through it. The trail slowly snakes up the slopes of Carter Mountain to the entrance of Monticello, but don’t worry: a moderate grade is maintained through-out, making the trail accessible for walking, biking and wheelchair use. As you ascend, raised boardwalks take you up into the forest canopy. From this vantage point, birding is a treat. On your descent, savor the picturesque views of Charlottesville through gaps in the trees.
The trail ends where the forest opens up into the Visitor Center, not far from driveway up to the mansion.
To get to the State Route 20 parking lot, across from Piedmont Virginia Community College. To get there from Charlottesville, take Exit 121 A from I-64 E. Merge onto SR 20 and head south. Make a U-turn at SR 53, head north for 0.1 miles the turn right onto Dairy Barn Road, and then another right turn into the parking lot.
The State Route 53 parking lot is in Kemper Park. Rather than making the U-turn on SR 20, make a left turn onto SR 53, and followed by another left into the trailhead parking lot in Kemper Park. This lot is holds fewer cars than the one on SR 20.
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