Turn off the TV‚ get off the couch and walk along one of the numerous trails that exists in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Fresh air and exercise are coupled with great scenery along dozens of footpaths that grace this part of central Virginia. And if a recent county survey is any indication‚ rustic trails are just what local citizens want.
“We conducted a survey to ask residents for suggestions on what would add to their overall quality of life here‚” says Dan Mahon‚ greenways/blueways supervisor for Albemarle County. “It was surprising to learn that their No. 1 priority was to have even more places to walk and hike.”
Mahon theorizes that new residents drawn to the natural beauty of the region have sparked the growing interest in hiking locally.
“Counties like ours can look beautiful on postcards‚ but the pictured scenic areas are often inaccessible to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts‚” he says. “That isn’t the case here. There are miles and miles of trails countywide‚ including pathways in a number of parks. If a person can’t find an ideal outdoor setting here‚ they just aren’t looking hard enough.”
Besides paths in Albemarle County’s nine parks and Charlottesville’s 23 parks‚ residents can enjoy hundreds of miles of trails in nearby Shenandoah National Park. They also can stroll along the Saunders-Monticello Trail‚ which was reconstructed following damage from a 2003 hurricane.
“For advanced hikers‚ there is always the 980-acre Ragged Mountain Natural Area that has an extensive rustic trail system‚” says Mike Svetz‚ parks and recreation director for the city of Charlottesville. “Ragged Mountain has a number of up-and-down challenges for advanced hikers.”
But perhaps the best-known series of pathways through Charlottesville is the Rivanna Trail – 20 miles of footpaths that encircle the city. The Rivanna Trail curves and bends along the three major waterways that flow through Charlottesville – the Rivanna River‚ Meadow Creek and Moore’s Creek.
“The trail is truly a community effort because many landowners and developers had to originally give their OK on several land easements‚ so that the public could walk along those particular portions of the pathway‚” says Diana Foster‚ president of the Rivanna Trails Foundation.
Nowadays‚ volunteers clear brush and maintain the Rivanna Trail each month during work parties.
“The 20-mile pathway has become a crown jewel for Charlottesville‚” Foster says. “I even see real estate agents specifically advertise their available properties as being close to the Rivanna Trail.”