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How Residents Enjoy the Vast Vistas of Central Virginia

Both the choices and the vistas are spacious when it comes to outdoor recreation in the Central Virginia area. 

By Cary Estes on October 19, 2022

Person stands on top of a mountain at Shenandoah National Park, which is located in Central Virginia.
Shenandoah National Park

The recreational possibilities in Central Virginia are as vast as the outdoors themselves. From a robust network of trails for hiking and biking to a deep reservoir of water sports (boating, rafting, fishing, waterskiing), the sky’s the limit when it comes to things to do in the area. Even the wild blue yonder is open for action since you can go skydiving here.

And serving as a beautiful backdrop to it all is the Shenandoah National Park, filled with wildlife, wildflowers, waterfalls and 200,000 acres of wonder.

“There are just so many opportunities here,” says Laura Wolf, an avid hiker in Nelson County and owner/lead guide of Three Ridges Touring. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone, from families just getting started with outdoor experiences all the way up to the seasoned adventurer really seeking that high level of outdoor activity. What makes our area so interesting is we have all these different places to explore.”

Children run along a path at James Madison Montpelier in Central Virginia.
Ethan Hickerson, Mobelux

Miles and Miles of Trails

That journey can easily begin with a single step since there are numerous trail systems meandering across the landscape. This includes more than 500 miles of scenic pathways within Shenandoah National Park alone.

“You can go outside and immediately have access to miles and miles of trails,” says Madeleine Ledford, owner of Cair Paravel Farmstead, which offers fresh food as well as lodging options. “And there are tons of places to go hiking near water. So when the cities are hot during the summer, it’s cool and refreshing and nature-oriented here.”

Local favorites include the Saunders-Monticello Trail in Charlottesville (an easy 4-mile trip to Thomas Jefferson’s famous residence), the more strenuous Old Rag Mountain and Whiteoak Canyon trails in Madison County, Fluvanna County’s Heritage Trail (22 miles across nearly 1,000 acres), and the Rivanna Trail (a 20-mile loop that circumnavigates Charlottesville).

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone, from families just getting started with outdoor experiences all the way up to the seasoned adventurer really seeking that high level of outdoor activity.”

Laura Wolf, Three Ridges Touring

The Humpback Rocks trail in Lyndhurst is a short-but-steep climb to an outcropping with 360-degree views. “Kids love it because there are rocks to climb on and lots of places to explore,” Wolf says. “And then you’re rewarded with this absolutely stunning view of the Shenandoah Valley.”

Wolf also recommends the trail that leads to 1,200-foot Crabtree Falls (the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River), and White Rock Falls Loop, which offers sweeping vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Exterior of a home in Central Virginia.
Mia Artz

On the Beaten Path

But you don’t have to wander into the wilderness to enjoy being outdoors in Central Virginia. There are plenty of easily accessible adventures awaiting as well. For example, 13,000-acre Lake Anna offers all the traditional water activities and family fun at The Boardwalk on Lake Anna, with dining, arcade games and mini golf.

Family-run orchards can be found in Orange County at Liberty Mills Farm as well as The Market at Grelen, at Auburn Farm Sunflower Patch in Culpeper County, and Carter Mountain Orchard or Chiles Peach Orchard in Albemarle County. 

The Boardwalk at Lake Anna in Louisa county, Virginia. Louisa County is located in Central Virginia.
Melody Robbins

Meanwhile, golf enthusiasts can play one of the best courses in the country by teeing it up at Spring Creek Golf Club in Louisa County. Spring Creek has been named one of the top 100 public courses in the country by Golf Magazine and Golf Digest and was ranked the second-best course in Virginia by Golf Advisor.

A short drive away, golfers can take a very long drive at Meadows Farms Golf Course. When played from the championship tee, the course’s 12th hole is a staggering 841 yards in length, making it the longest golf hole in the U.S. 

Patrons play mini golf at The Boardwalk at Lake Anna in Louisa county, Virginia. Louisa County is located in Central Virginia.
Melody Robbins

Finally, the fun doesn’t have to end when all the outdoor activities are over, thanks to abundant lodging opportunities. These range from basic campgrounds at Shenandoah and state parks to more upscale downtime at Cair Paravel (which offers yurts, airstreams and cabins), Shenandoah Crossing, Graves Mountain Farm and Lodges, Big Dipper Ranch and Rose River Farm, which was once named the state’s top glamping destination by Virginia Tourism.

“It’s all about accessibility and diversity,” Ledford says. “There is a variety of experiences for families and individuals alike, all within a reasonable distance.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Central Virginia area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Central Virginia

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