Recreational opportunities come naturally to the Charlottesville area. Boasting some of the East Coast’s best hiking and skiing‚ and home to some of the most gorgeous scenery anywhere‚ the region offers opportunities for fun and fitness in every season and for just about every interest.
Wintergreen Resort – named Best Area Ski Resort by washingtonpost.com – is a popular winter destination. At other times of the year‚ the 11‚000-acre‚ four-season resort and conference venue in nearby Nelson County serves up golf‚ tennis‚ mountain biking and hiking. Its Wintergarden Spa and Aquatics & Fitness Center opened a $4 million addition in 2005 with whirlpools‚ hot tubs‚ and massage and spa treatments‚ says Frankee Love‚ director of public relations and communications.
“We get people looking for a great weekend getaway and those coming for a longer vacation‚” Love says. “There’s so much to do‚ and it’s such a beautiful location. We’re on top of a mountain‚ with this expansive vista and stunning views in every season – and that’s something you just don’t have everywhere.”
Shenandoah National Park‚ lying astride the Blue Ridge Mountains‚ is close by via Interstate 64‚ with more than 500 miles of hiking trails‚ including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The park can be enjoyed even by those who don’t want to leave their cars‚ with the 105-mile Skyline Drive showcasing spectacular overlooks. The park draws 1.2 million visitors annually‚ most from the mid-Atlantic region but others from across the county and around the world‚ says park spokesman Karen Beck-Herzog. Shenandoah offers virtually every kind of outdoor recreational activity imaginable‚ including hiking‚ mountain biking‚ fishing‚ camping‚ bird watching‚ picnicking‚ horseback riding‚ orienteering and stargazing‚ Beck-Herzog says.
“You can do everything from take a short walk to see a waterfall to serious hiking – it’s a great opportunity for everyone to get out and enjoy nature‚ whatever their ability.”
On the local level‚ Albemarle County operates nine parks with a wide variety of features‚ including sandy beaches for summer swimming at Chris Greene Lake‚ Walnut Creek and Mint Springs Valley Park. The city of Charlottesville oversees 23 parks and partially funds the Ragged Mountain Natural area‚ a 980-acre forest of mature oak‚ hickory‚ poplar‚ pine‚ and maple trees with two lakes and more than four miles of shoreline‚ and the Rivanna Trail system‚ 20 miles of footpaths ringing the city. Recreation devotees who want to get their exercise indoors have ample options‚ too. Ranked one of the country’s top fitness centers for singles‚ the Atlantic Coast Athletic Club also has plenty of services for families. Its Charlottesville facilities include the flagship ACAC Albemarle Square fitness center; the ACAC Adventure Central on Four Seasons Drive with tennis courts‚ swimming pools and a family learning center in a park-like setting; and the ACAC Downtown fitness center‚ convenient to working professionals. Residents sometimes take for granted that they live among such natural beauty and rich recreational resources‚ Beck-Herzog says.
“Once in a while‚ you stop and look up at the mountains‚” she says‚ “and appreciate how lucky you are.”