Unobscured views, fewer crowds, less bugs and cooler temps are a hiker’s dream come true during wintertime in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. With generally mild winter weather, which is perfect for hiking, you can experience the magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains and take in the city culture without the crowds you’ll find during the spring and fall.
Experience tumbling waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and rigorous hikes for all abilities just a short drive away from Charlottesville and Albemarle County in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway meets up with Shenandoah National Park, just a 30-minute drive from downtown. Head South to take in breathtaking views from the Parkway, or North to tackle challenging hikes along Skyline Drive, which runs through the National Park. With 500+ miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail and an average trail rating of 4.34 out of 5, the park is a trail-lover’s paradise. Just remember that while the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive remain open throughout the winter, sections may close due to inclement weather.
If you prefer to stay close to the city center, take a trek along the Rivanna Trail, a 20-mile rustic network of “urban wilderness” trails that encircles the city and runs along portions of the Rivanna River. This dog-friendly trail network offers access to various public parks and houses the opportunity for many activities such as biking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Be sure to stop by The Wool Factory for a quick snack or a locally roasted coffee, just off the trail in the historic Woolen Mills neighborhood. Six miles north of Charlottesville, with over 219 acres and 7 miles of trails to explore, the Ivy Creek Natural Area is a great place to discover Virginia’s rich natural history by taking part in one of the many educational events the natural area has to offer. If you’re yearning for more history, check out the Saunders-Monticello Trail, a wheelchair-accessible trail that takes visitors up a steady incline to the Monticello Visitor Center. The local reservoir, Ragged Mountain, is home to a 7-mile, family friendly trail system that is perfect for a day’s hike or trail run. Lodge at the Boar’s Head Resort, which has its own trail system that connects to Ragged Mountain, and has a golf course, designed by golf pro Davis Love III, which is open throughout the year.
After a day in the great outdoors, it’s time to relax. Discover the birthplace of American wine on the Monticello Wine Trail which offers access to over 40 wineries, all within 25 miles of Charlottesville. The Monticello Wine Trail Digital Passport makes it easy to find wineries and track your visits as you sip wines of national and international acclaim. For a truly unique experience, you can even stay overnight at many of the wineries in the Charlottesville area, making for a perfect sip and stay getaway. So cozy up next to a roaring fireplace, grab your new favorite wine, and get ready for the ultimate vineyard vacation!
If you are looking for a more walkable experience, The Charlottesville Ale Trail offers a “Walk Our City” passport option to discover the best local craft breweries, cideries, and distilleries within city limits. Discover the spirit trails by foot, chartered car, bus, or even horseback with Indian Summer Guide Service, which offers year-round private horseback riding experiences around cideries, breweries, and vineyards in the local region.
Whether you are hiking challenging terrain or sipping world class wine, these local trails will work up quite the appetite! Head to the Belmont neighborhood for top notch dining experiences at places like Tavola, The Local, Mas and Conmole, or check out the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall with additional dining and shopping options. The Dairy Market is Central Virginia’s first food hall with a variety of food merchants to choose from and is a local favorite. End the night in a cozy cottage at Montfair Resort Farm or in one of the various hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, or vacation rentals that Charlottesville and Albemarle County have to offer. Learn more and start planning your winter stay today at visitcharlottesville.org!