Paddle-Powered Fun in Charlottesville & Albemarle County, Va.

Cool off this summer on the refreshing waters of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Va. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find this part of central Virginia is the perfect combination of secluded paddling spots and scenic views with plenty of options for a night on the town.

paddling charlottesville

For a relaxing morning, float the gentle and scenic Rivanna River on the edge of town. With a few class I rapids, it’s a great option for paddlers of all abilities. Keep an eye out for the fish, birds, and turtles that call this waterway home. No matter how you prefer to get on the water, the conveniently-located Rivanna River Company has all the gear you’ll need for the day, including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and tubes, plus a shuttle between your put-in and take-out spot.

floating on the James River
Floating on the James River

If you’re looking for a longer paddle, head down to the town of Scottsville for an excursion on the James River. This quiet stretch of the legendary river is surrounded by forests and farmland, offering a break from the crowds. A variety of trip lengths offer class I-III rapids, with excellent spots for fishing and lunch along the way. Check out James River Reeling & Rafting or James River Runners for boat and tube rentals, shuttles, overnight trips, and camping spots by the water to make the most out of your visit.

sugar hollow reservoir
Sugar Hollow Reservoir

If you prefer to paddle the flatwaters of a lake, there are several options in the area for exploration. Beaver Creek Reservoir is an excellent choice for outstanding views and fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. At 170 acres, make sure you paddle into all of the nooks and crannies on Ragged Mountain Reservoir, also featuring a 6.6-mile trail that loops around the lake. Fish the banks of Sugar Hollow Reservoir for rainbow and brook trout or hike along Moormans River for waterfalls and swimming holes.

Engage All of Your Senses

When it comes to refueling and relaxing after a day on the water, immerse yourself in the tastes and smells of Charlottesville’s legendary culinary scene. Start your tour off with a bite to eat from the historic Downtown Mall, featuring a variety of dining, drinking, and nightlife options. From pastries at Petite MarieBette and a morning pick me up from Mudhouse Coffee Roasters to mouthwatering delights from Soul Food Joint, Maru Korean Restaurant & Bar, and more. Hit up favorites like Miller’s Downtown, Rapture, or The Whiskey Jar for a nightcap and recap of the day’s events.

charlottesville downtown mall
Charlottesville’s Historic Pedestrian Downtown Mall. Photo by Sanjay Suchak

The Wool Factory, located just a few steps from the Rivanna River, offers food and drink selections for every time of day. Stop into The Workshop for a cup of joe from Grit Coffee and mouthwatering pastries, Broadcloth for an elegant, multi-course meal, and Selvedge Brewing for a late night craft beer and snacks.

Browse the stalls at the new Dairy Market until something catches your eye, like deep fried fish from Angelic’s Kitchen, creative cocktails from The Milkman’s Bar, and delightful pastries from Bee Conscious Baking Company. Plus, don’t miss weekly events like live music at Starr Hill Brewery, wine tastings with Springhouse Sundries, and Market Mondays. Rest up at one of the area’s many inns, bed and breakfasts, resorts, or chain hotels for the night before another day of new sights and experiences. Discover the mountain waters of Central Virginia when you visit Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Va.

Places to Go, Things to See: