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Featured Recreational Trails Program-Funded Project

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


The Rivanna Trail - Charlottesville, Virginia


Map of Oregon


From the Rivanna Trails Foundation - photos by Diana Foster

The Rivanna Trail is an urban wilderness trail where hikers can exercise, have fun with friends, and learn about the natural world. A designated National Recreation Trail, the project has received funding from Virginia's share of federal Recreational Trails Program dollars.


photo of children among fallen leaves

Young visitors learn about the world of nature

The Rivanna Trail is bounded by the Rivanna River, two of its tributaries (Meadow and Moore's Creeks), and a small undeveloped mountain called Observatory Hill. The twenty-mile rustic footpath meanders through the natural greenbelt that surrounds the City of Charlottesville. The area provides a scenic opportunity for hiking, and residents and visitors alike can quickly and easily leave behind the stresses of modern city life. The trail is unique in that it is truly an urban wilderness trail.

The Rivanna Trail is a well-used well-loved urban treasure. It was built and is maintained entirely by community volunteers. The Trail passes through six City parks; connects neighborhoods and schools; skirts community garden plots; lies within reach of restaurants, hotels, and medical facilities; takes hikers safely under busy roads through culverts; traverses University of Virginia land; and provides hikers with views of historic mills and dams.

The community highly values the opportunity to have a wilderness experience right outside their doorsteps. Within minutes, a hiker can reach a place where he hears only the sounds of nature: rushing water, wind in the trees, birds— no cars or machines.

photo of teenagers with plants

The Rivanna Trail is maintained entirely by volunteers


Visitors can walk through wetlands, streams, floodplains, and fields transforming into forests, shaded by trees more than a hundred years old. Sightings of foxes and bear are not uncommon. The Trail has been nominated as a Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail due to its rich birdlife and valuable habitat for a variety of species. Environmental groups whose mission it is to interpret nature routinely use the Trail as a resource.

Most importantly, because it completely encircles the City, the Rivanna Trail is accessible to every member of the community. The Trail is within walking distance of all neighborhoods. People who are not fortunate enough to have the time or money to travel to wilderness areas or national parks have the opportunity for hands-on experiences with nature right outside their doors.

photo of blind man with hand on sign

The trail system includes accessible routes as well as
rustic footpaths

Children have a safe nearby environment in which to learn about forests and streams. Teachers walk with their students along the Trail to reinforce science lessons. Members of the Senior Center and several churches sponsor weekly Trail walks. Residents commute to work, school, and university along the Trail. People with accessibility needs can visit a two-mile stretch of riverside trail.

The Rivanna Trail has made possible invaluable lessons to the community about watershed protection. Virginia has recently experienced several years of severe drought and now one year of record heavy rains. The Rivanna Trail and the greenbelt through which it passes have provided effective and natural illustrations of the valuable role riparian buffers play in preserving streams and rivers.

Hundreds of citizens walk on the Rivanna Trail daily. They have seen for themselves how a forest and its floodplains can protect both a stream and our downstream neighbors. Trail users are passionate protectors of both the Rivanna Trail and of the streams along which it travels.


For more information:

Rivanna Trails Foundation, P.O. Box 1786, Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 964-1022


photo of girls picking up trash by trail photo of boys on trail with snow


trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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