Guide to the Rivanna Trail Loop
Photograph by Rob Cook
The information below describes the various sections of the Rivanna Trail loop that circumnavigates the City of Charlottesville. We have listed the sections in counterclockwise order, starting at Woolen Mills railroad trestle. In parentheses are the segment length, the cumulative mileage from Mile 0, and a description of the footing.
(.41 miles, .41 miles from mile 0, moderate)
Mile 0 is at the railroad trestle. Follow the sandy trail from Moore's Creek to the old Woolen Mills dam site; climb uphill to left. Roadwalk: turn right onto E. Market Street, right onto Riverside Avenue, right into Riverview Park.
(1.48 miles, 1.89 from mile 0, easy)
Follow hard-surfaced trail through the park’s fields and forests along the Rivanna River. A spur trail (.39 miles) makes possible a loop hike within the park.
(1.64 miles, 3.53 from mile 0, moderate)
Follow hard-surfaced trail to VFW fields. Just upriver, turn left. Roadwalk: right onto River Road, right on Locust Avenue; at the end, turn left on Locust Lane and then right onto Megan Court. Look for trailhead sign at the end of Megan Court and into forest. At the bottom of the hill, the trail across creek leads to the River North Trail.
(.59 miles, 4.12 from mile 0, moderate)
Trail follows Meadow Creek. There are numerous spur trails behind Charlottesville High School, into McIntire Park and connecting to Meadowbrook Heights Road.
(1.12 miles, 5.25 from mile 0, moderate)
After crossing under the Park Street bridge, detour along Melbourne to the paved Warner Parkway Trail. Follow the paved path for a couple hundred feet, then cut right to return to the rustic Trail. The trail crosses the creek on the Parkway Trail bridge, and then immediately turns left towards the culvert.
(.64 miles, 5.88 from mile 0, easy)
We hope to build a foot crossing through the culvert. It is illegal to cross over the railroad tracks or through the culvert. To bypass the culvert, return to Melbourne. Turn right and follow Melbourne past the high school until it ends at Kenwood. Turn right on Kenwood, then the second left onto Lester Drive. Lester turns into Jamestown Drive. Follow Jamestown until it ends at the cul de sac. Cross the bridge over Meadow Creek, then turn left to rejoin the trail.
(1.07 miles, 6.95 from mile 0, moderate)
Follow the clearing and watch for the rock hop across Meadow Creek on the left. Use caution crossing the creek.
(.62 miles, 7.57 from mile 0, moderate)
Walk upstream beside Meadow Creek as it makes its way under two major roadways. Continue through forest near City Gardens. Turn right onto Morton Drive.
(1.51 miles, 8.19 from mile 0, easy)
Cross Emmet Street. Follow Earhart Street to a footbridge on the left. Remain on the trail when traversing the Federal Executive Institute property and stay off the ropes course equipment. Turn left onto Cedars Court after second footbridge. Cross Barracks Road to rejoin the rail.
(1.74 miles, 9.70 from mile 0, moderate)
Follow the headwaters of Meadow Creek, past the foundation of the county's 1806 Poor House, through a forest of mountain laurel and chestnut oaks, through two large fields, and past a small pond.
(1.88 miles, 11.72 from mile 0, moderate)
Start near the fire station. Keep your eyes open for RTF blazes that mark the main path around Observatory Hill. There are numerous connecting trails throughout this area.
(.59 miles, 12.31 from mile 0, moderate)
Cross Fontaine. Walk under pines, cross a fence stile, follow road across bridge, turn left to enter the floodplains of Morey Creek. Cross the creek on stepping stones. Use caution crossing the creek. The adjoining Department of Forestry Nature Trail spur (1 mile) contains several trees unusual to Virginia, remnants of a 1930s tree nursery.
Turn right on Stribling Avenue, then right again immediately after crossing under the railroad bridge. Pass through the field, cross the driveway, and then descend to the rock hop across Moore's Creek. Use caution crossing the creek. Turn left at Sunset Avenue Extended, and then cross the pedestrian bridge.
As an alternate road walk, stay on Stribling Avenue, then turn right on Sunset Road; at its end at Sunset Avenue, turn left and follow the directions below.
(.87 miles, 14.54 from mile 0, moderate)
Look for plentiful wildlife in the park’s vegetated buffer along Moore’s Creek. Cross the creek on stepping stones, continue through forest and field. Use extreme caution crossing the creek; may be impassible in high water.
Turn left out of the culvert, and then right after crossing the footbridge. The trail crosses Bent Creek Road behind the Exxon and Hardees, and then turns left up the hillside towards Harris Street. Follow 5th Street and then return to forest trail (right turn) to walk along Rock and Moore’s Creeks.
(1.07 miles, 17.91 from mile 0, moderate)
Stay to the right through Jordan Park, and follow the trail along the creek and under Avon Street. Cross road bridge, turn left onto trail near tall pines. Meander through a young wildlife-filled forest. Climb a long gentle hill through pines to high bluffs overlooking Moore's Creek and on to Monticello Avenue (Route 20)
(1.64 miles, 19.55 from mile 0, difficult)
The trail continues under Monticello Avenue, and hugs Moore's Creek as it makes its way to the Rivanna River. Be prepared to scramble over rocks, trample through sand, and see a variety of wildlife, exposed rock cliffs, the old livestock market, and historic mill buildings. Crossing the railroad trestle is both illegal and dangerous. Use extreme caution crossing through the creek.
As an alternate road walk to Riverview Park, take a left on Monticello Avenue, then the first right and then left onto Monticello Road. Take the second right, onto Linden Avenue, and then the first left, onto Nassau Street. At the livestock market, bear right onto Franklin Street and proceed all the way to Market Street. Turn right on Market, then left on Riverside to the park.