A few of My Favorite Hikes around Charlottesville

Hiking in Charlottesville and Central Virginia is one of the biggest “selling points” for those choosing to move to or stay in the Charlottesville area. Even if you don’t hike; the mountains, the air, the trails, the parks contribute to the exceptional quality of life we all share here.

I hiked a lot when I was in high school growing up in Charlottesville. I’ve long told my clients about the wonderful hiking opportunities and how these opportunities contribute to the great quality of life in Charlottesville – and how they should hike – and last year I realized that I’d been advising friends and clients to go hiking yet I hadn’t gone myself for years.

Life should be about memories; why live (here) if not to make a few?

First, a couple tips –

1 – Take a lot of water.

2 – Be prepared – food, socks, extra shirts … I’m grateful for the backpack I still have as a high school graduation gift. Hiking if only for a few hours helps one appreciate the need to be prepared at home.

3 – I’m finding that (thankfully in a lot of ways) most of these areas don’t have cell phone coverage; either turn it off so as not to drain the battery or turn it on airplane mode so you can still use the camera. Download maps and directions and such to your phone before you go (or print them out). I use Evernote for this purpose (as well as for so many other things)

4 – Enjoy. And hike often.

5 – What are your favorite hikes?

Humpback Rocks – a relatively easy hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway with remarkable views. Last week we made it to the top in just over 30 minutes. Start in the morning and then make your way to Blue Mountain, Devils’ Backbone, or any of the other breweries in Nelson County.

Humpback Rock


Old Rag Mountain – a true day hike; it takes about an hour to get there from Charlottesville. Get there early – as in before 8 am early – as this is an extremely popular hike. One of the reviews on Hiking Upward says that it’s the best review in the “DC area” which kind of kills me to think of Old Rag as “in the DC area.” Another reviewer says: “This is the best hike on the East Coast, I think. It’s a loop, so no backtracking, the rock scramble is very fun, and the whole thing is a class act all the way.”

I hiked Old Rag a lot with my dad when I was a kid; it’s one of my favorite memories. I called him after we finished the hike and thanked him for taking me hiking; hopefully my kids will do the same to me one day.

Old Rag Mountain

Spy Rock – currently my younger daughter’s favorite, and offering some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen. A bit of a challenging hike as it’s steep in parts, it’s absolutely worth it. Apologies for the picture; I took them during the short time I had the Galaxy Nexus phone … which I quickly realized was a mistake and thus bought an iPhone.

Spy Rock

Crabtree Falls – another great and popular hike in Nelson County.

Again, Hiking Upward:
“Crabtree Falls is arguably the most beautiful set of waterfalls in Virginia. Billed as the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, Crabtree Falls is a must see for anyone who lives in the mid-Atlantic region.”

Crabtree Falls


Update 23 April 2015 – A friend and client has just started a great new hiking blog – Comfort in the Wild; I highly recommend it.

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  1. Jeff M October 11, 2012 at 19:53

    There is an incredible variety of great hikes, but most folks limit themselves to Old Rag, Whiteoak Canyon, South River Falls, Humpback Rocks, and maybe the Jones Run/Doyles River Falls loop. I put together a list of my favorite hikes in the area online – http://pathfollower.blogspot.com/2011/12/100-great-day-hikes-every.html – to try to encourage folks to branch out.

    I never recommend Old Rag on weekends – especially in the Autumn! It is the best hike in the Mid-Atlantic, and that is why it is so popular with the D.C. crowd. “Best on the East Coast”? That guy has never hiked Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire or the Knife Edge Trail in Maine. No comparison.
    And don’t forget that new hikers can learn the area with others who know it well. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Charlottesville Chapter meets at 9AM every Saturday at Albemarle High School. Hikes are seldom longer than 8 miles or so. And it is a great group of people! I started out with them 20 years ago when I moved here, and still try to attend several hikes each year, now with my 12 year old son. Their schedule is posted online: http://patc.avenue.org/index.shtml

    1. Jim Duncan October 12, 2012 at 05:41

      Jeff –

      This is a fantastic list. Thank you! Now I have quite a few new hikes to try.

  2. Pingback: Getting Out: Charlottesville, Virginia | Chronderlust

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