Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar

Rivanna Trail Charlottesville: A Comprehensive Guide

The Rivanna Trail in Charlottesville, Virginia is a 20+ mile trail that surrounds the city and offers a scenic and peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The trail is open to hikers, runners, and bikers and provides a variety of terrain, including wooded areas, open fields, and river views.

One of the great things about the Rivanna Trail is that it can be accessed from multiple points throughout the city, making it easy to find a starting point that is convenient for you. The trail is also well-marked, so you can easily navigate your way through the different sections. Whether you’re looking for a quick workout or a leisurely stroll, the Rivanna Trail has something to offer for everyone.

As you make your way around the trail, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of Charlottesville’s natural landscapes, including the Rivanna River and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar
Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar

History of Rivanna Trail

The trail was established in the early 1990s by a group of local citizens who were passionate about the outdoors. The idea was to create a trail that would showcase the natural beauty of the area, while also providing a recreational resource for the community.

The trail was named after the Rivanna River, which flows through the city and serves as a major water source for the area. The trail follows the river for much of its length, providing hikers with stunning views of the water and the surrounding landscape.

Since its creation, the Rivanna Trail has undergone several phases of development. In the early years, volunteers worked to clear the trail and mark the route with blazes. Later, bridges and boardwalks were constructed to make the trail more accessible and to protect sensitive areas.

Today, the Rivanna Trail is maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers who work to keep the trail in good condition year-round.

Trail Sections

North Segment

The North Segment of the Rivanna Trail in Charlottesville is approximately 6.5 miles long and runs from Free Bridge to Rio Road. This section of the trail is mostly flat and passes through a mix of urban and suburban areas. You’ll walk along the Rivanna River and through parks, neighborhoods, and commercial areas. Keep an eye out for wildlife like birds and turtles.

East Segment

The East Segment of the Rivanna Trail is approximately 5.5 miles long and runs from Rio Road to Pen Park. This section is more wooded and hilly than the North Segment, with some steep inclines and declines. You’ll walk through forests and fields, and cross streams and creeks. Be prepared for some rocky terrain and uneven footing.

Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar
Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar

South Segment

The South Segment of the Rivanna Trail is approximately 7 miles long and runs from Pen Park to Azalea Park. This section is the most challenging, with steep hills and rocky terrain. You’ll walk through forests and fields, and cross streams and creeks. Keep an eye out for wildlife like deer and foxes.

West Segment

The West Segment of the Rivanna Trail is approximately 5 miles long and runs from Azalea Park to Free Bridge. This section is mostly flat and runs along the Rivanna River. You’ll walk through parks, neighborhoods, and commercial areas. Keep an eye out for wildlife like birds and turtles.

Access Points and Trailheads

The trail has several access points and trailheads that allow hikers to start their journey from different locations around the city.

One of the most popular access points is the Riverview Park Trailhead, located on Chesapeake Street. This trailhead provides easy access to the trail and has ample parking space. Another popular access point is the Darden Towe Park Trailhead, located on Darden Towe Park Road. This trailhead has restrooms, water fountains, and picnic areas, making it a great starting point for families and groups.

For those looking for a more challenging hike, the Observatory Hill Trailhead is a good option. This trailhead is located on McCormick Road and provides access to the trail’s steepest and most rugged section. The trailhead has limited parking, so it’s best to arrive early in the morning.

Other access points include the Pen Park Trailhead, located on Pen Park Road, and the Meadow Creek Trailhead, located on Melbourne Road. Both of these trailheads have ample parking and easy access to the trail.

No matter where you choose to start your hike, it’s important to bring plenty of water, wear sturdy shoes, and be prepared for changing weather conditions. The Rivanna Trail is a beautiful and challenging trail that offers hikers a unique perspective on the city of Charlottesville.

Flora and Fauna

The trail passes through a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, wetlands, and streams, providing a home to a wide range of plant and animal species.

Some of the common trees you might see along the trail include oak, hickory, maple, and dogwood. The forest floor is covered with a variety of wildflowers, including trillium, bloodroot, and Virginia bluebells. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some rare plants, such as the federally endangered Virginia sneezeweed.

The Rivanna Trail is also home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, foxes, raccoons, and squirrels. If you’re an early riser, you might even catch a glimpse of a beaver or muskrat swimming in the Rivanna River. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the many species of birds that call the trail home, including woodpeckers, warblers, and blue jays.

As you hike the trail, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of wildlife, such as tracks, scat, and nests. Remember to respect the animals and their habitats by staying on the trail and not disturbing their homes or food sources. With its rich diversity of flora and fauna, the Rivanna Trail is a nature lover’s paradise.

Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar

Recreational Activities


One of the most popular activities on the Rivanna Trail is hiking. With over 20 miles of trails, there are plenty of options for hikers of all levels. Whether you’re looking for a short, easy hike or a challenging trek through the woods, the Rivanna Trail has something for you. Along the way, you’ll encounter scenic views of the Rivanna River, wildlife, and beautiful flora.


Biking is another popular activity on the Rivanna Trail. The trail is mostly flat, making it an easy ride for cyclists of all levels. With over 20 miles of trails, there are plenty of options for bikers to explore. The trail is also a great way to commute to work or school, with easy access to the city.

Bird Watching

The Rivanna Trail is a great place for bird watching. With its diverse ecosystem, you can spot a variety of bird species along the trail. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, blue herons, and other waterfowl near the river. The trail also passes through wooded areas, providing opportunities to spot songbirds and other woodland species.

Overall, the Rivanna Trail is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. With its scenic views, diverse ecosystem, and accessibility, it’s no wonder why it’s a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.

Conservation Efforts

The Rivanna Trail is a beloved natural resource in Charlottesville, Virginia, and as such, there have been many conservation efforts to protect and preserve it.

One of the most significant conservation efforts is the Rivanna Conservation Alliance, a non-profit organization that works to protect and enhance the Rivanna River and its tributaries. They have been instrumental in organizing clean-up efforts along the trail and educating the public on the importance of keeping the area clean and free of litter.

In addition to the Rivanna Conservation Alliance, there have been efforts to control invasive species along the trail. The City of Charlottesville, along with other local organizations, has worked to remove invasive plants and replace them with native species. This not only helps to protect the ecosystem but also enhances the beauty of the trail.

Finally, there are ongoing efforts to maintain and improve the trail itself. The Rivanna Trails Foundation works to ensure that the trail is safe and accessible to all who wish to use it. They have installed signage, bridges, and other amenities to make the trail more user-friendly.

Overall, these conservation efforts have helped to ensure that the Rivanna Trail remains a beautiful and accessible natural resource for years to come.

Meadow Creek to Greenbriar
Rivanna Trail Meadow Creek to Greenbriar

Visitor Information


When visiting the Rivanna Trail in Charlottesville, there are several parking options available. The trail has multiple access points, each with its own parking lot. Some of the popular parking areas include Riverview Park, Darden Towe Park, and Meadow Creek Parkway. Parking is free at all of these locations, and they are open from dawn to dusk. However, it is important to note that parking spots can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays. It is recommended that you arrive early to secure a spot.

The Rivanna Trail in Charlottesville is a beautiful and peaceful place to explore. Let me know in the comments if you’ve done a section or all of the trail.

German by birth, living, hiking, and camping in the US. Addicted to Coffee. Enjoys going to concerts. Also, Artist + Author. I love to encourage you to explore beyond your backyard. 

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