Things to do: Parks
Chris Greene Lake
Charlottesville Home
Things to Do


Charlottesville and Albemarle County boast a number of parks and lakes for public use. Some of these charge entrance fees "in season." The main ones are listed below. For a complete list of parks, see their websites or phone ahead.

City of Charlottesville Parks Student Favorite

Charlottesville Recreation & Leisure Services

Call to reserve picnic shelters in city parks.

Albemarle Co. Parks & Recreation

Call to reserve picnic shelters in county parks.

Beaver Creek Lake Student Favorite
Getting there: Rt. 250 West to where Rt. 240 forks off at Crozet. Turn a sharp right at sign just over the bridge onto Brown's Gap Turnpike and go another mile.

With 104 water acres, this lake is the largest and best fishing lake in Albemarle County. Water supply for the Crozet area, so no swimming. Boat launch, but no gas motors.

Chris Greene Lake (photo at top)
Getting there: Take Rt. 29 North out of town. Left on Rt. 649 (Airport Rd.). Right on Rt. 606 in front of airport. Left on Rt. 850 (Chris Greene Lake Rd.).

Swimming, fishing, boating, canoe rentals, picnic areas, large and small pavilions, playgrounds, boat launch, and a fishing pier. All handicapped-accessible. Spring crappie fishing is excellent. Limited walking trails. $3 for adults, $2 for children 4-12 (in the summer only).

Darden Towe Park
Getting there: Rt. 250 East to Pantops. Left on Rt. 20 North opposite the shopping center (Stony Point Rd). Left on Elk Drive.

This 110-acre park along the Rivanna River includes four tennis courts, running trails, children's play area, picnic shelters, three softball fields, and four multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse, and football. One picnic pavilion may be reserved for as many as 80 people. There is also a fenced dog park area.

Ivy Creek Natural Area
Getting there: Rt. 29 North to Hydraulic Rd. Left (north) on Hydraulic Rd. Turn left on Rt. 743 (at the Rock Store); look for entrance on the left.

A great place for hiking, birdwatching and being in nature, while still in town. Just 10 minutes from the Law School by car. Six miles of trails in the forest, nature programs, bird walks. Owned jointly by city and county. No biking and no dogs, even on a leash.

McIntire Park
Getting there: 250 Bypass opposite McIntire Rd. exit.

Great wading pool for young children, swings, ball fields, golf course, picnic areas, and nature trail. Dogs must be on a leash.

Mint Springs Valley Park
Getting there: Rt. 250 west to fork with Rt. 240. Take 240 into downtown Crozet. At the T-junction by the railroad bridge, turn left and immediately right (it's like going straight with a jog in the road) on to Rt. 788 (Railroad Ave.). Follow the signs to park, 1.5 miles on left.

Swimming, picnic shelters, playgrounds, fishing, and 3.6 miles of hiking trails. Handicapped accessible. Pavilions with fireplaces, grills, and tables may be reserved.

Pen Park
Getting there:
Take 250 Bypass east to the Park St. Exit. Left on Park St. Right at the traffic light on Pen Park Rd. and go to end.

This is the largest city park, with a nature trail along the Rivanna River, handicapped-accessible exercise trail, 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, volleyball, Little League fields, three picnic pavilions, and playground. Dogs must be on a leash.

Ragged Mountain Natural Area
Getting there: Rt. 250 Bypass west to the Rt. 29 Business exit. Right on Fontaine Ave. One quarter mile up, turn right onto Camp Holiday Trails Road, a narrow, curvy gravel road popular with joggers. Parking lot on right after two miles.

A beautiful, somewhat rugged, natural area for quiet hiking. No dogs, bikes, or jogging.

Rivanna Trails Student Favorite
Getting there: Several access points, including the Law School (start at any of picnic tables in woods behind Hunton & Williams Hall), Greenbrier Park on Greenbrier Dr., Hydraulic Rd. near Brandywine Dr.

A series of trails in town linking city parks along the Rivanna River. Trail sometimes gets overgrown in summer, but nice in spring, fall, and winter. The section behind Law School follows a pretty gorge behind Darden to University Village. Dogs are allowed off-leash on designated portions of the Rivanna Trail on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only. See the website for all access points and new trails.

Walnut Creek Park
Getting there: Rt. 29 South about 5 miles. Left on Rt. 708 (Red Hill Rd.), right on Rt. 631. Park entrance is on left.

Great place for mountain biking. Swimming in lake, nature trails, bike trails, fishing, picnic shelters, and playground. Entrance fees between Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in Sept): $3 adults, $2 children.

Photo courtesy of the Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau,


Nature Comes to the City

Charlottesville is very close to the mountains, but sometimes you don't want to drive even 20 minutes to experience nature. For some great hikes and wildlife-watching right in town, try two of the county's best parks, Ivy Creek and Ragged Mountain natural areas. Created by the same foundation, both offer well-kept trails and excellent bird watching on unspoiled land only 10 minutes from the Law School. Ivy Creek also sponsors nature programs, including star gazing, bird and butterfly-identifying walks, and various lectures. Please help preserve both of these parks. No bikes and no dogs, even on leash. The newest area, Ragged Mountain, in particular, is an area for quiet enjoyment.

For a nice easy hike in the mountains, head down Rt. 250 West to Mint Springs. After you park your car, head across the field next to the parking lot. The trail head is at the far head of the field. After a few minutes, the trail forks. If you take the right-hand trail, you will find yourself mounting the ridge for some pretty views of the valley below. This trail will rejoin the lower trail (the left-hand choice at the fork) to complete the circuit, winding up at the picnic area by the lake. This trail is especially nice in the fall, when there is a lot of color, or in winter, when the leaves are off the trees and the views are better.


Virginia Law Families Tip:

Ivy Creek Natural Area offers scenic nature trails, several along water, of varying lengths. Trails are uneven, however, and hilly terrain quickly tires small children. It's an excellent place for an outing if you're equipped to carry very young children and reasonably sure-footed. Bring water and snacks; there is no place to get a drink along the trails and the only restrooms are near the parking lot.

Thomas Jefferson Parkway Trail is a new, wide, nicely surfaced, gently sloping trail that starts just off Route 20 South (take Rt. 20 South exit off I-64, turn left a short distance down Rt. 20 at signs for Monticello/Michie Tavern, paved parking lot for trail is a couple of hundred yards on the right). The trail is reasonably scenic, and much of it is shaded. It is easily negotiated with any stroller or by young children on bikes. Trail runs behind Michie Tavern to the entrance of Monticello (approx. 1.7 mi each way). It's a gradual uphill slope all the way, which makes the return trip with strollers or bikes very easy, even for tired kids. Only drawback is there are no watering spots or restrooms along trail.

What's your opinion? Add to the C'ville guide, report new information and let us know what you think. We reserve the right to edit or reject submissions.