If you need an outdoor fix near Charlottesville, Virginia, look no further than Ragged Mountain Natural Area. This 980-acre swathe of forest lies just 20 minutes west of downtown and offers a variety of adventures.
Along with its extensive trail system, the park is famous for its views from 909-foot-tall Round Top Mountain. Beneath the peak, Ragged Mountain Reservoir is perfect for fishing and paddling. The reservoir’s shores teem with wildlife, making the natural area a haven for photographers and birders as well as hikers. Bonus: The city of Charlottesville recently acquired an additional 142 acres at the adjacent Heyward Community Forest where you can do even more exploring amid the hardwood forest and rolling hills.
Whatever you’re looking for, the Ragged Mountain Natural Area offers a quiet escape amid some of Virginia’s most iconic scenery. Here are some of our favorite options.
Ragged Mountain offers a network of well-maintained trails to explore.
Lake Front LoopFor a challenging but scenic hike, try the Lake Front Loop. This hike is just over 7 miles long and consists mostly of dirt paths that loop around the entirety of the 170-acre reservoir. It may be lakeside, but don’t underestimate this trail: It features a total gain of about 1,200 feet. To get there, park at the upper parking lot at the end of Reservoir Road. Hop on the trail in either direction to start the loop.
For a shorter hike, consider an out-and-back along sections of the Lake Front or Main Loop trails. The path is dotted with wooden sculptures that make great turnaround points. Try finding the Mountain Man statue a quarter mile north of the parking lot along the Lake Front/Main Loop Trail, or the Bear Statue about half a mile north from Mountain Man.