Twenty miles isn’t much…just 352 football fields. For Virginia paddlers measuring that distance from Charlottesville, a 20-mile driving radius is all that’s needed to find numerous worthwhile options for flatwater paddling tours in every direction. Short drives and plentiful access mean that you can launch your kayak, canoe, or SUP for a relaxing float or a focused workout—and still get back home or to work with time to spare. With that magic perimeter in mind, here are the best publicly accessible lakes near Charlottesville for paddling and enjoying active time on the water.
Head off the beaten path to this little-known, 35-acre reservoir in Westover Hills to avoid crowds. Hit it on a weekday and you might even have it to yourself. But don’t expect fancy amenities. It’s relatively underdeveloped, with just parking and a boat ramp—no picnic tables or even restrooms. While it doesn’t allow camping and swimming, its tranquil waters are suitable for paddling in all its forms, as well as electric-motor boating and fishing. If you don’t already have a fishing or boat license, pick up an access permit here. More info: dwr.virginia.gov
Located just 7 miles from the city in the beautiful Ragged Mountain Natural Area, medium-sized Charlottesville Reservoir is a quick and easy escape to a paddling playground. As with Albemarle, its facilities are limited (no swimming, and electric motors only), with just a parking area and boat ramp, but that’s all you need for a great day out on the water. It also boasts a nice trail system for when you’re back on land and ready for your legs to do some work, too. Hint: For the best scenery, hike the 7-mile-long loop around the lake. More info: charlottesville.gov