Riding Beaver Creek Reservoir

Check out this gravel and road ride near Charlottesville that mixes diverse sections, fun backroad descents and scenic views.

Tucked a mere 20 minutes west of Charlottesville, Beaver Creek Reservoir plays an integral part in supplying the nearby town of Crozet, Va., with its essential water supply. And hold water it does. But it’s really the reservoir’s greater recreation opportunities that are the main draw to this hidden gem. Take in views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, cast out a line for hungry lunkers, or use the park as a hub for your next cycling adventure. 

Hunting for a mixed gravel and road ride near Charlottesville? Perhaps your idea of a great day in the saddle includes semi-spicy gravel climbs, unpaved backroad descents, scenic views, worthy pit-stops and other recreational foray side-adventures. If so, look no further than the ride starting in Crozet and circling well beyond the Beaver Creek Reservoir Park. 

Beaver Creek Reservoir Park spans 219 acres, though half of that acreage is covered by the reservoir. The park itself is lined with mesmerizing views in every direction; whether you’re gazing upon a sunset over the Blue Ridge or admiring the wildlife. And don’t forget to pack your favorite fishing rod for a pre- or post-ride angling adventure: Target the abundant populations of largemouth bass, catfish and panfish that call this manmade lake home. 

Recommended Ride 

This mixed-surface route’s starting point—the parking lot south of Beaver Creek Park road where it splits off the Browns Gap Turnpike—offers ample (and more importantly, free) parking, plus clean restrooms courtesy of Albemarle County.  

Though the route consists of a nearly even 50% split of paved-to-unpaved roads (see turn-by-turn directions here), you’ll quickly be acquainted with a number of said unpaved climbs between miles 1 and 2. After conquering those initial gravel challenges, by Mile 3.7 you’ll hook a right onto Whitehall Road (passing the famed Henry’s Orchard). Nearly 14 miles later, you’ll have conquered both chunky gravel and smooth pavement, passed multiple vineyards, and arrived prepared for the route’s most notable POI: the “Cheese Nuns” (more on them later). You need to focus on a handful of impressive climbs and descents throughout the remaining 13 miles—be sure your water bottles are topped off. Finish your ride with a smile as the last half-mile is a smooth descent back to the starting point.

Local-Favorite Points of Interest

Near Mile 3.7, you’ll cross paths with Henry’s Orchard, which has been producing apples and peaches since 1932. Now the fourth-generation growers have added thirst-quenching ciders for cyclists.

Locals also swear by Our Lady of the Angels Monastery if you’re even mildly interested in cheese (notably the gouda). Just don’t actually swear in front of the “Cheese Nuns,” and be aware that their operating hours are anything but normal. 

And for any other missing calories, Virginia’s most well-known brewery, Starr Hill, is just down the road. As one of the state’s largest independent (and locally owned) breweries, it’s can’t-miss for any thirsty craft-beer fans who’ll take to the world-class brewery’s music-minded flair. 

What and How To Ride

As a 50-50 split between gravel and paved, it’s highly recommended to ride a road or gravel bike equipped with 32mm tires or larger. With an average of 85 feet per mile of climbing, expect to burn calories and guzzle water on this ride; pack full bottles/reservoirs and added nutrition (bars, gels, etc), though it features a few choice, aforementioned pit-stop opportunities. The ride should take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on your pace, which only matters if you’re having fun.

More Info

Study the route courtesy of the Charlottesville Bicycle Club, which has been organizing road and gravel group rides in the area for more than 30 years, with ride recommendations on all surface types and a focus on cycling safety and education: charlottesvillebicycleclub.org

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.