Surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Virginia makes the perfect home base for many incredible hikes in the Shenandoah National Park or George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. However, finding hikes close to Charlottesville can be a challenge. Even trails in the Shenandoah National Park can be over 3 hours away! In this article we’ll share our favorite hikes, ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging, all in close proximity to Charlottesville.


Charlottesville Hikes

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite hikes all within an hour and a half of Charlottesville, ordered by difficulty:

  1. Humpback Rocks: easy, 40 minutes from Charlottesville
  2. Black Rock Summit: easy, 1 hour 15 minutes from Charlottesville
  3. Little Stony Man Loop: easy – moderate, 1 hour 25 minutes from Charlottesville
  4. Crab Tree Falls: moderate, 1 hour 5 minutes from Charlottesville
  5. Hanging Rock: moderate, 45 minutes from Charlottesville
  6. Mary’s Rock: moderate, 1 hour 30 minutes from Charlottesville
  7. Riprap Trail: hard, 1 hour 25 minutes from Charlottesville
  8. Old Rag: hard, 1 hour 30 minutes from Charlottesville

1. Humpback Rocks

Hike Stats

Distance | 1.7 miles
Elevation gain | 780 feet
Time | 1 – 2 hours
Epic-ness rating | 6
Difficulty | easy

Certainly one of the most popular hikes in Charlottesville, Humpback is the quickest way to find mountaintop Blue Ridge views. The trailhead is located just 40 minutes outside of Charlottesville. That said, don’t expect to have the peak to yourself – Humpback tends to get very crowded, especially due to its proximity to the University of Virginia.

Although the 1.7 mile roundtrip trail is short, it is fairly steep, so be prepared to work a little. At the top of the trail is a pile of large rocks you can climb up on for unbeatable views of the surrounding mountains. Pack a lunch and plan to stay a while at the top.

Tip: Since the hike to Humpback is relatively short, it makes for the perfect sunrise hike. On a clear morning, wake up in the dark, grab a bagel from Bodos and head for the trail!

Find this hike on AllTrails: Humpback Rocks Recreation Area

2. Black Rock Summit via Brown’s Gap

Hike Stats

Distance | 5.4 miles
Elevation gain | 650 feet
Time | 2 – 3 hours
Epic-ness rating | 6
Difficulty | easy

Black Rock is a unique hike featuring, you guessed it… a huge pile of black rocks! When you reach the summit, you can climb up on the rocks for a panoramic view of the mountains. Note that there is no real defined path for climbing up the rocks – choose your own adventure.

There is also an option to take a 1.1 mile roundtrip hike to Black Rock Summit from Trayfoot Mountain. We recommend getting a little more out of your hike and starting at Brown’s Gap, making the roundtrip hike 5.4 miles. The hike is fairly easy, through quiet woods with a very slight incline until the last half a mile to the summit, where the elevation gain picks up a bit.

The trailhead is located in the Shenandoah National Park, about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the center of Charlottesville.

Tip: the hot pile of rocks makes a perfect home for snakes. We even heard a rattlesnake when we were here. Just be sure to watch where you are stepping and keep your ears alert for a rattling sound.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Black Rock Summit via Brown’s Gap

3. Little Stony Man Loop

Hike Stats

Distance | 3.4 miles
Elevation gain | 866 feet
Time | 2 hours
Epic-ness rating | 4
Difficulty | easy

Little Stony Man loop is an easy to moderate 3.4 mile hike in the Shenandoah National Park, featuring beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trailhead is located about 1 hour 30 minutes from the center of Charlottesville, and you will have to pay a $35 national park entrance fee. If you are looking for a quick hike with solid views, this is a great option.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Little Stony Man vis Appalachian Trail

4. Crabtree Falls

Hike Stats

Distance | 2.8 miles
Elevation gain | 1070 feet
Time |2 hours
Epic-ness rating | 5
Difficulty | moderate

If you like hikes with waterfalls, Crabtree Falls is for you. While there is no incredible viewpoint, the trail winds up the side of a massive waterfall leading to the source of the falls. It’s beautiful the entire way up. While the hike is short, it is pretty steep, making it a moderately difficult hike.

The Crabtree Falls trailhead is conveniently located just over 1 hour form Charlottesville in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Crabtree Falls Trail

5. Mary’s Rock

Hike Stats

Distance | 6.6 miles
Elevation gain | 1390 feet
Time | 3 – 4 hours
Epic-ness rating | 6
Difficulty | moderate

There are a few different ways to get to Mary’s Rock. The 6.6 mile trail from Pinnacle Picnic Gardens described above, a 3.4 mile hike (the North Approach via Appalachian Trail), a 3.1 mile hike (the Southern Approach via Appalachian Trail) and an 8.8 mile hike via Buck Ridge Trail. These trails converge in the end, so which path you take depends on how challenging of a hike you are looking for. We hiked to Mary’s Rock from Pinnacle Picnic Gardens and had a great time, although much of the trail is through the woods with no views.

The Mary’s Rock trailhead from Pinnacle Picnic Gardens is located 1 hour 30 minutes from Charlottesville. It’s also only 25 minutes from Luray Caverns, making for a solid day trip option.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Mary’s Rock via Pinnacle Picnic Gardens

6. Hanging Rock

Hike Stats

Distance | 7.3 miles
Elevation gain | 1800 feet
Time | 3 – 4 hours
Epic-ness rating | 6
Difficulty | moderate

Located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, I truly believe Hanging Rock is one of the most underrated hikes in the Charlottesville area. After years of living in Charlottesville, I had never heard of it but decided to give it a shot. I was shocked by the beautiful wild flowers on the way up and the awesome views from the overlook at the top!

Hanging Rock is also part of a longer 13-miles hike, Three Ridges Trail.

This hike is conveniently located 45 minutes from Charlottesville and only a few minutes from Nelson 151 hotspots like Bold Rock and Blue Mountain Brewery. It’s the perfect hike to get a little sweat out before enjoying a few beers at the local breweries or sipping wine at the nearby vineyards – just hard enough to feel like you got a workout in, but not so hard that you are exhausted afterwards.

Side Note: If you are interested in following up your hike with a few glasses of wine, be sure to check out our favorite wineries in Charlottesville.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Hanging Rock

7. Riprap Trail

Hike Stats

Distance | 9.1 miles
Elevation gain | 2040 feet
Time | 4 – 5 hours
Epic-ness rating | 6
Difficulty | hard

A great option if you are looking for a longer, more challenging hike, Riprap Trail has it all: mountain views, waterfalls, quiet forests, and a swimming hole! The Riprap trailhead is located in the Shenandoah National Park, about 1 hour 25 minutes from Charlottesville. We recommend doing the hike counterclockwise, so start by taking the trail to the left. This allows you to hike past the waterfall and swimming hole first and reach the summit towards the end of the hike.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Riprap Trail

8. Old Rag

Hike Stats

Distance | 9.4 miles
Elevation gain | 2680 feet
Time | 5 – 6 hours
Epic-ness rating | 7
Difficulty | hard

If you are looking for a challenging hike with beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains views and little adventure, Old Rag is the hike for you. Old Rag is a 9.4 mile hike with sections that require minor rock scrambling – but don’t worry, its nothing scary and tons of fun!

The trailhead is located just about 1 hour from Charlottesville. Note that while Old Rag is technically located in the Shenandoah National Park, the trailhead and parking lot are outside the park. You will have to pay a small fee to park, but not the $35 national park entrance fee. Be warned that the parking lot fills up, so get an early start.

Tip: This hike is best done from May through September. Avoid hiking if it has rained or snowed recently, as the part of the hike that require rock scrambling can get very slippery.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Old Rag Mountain Loop

Planning your Charlottesville Hiking Trip

Parks near Charlottesville

Shenandoah National Park

Most of the hikes on this list (Old Rag, Mary’s Rock, Riprap, Black Rock, Little Stony Man) are located inside the Shenandoah National Park. Stretching over 300 square miles in northern Virginia from Waynesboro to Front Royal, the park is easily accessible from Washington D.C., Richmond and Roanoke.

Shenandoah has a limited number of access points, which is part of what makes many of the trailheads a farther drive than they seem. For most of the hikes in Shenandoah National Park on this list (with the exception of Old Rag), you will need to enter the park at the Swift Run Gap Entrance Station. For Mary’s Rock, you will enter the park through Thornton Gap Entrance Station.

Learn more about the Shenandoah National Park here.

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

Located to the west of the Shenandoah National Park, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests cover over 1.5 million acres of Appalachian Mountains across Virginia. Crabtree Falls, Hanging Rock, and Humpback Rocks are located in these national forests. There are no entrance fees for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Getting to the parks

There are no shuttle services in Shenandoah National Park or the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, so you will have to drive yourself or rent a car to get around.

Best time to hike in Charlottesville

Given the moderate climate of Charlottesville, these hikes are typically accessible from March through November. The best time to visit (in our opinions) is October and November, when the weather is cool and leaves are starting to turn bright orange and red tones, making for truly incredible hiking. In the summer months of June through August, you’ll want to start hiking early in the morning, as temperatures often reach the mid-90’s.

Other Things to Do in Charlottesville

Planning a trip to Charlottesville? There is so much to do here! A few of ours favorites include:

  • Wineries: You can’t beat a glass of Viogner with a Blue Ridge Mountain view. Check out a few of our favorites here.
  • Breweries: Nelson 151 is home to Devil’s Backbone, Blue Mountain Brewery, Bold Rock and others all within a few minutes from each other. Its the perfect way to top off a tough day of hiking!
  • The Downtown Mall: Offering a great selection of restaurants and shops in the heart of Charlottesville.
  • Grab a bagel at Bodo’s: The perfect way to fuel up for a hike.
  • Explore the University of Virginia: The lawn and the Rotunda are nothing short of picturesque, making for a great picnic spot.

For all things Virginia: Virginia Travel Guide

We’ve spent a lot of time in Charlottesville, and it is one of our favorite places to hike. Have questions about any of these hikes or other things to do in Charlottesville? We’d love to hear from you, comment below!

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