Charlottesville, Virginia is an incredible town. It boasts amazing food and a first-class university while still maintaining a small town feel. For a girl transplanted to a rural area, I’m going to be honest: I got really excited to be somewhere with an Trader Joe’s.
That being said, one of the things I most love about Charlottesville, Virginia is what’s just outside it. On the outside, it’s a whole different story: mountain beauty, scenic drives, and more wineries and breweries than you can visit in a day. When I lived here, my favorite thing to do with visitors was taking them out for the day.
On this latest trip to Charlottesville, my friend Catherine drove down from DC to spend a day exploring the outskirts of Charlottesville with me.
Our priorities: hiking and wineries.
If outdoor activities draw you to an area, there are TONS of options just out of town. Charlottesville is located at the junction between the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the southern end of Skyline drive. Both these areas are stunningly gorgeous! I grew up camping in the nearby Shenandoah Valley, and it offers all the beauty and joy of the mountains only an hour’s drive from Charlottesville. If you’re planning a camping trip, go in the fall, when the leaves are unlike anything else.
Needless to say, there’s tons of hiking in both these areas. One of my favorites is Humpback Rocks. It’s a day hike, perfect for a few hours with a picnic lunch. While the trail itself is only a mile each way, it gains about 800 feet in elevation along the way, making it more strenuous than the distance implies.
It was the kind of hike that makes you work hard enough to feel like you’ve accomplished something. It was perfect to catch up with an old friends. The majority of the hike goes through forest, dense and shaded with plenty of spots to catch your breath or have a snack. Plus, it ends with a fantastic view of the Shenandoah valley. We packed Bodo’s for lunch and ate as we perched on the overlook, thankful for the breeze that combated the late summer heat.
If you’re looking for an all day hike, try Old Rag. It typically last 6-7 hours round trip, and is very popular, so this trail isn’t going to give you much solitude. But it remains a favorite among UVa students and tourists alike. This visit I didn’t head on this one, but only because I ran out of time!
After a sweaty morning of hiking, we were ready to switch gears and relax a bit. We headed down the mountain a bit for Veritas Vineyard. Veritas is near several vineyards, so if you’re planning a day of wine tasting, look in this area. This time, we just went to Veritas to spend a few hours catching up and tasting. Back when I lived in the area, Veritas was my favorite! If I lived in the area when I got married, I would’ve loved to get married here: their setup is stunning with grapevines close by and mountains in the distance.
We sat for a few hours, soaking up the gorgeous views, exchanging our thoughts about Whole30, and drinking some delicious wine. After such an intense hike it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
If you’re interested in more Virginia vineyards, I’ve share a few more favorites here. Virginia has a great wine region and it’s definitely worth spending some time enjoying!
Another tourist draw is Monticello. Thomas Jefferson’s home is open for tours year round, but my favorite time of year is spring when the gardens are working overtime. There must be one hundred kinds of tulips, in addition to the vegetable garden and surrounding forests. It’s best to book in advance because tours fill up, but it’s absolutely worth seeing! Also if you’re a Virginia resident or military member, the price is seriously reduced, so don’t forget to ask about discounts.
Charlottesville has all the advantages of a well-connected college town, plus the fun of living in the mountains! This city definitely merits a visit, and if you make the trip you need to get out to the surrounding nature and vineyards.
What places do you love for their outdoor options? I’m always looking to add to my bucket list!
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