Ivy Creek Natural Area

Ivy Creek Natural Area – various trails
Charlottesville, VA
Distance: 6 miles of trails to choose from; trails range from 0.2 mi to 1.7 mi
Views: Views of meadows and the reservoir
Trailhead: Ivy Creek Natural Area Parking Lot
Type: Loops, connectors, and circuits
Dogs: No dogs allowed
Notes: Great place for a quiet walk, close to town. Great options for toddler walks. Closes at sunset.
Map: Map from Ivy Creek Foundation

Getting there: From Hydraulic Road turn onto Earlysville Road (743). Turn left into the park when you see the large Ivy Creek Natural Area sign. If you get to the bridge going over the reservoir, you’ve gone too far. Use this address for GPS: 1780 Earlysville Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

Rules: There are a few rules to follow when using these trails…no pets and no jogging are probably the ones most of you need to know about. More details and more regulations on the Ivy Creek Foundation’s website: http://ivycreekfoundation.org/rules.

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Field Trail (0.6 mi):
Trail Color: Light Purple
Details: From the parking area, walk on the paved path, past the information kiosk, towards the barn and veer right. Cross the grassy field until you see the light purple post for the Field Trail. This path meanders around a large field, with a wide, mowed grassy trail; this is a great walk for toddlers. Follow the light purple trail marker posts to stay on track. Option to add a small loop and a little reservoir overlook.

Note: The Hydraulic Overlook add-on portion of the Field Trail is a little more difficult to navigate due to a more narrow trail and tree roots (especially for little feet).

Pictures from the Field Trail:

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Red Trail (1.7 mi):
Trail Color: Red
Details: Once you park, scan the parking lot until you see the wooden post with red paint. That’s the Trailhead for the Red Trail. The trail starts out very open, wide, and grassy, but will soon head into the woods with a more narrow, root-filled path. This is a diverse trail with something for everyone; you’ll experience crossing bridges and creeks, strolling next to the Rivanna River Reservoir, and meandering through meadows. To stay on the trail, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the red wooden posts and look for trail markers along the way. As you get closer to the barn follow the trail markers that say ‘Parking’ to get back to you car. My friend and I completed this hike in about 45 minutes with our little ones in baby carriers (time includes stopping to feed Miss Sunshine snacks a few times). I imagine with toddlers walking, it could take at least two hours to complete…I’ll let you know for sure when I feel brave enough to try the trail with Sunshine walking the entire time.

TIP: You can choose to do this trail in the reverse of what I’ve described here, or add other trails to your hike to make it longer; the options are almost endless. Take a look at the Ivy Creek Foundation’s Map to plan ahead if you want to add different routes and loops to the Red Trail.

Pictures from the Red Trail:


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Saunders-Monticello Trail

The Saunders-Monticello Trail
Charlottesville, VA
Distance: 4 miles
Views: Meadows, a pond, and great views of Cville
Trailhead: At the end of the large lot off of Route 20, smaller lot off of Route 53, or access from the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center parking lot.
Type: Out and back (side trails offer round trip and circuit hikes)
Dogs: Yes! Dogs are allowed on a portion of the main trail and on all side trails.
Notes: Gravel trail with bridges/boardwalks that allows easy access for bikes, strollers, wheelchairs, and toddlers. No restrooms at bottom of trail, but there are restrooms and a cafe at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center at the top of the trail. Trail is typically open from sunrise to sunset.

Difficulty and length:
The Saunders-Monticello Trail is 4 miles – two miles up to the top and two miles back down. The path is mostly crushed gravel with a few wooden bridges and a gentle grade for an easy hike. Personally, I’d rate this trail as easy. Don’t get me wrong, on a hot July day it can be tough, but the wide, well-maintained trail is very accessible to all. This trail is for everyone!
This trail map lists side trails with the length and difficulty of each – https://www.monticello.org/sites/default/files/inline-pdfs/TrailMap.pdf
Getting there:
Coming from Charlottesville, head south down Route 20 (towards Scottsville) and take a left at the light onto Route 53 (see signs for Carter’s Mountain Orchard and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello). Once on Route 53, your next right is a small parking area with a sign for the trail. You can park here and start your walk, but there are limited spaces (about 10 or so). If this lot is full, turn around and take a left back onto 53. Head down to the light again and take a right on Route 20 heading back towards Charlottesville. Your next right will be a larger parking lot for the trail, it’s called Dairy Barn Road (Private). You will also see the large ‘The Monticello Trail’ sign. Another option is to park up at the Monticello Visitor Center’s parking lot. They have restrooms and a cafe up there; it can be nice to start your walk from the top of the mountain after a refreshing drink and a bathroom break.

Details:
Once you park (See ‘Getting there’ section above), simply look for the wide, crushed gravel trail. It’s really hard to lose the trail as it’s so clearly marked and well-maintained. Keep on the path until you get to the Visitor Center at the top and then turn around and head back down. Two miles up and two miles down. Please note that dogs are allowed on side trails and on the main gravel trail until you reach the pond. Dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks.

There are several side trails off the main Saunders-Monticello trail with varying difficulty and accessibility. Check out this map from www.monticello.org/trail to see location, length, and difficulty of the many side trails.

Tip:
In the winter and early spring you will get a lot more sun on this hike since the leaves haven’t come back yet; be sure to bring sunscreen. Luckily, in the summer the trail is mostly shaded since the leaves are covering the trees making almost a full canopy overhead. This helps a lot with those 90-degree hot, summer days we get here in Virginia.

My Experience:
I love this trail! It’s close to town, easy to access, and stroller friendly. Yay for not always having to carry Miss Sunshine on my back! At the foot of the trail is a section of an old Tulip Poplar where you will usually see a swarm of children. My daughter loves to stop here and it’s a great photo opportunity.

Despite being so popular and so close to town, I still see a lot of wildlife on this trail. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, foxes, snakes, birds, lizards, and turtles (all of which I’ve seen on my walks here).

 

Summer views:

Fall views:


Spring views: