Rivanna River Trail

  • Highlights: Historic Woolen Mills, Riverview Park, Rivanna River
  • Distance: 4.2 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 170 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Trailhead Parking: Wool Factory, 1837 Broadway St., Charlottesville, VA
  • Website: Rivanna Trails
  • Beer Pairings: Selvedge Brewing Co.—Britches Get Stitches IPA & Flannel Stout

The Hike:

The Rivanna Trail is a 20-mile network of multi-use trails encircling the City of Charlottesville. Built and maintained by volunteers, sections of the trail pass through woodlands and parks while other sections are on city streets. There are many starting and stopping points. For this hike, we decided to begin at the woolen mills. The trail is well marked with RTF (Rivanna Trail Foundation) signs and distances are also posted.

The Charlottesville Woolen Mills complex dates back to 1847. A small village was established to provide housing and a school, chapel, and store for mill employees. Today the Woolen Mills Village is a National Historic Landmark. The river provided power for the textile mill which was in operation until 1962. Today the former mill buildings have been renovated into office space and The Wool Factory, home to a coffeeshop, restaurant, and brewery.

Begin the hike at the train trestle at mile 0 near The Wool Factory. Pass under the trestle and proceed along East Market Street. Ruins of old mill buildings are on the left and several surviving employee houses are on the right. Turn right on Riverside Avenue, the Woolen Mills Chapel is on the left. Head downhill and turn right into Riverside Park. Continue into the parking area and at the trail kiosk, turn right and follow the paved path to the river.

Turn left at the river and continue along the paved path. There are numerous nice river views as the trail passes through the park and woodlands.  The river is home to many types of birds, fish, and other creatures. In the warmer months it’s a popular place to fish, swim and boat. 

At 1.8 miles is The Rivanna River Company. They rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards If you want to get up close and personal with the river. At 1.9 miles pass under Free Bridge, the first non-toll crossing into Charlottesville. Today US 250 crosses the river at this point. 

Just past Free Bridge at 2.1 miles, the trail continues onto River Road and loops around the city. If you are so inclined, continue to follow the Rivanna Trail for about 18 miles and return to The Wool Factory. However, a brewery with cold beer and good food is located at the starting point for this hike. We decided to turn around at this point and retrace our steps back to Riverside Park and then to The Wool Factory parking area.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Just across the parking lot from the trailhead for this hike in The Wool Factory complex is Selvedge Brewing. Named for the wool fabrics once produced at the mill, the brewery focuses on unique small-batch, culinary-inspired beers. They also offer wine and cocktails and their on-site restaurant serves casual eats with locally sourced ingredients. Selvedge’s has indoor and outdoor seating, they are kid friendly, and well-behaved dogs are welcome outside.

Kathy really liked Britches Get Stitches, a classic West Coast IPA brewed with Idaho Gem, Columbus, and Mosaic hops. Subtle grapefruit flavors balance nicely with the piney notes. Pete enjoyed Flannel, a milk stout brewed with seven different malts. With notes of chocolate and coffee, this stout is smooth with just the right amount of bitterness.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.