Saunders-Monticello Trail

  • Highlights: Wildflowers, history
  • Distance: 4.3 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 238 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Trailhead Parking: Monticello, 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway; alternate parking area at Kemper Park; no entry fee required for trail use
  • Website: Monticello
  • Beer Pairings: Random Row Brewing Co.—Eagle Swoop Bitter & DoMo Triple IPA

The Hike:

We have had several requests for shorter hikes and this easy hike begins near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Located near Charlottesville, Monticello is a must-see destination for history lovers. After you visit Tom’s house, take this short hike and then enjoy a beer. We think Jefferson would have approved of this itinerary.

The Saunders-Monticello Trail travels from Monticello’s Visitor Center down to Kemper Park. It is possible to begin the hike at either location. If you like walking uphill first, begin at Kemper Park. From the Visitor Center, the trail begins at the picnic area near the parking lot. This multi-use trail has ten boardwalks and some of our hiking friends will consider this to be a nice walk through the woods rather than a hike. Note dogs are not allowed on most of this trail.

Follow the path over the first boardwalk crossing the road near the entrance road and the cross the Saunders-Monticello Bridge. The trail then gradually descends as it passes through a hardwood forest. In the spring, flowering dogwoods and redbuds are a colorful display. The fall foliage is equally spectacular. The path passes over a series of ravines and through the trees you can find partial views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As you proceed down the mountain, on the right will be historic Michie Tavern with food and drink options as well as some nice Blue Ridge views. The trail crosses the entrance road to Carter Mountain Orchard. The road to Carter Mountain Orchard is not pedestrian friendly. If you want to get apples and cider, drive here after the hike.

A short spur trail loops around a small pond on the right. Just beyond the pond, a side trail departs from the left to the Carter Mountain Overlook. The trees have grown considerably and now block much of the view. The trail reaches Kemper Park at 2.1 miles. Enjoy the park and then retrace your steps uphill to the Monticello Visitor Center.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Random Row Brewing Co. in nearby Charlottesville has been brewing great craft beer since 2016. This family-friendly brewery has indoor and outdoor seating, 13 beer taps, cider and seltzer, and great wood-fired pizza from our friends at Billy Pie. 

Kathy really liked DoMo (11.2% ABV), a triple hazy NE IPA brewed with Mosaic hops. With over 11% ABV, she also enjoyed a nice nap as we drove home. Pete really liked Eagle Swoop (4% ABV, 30 IBU), an English-style bitter. As part of their charitable program, Random Row donates a portion of Eagle Swoop sales to the Wintergreen Adaptive Sports Program to provide instruction in outdoor sports for adults and youth with all types of disabilities. Good beer for a good cause.

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