Folks new to town or new to running often inquire about “good places to run” in the area. After roaming thousands of miles of local paths and pavement over the past 34 years I’ve got my own list of favorites. Add to that list some of the popular haunts of the runners I coach and you’ve now got a dozen or so places guaranteed to bring a smile to your soul not to mention some joy to your feet. Here’s what my athletes and I have come up with. Lace up your shoes and go exploring this weekend…the weather is supposed to be great for getting outside!

The “A-List” of Popular Places to Run in and around Charlottesville  

  • RIDGE ROAD (Route 678) commonly referred to as “THE dirt road”, this four mile (in one direction) long hilly road features some of the most beautiful panoramic scenery. Located just off Garth Road about 2.5 miles past Foxfield.  
  • SUGAR HOLLOW at Whitehall…used annually for the surprisingly flat Three Bridges Marathon/ Half Marathon. It follows a gorgeous mountain stream for close to four miles. Take Garth Road west to Whitehall and park at the community Center across from Wyant’s Store…follow Sugar Hollow Road due west.  
  • BLUE HOLE and beyond...if you follow the road beyond the dam you will  eventually end up in a packed dirt parking area. For more adventurous running (watch your footing) either go across the river to your left and follow the old fire road up into the mountains past Blue Hole or run to your right, where the road quickly turns into a narrower path, which eventually leads up to the National Park.       
  • KEENE…one of the nicest sections (a 7-mile loop) of gravel road in the southern part of the County. Take Route 20 South to Keene and turn left on Coles Rolling Road and then make a right on Glendowner…park at Christ Church on the right (except on Sundays). 
  • RIVERVIEW PARK…this RTF section of “magic pavement” is the flattest and quietest two mile section of blacktop around! Look for the quarter mile marks (yellow dots) in the middle of the path. Take Chesapeake Avenue (off Meade) to Riverview Park.
  • THE RTF…widely considered to be “the best urban greenbelt in the South”, this scenic soft surface path loops the city with creativity and ambiance. Go to rivanntrails.org or pick up a map of the trails at Ragged Mountain. 
  • HISTORIC GREEN SPRINGS…a jewel of a14,000 acre secret with close to twenty miles of quiet, soft surface roads and only minutes from C-ville!    Take 64 east to the Route 15 exit…turn left on Route 15 north and follow for ~2 miles. Look for East Green Springs Road on your right. Follow E. Green Springs Road for about 2 miles and park at the Chapel on left.
  • DICK WOODS ROAD…miles of hilly but scenic, soft surface quiet roads in the western end of the county. Take 250 west to a right on Miller School Road in Crozet. Follow for about 2.5 miles (look for parking on your right). 
  • FREE UNION RUNS…from the center of the beautiful northwestern village of Free Union one can run for 10-plus miles in three different directions, on a mix of gravel and hard surface, into some of the most scenic countryside around. Take Garth to a right on Free Union Road (Rt. 601). Follow due north for about five miles until you come to the village center. Parking is available on weekends at the Free Union School on the left.      
  • CAMP HOLIDAY TRAILS …this hilly but quiet and scenic run is the closest dirt” road to the city limits. Take Fontaine Avenue underneath the 29/250 bypass to Reservoir Road (driving? Park in the Trinity Church lot).
  • ALL OF THE COUNTY PARKS…once thought of as swimming, softball and soccer venues, our system of Albemarle County parks now feature endless miles of creative soft surface footpaths. Mint Springs (west), Walnut Creek (south), Chris Greene (north), Preddy Creek (north), Humphris (northern urban ring), Totier (far south), Byrom (northwest), Towe (northeast) and the soon to be announced Historic River greenway path park, which will take foot travelers on a10 mile riverside path, from underneath Free Bridge southeast all the way to Fluvanna! Go to albemarle.org/parks/ (click: trails) for detailed maps of miles of soft surface trails.
  • THE CHARLOTTESVILLE TEN MILER COURSE…widely considered to be one of the most scenic urban race courses in the country, this hilly but beautiful historic tour of the city and university grounds is used each spring for the area’s oldest and most revered footrace. Park at University Hall and start close to the base of Massie.  A detailed map is available at Ragged Mountain. 

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And speaking of getting outside and running over some pretty terrain, we’re hosting the first annual “Run for Home 5K” this coming Saturday morning. The race, which is a fundraiser for our homeless neighbors at The Haven, starts at 7:30 on the mall and runs through the beautiful neighborhoods of north downtown. Race day entries will be accepted from 6:30-7:15 at The Haven.

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Our UVa tracksters UVa are in Boston for the next three days competing in the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships. We should see some fast times from our speedy crew and running on what is considered to be one of the fastest indoor ovals in the world will certainly help!

Many of our area schools will also be competing at indoor championships as Albemarle heads to Hampton for the AAA State meet and Western, Louisa, Charlottesville, Monticello and Fluvanna travel south to Lynchburg for the AA State meet. Go to milestat.com for complete coverage.

And a big “congrats” to coach Winston Brown and his FUMA athletes on winning another State title, as they took home the Private School League Indoor title last week.

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