Charlottesville and Albemarle County boast a number of parks and lakes for public use. Some of these charge entrance fees "in season." The main ones are listed below. For a complete list of parks, see their websites or phone ahead.
City of Charlottesville Parks
Charlottesville Recreation & Leisure Services
Call to reserve picnic shelters in city parks.
Albemarle Co. Parks & Recreation
Call to reserve picnic shelters in county parks.
Beaver Creek Lake
Getting there: Rt. 250 West to where Rt. 240 forks off at Crozet. Turn a sharp right at sign just over the bridge onto Brown's Gap Turnpike and go another mile.
With 104 water acres, this lake is the largest and best fishing lake in Albemarle County. Water supply for the Crozet area, so no swimming. Boat launch, but no gas motors.
Chris Greene Lake
Getting there: Take Rt. 29 North out of town. Left on Rt. 649 (Airport Rd.). Right on Rt. 606 in front of airport. Left on Rt. 850 (Chris Greene Lake Rd.).
Swimming, fishing, boating, canoe rentals, picnic areas, large and small pavilions, playgrounds, boat launch and a fishing pier. All handicapped-accessible. Spring crappie fishing is excellent. Limited walking trails. $3 for adults, $2 for children 4-12 (in the summer only).
Darden Towe Park
Getting there: Rt. 250 East to Pantops. Left on Rt. 20 North opposite the shopping center (Stony Point Rd). Left on Elk Drive.
This 110-acre park along the Rivanna River includes four tennis courts, running trails, children's play area, picnic shelters, three softball fields and four multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse and football. One picnic pavilion may be reserved for as many as 80 people. There is also a fenced dog park area.
Ivy Creek Natural Area
Getting there: Rt. 29 North to Hydraulic Rd. Left (north) on Hydraulic Rd. Turn left on Rt. 743 (at the Rock Store); look for entrance on the left.
A great place for hiking, birdwatching and being in nature, while still in town. Just 10 minutes from the Law School by car. Six miles of trails in the forest, nature programs, bird walks. Owned jointly by city and county. No biking and no dogs, even on a leash.
Getting there: 250 Bypass opposite McIntire Rd. exit.
Great wading pool for young children, swings, ball fields, golf course, picnic areas and nature trail. Dogs must be on a leash.
Mint Springs Valley Park
Getting there: Rt. 250 west to fork with Rt. 240. Take 240 into downtown Crozet. At the T-junction by the railroad bridge, turn left and immediately right (it's like going straight with a jog in the road) on to Rt. 788 (Railroad Ave.). Follow the signs to park, 1.5 miles on left.
Swimming, picnic shelters, playgrounds, fishing, and 3.6 miles of hiking trails. Handicapped accessible. Pavilions with fireplaces, grills and tables may be reserved.
Getting there: Take 250 Bypass east to the Park St. Exit. Left on Park St. Right at the traffic light on Pen Park Rd. and go to end.
This is the largest city park, with a nature trail along the Rivanna River, handicapped-accessible exercise trail, 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, volleyball, Little League fields, three picnic pavilions and playground. Dogs must be on a leash.
Ragged Mountain Natural Area
Getting there: Rt. 250 Bypass west to the Rt. 29 Business exit. Right on Fontaine Ave. One quarter mile up, turn right onto Camp Holiday Trails Road, a narrow, curvy gravel road popular with joggers. Parking lot on right after two miles.
A beautiful, somewhat rugged, natural area for quiet hiking. No dogs, bikes or jogging.
Getting there: Several access points, including the Law School (start at any of picnic tables in woods behind Hunton & Williams Hall), Greenbrier Park on Greenbrier Dr., Hydraulic Rd. near Brandywine Dr.
A series of trails in town linking city parks along the Rivanna River. Trail sometimes gets overgrown in summer, but nice in spring, fall and winter. The section behind Law School follows a pretty gorge behind Darden to University Village. Dogs are allowed off-leash on designated portions of the Rivanna Trail on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only. See the website for all access points and new trails.
Walnut Creek Park
Getting there: Rt. 29 South about 5 miles. Left on Rt. 708 (Red Hill Rd.), right on Rt. 631. Park entrance is on left.
Great place for mountain biking. Swimming in lake, nature trails, bike trails, fishing, picnic shelter and playground. Entrance fees between Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in Sept): $3 adults, $2 children.