Happy trails: Hike the wilderness... of Pantops!

With the Blue Ridge Mountains just a stone’s throw away, it’s easy to overlook the many trails in Charlottesville’s own backyard-– Monticello Parkway and Ivy Creek are a few of my favorites. But I’m dedicating this space to the impressive Rivanna Trail, a work-in-progress propelled by the Rivanna Trails Foundation (RTF).
What is the RTF? Basically, it’s an all-volunteer organization whose goal is to establish a 20-mile network of footpaths encircling the City of Charlottesville and following the path of the Rivanna River and its tributaries. (A nice-– and necessary– counterpoint to all the urban development, I’d say.)
Since work began in 1992, over 18 miles of trails have been built. Much of the magic happens at the RTF’s monthly trail building workdays, when eight to 30 volunteers armed with tools and a passion for protecting our natural resources do everything necessary to create and maintain a safe and clear hiking trail: They clear new trail sections, construct footbridges of varying designs to get hikers over wet spots, and cut back vegetation.
And it’s been doing all that and more for the past seven years. The RTF (with the support of the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and Blue Ridge Mountain Sports) will be celebrating National Trails Day with an ambitious, mega-workday on June 7. 
The goal? In addition to repairing flood damage to the Rivanna Trail near Free Bridge, local residents will have the chance to play a part in the blazing of more than a mile of brand new trail along the Rivanna River in the Pantops area. That’s right. Pantops.
“RTF is excited to help the county build this new trail because the land is incredibly beautiful,” says avid hiker and RTF Board of Directors president Diana Foster.
“There’s thick vegetation and a steep slope between the proposed trail route and the homes and shops of Pantops, and hikers will feel like they’re in a wilderness. They will see only the river and forests on both sides of the river.
“On the other hand, because of excellent pedestrian access over Free Bridge, residents on both the city and the county sides of the Rivanna will have easy access to miles and miles of new hiking opportunities.”     
The wild is calling. And it’s closer than you thought. 

All are encouraged to get down and dirty building trails at the workday celebration of National Trails Day on Saturday, June 7. There will be a job for everyone, with activities planned for all ages and skill levels. Lunch will be provided. Wear work clothes and bring water and yard tools if you have them. Register to participate by visiting RTF’s website at www.rivannatrails.org, by emailing dfoster@newventure.com or by calling 923-0902. The work will start at 9am at Darden Towe Park and conclude in time for lunch at noon. Regular workdays take place on the second Saturday morning of each month. Visit the website for more information.