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Ragged Mountain Reservoir

March 10, 2020

The 6-mile loop around Ragged Mountain Reservoir is a pleasant walk over rolling terrain. There are some nice views of the water along the way.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

A view of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Fishing, kayaking, and canoeing are allowed – but no swimming or dogs! Below: The lower parking lot; Adam on the trail; Some, but not all of the trails have signage.

Ragged Mountain Parking Adam Hiking Ragged Mountain Ragged Mountain Trail Signs

Christine Says:

Yes, we have been slacking at Virginia Trail Guide. We’ve been hiking a fair amount, but we’ve either been doing repeat trails that we’ve already posted on the site – or we’re hiking in faraway places (Wyoming, Idaho) that we have mixed feelings about sharing on Virginia Trail Guide.  Also, both of our jobs have also been more demanding than usual, and we haven’t had as much time to hike or create new content. We’re really hoping to have a productive spring and have some more regular new content to share.

A couple weeks ago, we had a sunny and unusual warm Sunday, so we decided to head out toward Charlottesville for a field trip. We’ve never visited the Ragged Mountain Reservoir before and thought it would be a fun, easy hike. We started out at the lower parking area. If I were to do this hike again, I would skip this bit and just park at the upper lot. The spur from lower parking just added a pointless climb, with no extra scenery. The upper lot starts right on the reservoir’s edge and makes a true loop.

Wood Sculptures on Ragged Mountain Loop

There are several neat wooden sculptures along the trail. Below: A woodpecker has been working at the bear sculpture; My favorite was the owl sculpture.

Bear Sculpture Owl Sculpture

The loop itself was pretty and peaceful. There were rolling ups and downs the entire route, so while it was easy hiking, I still felt like I was getting a decent workout. Benches are posted roughly every mile and there are several neat wooden sculptures tucked into the woods. There are lots of unmarked side trails, but eventually they connect back to the main loop around the lake. So, while the trail system is a little bit confusing, it would be hard to get truly lost.  You can download a full map of the trail network from the City of Charlottesville’s website.

The only real challenge of this hike was not slipping in the mud.  The trail had some very slick and sloppy spots, so we were glad to have trekking poles for extra balance. All things considered, it was a nice walk on a perfect late winter day. We hiked the loop counter clockwise, so we ended the route crossing the dam.

After the hike, we stopped for lunch at Crozet Pizza and then grabbed a beer at Pro Re Nata.

Ragged Mountain Reflections

Reflections on Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Below: The floating bridge; Adam crossing the floating bridge; View across the reservoir from the bridge.

The Floating Bridge The Floating Bridge Distant View of the Floating Bridge

Adam Says: 

We have been having some unseasonably warmer winter days in 2020, so it has been a good year to get out and do some hiking in more pleasant and non-snowy conditions.  We opted to check out the Ragged Mountain trail system, since it had been on our list of things to do for years.  This trail system is very popular with local people from the Charlottesville area.  You will likely see families with younger children walking around, trail runners, and maybe even a mountain biker.  There are gradual ups and downs on the trail, but it makes for easy walking/running/hiking if you want to cover some miles without a ton of elevation changes.  Prior to 2014, there used to be two reservoirs, a pump house, and a slightly different trail system.

As Christine said, we started from the lower parking area and headed to the right (counter-clockwise) from the kiosk to start the trail.  We printed out the trail map that we have linked to above, which may be handy to see how all the side loops of the trail connect to make sure you are covering the terrain just the way that you would like.  One thing to also note that you will see on the map is there are benches at the numbered locations on the map; on these benches are mile markers showing how far along the loop from the dam you are but we found these mile markings not to be completely accurate with mileage.  The trail began to wind uphill rather steeply for the first .25 miles until we reached the top of the trail where it joins up with the dam and road to the upper parking lot.   From the viewpoint that we had from the first picture below, we decided to do the Ragged Mountain Loop Trail counter-clockwise, which ended up starting sharply behind us and to the right.  At .35 miles, we reached the first junction, which was the Roundtop Mountain Loop.  We avoided taking that spur loop since it just looked like an unnecessary uphill climb.  Continuing forward, we passed the other end of the Roundtop Mountain Loop and came to the carved Mountain Man marker at .65 miles.  These wood-carved statues that are placed in a few places are well done and nice to serve as good markers where other trail junctions also occur.  From this marker, we had an option to take a longer loop to the right that led to a water tower or just to push forward.  We decided to skip the water tower and headed straight on the trail to reach the Bear marker at the 1 mile mark.  From this point there are also other options to take different loops around (we told you the trail map would be handy), so we took the route that looped closest around the reservoir.  We were glad we chose this, since we got some nice views of the reservoir and could see some nice reflections as we made our way around.

Ragged Mountain Dam

Ragged Mountain Reservoir dam. Below: The emergency spillway; Plaque dedicating the dam, The trail goes across the top of the dam.

Emergency Spillway Ragged Mountain Dam Ragged Mountain Dam

After a bit further, we reached the Eagle marker and passed over a small bridge to continue our loop staying close to the reservoir.  This part of the trail wound uphill slightly and we ended up on an elevated part of the trail that paralleled the reservoir.  Parts of this section were a bit muddy and slick, so be careful following rainy days.  Eventually, we reached the last wood carvings on the trail of owls.  From here, there is a short trail down to the water’s edge.  The trail takes a sharp right turn away from the reservoir, but does wind back to follow along the reservoir once again.  After more walking, we soon came upon views of cars on the highway, but then the trail turned down and led to a floating bridge across the reservoir.   On the other side, the trail climbed up steeply and then wound around an emergency spillway.  It was only a short distance after we passed the spillway that we ended up reaching the dam.  We saw lots of canoes and kayaks parked on the hillside near the dam.  We passed over the dam and then crossed the road to join back to the spur trail to the lower parking lot and back to our car.

Overall, the trail system here is a nice place to go out and stretch your legs.  It has some interesting features with views of the reservoir and the wood carvings provide a nice touch to the experience.  It would be nice to see how this looks in the fall, as I can imagine the trees along the waterside could make for some nice colorful reflections in the water.  Expect a lot of people on your walk during a nice day.

Pro Re Nata Brewery

Pro Re Nata Brewery. We had a triple IPA called Buddha Kind and a really tasty Red Velvet Ale (on nitro!). Below: Lunch was at Crozet Pizza. Yum!

Crozet Pizza

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 6.1 miles 
  • Elevation Change – 1,000 ft
  • Difficulty –  2.  There are rolling hills all along this hike, but generally it is easy terrain.
  • Trail Conditions – 3. The dirt trails were very slippery and muddy when we hiked.
  • Views – 3. The lake is pretty and blue.
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 1. There are just a few small feeder streams along the way.
  • Wildlife – 2. We saw lots of near bird species along the water.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3. The trail signage is adequate, but there are some unlabeled trails that could lead you temporarily off course.
  • Solitude – 1. When we arrived at 9 a.m. on a pretty Sunday, we had it all to ourselves, but by the time we finished a couple hours later, it was packed.


Ragged Mountain Map

Ragged Mountain Profile

Directions to trailhead:  The lower parking lot is located off County Rd 702. GPS coordinates: 38.02692, -78.55583

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