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Ragged Mountain

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The Ragged Mountain Natural Area near Charlottesville, Virginia, is a beautiful 980-acre forest of mature oak, hickory, poplar, pine, and maple trees with a lake that serves as part of the community water supply, and more than four miles of shoreline. Seven miles of trail lead through majestic forest, along rugged terrain, and through areas rich with wildlife and offer a unique opportunity for wilderness hiking within minutes of town. 

Trail map and guide

Visiting the Natural Area

The Ragged Mountain Natural Area parking area is located at 1730 Reservoir Rd., off Fontaine Avenue, south of Charlottesville, VA. (Google map). Open 7:00 a.m. to sunset.

Take Fontaine Avenue south form the city, Travel south of the 250 bypass about 1/8 mile and turn right onto Reservoir Road. Travel about 1.5 miles to the lower parking lot, on the right across from Camp holiday Trails (1730 Reservoir Road). To reach the new upper parking area, continue past the lower lot, stay right and pass the yellow gate, and travel up the paved road to the top of the dam and park by the kiosk and tool shed. (1760 Reservoir Road)

The City of Charlottesville owns and manages the land, parking areas, and trails at Ragged Mountain.  The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority manages the water and related infrastructure.

Inquiries regarding the uses and accessibility of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area should addressed to Chris Gensic of Charlottesville Parks & Recreation. He can be e-mailed at gensic@charlottesville.orgClick here for a MAP of the trails 

Dogs are not allowed at Ragged Mountain natural area (other than approved ADA service dogs).

FISHING - is allowed at Ragged Mountain, and requires a valid state fishing permit.

BOATING - Non-gasoline powered boats are allowed on the reservoir.  There is not currently a public boat ramp, so smaller boats are encouraged. There are storage racks for small boats available for use and locking boats. Please do not lock boats to trees. Please be sure that access from the RWSA shed to the lake is clear at all times in case of emergencies.

BIRDS - The area is rich in birdlife with native woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and northern flickers in the winter. In the spring, keep an eye out for songbirds migrating through such as blue-winged and Tennessee warblers. Fall brings the migrant blackpoll and bay-breasted warblers as well as hermit thrush. Nesting neotropical songbirds include pine, yellow-throated, and yellow warblers, northern parula, yellow-breasted chat, chipping and field sparrows, and red-eyed and yellow-throated vireos are best seen in early spring before the foliage gets too heavy.

WILDLIFE - Other wildlife includes the upland chorus and northern cricket frogs are in residence here, as is the American toad and spring peeper. Several species of bats are known to hunt insects here including eastern pipistrelle, evening bat, and bag brown bat. Many, many species of mammals live here. Among the large mammals, the white-tailed deer is particularly abundant. Occasional visits by black bear and sightings of bobcat are also not uncommon.

Creation of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area

The property was acquired by the City in the late 1800's to provide a supply for water to serve the growing community and university. A dam was built at that time, and a second dam was built in the 1920's to expand the lake capacity. A new dam was completed in 2014 to further expand the capacity of the lake.

In April 1997, with the goal of providing long-term protection to the watershed of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, the Ivy Creek Foundation (ICF) approached the City of Charlottesville with a proposal to designate the Reservoir property as a public natural area reserved for quiet hiking, fishing, and wildlife observation. Under this proposal ICF agreed to fund, design and construct a rustic parking lot, conduct a biological survey, establish and maintain a trail system, and provide maps. The Ivy Creek Foundation decided in 2014 to let the City take over management of the natural area.

With financial help from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and with the hard work of hundreds of volunteers, Ragged Mountain Natural Area was opened to the public in March, 1999.  

Ecology of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area

The Center for Urban Habitats has created a website for exploration of the various zones of the natural area, including the flora and fauna.



Starting in 2016, as the new dam was being completed, a community planning process was undertaken to determine rules of use and trail layout at Ragged Mountain. 

FINAL CITY COUNCIL APPROVED TRAIL USE AND LAYOUT PLAN  - Map and description file    Implementation Plan Map

Comments may be submitted to or by calling 434-970-3610 and leaving a message.

Parks and Recreation staff has completed a draft trail use plan for Ragged Mountain following City Council’s action in December of 2016.   DRAFT TRAIL PLAN MAP           Trail Route Descriptions      Comments since January 2017

Certain new trails within the property are proposed as hiker only, and other new trails as shared use.   Orange flags have been placed upon the proposed new trail alignments for hiking only.  White flags have been placed on the alignments for new shared use trails.  These alignments are ‘in draft form’ and can be adjusted based upon comments received.

December 5 Council meeting - First reading of proposed ordinance.   Map provided to staff by council

Public comment since November Planning Commission report 

November 9 - Planning Commission report.  Transcript of comments

DRAFT PROPOSED PLAN November 1, 2016 

Public Comments since Parks and Recreation Advisory Vote

Minutes of October 20 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board discussion and vote

Public Comments since July 20 public hearing

Meeting #6  - July 20, 2016 - Parks and Recreation Advisory Board - PUBLIC HEARING -  The Board heard public input on the options up for consideration.  There is a 30 day comment period following the public hearing and the P&R Board will take action at a future meeting.


Meeting #5 - June 15 - Staff Report to Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (No decision making)- 

MATERIALS FOR JUNE 15 STAFF REPORT    Option B     Option C     Option D    Option E

MEETING #4 - April 27th   6 - 8pm -   Option A   Option B   Option C  option D  Option E (added at meeting)   Final Ecosystem Map

MEETING #3 - April 27th   6 - 8pm - charette -   summary of table comments

MEETING #2 - Tuesday, March 22 - .  audio of public comment

MEETING #1 - Monday, February 29th,  Presentation Materials

 After these meetings, the plan was be sent to the Planning commission and City Council


Ecosystem locations map (DRAFT)    Biological hot spots map (DRAFT)   Quality Ranking Map (DRAFT)

Report/Comparison of other reservoir/trail uses in Virginia and beyond


1998 Study of Ragged Mountain

1997 County memo on establishment of Ragged Mtn Natural Area

1998 County approval of establishment of Ragged Mtn Natural Area

Ivy Creek Foundation memo on creation of Ragged Mountain natural area


Public Comments since July 20 public hearing

Since February 2016

January 2016

After Council Oct 2015

At Council Oct 2015

Public Meeting November 2014

Video files of Council discussions in 2015

Council discussion October 5, 2015

Council discussion October 19, 2015