Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival

September 24, 2011

My husband and I arrived at the downtown mall at about 1pm. It was cloudy and threatening to rain, but we could tell right away that the weather was not keeping people away.  We turned off of the mall and were greeted with a number of vendors at the food court. Nearly all of the food court booths were from local establishments; Maharaja, Royal Indian, Grapevine, La Cocina Del Sol. There was also a booth selling food from an African restaurant in Richmond.


We crossed Market Street and entered Lee park, which was packed with informational booths representing a wide array of businesses and advocate groups. There were representatives from Vegetarian and Vegan magazines and publications, animal rights activists, local health stores and yoga studios, vegan products and a number of local animal shelters with cats and dogs up for adoption.


There was live music and a number of freebies. I picked up free copies of Vegnews and the Vegetarian Journal and free samples of Nature’s Path granola bars, RawRev bars and Equal Exchange chocolates.


When it was time for lunch, I really wanted to try the African food, but when I made my way over to their booth, I noticed that they were serving on styrofoam plates. They weren’t the only ones.  Both Indian restaurants were, as well. I went back across the street to Greenie’s and got their grilled root vegetable on naan sandwich instead. They were serving all of their food in eco-friendly containers. The root vegetables were delicious, but the naan was pretty average. It was a little dry and not really soft and I wished they had a whole wheat option. But, I’m just being extra picky because I had high expectations. It was still a very tasty sandwich.  My husband opted for the vegan General Tso’s from the Whole Foods truck. He said it was pretty good, but sort of squeaky on his teeth. He is not a vegetarian, and the texture of the tofu was a little strange for him.  I picked up a vegan brownie from the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar booth on our way back to our car. I split it with the hubby. We both thought it was good; moist with walnuts and a subtle coconut flavor.


All in all, it was a nice way to spend a cloudy afternoon in Charlottesville. I was hoping for a wider variety of actual vegetarian and vegan food and I’d like to see the Festival require all vendors to use eco-friendly containers. But again, I’m just being picky. The festival is coordinated by volunteers and I’m really happy to see a festival like this in Charlottesville.

Pen Park

Fitness trail: 0.5 miles (not quite, according to my Garmin)
Nature trail: about 3 miles round-trip

Walking: yes
Running: yes
Biking: yes; mountain (good for beginners)
Dogs: yes
Kid-friendly: yes
Wheelchair/stroller accessible: yes

Pen Park is a great place to spend the afternoon. It has tennis courts, a baseball field, picnic shelters, a playground and fitness and nature trails.


To get to the trails, turn left just before the tennis courts and follow the road down to the parking area. The trailhead is located behind the picnic shelters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fitness trail is paved, and there are several exercise stations along the way.


The nature trail is wide and sandy. There is a fairly significant climb at the beginning, but then it levels out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The playground is excellent, with separate sections for younger and older kids. The spongy surface is great for keeping kids safe, and also perfect for doing a few strides or high skips!


To get to Pen Park from Route 29, take East Rio Road to the stoplight at the intersection of Pen Park Drive. Turn left.

From town, take Park Street to the stoplight at the intersection of Pen Park Drive. Turn right.

Hike to Blue Hole

Distance: about 3 miles round-trip

I love this swimming hole!  The water is always refreshing and it’s usually less crowded than Snake Hole (the other swimming hole at Sugar Hollow), which is on the North Fork Moormans River trail. It is a steeper and longer hike to get to Blue Hole, but well worth the extra work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can’t tell from the picture, but this swimming hole is quite deep. There are places where I have not been able to touch bottom (not that I’ve tried too hard.)

There used to be a rope swing. You can read about that here.

Directions from Charlottesville:

To get to Sugar Hollow, take Barracks Road away from town. Barracks road turns into Garth Road. Continue several miles. At White Hall, you will come to a very sharp turn in the road . Piedmont Store will be directly in front of you. Garth Road takes a sharp right. You want to stay straight, keeping Piedmont store on your right as you pass it.

This is 614. Continue a few more miles. Eventually you will climb a steep hill and see the dam and then Charlottesville Reservoir on your left. At the top of the hill, the road turns to gravel. A little beyond this, you will come to a parking area on your left.

Park here.

IMG_20140709_121559You want to take the Moormans River trail along the South Fork of the Moormans River. The cement post will point you in the direction that you want to go (as of today, December 10, 2016, the post is lying flat on the ground.) You do not continue up the road you drove in on (which is now blocked by a red gate.)


IMG_20130410_144919_876From the parking area, walk around the metal gate and follow the crushed gravel path that leads to what is usually a rock hop across the river (lately it’s been a ford).

IMG_20140709_121422The trail continues on the other side of the river. It is about a 1.5 mile hike up to Blue Hole, which will be on your right. You will have to climb down from the trail to get to it.

If you come to the intersection with the Turk Branch trail, you have gone too far.

Blue Hole Elevation

Blue Hole Hike Elevation Map – One Way

Happy swimming!

The Trail at Monticello

The Saunders-Monticello Trail

Distance: about 4 miles round-trip

Walking: yes
Running: yes
Biking: yes (better suited for mountain bikes; trail closes to bicycles in inclement weather)
: no (dogs are allowed on the secluded farm trails, but only on a very small portion of the Monticello trail)
Kid friendly: yes
Wheelchair/stroller accessible: yes

Once I discovered this trail, I couldn’t believe that I had lived in Charlottesville for so long without knowing about it. It is now one of my favorite running spots and I take all of my out-of-town company there to show it off.

If you park in the large parking lot off Route 20, the trail takes you under Route 53.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail then winds up the mountain at a gentle (no more than 5%) grade. There are several boardwalks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter you cross back over 53 via Saunders bridge, you continue through the Monticello gate, past the picnic area on your right to the end of the trail. The trail ends at the Monticello bus parking area. If you wish, you can continue across the parking lot and visit the Monticello store and museum. Or, you can turn around and head back to your car. If you arrive at the Monticello gate before operating hours (as I usually do) you will be greeted by a Monticello employee who will politely tell you that you need to turn around.

 As you head back down, look through the trees off to your right and you will glimpse some views of Charlottesville and the mountains beyond.

IMG_20140417_093812There are several benches along the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe distance from the parking lot on Route 20 to the Monticello bus parking lot is 2.1 miles (4.2 round-trip).

Monticello Saunders trail elevation profile
Monticello Saunders Trail round-trip from parking lot on Route 53

Directions from Charlottesville:
Take Route 20 South out of town. You will pass Piedmont Virginia Community College on your right and the Trail at Monticello parking area on your left.  You will have to make a U-turn at the intersection of 53 and backtrack to the Trail at Monticello parking area, which will now be on your right.

(***update: It was just brought to my attention that it is now illegal to make a U-turn at the intersection with 53. You can make a left, then turn around in the small parking lot on the right to get back to the larger lot off of 20. You could also take Avon Street Extended South out of Charlottesville, then turn left onto Mill Creek Drive just after the Food Lion. This way, you will pass Monticello High School on your left, then make a left onto Route 20 at the traffic signal. Going this way, you will continue straight through the intersection with 53, then turn right into the large parking lot pictured below.)

IMG_20140828_185852There is an additional (much smaller) parking lot on Route 53. If you park at this lot and, facing the trail, choose the path to your right, it is exactly 4 miles round-trip to the Monticello bus lot and back. If you take the path to your left, you will finish just shy of 4 miles.

You can also access a network of singletrack trails from here.