The Three Notched Trail

Three Notched Trail

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The Three Notched Trail (TNT) is a proposed paved, multi-use trail through Charlottesville, Ivy, and Crozet, over to the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Afton. Once built, the TNT will provide local residents and visitors with car-free transportation and recreational opportunities.  Additionally, the trail will connect users to the University of Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and the Appalachian Trail.

We see the Three Notched Trail being a part of a larger "Mountains to Sea" Trail, connecting the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.  This continuous trail would make Virginia a trailblazer in outdoor recreation, tying together the Virginia Capital Trail with the proposed Birthplace of America Trail and Fall Line Trail. This would create a continuous trail almost 200 miles long.

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Project History

The Three Notched Trail is a project of the Rivanna Trails Foundation (RTF), a non-profit established in 1992 with a mission to “promote, create and protect pathways, trails and greenways in the Rivanna River Watershed”.  RTF has partnered with the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, the University of Virginia, and numerous landowners to build and maintain over 25 miles of rustic and paved trails.  Thousands of people use the Rivanna Trails each year for transportation, recreation, and access to nature.

For years grassroots volunteers have been brainstorming and planning for the Three Notched Trail greenway. Thus far, trail advocates have met with countless officials and residents, promoting the trail and moving it closer to reality.  The Three Notched Trail Planning Group has organized outreach campaigns, written grants, led volunteer groups, and studied, similar trails in the United States.  The TNT was added to the statewide Virginia Outdoors Plan as well as Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan in 2015.

These same volunteers have partnered with dozens of UVA Law and Environmental Planning students to tackle various aspects of the trail planning process, including reviewing the economic impact studies of similar trails, mapping numerous routes across Albemarle County, and analyzing the liability of Rails with Trails.

Why a "Greenway" Trail?

"Greenways" are growing in popularity across the country as they enhance the community’s health and local economy.  The type of greenway envisioned for the Three Notched Trail is a 10’ wide, paved path allowing two directions of pedestrian and bike traffic. The path will be separated from busy roadways and situated along rural properties as much as possible. 

There is currently not a paved greenway longer than 2.5 miles within the 5 county Blue Ridge Health District. We believe that central Virginia families and residents would be attracted to bike, walk, run, or skate on a long, safe path. Attached is a photo of Virginia’s Capital Trail, a 52 mile greenway completed in 2015 that connects Richmond to Jamestown.

Trail Benefits

There are many benefits to greenways. We list some below. For more information see

Trail Benefits

Health and Wellness

We believe trails serve as a resource for nature-related recreation and promoting healthy lifestyles for residents.  In addition to helping control weight, physical activity helps prevent heart disease, helps control cholesterol levels and diabetes, slows bone loss associated with advancing age, lowers the risk of certain cancers and helps reduce anxiety and depression.  The Indiana Trails Study surveyed trail users on six different trails and found that over 70 percent of trail users reported that they were getting more exercise as a direct result of the trail.

Improving Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation

A benefit of the trail’s existence will be the reduction in vehicles driving along the Route 250 corridor and within the business areas along the route.  An additional benefit is a decrease in the number of bicycle or pedestrian accidents involving cars.  Commuters will be able to safely travel between Albemarle County’s growth area in Crozet to Charlottesville.  More children will be able to safely walk to school or the library.   Residents can safely walk from their neighborhood to nearby businesses nearby.

Cycling is an enjoyable way to exercise and spend time outdoors.  California’s 2009 State Park Survey summarized that 60% of the population would bike more if they had access to a safe, vehicle-free route.

Trail Benefits
Trail Benefits

Economic Impact

Greenways across the country show economic benefits from the existence of trails. Researchers from the University of Richmond found that the 52 mile Virginia Capital Trail contributed $8.9 million in economic activity from July 2018 to June 2019.  

In a 2016 study in Virginia titled “The Economic Impact of Bicycling in the Central Shenandoah Valley”, bicycle tourism “is estimated to have generated $8.6 million in sales activity in 2015. The total economic impact of bicycle tourism, including multiplier effects, is estimated to have been $13.6 million and supported 184 jobs in the region”.  

Houses located along trails and greenways have consistently sold sooner and for higher prices than their non-trail access neighbors. 

Connection to Nature

Greenways provide a protected environment for plant and animal species.  Trail users can immerse themselves in the natural world, eyeing birds in the treetops or spying turtles as they cross creeks.  In an increasingly digital world, a greenway is an ideal place to unplug and savor a three dimensional world.

Trail Benefits