Charlottesville Reservoir offers a unique view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that you will not find anywhere else in the Shenandoah National Park.

The reservoir is located in the Piedmont Hills just outside the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. So technically Charlottesville Reservoir is not in Shenandoah National Park, but it is only a few feet outside of the park, and it has an outstanding view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that make up the Southern District of Shenandoah National Park. 

To reach Charlottesville Reservoir, known locally as Sugar Hollow Reservoir, from Interstate 64, take US 29 North to Barracks Road.  Follow Barracks Road (Route 601) for 11 miles until it turns into Sugar Hollow Road (Route 614). Follow Sugar Hollow Road for 5 miles until you reach the Reservoir.  I like to park at the dam and then walk down to the lake.  This side of the lake provides an outstanding view of the mountains including Turk Mountain.  I like to walk along the edge of the lake until I find a composition (click here to lean some photography composition tips). The level of the lake changes as the water level rises and falls, making each trip unique.  This will allow you to create different compositions as the shore line changes. 

The Charlottesville Reservoir is a great location for sunrise.  Usually in the early morning, the wind is calm, which will allow you to capture a reflection of the mountains in the water.  When looking at the mountains from the dam, you will be facing west, which means the sun will be rising behind you.  As the sun slowly rises, it will illuminate the mountain ridges with soft, beautiful golden light (click here for some landscape photography tips). 

If you would like to capture the sun rising, you can either hike to the far side of the lake, or you could continue to drive past the dam for 0.5 miles to the Sugar Hollow Trail Head parking area.  From there, follow the trail down to the reservoir, and then hike along the shore line until you find your composition.  This side of the reservoir provides a great view of the Piedmont Hills surrounding Charlottesville and the lower end of the valley formed by the Moorman River. 

Once the sun is up, the Sugar Hollow Trail is a great hike.  There are a few great trails that start from the Sugar Hollow Trail head.  One of my favorite is the Sugar Hollow Trail, which winds along the bank of the Moorman River and leads to a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole (click here for more details).  The reservoir is also a great location for fishing  so you can also bring your fishing pole. If you would like to photograph Charlottesville Reservoir from Shenandoah National Park, one of the best locations is Moorman River Overlook along Skyline Drive.  Click here for some photography tips from Moorman River Overlook.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Water
  • Snack
  • Swimsuit
  • Fishing pole
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Activities Chillin, Fishing, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly


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