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Montpelier Is Home to 8+ Miles of Trails

Montpelier’s 8+ miles of well-marked walking trails are one of the Virginia Piedmont’s best-kept secrets, located just two hours south of Washington, D.C., and a half hour north of Charlottesville. Winding through horse pastures, wildflower meadows, and forests, including the Old-Growth Landmark Forest, the trails offer spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and intimate encounters with native plants and wildlife. The Montpelier Trails are open during business hours with the purchase of a tour or property pass. Trails may be accessed from the trailhead kiosk just below the parking lot at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center.

Montpelier Loop Trail

The 3.55-mile Montpelier Loop Trail is designed for walkers and hikers who want to experience the full range of landscapes Montpelier has to offer. Starting at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center — which offers parking, restrooms, and an award-winning café– the trail runs past the Annie duPont Formal Garden, through the James Madison Landmark Forest and the Demonstration Forest, along horse pastures and wildflower meadows. Highlights include 150-year-old white oak and tulip trees, unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge, lovely vistas of the Montpelier house, and access to the Montpelier Burial Ground and the Madison family cemetery.

Landmark Forest Trails

The Landmark Forest and Demonstration Forest trails consist of a series of interlocking loops covering a total of 2.5 miles and designed to lead visitors along nature trails that showcase the variety and majesty of Montpelier’s old-growth and transitional forests. Interpretive signs provide an educational component and make the Landmark Forest Trails an ideal natural classroom for birders, naturalists, and hikers. The Landmark Forest can be accessed by following the Montpelier Loop Trail from the trailhead or from the trailhead located on the Back Lawn. Highlights includes stately oak, beech, and tulip tree canopies and seasonal native wildflowers.

Montpelier-Grelen Trail

The 3.9-mile Montpelier-Grelen Trail links Montpelier’s trail system to Grelen Nursery’s trail system over a route that traverses Chicken Mountain. A partnership between Montpelier, Grelen Nursery, and Piedmont Environmental Council, the Montpelier-Grelen Trail was designated a “Virginia Treasure” by the Office of the Governor in 2015 in recognition for its outstanding contribution to conservation, cultural heritage, and public outdoor recreation. Highlights include views of the Blue Ridge and Southwest Mountains, in addition to the food and entertainment offerings provided at Montpelier’s David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and The Market at Grelen. Please note that the trail is only open from both ends during business hours at Montpelier and The Market at Grelen.

Montpelier Civil War Trail

Walk in the footsteps of McGowan’s Brigade on the 1-mile Montpelier Civil War Trail, which winds through the archaeological remains of a Confederate winter camp. The trail also connects to the farm of George Gilmore, who was born into slavery at Montpelier around 1810 and, after Emancipation, became a farmer and landowner, building his cabin on the site of an abandoned Confederate hut.

In order to protect our natural area


  • Stay on the trails
  • Avoid wildlife
  • Keep dogs on leash

Please do not:

  • Leave any litter
  • Pick wildflowers or damage trees and shrubs
  • Smoke or create any fire hazard
  • Mountain bike

For your safety, please:

  • Stay out of forests when high winds occur
  • Avoid contact with poison ivy

Annie duPont Formal Garden

From Madison Vegetables to duPont Flowers

In the early 19th century, President James Madison enjoyed a garden of nearly four acres, including the site of the present two-acre formal garden. Following the fashion of the era, the Madison garden contained a mixture of vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, and ornamental shrubs. Evidence suggests that the Madisons’ formal garden was designed by a French gardener, Charles Bizet, about 1810. Several enslaved laborers worked as assistant gardeners. After Bizet returned to France, Archibald Blair (a native of Scotland) served as head gardener from 1818 to 1824. Three enslaved gardeners took over Blair’s duties after his departure, and Dolley Madison wrote “we hope to have from them as many good things as usual.” Mary Cutts, Dolley Madison’s niece, left a description of the Madison garden in a mid-19th century memoir (original spellings retained):
“At some distance from the house was the garden laid off in the shape of a horseshoe by an experienced French gardener, who lived many years on the place; his name was Beazee [Bizet]; he and his wife came to Virginia at the time of the French Revolution and left Mr. Madison shortly before his death to return to “La Bell France.” They were great favorites with the negroes, some of whom they taught to speak French. Madame contrived a hat to shade Mrs. Madison’s eyes; it was hideous, but she liked it and when she took her morning rambles always called for her “Beazee bonet.”
The choicest fruits, especially pears, were raised in abundance, figs bore their two crops every summer, which Mr. Madison liked to gather himself, arbors of grapes, over which he exercised the same authority. It was a paradise of roses and other flowers, to say nothing of the strawberries, and vegetables; every rare plant and fruit was sent to him by his admiring friends, who knew his taste, and they were carefully studied and reared by the gardener and his black aids.” -MARY CUTTS MEMOIRS, CUTTS FAMILY COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
After William duPont’s purchase of Montpelier in 1901, wife Annie duPont launched a project to transform the space into an early 20th-century formal garden. The profiles of the terraces were restored; flower beds, shrubs, and trees were planted; and the brick garden walls, statuary, and ornamental iron gates were added. Later, Annie’s daughter, Marion duPont Scott, commissioned noted landscape architect Charles Gillette to redesign several perennial beds as well as the brick parterres on the upper level. Mrs. Scott also introduced a number of uncommon specimens to the garden, including a Dawn Redwood and a China Fir. Following Montpelier acquisition in 1984 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the plantings of the Annie duPont Formal Garden were carefully inventoried and cataloged. Restoration of the garden began in October 1990, and was funded by The Garden Club of Virginia. A granite plaque commemorating the restoration’s completion is located at the south end of the garden. The crescent beds incorporate perennials known to have been cultivated for the Madisons and found in the early duPont garden – many varieties of irises, daylilies, and peonies.