Montpelier-Grelen Trail Receives “Virginia Treasures” Award

A woman stands with two children.
Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe poses with Luke and John at Grelen Market after hiking the Montepelier-Grelen Trail. Credit: Sharon Hujik

Part of a nine-mile trail system with old-growth forests and meadows, the Montpelier-Grelen Trail links the historic James Madison’s Montpelier with Grelen Nursery, a 25-year-old working tree nursery in Orange County.

On April 19, the Trail was officially designated as a “Virginia Treasure” by the Office of the Governor for being an outstanding recreational asset open to the public in the Commonwealth. Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Department of Natural Resources Secretary Molly Ward presented the award to Kat Imhoff, President and CEO of James Madison’s Montpelier, Dan and Leslie Gregg, Co-owners of Grelen Nursery, and Chris Miller, President of The Piedmont Environmental Council.

“Montpelier, the historic home of James and Dolley Madison, is such an important site in the story of our Commonwealth and our Nation. The MontpelierGrelen Connector Trail allows visitors to walk in the footsteps of those who lived, worked on, and visited this site over the last several hundred years,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.

Sections of the trail have signs with QR codes that provide hikers with the opportunity to learn about the various trees and plants along the way.

The trail network and the grounds of Montpelier offer some of the only public access to the largely conserved Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District. Additional trails at Montpelier go through the 200-acre James Madison Landmark Forest with trees that have been virtually undisturbed by man since the 1790s, and include massive oak, beech and poplar trees.

“James Madison’s Montpelier is open to the public seven days a week,” said Montpelier President Kat Imhoff. “We are delighted the Governor is recognizing this joint effort to bring more Virginians to our property to enjoy its history and natural beauty.”

With trailheads located below David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center at Montpelier and at The Market at Grelen, the trail is free and open to the public during business hours.

Hikes on the Montpelier-Grelen Trail. Credit: Paula Combs

The Market at Grelen is a casual café, event venue, garden shop and Pick-Your-Own farm. For hikers working up an appetite, lunch can be pre-ordered and enjoyed at a picnic table on the trail. “We absolutely love having the trail open for our clients to enjoy! They get to experience the beauty of the nursery and land like never before and it’s gorgeous no matter what the season,” said Leslie Gregg, co-owner of Grelen Nursery

The scenic Montpelier-Grelen Trail also crosses over the portion of Chicken Mountain that is protected under a conservation easement co-held by Virginia Outdoors Foundation and The Piedmont Environmental Council.

“We appreciate the recognition of the Trail as a Virginia Treasure. The designation draws attention to the sustained conservation effort at James Madison’s Montpelier and within the Madison Barbour Rural Historic District,” said PEC President Chris Miller. “The Governor and the General Assembly have provided increased funding for conservation in the 2017-2018 budget, and PEC looks forward to working on additional conservation projects in the area.”

This article was featured in our Summer 2016 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.