Articular cartilage repair remains a significant and growing clinical challenge with the aging population. The native extracellular matrix (ECM) of articular cartilage is a 3D structure composed of proteinaceous fibers and a hydrogel ground substance that together provide the physical and biological cues to instruct cell behavior. Here we present fibrous scaffolds composed of poly(vinyl alcohol) and the biological cue chondroitin sulfate with fiber dimensions on the nanoscale for application to articular cartilage repair. The unique, low-density nature of the described nanofiber scaffolds allows for immediate cell infiltration for optimal tissue repair. The capacity for the scaffolds to facilitate cartilage-like tissue formation was evaluated in vitro. Compared with pellet cultures, the nanofiber scaffolds enhance chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stems cells as indicated by increased ECM production and cartilage specific gene expression while also permitting cell proliferation. When implanted into rat osteochondral defects, acellular nanofiber scaffolds supported enhanced chondrogenesis marked by proteoglycan production minimally apparent in defects left empty. Furthermore, inclusion of chondroitin sulfate into the fibers enhanced cartilage-specific type II collagen synthesis in vitro and in vivo. By mimicking physical and biological cues of native ECM, the nanofiber scaffolds enhanced cartilaginous tissue formation, suggesting their potential utility for articular cartilage repair.