Open to the Public
Take a self-guided audio tour of the preserve. View All
Why You Should Visit
With altitudes ranging from 1,200 feet near the top of the mountain to a low point of 500 feet, this predominantly steep and hilly preserve features a broad range of habitats. Wildcat Mountain supports a rich variety of plants and animals, including a few coastal and higher-Appalachian species approaching their geographic limits in northern Virginia.
Before You Go
- Download a trail map. (pdf)
- View Preserve Guidelines. Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserve.
- This is a popular preserve and parking is very limited. Please make an effort to carpool to reduce the number of cars in the parking lot. If the parking lot is full, please do not park on the side of the road. This is private property and you are blocking our neighbors’ access to their homes.
Fauquier County: on the western slopes of Wildcat Mountain in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Year-round, dawn to dusk
Moderate to difficult hiking
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
In the 1960s, the Arundel family gave a large portion of Wildcat Mountain to The Nature Conservancy. Although entirely wooded now, Wildcat Mountain Natural Area has a long history of human use. Aside from patches of mature oak-hickory forests, which were only lightly logged, the preserve was cleared for farms as early as the 18th Century. Old stone walls still meander through the preserve, marking boundary lines and former fields.
Many of the homesteads were abandoned after the Civil War, although some farming and considerable logging continued into the 20th Century. At that time, much of Wildcat Mountain Farm was converted to an apple orchard. However, all logging and farming ceased on the western slope in the 1940s.
Before cultivation or extensive logging, most of the mountain was probably a forest of beech, oak and American chestnut. However, in the 1920s a devastating blight killed most of the American chestnuts. Their loss brought economic disaster to many rural people who depended on the sale or use of the nuts, wood and bark (for tannin). The impact on wildlife was significant as well, since chestnut was a major food source.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Natural succession was well under way at the time the preserve was donated to the Conservancy. Smaller, adjacent portions have been donated and added onto the Wildcat Mountain preserve since then.
Download an Audio Tour
Planning a visit to Wildcat Mountain? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket!
- Step 1: Download the Wildcat Mountain audio tour map. This map will help identify which audio tracks to play based on your location on the trail, so make sure to take a copy with you on your trip.
- Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests! Need a little help saving the files? Check out our step-by-step guide!
NOTE TOUR STOP 10: The Smith House is now closed to the public due to safety concerns. Please abide by the posted No Trespassing signs.
What to See: Animals
Typical wildlife of the region flourish here, especially red and gray fox, bobcat, deer, skunk, gray and fox squirrel, raccoon, and small mammals. Black bears wander through occasionally, and 186 species of birds have been recorded in the preserve.
What to See: Plants
Older stands of large oak and hickory alternate with stands of pine and younger forest. A new ecosystem of hickories, beech, and oak has evolved through succession. Formerly cleared areas, marked by pine, are giving way to hardwoods in most instances; last stages of field succession are still visible in others. Redbud, dogwood, hackberry, sassafras and wild cherry grow along fringe areas adjacent to neighboring farms.
From Washington, D.C.:
- Take 66 west approximately 31 miles west of Beltway 495 and take exit 28 at Marshall.
- Take a left at the end of the exit ramp onto Route 17 south and follow it for a quarter mile.
- Take a right onto Route 691 and follow for 5.25 miles.
- Take a left onto England Mountain road. This is a private paved driveway.
- Follow this driveway past house on left with pond, and then keep straight ahead on gravel road (private paved drive bears to left).
- Park on right side of lane at the kiosk just past the paved drive and walk until road ends in a "T."
- Take a right at this T and walk to the end. The trailhead is located to the left side. The trail is clearly marked to a fire road at the top of the mountain.
From the south:
- Follow Route 29 north of Charlottesville for roughly 60 miles to Warrenton.
- Turn left onto Business Route 29 at the first light.
- Go 1.5 miles and turn left onto Route 211 west.
- Go to the next light and turn right.
- Go one block to the stop sign and turn left onto Waterloo Road (Route 678).
- Go 6.5 miles (it changes to Wilson Road) and turn right onto Carter Run Road (Route 691). [NOTE: This is a "T" intersection and easy to miss!]
- Go 3.3 miles and turn right onto England Mtn. Road and follow the above directions from that point on