Fortune's Cove Preserve trail marker
Fortunes Cove Trail marker at Fortune's Cove Preserve, VA © Glenna Goldman/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Fortune's Cove Preserve

Virginia

Fortune’s Cove Preserve challenges hikers and rewards those who go slowly and observe closely.

Easily accessible from the Charlottesville and Lynchburg areas, Fortune's Cove Preserve provides a challenging hike that rewards visitors with exceptional scenery.

Why TNC Selected This Site

Fortune's Cove straddles Virginia's Piedmont and Blue Ridge. Here, these two ecological regions meet to form a unique collection of flora from both areas.

The preserve is nestled within some 29,000 acres of relatively unfragmented forest, providing excellent wildlife habitat.

West-facing rock surfaces create a desert-like environment in which an unusual combination of plants can thrive. The plant community found on the glades is thought to be extremely rare, with fewer than 20 examples known to occur worldwide. 

The Conservancy also works with the American Chestnut Foundation to manage an experimental grove at the preserve.  

Landowner Jane Heyward approached TNC about donating her property and making it accessible to visitors. Through Mrs. Heyward's exceptional generosity, the Virginia chapter created a parking area, signage and hiking trails for people to experience the preserve and will protect Fortune's Cove for future generations.

Additional Resources

Conditions

The 5.5-mile loop trail climbs steeply from the parking area, gaining some 1,500 feet in elevation before reaching its highest point. 

The trail forks at the 0.8-mile mark. Continuing along the Upper Loop (Yellow Trail) makes for an arduous 5.1-mile counter-clockwise trek around the horseshoe-shaped cove. Hikers should be in good physical condition and should allow about four hours to complete this trail.

Turning left at the fork onto the Lower Loop (or White Trail) shortens the total distance to 3.7 miles and lowers the intensity by cutting out the steepest climbs. 

What to See: Animals

Black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoon, and box turtle are all present. Bird species include turkey and red-tail hawk, as well as migratory songbirds such as the cerulean and blue-winged warbler, scarlet tanager, and orchard oriole.    

What to See: Plants

The oak-hickory forests at Fortune's Cove are representative of this part of the Appalachians. Most of this forest is young, but uncut chestnut oak (Quercus montana) grows in a small area near the ridgeline of Woods Mountain.

The west-facing slopes at Fortune's Cove are broken by a series of rocky glades. These openings support expanses of lichens and rock mosses—please tread carefully on these as you take in the spectacular views, as these fragile pioneers are easily abraded away by foot traffic.

Little bluestem, a prairie grass, dominates the grassy portions of the glades, while the woodlands are abundant with fringetree, also known as grandfather's beard. When this shrub blooms (late April/early May), you may notice its sweet fragrance before catching sight of the blossom's unusual white plume. 

Springtime displays here also include flowering mountain laurel, rhododendron, dogwood and wild azalea. On the ground, look for more delicate wildflowers such as fire pink, which boasts the ruby-throated hummingbird as its primary pollinator. 

Fortunes Cove Preserve
Fortune's Cove provides a challenging hike that rewards visitors with stunning mountain vistas.

Fortune's Cove Preserve Plan your visit to this preserve, easily accessible from the Charlottesville and Lynchburg areas.

Additional Resources

We invite you to experience and enjoy preserves where we provide public access, but remember that every visitor has an impact. Please follow our visitation guidelines to protect yourself and nature.

  • Preserves are open to the public during daylight hours. 
  • Passive recreation such as walking, bird watching, and photography is welcomed. 

 THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES ARE NOT ALLOWED:

  • Bringing dogs onto the preserve
  • Picking flowers, mushrooms, etc.
  • Removing rocks or other parts of the landscape
  • Smoking
  • Camping
  • Fires or cookouts
  • Driving motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, except on designated access roads
  • Biking, except at Brownsville Preserve
  • Fishing, trapping or hunting, except as otherwise posted
  • Horseback riding
  • Feeding wildlife
  • Releasing animals or introducing plants
  • Disposing of trash or other waste, including biodegradable materials

TO MINIMIZE YOUR IMPACT, WE ASK THAT YOU PLEASE ALSO OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING:

  • Stay on trails.
  • Avoid walking in wet, boggy areas.
  • Inspect pant legs and shoes to remove seeds before entering and when leaving the preserve. Failure to do so could introduce invasive weeds to new locations.
  • If you flush a ground nesting bird, stop and avoid walking near the nest area.
  • Observe all posted signs.
  • Please do not remove stakes, signs, flagging, tape or similar objects. These may be markers for a research project.
  • Please do not trespass on private property adjacent to preserves.

For your own comfort and enjoyment, come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes for hiking, pack rain gear, and wear long pants with socks over them to protect yourself from ticks and poison ivy. Always remember to bring water, as dehydration is a serious year-round threat.

If you observe any illegal activity on a preserve such as ATV use, do not confront the offenders yourself. However, do feel free to call local law enforcement.

A note about wildlife

While black bear populations are healthy in the western part of the state, you are unlikely to encounter a bear while visiting one of our preserves.  More often than not, a wild bear will detect you first and flee from the area. However, black bears that have become accustomed to humans and their foods may not run away. In these cases, certain precautions are offered for consideration (source: USFS):

  • Do not run. Remain calm, continue facing the bear and slowly back away.
  • Keep children and pets close at hand.
  • Make lots of noise. Yell, rattle pots and pans, whistle and break sticks.
  • Travel in groups.
  • Stand upright. Do not kneel or bend over. Wave arms, jackets or other materials.
  • Never approach or corner a bear.
  • Never offer food to a bear.
  • Be aware of the presence of cubs and never come between a bear and its cubs.
  • Fight back aggressively if a bear attacks you.

Enjoy your visit and please report any problems you encounter at a preserve to the Virginia Chapter at 434-295-6106.