A mature tree grows at an angle along a forest trail. A large low branch sticks straight out from the trunk.
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.

COVID-19 UPDATE (September 25, 2020)

TNC’s public preserves in Virginia remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and to follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others (social distancing).

Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.


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

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. 

TNC 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.

Get Involved: Preserve Volunteer Program

Virginia's Preserve Volunteer Community Program provides a vital service to help us maintain and monitor our public preserves across the state.

How can you get involved?

  • Community Members—become involved with a preserve without committing time to stewardship work. Receive periodic updates about the preserve and special events.
  • Preserve Stewards—visit Fortune's Cove at least 4 times a year to assess trail and preserve conditions and perform basic trail maintenance by removing fallen branches and overgrown vegetation.
  • Preserve Leaders—demonstrated commitment to the preserve and willingness to take on additional responsibilities like managing communication & scheduling, leading workdays and guiding naturalist hikes.

Please contact Jen Dalke, volunteer coordinator, at 434-951-0572 or jdalke@tnc.org to receive further information.

Download the Fortune's Cove Preserve Volunteer Program handbook to learn more.

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. 

Trail marker on a tree at the edge of a path.
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.