Open to the Public
Take a look around and spot some of Fortune Cove's amazing plants and animals. View All
View preserve guidelines, download a trail map, and get the most of your visit to Fortune's Cove. View All
Why You Should Visit
Easily accessible from the Charlottesville and Lynchburg areas, Fortune's Cove Preserve provides a challenging hike that rewards visitors with stunning mountain vistas. The preserve is situated within some 29,000 acres of relatively intact forest habitat and hosts rare plant communities on a series of rocky glades.
Nelson County, near Lovingston
View preserve guidelines. Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserve.
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Open daily, dawn to dusk, year-round
The 5.5-mile loop trail climbs steeply from the parking area, gaining some 1,500 feet in elevation before reaching its highest point. Hikers should be in good physical condition and should allow about four hours to complete the yellow trail. A gravel parking area and kiosk with trail map are at the preserve entrance; there are no restrooms.
Why the Conservancy 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 also is nestled within some 29,000 acres of relatively unfragmented forest, providing excellent wildlife habitat. The plant community—i.e. combination of plant species—found on the glades is thought to be extremely rare, with fewer than 20 examples known to occur worldwide.
Landowner Jane Heyward approached the Conservancy about donating her property and making it accessible to visitors. Through Mrs. Heyward's exceptional generosity, the Conservancy created a parking area, signage and hiking trails for people to experience the preserve and will protect Fortune's Cove for future generations.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Conservancy staff and volunteers will maintain the 5.5-mile hiking trail for visitors. The preserve falls within the project area of the Conservancy's Piedmont Program, which focuses on the protection and restoration of the most significant remaining habitats throughout the Piedmont region of central and northern Virginia.
A glimpse of Fortune's Cove Preserve in Nelson County, Virginia.
What to See: Animals
Black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoon, and box turtle are all present. Bird species include quail, 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 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. Wild azalea, mountain laurel, and fire pink also bloom around this time.
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 grows in a small area near the ridgeline of Woods Mountain.
Download a trail map of Fortune's Cove Preserve (pdf, 272KB).
For more information, contact the Virginia Program: (434) 295-6106.
From the north (Charlottesville area):
- Take 29 south towards Lovingston.
- Before reaching Lovingston, turn right onto Rte. 718, Mountain Cove Road. Go 1.5 miles and turn right onto Rte. 651, Fortune's Cove Lane.
- Continue 1.2 miles to a fork in the road. You'll see vineyards to your right down the hill. You will see a purple grape sign leading to the vineyard, downhill to the right. Bear left at the fork (going right here will take you to Mountain Cove Vineyard). Instead follow the Fortune's Cove sign left and follow the road until you see another sign, which is the entrance to the parking lot.
- Go 0.2 miles after the fork and then turn left into preserve parking area.