Near Lovingston is a preserve of over 29,000 acres owned by the Nature Conservancy with ".... relatively intact forest habitat and hosts rare plant communities on a series of rocky glades." In 2002 the Nature Conservancy completed the main hiking trail. this area falls within the Conservancy's Piedmont Program for Virginia.
We initially did this hike on a very cold day early in January, there were no other hikers that day and I am willing to bet most hikes on this property will be ones of almost complete solitude. You will be rewarded with some great views and on the back half of the hike you will see The Priest, Three Ridges and Wintergreen Resort.
The hike begins at the entrance to the parking lot, bear left onto the gravel road heading uphill and in a short distance the trail will leave the road to right onto the trail marked with 2 blue poles. Many of the trees will be marked with information tags about the trees and also yellow and green arrow metal tags for direction. The trail quickly begins a tough 1400' climb, with a few short reprieves. The trail is basically a ridge hike around the Fortune's Cove Valley
Mile 0.8 – you will reach the first of 6 views and in another 01. miles the intersection to the lower loop trail.
The last part of the trail from High Top Mountain is downhill the rest of the way, and will pass a nice creek on the way back to the parking lot. The trail will end up on the gravel road and you will turn left to reach the parking lot in a short distance.
Fortunes Cove Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 15, 2019
Wow! Don’t do this one unless you’re in shape. A challenging hike. There is probably more to see in the fall after the leaves fall. Lots of uphill and downhill, not many level places on the trail. Great workout but wouldn’t take small children unless you know they are good hikers. But I love to hike and enjoyed being outdoors with great group! Trail was mark well and some areas were grown over...to be expected this time of year. Lots of ticks...also to be expected this time of year. A few little streams to cross and a boardwalk over swampy area. Lots of steps up and down. Take lots of water!
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 10, 2019
Good, quiet hike. We hiked in the direction written here. There had been some trail maintenance done since the last posts— lots of trees cleared from the trail or notches cut through the trunks so you could easily pass. Thank you to whomever did this! The trail is steep and I’m sure that wasn’t easy. Looks like there was also more signage and trail markers placed so trail was very easy to follow. Trail was muddy/wet near the end but could mostly be avoided. Views were pretty but I’d think may be difficult to see much in summer when the leaves are on the trees. To me, there are hikes with better views but this one’s worth doing!
Date of Hike: Wednesday, December 26, 2018
This is a great hike but there are dozens of places where huge trees make the trail impassable so be prepared for slow and tricky going on the upper section and also challenging to see the trail. Beautiful day but much tougher hike than normal due to downed trees.
Date of Hike: Sunday, November 18, 2018
So many big trees down across the trail. Made it an adventure, but very slow going. Probably not best for small children at this time.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 18, 2018
This is a challenging hike. Bring plenty of water if it is warm, and be prepared to start climbing right from the outset, if you do it in the preferable, counter-clockwise way. We did the upper loop, and it was a hard 3.5 hours of steady walking, with a brief pause at the radio translator at the summit. The descent was hard as well, with lots of steps based on round posts anchored in the soil. The blazing is excellent, but the trail could use some maintenance, including a chain sawyer to clear the 2-3 large trunks fallen across and blocking the trail. At the ridge at the top, the trail was overgrown, with poison ivy and other weeds, in several short sections. In the summer, you are usually shaded, but there are very few views.
Date of Hike: Monday, May 28, 2018
Loved this hike! The mountain laurels in bloom were magical. There are lots of rocks on the trail up going counterclockwise which made it very fun but I wouldn't want to come down on that side, way too hard on the quads having to balance. Even though the descent is steeper going counterclockwise it is a smoother trail with some steps. The apres hike at the Mountain Cove winery was fantastic. They'll fill your water bottles and let you use the facilities even if not partaking in the free samples.
Date of Hike: Saturday, February 17, 2018
Loved this hike!! This was an excellent hike with a lot of great views. I would say it was pretty strenuous. You are basically hiking up the whole way, get a little ridge walking in, and then it's back down again. When you are hiking down, the scope of the mountains is almost dizzying. It was very secluded when we hiked it, although snow had been forecasted so I'm not sure how busy it gets if the weather is nicer. I hiked this trail with 4 others and we all had a great time. Definitely would recommend it!
Date of Hike: Monday, December 18, 2017
A great hike. Did the outer loop (5.3 miles). Very steep and I rate this as a "5" in difficulty.--not "4" as stated. Very steep and narrow trails--only a few areas where hikers could stand abreast, side-by-side. The view from the ridgeline trail was awesome--especially looking west to see "The Priest" on the Appalachian Trail. The summit (High Top Mtn), where the towers are, was disappointing but we lunched at the nearby trail intersection and that was pleasant. Water is available but involves steep climbs down off trail. Recommended loop is counterclockwise which is long but steep followed by Ridgeline trail to the Towers. Route down then becomes very steep. Naturally, we did the opposite--we went clockwise--the shorter steep climb to the towers. I'm better going up than down so this was the right choice for me. No foliage on my hike, so all views were nice but I think other than on the Ridgeline, when foliage is out the views must be less spectacular. Mountain Laurel was abundant and there is a nice walk thru a grove. I was impressed by the care taken of the trail and markings are abundant and visible. Bottom line: put this trail on your list.
Lower loop trail
Date of Hike: Friday, November 3, 2017
We wanted a quick but pretty hike so we did the lower loop trail of fortunes cove. It was so beautiful this time of year! We put in fortunes cove preserve in google maps and the parking lot was so easy to find and the trailhead is just up the road a little from there. The hike is very close to Charlottesville which is also nice. There was not an amazing view if that is what you are looking for. The lower loop trail is more beautiful due to the solitude and nature around you. It took us around an hour and 30 minutes without breaks. We were confused when the trail finished and spit us out on a road. However, if you take a left going downhill on the road and just keep going (around the gate), you will end up at the parking lot. Seriously recommend!
Run n hike
Date of Hike: Friday, October 20, 2017
Lovely views on a mild day. Went in with intention of a trail run and did some, but hiked several portions because of the grade, both steep incline and steep descent with stairs that I could not run.. Note when driving there you'll see winery sign at a fork in the road, stay left on single lane gravel road. Time with running and hiking was about 1 hour 40 minutes.