Montpelier is home to the 200-acre James Madison Landmark Forest. This is one of the premier areas in the Piedmont representing a relatively undisturbed old-growth deciduous forest. It is the "best example of a mature forest dominated primarily by lirodendron tulipifera and lindera benzoin in the Piedmont of eastern North America," according to Dr. Albert E. Radford, professor at the University of North Carolina, who was helpful in seeking the designation of National Natural Landmark by the Department of the Interior. The forest also has been protected with an easement through the Natural Conservancy.
The 200 acres of trees found in the James Madison Landmark Forest have been virtually undisturbed by man. Trees include oaks (Red, Scarlet, Chestnut, Black, White), Tulip trees, and Hickories (Mockernut, Pignut). Understory plants include Dogwood, Redbud, Spicebush, Virginia Creeper, Honeysuckle, and grapevines. A few of the oaks, poplars, and hickories are between 200-300 years old. The diameters at breast high (d.b.h.) are 36"-48" although some measure 5 feet in diameter.
The soil is Davidson, which is deep, well-drained loam originating from greenstone. It is among the best hardwood forest soils in Virginia. The band of soil (approximately 15 miles wide) extends from Charlottesville to Culpeper. Due to the rich soil, Tulip Trees at 50 years can reach a height of 100-120 feet, and Red Oaks, 80-95 feet. In a moderate site, Tulip trees usually reach a height of 80 feet and Red Oaks 55 feet at age 50.
This forest area is free and open to the public during regular visitor hours, with nearly two miles of self-guided trails through the forest. Guided tours of the Landmark Forest are offered April-October.
Trail Map of Montpelier--trails on the southern part of the map are part of the Landmark Forest. Click on trails to view description. View montpelier-paths in a larger map