Prince William Forest Park sign

Explore Prince William Forest Park in Northern Virginia

Visitors can explore Prince William Forest Park in Northern Virginia from 37 miles of beautiful hiking trails and a scenic loop drive with dedicated bike lanes. The 15,000 acre park has an interesting history, which you can learn about at the Visitor Center and at historic buildings throughout the park.

Explore Prince William Forest Park in Northern Virginia

Explore Prince William Forest Park in Northern Virginia

 

Explore Prince William Forest: Nature and Geology

You’ll find a nice network of trails from which to explore the park. Choose your preferred distance and whether to focus on the park’s nature or history, and stop at the Visitor Center for advice on the best trail options. The center also has nature displays, a shop, and lots of information about the park’s interesting history.

Prince William Forest Visitor Center

Prince William Forest Visitor Center

Prince William Forest inside visitor center

Once you’ve chosen your route, you’ll find trails that are well marked, with helpful signs and maps at each trailhead (snap a picture to refer to while you hike).

Laurel Loop trail sign Prince William Forest

Laurel Loop trail sign Prince William Forest

 

The 1.4 mile Laurel Loop Trail, which passes through peaceful woods and along the South Fork of Quantico Creek, is a popular family hike which you can easily extend with connecting trails. If time allows, add a section of the Potomac Heritage Trail, crossing a pretty bridge over Quantico Creek.

South Valley Trail Prince William Forest

South Valley Trail Prince William Forest

Bridge over Quantico Creek Prince William Forest

Bridge over Quantico Creek Prince William Forest

 

We combined portions of the Laurel and South Valley Trails, with the Pyrite Mine and North Orenida Roads, to create a 4-5 mile loop hike that was stunning with colorful Fall foliage.

Fall trail Prince William NFP

Fall trail Prince William National Forest

 

For a shorter but steeper hike to the creek, take the Quantico Falls Trail to the cascades along Quantico Creek. In winter, we enjoyed views of ice-covered rocks and logs in the water. You can also explore the trails online before your visit. This geology focused walk is on our list for a future visit.

Icy stream, Prince William Forest

Icy creek, Prince William Forest

 

Cyclists can enjoy the park on a mix of paved and gravel roads. Three level miles of the scenic loop drive offer dedicated bike lanes perfect for beginners; and there are 10 gravel fire roads in the park for experienced cyclists.

Scenic drive Prince William Forest

Scenic drive with bike lane Prince William Forest

 

History in Prince William Forest

During the Great Depression, the CCC built the Chopawamsic Recreation Area here to house children’s ‘relief’ camps where low-income children from Washington DC could experience nature. From 1936 to 1948, the camps introduced city children to the joys of nature, hiking, swimming, and other activities. While the five cabin camps welcomed both blacks and whites, they were segregated, with separate entrances to separate sections of the park.

Historic cabins Prince William Forest

Historic cabins Prince William Forest

CCC cabin interior Prince William Forest

CCC cabin interior Prince William Forest

 

Today, Prince William Forest preserves the largest inventory of CCC structures in the National Park System. The cabin camps accommodate large groups and individuals, and include sleeping cabins, an activity building, shared kitchen and dining halls, and restrooms.

During World War II Prince William Forest performed a very different function. From 1942 to 1945, the park was used to train civilian and military spies in the newly formed OSS (the precursor to the CIA). During their time at the park, future spies learned how to handle explosives, forge documents, gather intelligence, and even practiced spying in nearby towns.

Check the event schedule when you visit to find special programs that explore Prince William Forest Park’s nature and history. Rangers at the Visitor Center are a great resource for planning your visit. The park entrance fee is $7.00 per vehicle (waived on  fee-free days) for 7 consecutive days, and camping is available at the historic cabins and open sites.

Prince William Forest Park
Park Entrance Road
Dumfries, VA 22025
703-221-4706
Map

Read more about history and hiking in Prince William County or plan a visit to nearby historic Manassas. Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram for more great parks, places to visit, and things to do in Northern Virginia and surrounding areas.

Explore Prince William Forest in Northern Virginia from 37 miles of hiking trails and a scenic loop drive full of beautiful nature and interesting history.

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7 Responses to “Explore Prince William Forest Park in Northern Virginia”

  1. Rome July 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    Lovely looking walks.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA July 12, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

      Yes, Prince William Forest is a beautiful park. Thanks for stopping by!

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