Daily Archives: May 19, 2016

Hiking Prince William Forest Park

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Although I only live an hour away from Prince William Forest Park (PWFP) I had never visited. It has been on my list for awhile but when my friend asked if I wanted to meet him there for a hike I said, ‘YES!’ The weather was worrisome as it had rained for 15 days here in Virginia. Thankfully, the sun came out and we had the most perfect day for hiking. It hovered around 70 degrees for most of the day and the sun played hide and seek with the clouds but we saw it often.

We had initially decided on a longer hike for our day. Unfortunately, because it is Virginia, a rain storm came later in the afternoon and we decided to take a shorter route back to the park headquarters. We started out on the Laurel Trail. This was a nice, easy hike through beautiful vegetation. All the plants are so green! As you make your way down the trail you eventually arrive at a creek. There are many places to go down and spend time skipping rocks. One of us was more successful than the other (not me). We decided to cross over the creek on a swinging bridge (not a lot of swing – don’t worry) and jump onto the South Valley Trail. This had a little elevation to it and you could see the creek down below. I was truly amazed at just how beautiful the forest is. I am a big fan of forest having grown up camping in them in Michigan and am thrilled to know I have one this big and pretty so close to home.

I would say that PWFP could do a bit better with signs. Some of them were very good while others really were difficult to follow or read. I usually try to memorize the trails I want to take so I don’t always have to rely on a map but I definitely had to keep pulling the map out to make sure we were going the planned route. We eventually ended up on the North Valley Trail that would take us up to the ‘waterfalls’.

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The North Valley trail takes you past the old Pyrite Mine location (there wasn’t a ton to see) and along a boardwalk. One cool thing about PWFP is the differences in landscape. One moment you feel like you’re deep in the woods and another moment you’re on a boardwalk in a marshy area. It definitely gives variety to your hike. After passing the mine area, we hiked along Quantico Creek. This is where the ‘waterfalls’ are listed. I, myself, love waterfalls. I think they are powerful. Beautiful. As you travel along the creek there are many places to crawl over logs, scramble over rocks, or wade in the water. We took our time through here because we’re both photography nerds and the scenery was amazing.

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While rocking jumping, my friend did happen upon a family of snakes. That was a little shocking as he almost stepped right on them. After doing some research I think they were gray water snakes but we were worried that they were cottonmouths. So if you’re there and scrambling along the rocks you may want to be on the lookout for them. As we traveled farther down the creek we were approaching the ‘waterfalls’ listed on the map. We got to a place that had a large, smooth rock and people were sitting on it and talking. We walked past them thinking that we hadn’t made it to the waterfall area yet. Nope. That was it. They left after I discussed with them whether or not that was the ‘waterfall’ and we all agreed that it must be. It was a little underwhelming. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful. We took time to eat lunch, take off our shoes, stand in the ice cold water and refresh our feet. It felt amazing.

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After refreshing we headed up the Quantico Cascades Trail (cascades would be a better description for the map than waterfalls). If you don’t like any elevation while hiking you may want to avoid this portion. It isn’t drastic but is a little steep. We continued on to the Mary Bird Branch trail which takes you past a parking area and on through one of the campgrounds. In the parking area you’ll see a #FindYourPark frame where you can take a cute photo.

This area is where more signs would have been helpful. We had wanted to continue on the Little Run Loop but it was difficult to know where to find it. We opted for the Turkey Run Ridge Trail back to the South Valley Trial. One note: If you have allergies, I highly recommend taking your allergy medicine before hiking this park. I don’t regularly suffer from them but I sneezed every 20 minutes or so and it was especially bad on the Turkey Run Ridge Trail. When we got to the South Valley Trail again we took it back to more ‘waterfalls’ that were shown on the map. These, too, were just cascades but just as pretty. It had warmed up significantly so we took the time to dip our feet in the water again. It felt amazing.

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At this time it was clear that more rain was coming. We headed back to the trail to return to the park headquarters. Each step was beautiful. I must have mentioned how beautiful the park was at least 10-15 times as we hiked. The rain and wind picked up and we did some fast hiking in case it was going to get worse. Thankfully, it didn’t. We ended up back on the Laurel Trail and traced our steps back to the headquarters.

It is hard to tell but I think we hiked almost 10 miles throughout our day. The cell signals were spotty at best so using a tracker was difficult. I went by the health data on my phone which registered me at over 10 miles for the day. The park was 37 miles of trails so it is easy to rack up the mileage. If you’re a backpacker and want a place to do a 2-day trip or want to camp with your kids I’d highly recommend this park. The campsites weren’t fancy but you’re nestled in a beautiful forest with amenities very close by in Triangle, Virginia.

If you’re like to see the rest of my photos please click on the link below.

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