Prince William Forest Park
Located in Triangle, Virginia, just 35 miles outside Washington, Prince William Forest Park is synonymous with hikers, campers, and nature lovers. Each year, several groups of schools and families visit to explore the area.
Stretching over 15,000-acres of land, it is the largest protected natural area in the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. The park serves as a mirror of how the East Coast once looked like hundreds of years ago. It also protects the Quantico Creek watershed and acts as a sanctuary for native plants and animal species.
The park was set aside by Congress during the Great Depression for use by the youths who loved nature. Back then, it was known as Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area. By 1936, the park opened its gates to thousands of children from the capital.
They slept in cabins that had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. It was in 1948 when the site was renamed, Prince William Forest Park. It then started welcoming youths from Washington and the surrounding counties for both daytime and overnight environmental education programs.
Today, Prince William Forest Park features a wide variety of recreational activities that will suit every type of visitor. Whether you seek to hit hiking trails, enjoy rustic camping, or just want to have a relaxing picnic with friends and family, you will experience it all in this park. Below are some of the activities that you can engage in:
Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy over 37-miles hiking trails meandering through the entire 15,000-acre park. As you explore the trails, you will also get an opportunity to view wildlife, waterfalls, and even study geology.
The park is home to a wide variety of plants and animal species. You can spot animals such as the red fox, black bear, beaver, white-tailed deer, coyote, Eastern box turtle, American toad, and American bullfrogs. There are over 900 species of plants ranging from the very small wildflowers to the tallest trees.
With a total of 3 front country campgrounds, 1 backcountry campground, and 5 cabin camps, it is the ultimate camping area in Northern Virginia. You can spend the night in a single historic cabin made of wood, stone, and brick structures. Groups of from 70 to 200 people can enjoy group camps that feature sleeping cabins, dining halls, craft lodges, ballfields, and lake access.
Picnic in the Park
If you want to spend the day relaxing in the park with your friends or family, there are several parts of the park that support picnicking. Most of thee places have grills and picnic tables.
Within the park’s boundaries, you will find several streams and two impoundments that are open to the public for fishing. The waters are home to numerous fish species including the bluegill, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. These lakes sit adjacent to the cabin camps and can only be accessed by foot.
Prince William Forest Park Opening Hours and Directions
The park is open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. The visitor center is open from 9 am to 5 pm from March to November and from 8 am to 4 pm from November to March.
From November 12th to March 13th, there are winter closures on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It also closes during major holidays including Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Currently, there is still no public transportation that takes visitors to the park directly. If you are driving from Washington, D.C., point north and take Interstate 95 south to exit 150-B (Virginia State Route 619/Joplin Road).
You will spot the park’s entrance on the second right. The approximate driving time from Washington, D.C. to the park is 45-minutes. If you are coming from Fredericksburg, point south and take Interstate 95 north to exit 150 (Virginia State Route 619/Joplin Road).
You will then turn left beneath the exit ramp. Continue on VA Route 619 West for about a quarter-mile and you will be on the park’s entrance.
The approximate driving time from Fredericksburg, VA to the park is 20 minutes.
The park is a great way to get a break from the city of DC but if you’re visiting for the first time we’d recommend you check out the Library of Congress as well.