Educational Adventures, Green Spaces, National Parks, Road Trips

Historical Hiking: A Day Trip to Valley Forge

Most people don’t properly appreciate the area where they live; this is especially true of travel junkies.  We are so obsessed with planning the next trip, so focused on that next destination (or four) that we fail to open our eyes and look around and realize that hey, there’s some pretty cool stuff to do right in my own back yard.

I live in eastern Pennsylvania.  I can drive two hours and be in the mountains, at the beach (though that particular stretch of shoreline just washed away this past week), or in Philadelphia or New York City.  This opens up a world of day trip opportunities that I’ve just begun to explore.  And so, I bring to you my first local attraction:  Valley Forge National Historical Park.

The plan was to go for a hike around the park; that plan quickly fell apart as soon as we arrived.  I found very little information online about how to visit the park–at least, I found very little useful information.  And thus, I bring to you my super-useful guide to visiting Valley Forge.  Ahem…

Tracy’s Super-Useful Guide to Visiting Valley Forge National Historical Park

October in PA is quite lovely, especially in Valley Forge

Visit on a day with nice weather, ideally in autumn.  We were there the last weekend in October, and the fall color was lovely.  In fact, so late in the season, the trees seemed to be in quite a rush to rid themselves of all foliage; we walked through yellow and red leaves slowly drifting down upon us.  This really upped the wow-factor of the park.

Unless you are an avid biker, keep the bicycles at home.  Yes, the website says that Valley Forge is a ‘very popular spot for bicycling’. And yes, we saw many people there with bicycles.  But it’s not in any way, shape, or form an easy ride (and many of those people did not look very happy).  The park is large-ish, the hills are plentiful (and long) and at many points you will be riding on the road along with vehicle traffic.  I’m glad we left the bikes at home.

If you have a dog, bring it.  There’s really no reason not to do so.  I saw lots of people with dogs and both the dogs and their owners looked pretty happy.  Additionally, there are doggie water stations set up at each public restroom (and when I say ‘doggie water stations’ what I really mean is ‘dog dishes tied to the water fountains’.  But still–a thoughtful, helpful touch for man’s best friend.)

Don’t plan on hiking.  While yes, there are trails through the ‘woods’, Valley Forge is pretty urban.  Actual roads bisect the park, and you never really get that ‘I’m in the middle of nowhwere’ feeling I so enjoy when hiking.  Perhaps this is all a matter of perspective; surely, if you live in Philadelphia and rarely leave, you’ll visit Valley Forge and think ‘oh wow, I’m in the woods’.  But if you live anywhere other than a true urban area, you’ll think ‘hey look, I can still see the road/that gas station/this highrise building from this park’.  I’m a huge fan of hiking–and perhaps I’ve been spoiled.  By Acadia.  And Fundy.  And Yosemite.  Ok yeah–I’ve been spoiled.

Plan on walking.  As long as you call it ‘walking’ and not ‘hiking’, you won’t be disappointed.  There are a variety of trails that, while not remote in any way, do wind along rivers, through little recreations of encampments, and among historic buildings.  We parked our car a few miles from George Washington’s headquarters and walked through the ‘woods’ along the rail road tracks and river.  It was a two-and-a-half mile round trip walk which was, to be fair, quite lovely in late October.

This is one of the roads in the park; you can also bike here, but you’re sharing the narrow lane with drivers, too.

-If you need some historical perspective, stop in the little visitor’s center at the beginning of the park loop.  Yes, it is small.  Yes, it is pretty darn low-tech.  But it’s worth a maybe ten- to fifteen-minute pause before you begin exploring the park proper.

Plan on driving.  We really thought we’d walk around the entire park.  That would have been nice, I suppose, but would have required at least an eight-hour visit.  And to be honest, long parts of that walk would have been along the road and thus kind of silly.  It is my belief that the point of walking or hiking or riding a bike or a horse is to get somewhere that roads can’t take you.  Roads can take you pretty much everywhere in Valley Forge.  Use them.

Bring a camera.  Well, if you’re anything like me, bring a camera.  I can be entertained just about anywhere as long as I have my dSLR around my neck.  And Valley Forge has some great scenic vistas as well as little details any wannabe-photographer will appreciate. I had a great time pointing my camera at things, as you can see by the photos posted below.

It was a nice day trip, and I’m glad I went; I’m particularly glad I went on what turned out to be the last nice autumn day of the year.  While the park lacks historical immersion–meaning ‘you don’t really feel like you are at a historical site when cars are zipping past–it is beautiful.  And educational.  And free.  You can’t beat that combination.

This was the first local attraction featured here on The Suitcase Scholar.  It won’t be the last–look for upcoming posts on a variety of Pennsylvania state parks, a post on my favorite place in Philadelphia, and a holiday-themed New York City post.  Of course, I’m always open to suggestions of local or semi-local attractions and locations to visit.  So please–suggest some in the comments section below.  Thanks!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...