Prince William Forest Park

Location: Triangle, Virginia
Dates: June-August 2009

Quantico Creek

Prince William Forest Park is a park managed by the National Park Service in northern Virginia and encompasses Piedmont forest in suburban Washington, DC. There are 37 miles of hiking trails in the park, a short mountain biking trail, miles of paved roads, and more miles of gravel/dirt fire roads open to public use. There is also a visitor center, picnic areas, playgrounds, two campgrounds, five small lakes, a ball field, and five cabin camps, four of which were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Pyrite Mine Road

The terrain here is hilly, and nearly the entire area is forested. Those areas that are not forested are former home and farm sites that have been recently restored, including the Taylor farm site. The Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine is a popular (relatively speaking) hiking destination. The mine once mined pyrite to produce sulfuric acid and was recently restored. A trail/boardwalk now goes through the mine site where there are remnants of structures and interpretive signs.

Pyrite Mine site

Trails throughout the park often follow stream bottoms, but there are often plenty of up and downs on some of these trails. Others follow ridges or a combination of the ridges and streams. Spotting wildlife here can be difficult because of the thick forest, but I have seen countless birds, many different snakes, frogs, beavers, raccoons, and even a black bear. Park maps show waterfalls, but don't be fooled, these are mere cascades of perhaps a foot in height along the fall line between the Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Lake 3

The Chopawamsic Backcountry Area provides the opportunity for a short backpack and primitive camping near Breckenridge Reservoir. Access to this area currently (January 2013) requires special permission and a gate key, but there will soon be a new, more accessible parking area. While the Chopawamsic Trail is only two miles long and not much of a backpacking experience, I'm hoping that the park will soon construct the last segment of the North Valley Trail to create one long loop trail throughout the park. Visitors could then hike the entire loop without walking along roads, and you would also have the option for staying the night at the Oak Ridge Campground and making it a two-day hike.

Cabin Camp 3

Eastern worm snake

Beaver dam on Quantico Creek

Mary Bird Branch

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