The Prince William Forest Park is home to 37 miles of hiking trails (and 21 miles of bicycle-accessible roads and trails). To that end the Our Kids team (2 adults and 2 children, ages 13 and 11) decided a trek to PWC for a family hike was in order. We packed up the swagger wagon and headed south for a 30+ minute drive. When we arrived, we paid our park entrance fee of $5, visited the convenience and talked to the nice rangers in the Visitors Center. After consulting the map, we opted for the North Valley Trail.
Hike Information – The North Valley Trail
- This out and back trail totals 6.2 miles, mainly flat, with a few short but steep grades toward the end.
- Most of this trail is along Quantico Creek, and there are some worthwhile waterfalls at the end.
- From the Visitor Center, go through the parking lots to the Pine Grove picnic area. You’ll start out down a gradual slope for .5 mile before getting to the first of several bridges. Most of the hike is in deciduous forest, but there is plenty of sun at the creek’s edge.
- If you aren’t an “out and back” hiker, you can return via several alternate routes, but they’ll be longer and feature more elevation as you climb out of the valley.
- The entrance to Prince William Forest Park is here.
- This hike is appropriate for children above age 7 or so, who can walk 6 miles with breaks for lunch and messing around by the creek. Shorter walks, of course, are a possibility.
- We saw several families with strollers along the first two miles or so, but the last mile has some steep climbs that would be tough with wheels. There were also a few families with kids in hiking backpacks.
What is fun for kids?
- The park has plenty to offer families with kids. Stop in at the Visitor Center to get maps, wildlife handouts, etc.
- History buffs will enjoy learning about the park’s origins under the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, and its role as an Office of Strategic Services paramilitary training area during World War II.
- This trail goes past an abandoned pyrite mine and also crosses the fall line demarcating the transition from coastal plain to piedmont.
- Wildlife seen includes: Box turtles, toads, frogs, lizards, fish, and lots and lots of butterflies. As of late May 2013 there were a bunch of horde 2 cicadas flying around.
- Pack a lunch and enjoy it on the rocks by the waterfalls.
- Take the usual precautions: sunscreen, bug repellent etc. Check for ticks after your hike, especially if you go into the brush.
- Take plenty of water.
- The park map shows several trails, but the names may not be the same on trail markers.
- While we didn’t see any, copperhead snakes are in the woods. Tread lightly.