Of all the places associated with America’s War for Independence, none convey the suffering, sacrifice and ultimate triumph of our nation more than Valley Forge, right outside Philadelphia in Montgomery County. (Photos by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)
[Welcome to Uwishunu’s Summer Daycation series. Can’t take extended time off? Working with a shoestring budget? Want to sleep in your own bed? Not a worry. This month, we’ll be highlighting destinations in the Philadelphia area that make for the perfect day trip. August is the perfect month, after all, to capitalize on the chance to take a daycation. And we’ve done all the planning for you, so you’ll even have enough time to come back and enjoy a summer night in the city so you won’t miss a beat.]
Just about a half-hour drive from the city, Valley Forge National Historical Park brings our nation’s history and the American Revolution right into our own backyard.
As the site of the infamous 1777-78 winter encampment of more than 12,000 Continental soldiers, the park commemorates the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honors the ability to overcome adversity.
But whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast or an adventurous daycationer, Valley Forge has something for you.
Check out our guide to spending a day in Valley Forge National Historical Park, below.
What to Expect
Valley Forge features 3,600 acres of rolling hills and exciting trails, perfect for a scenic jog, bike ride and picnic. The park is also a major hub in a 75-mile system linking Philadelphia to the Appalachian Trail.
But beyond the physical expanse of the park, the monuments, statues and buildings evoke more than 225 years of American history and give the park a sense of the past, making it a favorite destination for families.
The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to sunset.
Note: Valley Forge is a National Park and prohibits alcohol.
In December 1777, General George Washington marched with the 12,000 soldiers in the Continental Army into camp at Valley Forge. Remnants of that history still remain. (Photo by G. Widman for GPTMC)
A Slice of History
In December 1777, General George Washington marched with the 12,000 soldiers in the Continental Army into camp at Valley Forge. Throughout the winter, the soldiers endured cold and illness here until June 1778. More than 2,000 lives were lost in this six-month period, leaving us with a greater understanding and appreciation for the suffering, sacrifice and triumph of our nation.
See Washington’s Headquarters, Washington Memorial Chapel, the re-created Muhlenberg Brigade huts as well as many monuments and statues located throughout the park.
Note: Some sites have different hours than the park. Check the site hours online.
• Visitor Center and Museum Gallery: Check out the exhibits featuring Revolutionary War artifacts to tell the story of life during the winter encampment. You can even touch muskets and see how General Washington lived in the tough Valley Forge conditions. Don’t miss the short film Valley Forge: A Winter Encampment, playing every hour on the hour from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Visitor Center’s theater.
• Tours: For those interested in seeing the sites and hearing about their story, Valley Forge has you covered. They offer can choose from a 40-minute, ranger-led walking tours, a 90-minute trolley tour (tickets cost $8 for children and $16 for adults) and a self-guided cell phone tour. General Varnum’s Quarters are also open for touring through August 26.
Read on for more of what Valley Forge has to offer.
Make your trip memorable with plenty of photo opps to choose from, including scenic views and interactions with historical reenactors. (Photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC)
• Historical Reenactments: Look for the costumed interpreters posted at the Muhlenberg Brigade huts on summer weekends who will show what camp life was like during the treacherous winter of 1777-78. Interpreters will also be at Washington’s Headquarters to give you a glimpse into American history.
Recreation and Relaxation
• Hiking: Enjoy 19.5 miles of marked hiking trails including the 6.6 mile Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, connecting the key historic sites. Other hiking trails include everything from the calm River and Valley Creek trails to the hilly trails on Mount Joy and Mount Misery.
Valley Forge boasts 21 miles of biking trails, plus bike rentals available at the Visitor Center. (Photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC)
• Biking: Valley Forge boasts 21 miles of biking trails. Ride along the 6.6 mile Joseph Plumb Martin Trail and see all of the historic sites. On the north side, two miles of the Schuylkill River Trail run through the park, with connections to sites in Montgomery County and Philadelphia. For the more adventurous, there are also 12 miles of flat, unpaved trails. Don’t have your own bike? Not a worry. Valley Forge offers bike rentals at the Visitor Center.
• Birdwatching: Over 227 species of birds have been observed within the park. Some of the best areas to observe birds are on Mount Joy, along Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River, and in meadows throughout the park. Check out the full list of birds to spot online.
Joggers and hikers take note: enjoy 19.5 miles of marked trails including the 6.6 mile Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, connecting Valley Forge's key historic sites. (Photo by G. Widman for GPTMC)
• Fishing: Fly-fishing is permitted in Valley Creek with a permit.
• Picnic: From all the options in the city to packing your own basket for the great outdoors, picnicking has been all over the radar this summer. Check out the many designated picnic areas in the park like Varnum’s Picnic Area, Betzwood Picnic Area and Wayne’s Woods.
• Snack Bars: Valley Forge offers several on-site dining options for the hungry hikers and ravenous history buffs. Grab some light snacks and refreshments at the Encampment Store right inside the Visitor Center. The Valley Forge Canteen in the lower lot of the Visitor Center also sells hot dogs and burgers and is open during the summer season. For some homemade baked goods, Chapel Cabin Shop will be your go-to spot.
Make It Memorable
• Picture Perfect Photo Opps: While exploring the park, don’t forget to snap photos at some of the park’s most picturesque places and scenic lookouts. Some of these places include: Mount Joy and Mount Misery, Memorial Arch and Washington’s Headquarters.
• Souvenirs: Like any vacation, a daycation wouldn’t be the same without grabbing some souvenirs for friends and family. Take home a piece of your visit to Valley Forge at the Chapel Cabin Shop and the Encampment Store in the Visitor Center.
Take a seat at the popular Once Upon a Nation storytelling bench to learn a little more about the history of Valley Forge. (Photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC)
How to Get There
It only takes about half an hour to make the drive out to Valley Forge. Looking for some travel options? We’ve got you covered.
• By Car: For the day, you can rent a car hourly through Philly Car Share or hop into a Zip Car to make the trip. Carpooling is another great option.
• By Bike: Avid bikers can reach the park by using the Schuylkill River Trail from the city all the way to the park. The trail curves directly into the park before going into Montgomery County. The ride is approximately two hours long.
• On-site Transportation: Come to the Visitor Center and catch the Revolutionary Shuttle for a free shuttle service around the park that leaves every 20 minutes. Bike racks are provided. The shuttle will run until September 3.
Check the Valley Forge website for park alerts and an up-to-date list of the day’s programs.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
1400 N. Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, Montgomery County