On our way back to Maryland from visiting friends in Richmond, we stopped for a quick hike in Prince William Forest.
It’s convenient and easy to get to – just off I-95 next to the Marine base at Quantico. There’s a $5 fee (a bit of a hassle because you have to go to the Visitor’s Center first to get a little receipt), a drop in the bucket to help defray the costs of maintaining the park. Of course, silly me, it should have been free because we JUST bought a National Parks pass – but of course I had left it at home.
Prince William Forest isn’t anything particularly special, but it’s nice to have a large chunk of protected forest land (15,000 acres) with many different trails and bike paths. The park also features campgrounds and picnic areas. Dave also learned in the Visitor’s Center that there are various small, historic cemeteries located in the middle of the forest, which are difficult to find unless you’re with a ranger (or you just stumble across one).
We hiked a trail called “Farm to Forest”, which got its name because that particular spot was once a farm, and has now been allowed to return to wilderness. I was aiming for a 1.7 mile hike, but once we got there, we realized that there were really two trails – a 1-mile loop, and a 1.7-mile extension. So, we ended up hiking more like two and a half miles. Fine for me, but maybe a little much for Lucas, since his elbow’s not 100% yet.
It was a very nice hike, and it was perfect weather. It was labeled as “moderately strenuous”, which really means it’s perhaps on the slightly strenuous side of “moderate”. There were a few ups and downs, but no major inclines or much elevation change. The trail ran along and/or crossed Quantico Creek for the middle part of the hike, which wasn’t as scenic as you might think. The best feature of the trail was all the evidence of beavers – we had never seen so many chewed trees. The beavers had obviously been quite successful, actually, because a number of the tree trunks had been chewed all the way around and had fallen. There were one or two very effective beaver dams on the creek as well. Unfortunately we didn’t actually spot any of the critters.
If you live in the DC area and are looking for a place for a quick hike, or if you’re visiting the area and are looking for a place to camp near the nation’s capital, check it out: http://www.nps.gov/prwi/.