Updated on October 18, 2019
Hiking in Prince Willilam Forest Park
It’s the first Saturday of September as my friend and I ventured into Prince William Forest Park, the largest pack of greenness near Washington DC measuring 17000 acres yet not known to many residents of the area.
Amazingly, Prince William Forest Park was the site of America’s first spy agency, and even more amazingly, the park promoted this fact only in a rather inconspicuous webpage that’s four clicks from its main site. Perhaps because what baby CIA did in the park was so immature by today’s standard, that NPS didn’t even bother to erect an information board about that somewhere in the park.
As for our visit, we planned to take the loop of North Valley Trail – High Meadows Trail – South Valley Trail, but my friend was sort of feeling tired halfway and we did cut it a bit short. Here’s GPS tracking:
Throughout our hike we saw quite some trees like this fallen over Quantico Creek, which could be one of the few features of the park.
The park used to house a Pyrite Mine between 1889 and 1920, and nowadays there’s a platform overlooking hills that used to house mining cabins. Unfortunately, that platform seemed rather overgrown and we couldn’t see anything.
Down the road we found these remains of groundwork, which we guessed must be related to the mining activities.
Then there’s the worst part of our hike as we reached the intersection of Quantico Cascades Trail and North Valley Trail, where both the name and the official park map(jpg) indicated that we were at a waterfall, which is this:
For fairness, in the right season there was waterflow to generate just enough amount of whitewater to justify its name. But since it barely rained recently, we were just looking at some rocks, basically.
So after imagining some wonderful waterfalls in our mind and having lunch, we left North Valley Trail into Mary Bird Branch, passing Turkey Run Campground and Ranger Station where we replenished our water supply and took some rest before going on High Meadows Trail.
At this point it was just over halfway point of our planned hike, and my friend was
feeling foreseeing tired. So he suggested we took a portion of park road (scenic drive) and cut about a mile off our hike.
And soon after that we were on South Valley Trail.
On the same official park map(jpg) there’s a waterfall marked along South Valley Trail, which to this point, unsurprisingly to us, was made of only rocks.
And the rocks turned out to be quite handy for my friend who was eager to take some rest, along with some other families.
After that, it’s another three miles before we were back at the parking lot near visitor center.
With its 15 dollar per vehicle admission rate, I guess only two kinds of people would ever visit the park, NPS pass holders or nostalgic former CIA spy agents in their eighties. (No, families looking for cheap campgrounds to visit DC should choose Greenbelt Park instead.) The park’s trails were well marked and well maintained, there was little if any elevation changes at all. Things were to a point that, if not for the roots of trees, they could be wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately, there really weren’t much to see, except for the two pathetic “waterfalls” that in some seasons only existed on maps. I guess none of these would excite an NPS pass holder?