Highlight the Highlands: Valley Forge National Historic Park
Located on the Southeastern edge of the Pennsylvania Highlands, Valley Forge National Historic Park is a major attraction for history buffs and recreationists alike. The site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army, the park is filled with historic structures and monuments as you wind your way through the vast array of trail offerings.
AMC trip leader Larry Priori leads a lunchtime hike in Valley Forge every Wednesday, providing a mid-day excursion into nature for those looking for a break from work or a way to mix up the day. Depending on the day, the route may wind over the ominously named Mount Misery, or around the more pleasant-sounding Mount Joy trails. No matter the day, this hike is a moderate pace ranging from 3-6 miles.
On this overcast Wednesday at the end of June, our path took us on multiple paved and unpaved walking paths, some with the clear overlay of horseshoe prints in the dirt. Starting on the Knox Trail, we wound our way around the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, past historic canons and plaques. We then transitioned to the more rustic Chapel Trail, following the rail road tracks and the Schuylkill River hidden behind the summer foliage. In our return, we traversed the heights of Mount Joy and returned to the start of the loop. The tourist attraction nature of Valley Forge National Historic Park serves to overshadow its recreational resource value; though there are visitor centers, gift shops, and guided tours, Valley Forge contains an expanse of walking and hiking trails for every level of outdoor enthusiast.
As one wanders through the trails of Valley Forge, the historic value that makes the Pennsylvania Highlands so unique is on full display. Paths bring visitors past the Muhlenberg Brigade Huts, reconstructed to General Washington’s specifications, as well as the headquarters of James Varnum and Washington himself. Markers such as the Baron von Steuben Monument and the Washington Memorial Chapel remind recreationists that they walk through a storied land.
Valley Forge is full of connections; not only to our history as a nation, but to the wider PA Highlands region. The park serves as a major connection to the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network (PHTN) – both the Horse-Shoe Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail run through Valley Forge and connect to the PHTN and the Philadelphia Circuit Trails.
Valley Forge National Historic Park represents what one of the most unique aspects of the Pennsylvania Highlands: its history. From the legacy of iron and steel making demonstrated by the multiple historic furnace sites throughout its expanse, to the collective reverence experience in Valley Forge, the PA Highlands give residents and visitors a view of why this region was so important to those who came before us, as well as its natural and cultural resource values today.
For an easily accessible introduction to the natural and historical splendor of the Pennsylvania Highlands, take an afternoon hike or a weekend trip to Valley Forge National Historic Park.
For more information about AMC led hikes in Valley Forge and throughout the Highlands, visit: activities.outdoors.org
For a trail map of Valley Forge National Historic Park, click here.
The Pennsylvania Highlands is home to critical treasures and extraordinary organizations. Highlight the Highlands is a blog series that features outstanding places and projects in the PA Highlands. Find past and future installments on pahighlands.org/category/news.
The Pennsylvania Highlands is part of the four-state Highlands region, a nationally recognized high-value natural resource conservation landscape stretching from Pennsylvania to Connecticut. Funding for conservation projects in the Highlands is provided by the federal Highlands Conservation Act. For more information on federal funding, click here.
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