Prince William Forest Park Triangle, Va. Visited: October 5, 2005 NPS Site Visited: 250 of 353 NPS Website
WHAT IS IT? 15,000 acres of protected eastern piedmont forest located about 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.
BEAUTY (4/10) It is the woods. No vistas, no dramatic scenery, just a pleasant forest. Prince William Forest Park does not seem that special until you realize that much of the surrounding region once looked just like it. Cities, housing developments, commercial strips, farmland and other forms of progress have replaced the natural environs. Will future generations need to travel to a protected forest just to learn what the world was once like?
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (2/10) Native Americans have surely lived here and in similar places for 10,000+ years. In the 17th century the Park’s lands were cleared for tobacco farming. Later, George Washington may have slept here. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, farming disappeared and the forest reclaimed the land. The New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps purposefully reforested the area and it soon, in 1936, became an NPS site.
CROWDS (5/10) The only people we encountered were joggers enjoying the cool cover of the forest vegetation. A few of the cars parked seemed to be coming from the nearby Quantico U.S. Marine Corps Reservation.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (5/5) Easy on, easy off. The Park’s Entrance is just feet from the Exit 150 off ramp of Interstate 95. A ten-mile scenic loop wraps around the Park’s interior and includes nine pullouts, all with ample parking space, that provide easy access to 35+ miles of well-marked trails.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5) The Park’s thin book selection includes a few books about WWII-era spies, including Sisterhood of Spies and Spies, Pop Flies and French Fries. The Park’s CCC-built cabins served as Office of Strategic Services (OSS) training ground during the War.
COSTS (3/5) $3 per car, free with the National Parks Pass.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5) One Ranger at the VC, two of us. We also saw a few NPS vehicles circling the auto-tour loop.
TOURS/CLASSES (2/10) The old-ish introductory Park video promotes the site as a “secret worth sharing” and even a “place to enjoy the fall colors without the crowds”. While we are not arguing, the video gave us few reasons to want to spend more time.
FUN (2/10) We just wanted to move on. We are in full support of protected natural places but tell us again why this rather dull place warrants National Park designation.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (2/10) The Park makes a nice retreat away from the urban chaos of northern Virginia and the screaming madness of I-95. Remember the Park for a pleasant, quiet Sunday afternoon if you live in the southern D.C. suburbs but do not make it a vacation destination.
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