The real story about Prince William Forest Park is that the Park is an absolute must visit! Wonderfully clean and well maintained, the park is a pleasure to walk, hike, bike,and camp in. If you are in need of spiritual enlightenment or need a mental break from noises of everyday life; turn your cell phone off and go for it! This park’s 30 miles of trails will help you find solitude and relaxation at every turn. I have personally hiked and enjoyed every inch of this park several times over during each season so, I give you my honest assessment` AWESOME!
Best Time to Visit: The most pleasant times to visit are in the Spring (March – May/early June) and (September ~ Mid November) but don’t let that stop you from visiting at other times. Beautiful spring and fall foliage, some folks think fall is the best time to witness the beauty of trees – I argue that Spring is awe inspiring and Forest Park is a must stop in, with colorful irradiance leaves that RADIATE the suns energy, light pickup color and striking the forest floor, with an array of colorful reds, yellows, greens, white, and orange, the views are equal in splendor to any fall walk, and in my opinion even more awaking to your sense of nature. But, I forget not the fall colors of Forest park and agree with everyone, you will come home a better person after a brisk walk through the park at peak fall season. Over the years, I found that best visual visit timing is not science and up to nature, what was Spring / Fall peak last year may not be peak in the current year. But, for all visitors during the periods your visual senses will say thank you for a lifetime.
The Trails: As mentioned, the park has 30 miles of trails, most being well maintained and a pleasure to hike. Like some of you I have my favorite trails depending on the time of year and time of day. If I am in the mood for a photography walk, I try to choose a trail that will keep the sun at my back, other times my decisions are based on how much time and energy I have, because some trails are a few miles depending on where you start at. But, The park has plenty of exits back to your starting point if you run flat on energy so no worries. Trails here are plentiful, making a couple days of camping enjoyable with new scenery to explore each day. You can hike through, up the middle, around the border, or next to various flowing creeks – your choice, this park has a few trails to keep you moving.
Trail Challenges: Prince William Forest Park offers a trail for almost anyone from very flat low impact, to the more robust hiker enthusiast, In the summer hiking here can be quite challenging due to the heat and humidly when navigating the more aggressive trails. Experienced hikers should not have any troubles enjoying any of the trails. Most all trails are dry, some trails experience moist, dampness during the spring month rail run off, nothing too obverse or requiring any special footwear . Speaking of rain, following heavy downpours trail flooding adjacent to creeks can be experienced, be advised.
Biking Opportunities: Off road biking is allowed on some limited trails and certainly not on all the hiking trails (they are marked). However, get your thigh muscles in shape, the park has set aside an 8 mile loop to challenge any biker, road traffic is minimized on lane for 4 miles allowing you bikers to enjoy a great ride up, down and around paved roads through a beautiful forest: Bikes can take opportunities on all the paved roads, thus giving you 14+ miles to explore.
Wildlife: Wildlife I have experienced while hiking the park through the years, The Eastern Box Turtles, Turkeys, Red Fox, Deer, Hawks, Great Blue Heron (yes), Rat Snakes, Owls, Squirrels , chipmunks, Woodpeckers of various species, Frogs, Toads, spiders, ticks, forest wasp, dogs, bear, goat/sheep, fish, to name a few.
PLEASE! Protect from development!!
Other Notable Forest Park Facts: Prince William Forest Park is NOT a Virginia State Park, but a National Park – so you need a NPS permit or purchase one upon your visit. PLEASE for the love of all that is good Support the park service and buy an annual pass each year! The park has several grave sites from the earlier settlers, + is a known Native American habitat.
Camping: How do you like it? Rough or easy? Forest Park has primitive campsites for you hard core back packers and full featured cabins for the more tame crowd with designated areas for cooking your best hot dogs and hamburgers ever..
Staff: The staff and rangers at Prince William Forest Park are some of the finest people you can meet, helpful & insightful at every turn, never in your way of enjoyment but offers their helping hand to maximize your enjoyment of the park – WAY TO GO! Every park should be so well managed and staffed, North Va is blessed to have this National Park.
Special Events: Please check the Forest Park calendar for upcoming special events, you have an opportunity for a 6K run through the park, Bike Race, or be a volunteer to hand out water at events, either way you can enjoy the race or be part of the event.
Forest Park is what I believe to be one of the most beautiful parks in Virginia. The rangers who look after this gem are all very pleasant and helpful. Here at Forest Park you enjoy some of the most wonderful inspiring trails and as you hike you encounter 100 year old tress that tower high into the sky, with the sounds of life.
Bottom Line: Forest Park is a story about what is great in America, our Previous Presidents and Naturalist had the vision to establish what we call the National Park System and at its core are some fine people – go enjoy it!