Valley Forge National Historical Park
Where the spirit of the Revolution received its sternest test
With more than 3,600 acres of rolling hills and well-worn trails, Valley Forge is now a magnet for runners, bicyclists and picnickers as well as history buffs.
The vast expanse of open space links the Schuylkill River Trail to the Horse Shoe Trail, turning the park into a major hub in a 75-mile system linking Philadelphia to the Appalachian Trail.
Yet the monuments, statues and buildings that evoke more than 225 years of American history give this expanse of nature a palpable sense of the past, making it a favorite destination for families.
Valley Forge and the Revolutionary War
Of all the places associated with America’s War for Independence, none convey the suffering, sacrifice and ultimate triumph of our nation more than Valley Forge. No battles were fought here; no bayonet charges or artillery bombardments took place. Nonetheless, some 2,000 soldiers died – more Americans than were killed at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined.
Valley Forge is the story of an army’s epic struggle to survive against terrible odds, hunger, disease and the unrelenting forces of nature.
Rows of cannons in Artillery Park; the soldiers’ log huts; and earthen fortifications around the rim of the park are silent reminders of the past.
With the British army occupying Philadelphia, Continental commander George Washington had to find a place to encamp for the winter. He chose what seemed to be a strategic high-ridged area to the West. The winter was fierce, and 2,000 men died without a shot fired, yet they emerged in mid-1778 to win significant battles.
Though no military battle was fought here, the six months in Valley Forge, with its heavily-rationed supplies and awful winter, were among the roughest for the Continental Army during the entire war.
The refurbished Welcome Center displays a new exhibit, “Determined to Persevere,” utilizing Revolutionary War artifacts to tell the story of life during the winter encampment. You can touch muskets, and see how even General Washington lived in tough conditions.
The outbuildings, some authentic, like Washington’s Headquarters, and some replicated, like the Muhlenberg Brigade huts, bring that pivotal winter to life. Like no other Revolutionary War site, Valley Forge suggests the arduous spiritual and physical experience the Continental army went through on its way to eventual victory.
Today, Valley Forge is a lush, 3,600-acre expanse of rolling hillsides dotted with flowering dogwood trees. Washington’s original stone headquarters has been restored and furnished, and statues and monuments throughout the park remind visitors of our national heritage.
Among them are the Memorial Arch; statues of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and Baron Friedrich von Steuben; and the Monument to Patriots of African Descent. Costumed interpreters are posted at the Muhlenberg Brigade huts on summer weekends, and at Washington’s Headquarters all year-round.
Recreation facilities in the park include designated picnic areas, a six-mile multi-use trail, ten miles of horse trails and the Schuylkill River Trail, a Valley Forge-to-Philadelphia multi-use trail.
Dogs are welcome. You can Fly-fish in Valley Creek with a permit; long pants and hiking shoes are recommended for the hiking trails; and there are water fountains, bathrooms and changing facilities located throughout the Park.
There’s a “Revolutionary Run” every April in the park, and each June, a celebration of hiking with National Trails Day at Valley Forge.
The park is used as a training area for Olympic runners from Kenya.
The interpretive programs at the Muhlenberg Brigade huts show what camp life was like during the treacherous winter of 1777-78.
Kids can get a Junior Ranger badge by going to a number of Park sites and doing activities described in the guide booklet.
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