For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by American history — especially the founding of our country. I love wandering around Old City, Philadelphia. I like to peek in the windows at the Liberty Bell, sit on the benches behind Independence Hall and just stare at it, and walk through the archway at Franklin Court. I like to imagine what it was like for the Founding Fathers when they walked along these same spots considering their monumental ideas and weighing the potential consequences of their great experiment.
Last week on one of the first truly nice days of spring, I decided to take an impromptu adventure to another extremely important historical landmark that I have been wanting to check out as part of the Tourist at Home series — Valley Forge National Historical Park. Valley Forge is less than an hour outside the city, yet I hadn’t been there since my elementary school class trip.
Why Does Valley Forge Matter?
The American Revolution lasted 8 and 1/2 years. During the third year, the Patriots lost control of Philadelphia to the British. General George Washington decided to move his troops to Valley Forge for the winter with the goal of offering them time to recover and train while winter weather stopped the fighting. The men spent about 6 months at Valley Forge training, learning new tactics, and developing better supply systems.
While Valley Forge never saw any battles and despite the war lasting another five years, the time spent at Valley Forge is considered a key turning point in the war, due to “the extreme hardship endured during that winter and the national resolve that emerged from that experience.”
What to Do at Valley Forge
Take a Hike
There are more than 26 miles of hiking trails at Valley Forge. They range from flat and paved to hilly and wooded; one even connects with the Appalachian Trail. Some of the trails also allow biking and horseback riding.
Catch a Historic Tale
Keep an eye out for the Once Upon a Nation benches throughout the park where you can catch expert storytellers sharing intriguing stories of the Valley Forge encampment.
Washington’s Headquarters and Office
Tour the original home that served as George and Martha Washington’s residence and office space.
Explore Washington Memorial Chapel
Washington Memorial Chapel is an active Episcopal parish that honors the soldiers of the American Revolution.
Visitors with their own vehicles can drive the 10-mile loop and explore Valley Forge at their own pace. Maps are available at the visitor’s center.
During peak season, visitors can explore Valley Forge with an open-air trolley tour. The tours leave from the visitors center, last approximately 90 minutes, and stop for extended periods of time at the Muhlenberg Brigade and Washington’s Headquarters.
The tours leave from the visitors center, last approximately 90 minutes, and stop for extended periods of time at the Muhlenberg Brigade and Washington’s Headquarters.
Cell Phone Audio Tour
Visitors who are interested in learning more about Valley Forge should check out the Cell Phone Tour. You simply call a phone number, enter the assigned number for the section of the park you’re in, and then listen to a brief narration.
How to Get There Without a Car
Take the Bus
It’s common for visitors not to have a car with them in the city, but don’t let that keep you from visiting Valley Forge. You can easily catch the 125 bus from Center City and take it to the Plaza at King of Prussia, then transfer to the 139. For up to date schedules, check out the public transportation option on Google Maps.
Bike the Schuylkill River Trail
If you enjoy biking, you can bike the Schuylkill River Trail from the Philadelphia Museum of Art all the way to Valley Forge, approximately 20.5 miles.