If you are planning a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you might consider swinging by Valley Forge National Historical Park. Known as the site where 2,000 soldiers of the Continental Army died from harsh winter conditions during the Revolutionary War, this park encompasses around 3,500 acres of popular trails and rolling hills. Whether you have a fondness for American history, enjoy jogging across country trails, or need a scenic place for your picnic lunch, this park has something to offer.
If you enjoy taking pictures of historical monuments, there are four scattered throughout the park. The Anthony Wayne Monument rests atop a hard-to-miss base of pink granite, featuring a bronze sculpture of Wayne on horseback. The Baron Friedrich von Steuben Monument towers over park visitors, the general's face frozen in a look of intense scrutiny. The National Memorial Arch was originally planned to be one of two entrances to the park, but after the bill for the plan failed in the Senate, the one arch alone was constructed as a tribute to General George Washington and his Continental Army. Finally, the Patriots of African Descent Monument, arguably the most thought-provoking monument in the park, commemorates the black soldiers of the Continental Army.
Several historical structures have been preserved or reconstructed within the park. Visit the restored colonial home that Washington used as his headquarters during the winter of 1777 to 1778. Also restored are the quarters of other Continental Army generals, including those of Lord Stirling, Varnum, Knox, and Huntington. Log cabins were reconstructed in tribute to those thought to have provided shelter during the war, including a large log cabin hospital. Although the battlefront never reached Valley Forge, earthworks are visible within the park, including four redoubts (a fort system that consists of defensive enclosures outside a larger fort), the ditch for the Inner Line Defenses, and a reconstructed abatis (a row of tree branches tied together with wire, with the sharp tips pointed toward the enemy).
Guided tours are available by trolley or bicycle through the park's nonprofit partner, The Encampment Store. Self-guided audio tours are also available for purchase. Costumed reenactors are stationed at Washington's Headquarters all year-round and at the log cabin huts on summer weekends. For more interactive exhibits, visit the recently refurbished Welcome Center, where you will have the opportunity to handle Revolutionary War artifacts and learn more about the rough conditions suffered by the soldiers at Valley Forge.
If you are visiting the park simply because you want to spend some time outside, there are hiking trails, horse trails, and picnic areas available. Entry to the Valley Forge National Historical Park is now free, so take advantage of this beautiful park on your next vacation to Philadelphia!