Forty miles south of the nation’s capital lies 15,000 acres of federally protected land where visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and wildlife watching. Overshadowed by National Park Service land such as Great Falls Park and Mount Vernon, Prince William Forest Park is one of the lesser known recreational destinations near Washington D.C. In 1936 the area originally opened as Chopawamsic Recreation area. Its original purpose was to hold relief camps for children during the Great Depression. Today Prince William Forest Park remains a vast area filled with outdoor exploration. The park holds over 37 miles of hiking trails, four campgrounds, paved scenic bike lanes, fishing ponds, picnic shelters, and endless wildlife watching opportunities right next to the bustle of I-95.
A large scenic drive loop wraps around the interior of the park. The loop is extremely popular with road bikers. A large section of this loop restricts vehicles to one way traffic so that bikers can utilize the entirety of the other lane. While in your vehicle, drive the loop counter clockwise to avoid any issues with the one-way traffic. The park has many other gravel trails for bikers to explore, with limited access to vehicles
Wildlife watching is another big activity at the park. Mornings are always best to beat the crowds and catch the wildlife when they are most active. Whitetail deer and squirrels are common sights all over the park. The creekside trails and ponds are great places to look for beaver dams and their residents. There is even a healthy population of black bears that reside in the park. For birders, be on the lookout for red-tailed hawks and barred owls and listen for the sounds of woodpeckers. Fisherman can wet a line anywhere along Quantico Creek, the South Fork, or any of the park’s ponds. A Virginia state fishing license is required and all state fishing regulations must be followed.