I have an embarrassing fact for you. This history-loving travel blogger who once went Philadelphia a dozen times in a single summer and lives just three hours away by car… had never visited Valley Forge until this past summer! I can’t believe it took me so long. It was well worth the time to visit, and did you know it’s FREE?! Here is everything you need to know to plan your own trip there!
Valley Forge National Historic Site was the 1777-1778 training quarters for George Washington and the Continental Army. The British had captured the nearby United States Capitol of Philadelphia, just a day’s march away. Washington took advantage of Valley Forge’s naturally defensible plateau to train his army through the winter. That winter was instrumental in whipping the army—and the newly-formed government—into fighting shape.
Hours and Admission
Good news! Admission is FREE for everyone! No park pass needed, no fees. You can visit Valley Forge National Historic Site any day of the year, but some sites do have official hours:
- Valley Forge National Historic Site is open daily, every day of the year, from 7:00am until dark.
- The Visitor Center is open 9:00am-5:00pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- Washington’s Headquarters and Historic Valley Forge Station are open from 10:00am-5:00pm daily. (May close due to snow or ice.)
So much more here: The Best Sites in Philadelphia for Early American History Lovers
Know Before You Go
As with any place I blog about, I want you to be prepared! Here are some key tips to know before you go.
Take the Driving Route
This place is massive! You can rent a bike, and if you have all day, you can also walk or run on the trails here. But if you only have a couple of hours, definitely take the driving route! It goes just one way, so once you’re committed, you’ll need to see it through. There are plenty of places to park and get out, bathrooms, and water fountains along the way. You might also want to bring a picnic with you if you’ll be here through lunch!
Wear Good Walking Shoes
Even if you’re going to be doing the driving route (which I highly recommend!), you will still be doing quite a bit of walking through grass and on some uneven ground if you want to see the things there are to see. You will want something relatively sturdy, so I recommend walking or running shoes. Flip flops are a non-starter for this, and hiking boots are overkill. Go for comfortable!
Bring Bug Repellent
Did I mention you’ll be walking through grass, and maybe it’ll be tall? Don’t get me wrong–the Park Service does a great job with the vast landscape of this Park! But there is a lot to take care of, so there will be bugs in those fields. Here is an easy option to take with you, whether you’re driving to the area or flying in from elsewhere!
It’s beautiful out in those fields, but don’t forget that you’ll be dealing with sun exposure, too! Even if it’s just for your face, you’ll be glad you have it. A hat and sunglasses are also a good idea! Here is a great travel option:
More to know: Where to Eat in Old City Philadelphia
What to See on the Encampment Driving Tour Route
There are several places to stop along the driving route. Take advantage of the many parking spaces around major sites, but also feel free to stop on the side of the route wherever there’s room. There are a lot of things to see all along the way!
There are so many cabins scattered throughout the National Historic Site, and several are meant to be walked into! Some are empty, but others are set up with bunks like the the Continental Army would have used, and others have signage inside to tell you what life would have been like while they were quartered and training here.
Keep reading: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Mount Vernon
Memorial Markers and Statues
You’ll see several of these along the drive and set back in the fields. You’ll see huge statues of men on horseback, columns with birds on top, a Patriots of African Descent monument, and more. I always appreciate a memorial to unknown soldiers who would otherwise be forgotten, like the one below. And I even found one to the soldiers who camped there from the state of Virginia, where I now live!
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National Memorial Arch
This arch was completed in 1917 to commemorate George Washington and his troops’ arrival at Valley Forge. There are several benches around for visitors to sit and reflect here. There are also inscriptions on the monument noting the Commander-in-chief (George Washington) and the Major Generals, as well as a quote from a letter General Washington wrote about his men.
All the Cannons
I mean, it’s a battlefield, right? There will be cannons! These are replicas, and while they may look small, there is serious strength in numbers! These cannons were centrally located so that, in the case of attack, they could be taken wherever they were needed around Valley Forge. You’ll also see them scattered throughout the park, but you’ll see the most at the Artillery Park!
Where else can you find cannons? What to Know Before You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park
This is the big thing most people want to see, and with good reason! This was an existing home of a grist mill operator, Isaac Potts, when the Continental Army set up their quarters. Many people stayed in this house, including George (and Martha!) Washington, other officers, and servants.
Battle plans and strategies were discussed here, but what I found most interesting were the guards’ huts out back! The “Commander-in-chiefs Gards” were General Washington’s personal guards. They needed to be nearby, so their quarters were just behind the house and up the hill a little bit. They could come in the night at a moment’s notice.
The museum, visitor center, and gift shop are all in the same building. The exhibit inside will give you all the background information you need to understand what you’ll be seeing in the fields. There are also very knowledgeable people working here who can answer any questions you may have, or point you in the right direction if you want to see something in particular.
Also cool for a road trip: How to Visit President James Buchanan’s Home in Lancaster, PA
Want more? Check out more on Philadelphia and Colonial America on my United States Page!
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