Valley Forge National Historical Park | PARK AT A GLANCE

Replicas of soldier cabins at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Replicas of soldier cabins at Valley Forge National Historical Park

PARK OVERVIEW

Valley Forge National Historical Park in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, preserves the 1777-78 winter encampment site of General George Washington’s Continental Army. Until modern times, armies deployed in northern climates could not fight during the winter due to snow and ice. Instead, the men gathered at strategic points and built camps where they could wait until spring, or even early summer since the roads would be nothing but mud when the snow melted. However, time was not idly spent, for the soldiers trained and drilled in order to improve their skills. This was the Continental Army’s first winter encampment, and there were many lessons to be learned.

Washington arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Valley Forge’s strategic importance was that the British army’s winter camp was in Philadelphia, only a day’s march away, and situated at a much higher elevation, the Continentals would be able to see if the British started marching towards them to make a surprise winter attack. Formerly the Patriot capital, the British had driven the Continental Congress out of Philadelphia and now occupied the city. But the tide was turning. During the winter, the French officially joined the Patriot cause and now provided weapons and men. As a result, in late May the British abandoned Philadelphia in a move to better defend New York City. On June 19, 1778, Washington and his men finally departed Valley Forge in pursuit of the British.

There were many winter encampment sites for various American militias and armies during the American Revolution, but those most remembered by history are the Continental Army camps that were under the command of George Washington. But even Washington had a new camp each year, so why is the 1777-78 encampment at Valley Forge remembered? Unfortunately, it’s not as famous as it is infamous. Nearly two thousand men died that year due to cold weather, disease, and starvation.

Today, aside from a few historic homes, only the landscape of the Valley Forge encampment is preserved. Washington’s men cleared miles of forest for wood to build over 1,000 cabins for 12,000 people (soldiers and their families) and to burn for heat and cooking fuel. The farmland they left behind was so ruined that local farmers could not plant a crop that spring. When the army left, the farmers quickly tore down the cabins to reuse the wood and plowed the earthen forts and defensive trenches to reclaim the land for farming, leaving nothing from the encampment standing. Any structures you see today, such as cabins, are historical reconstructions done by the state of Pennsylvania when Valley Forge was a state park from 1893 to 1975.

Before heading out to explore Valley Forge National Historical Park, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center where you can get a park map and learn about the history of Valley Forge at the park’s museum. You can also watch a 19-minute film about Valley Forge. With some knowledge under your belt, take the Valley Forge Encampment Tour that stops at eight significant locations within the park. All stops are accessible by vehicle, but those who prefer to get some exercise can do the tour on foot or bike along a paved path. There are also plenty of hiking trails that are open to hikers, bikers, and even horseback riders.

Valley Forge National Historical Park is for day use only. No camping or overnight parking is allowed.


OPERATING HOURS

The grounds of Valley Forge National Historical Park are open daily from 7 AM to 30 minutes after sunset.

The Visitor Center is typically open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Washington’s Headquarters is open on weekends from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Varnum’s Quarters is open on weekends from 12 PM to 4 PM starting in mid-June and continuing until the end of October.

Varnum’s Picnic Area is open daily from April through October, 7 AM until dark. In November it is open on the weekends only, same hours. The picnic area and parking lot are closed December through March.

Times can always changes, so before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for Valley Forge National Historical Park.


FEES

There is no fee to enter Valley Forge National Historical Park.


SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Visitor Center
allow up to 1 hour

Valley Forge Encampment Tour
by vehicle, allow 3-4 hours at a minimum, and 5-7 hours for a thorough tour depending on which historical homes and museums are open

Hiking Trails
There are enough trails to spend 1-2 days at the park


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Last updated on August 3, 2022
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