Valley Forge National Historical Park | CHAPEL TRAIL

Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Length: 2.3 miles (one way)
Time: 1 hour on foot, 30 minutes on bike
Difficulty: Moderate with some very steep hills

Download the Valley Forge Trail Map (PDF)

The Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park runs along the railroad tracks from near the Visitor Center on the east side of the park to Washington’s Headquarters on the west side. It is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. The trail is 2.3 miles long, but if you want a longer hike, you can make a nice loop around the entire park by including a small section of the Horse-Shoe Trail, the entire Valley Creek, Yellow Springs, and Knox trails, and the southern half of the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail. Total distance is 8.8 miles. All of these trails allow hikers and bikers, but no horses are allowed on the J. P. Martin Trail.

I started my bike ride on the Chapel Trail at the Visitor Center. It is not possible to park a vehicle at the trail’s east side trailhead because all roads leading to it are now closed to vehicle traffic. From the Visitor Center parking lot, take the bike path at the entrance (road will be on your right). This connects to the J. P. Martin Trail at Valley Forge Park Road, the main road near the Visitor Center. Take a left and follow the signs to SULLIVAN’S BRIDGE & SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL. Two hundred yards down is a crosswalk where you will cross the road and continue on the paved bike path (the former County Line Road that is now closed to vehicles). Take the first left on Station Road and in less than 100 yards you will see three abandoned buildings. If you cross the railroad tracks and end up at the Schuylkill River, you went too far.

To get to the Chapel Trail, at Valley Forge, cross Valley Forge Park Road and proceed up County Line Road

To get to the Chapel Trail, cross Valley Forge Park Road and proceed up County Line Road

Abandoned buildings at the start of the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Abandoned buildings at the start of the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

The road that runs in front of the buildings leads to the start of the Chapel Trail, but to see something interesting before starting the journey, instead of turning at the buildings, keep straight on the paved Station Road. At the end is the abandoned Valley Forge Park railroad depot (aka Port Kennedy Depot). This was built by the Reading Railroad and remained in operation until 1981.

Former Port Kennedy Depot, aka Valley Forge Park Depot

Former Port Kennedy Depot, aka Valley Forge Park Depot

Former Port Kennedy Depot, aka Valley Forge Park Depot

Former Port Kennedy Depot, aka Valley Forge Park Depot

The gravel road forks at the abandoned buildings, with a right heading towards the railroad tracks and a left running in front of the buildings. You can actually go either way, as the routes merge not too far ahead, but the official trail is the one that goes in front of the buildings.

Official Chapel Trail at Valley Forge runs in front of three abandoned buildings

Official Chapel Trail at Valley Forge runs in front of three abandoned buildings

Soon after passing the buildings, the Chapel Trail curves north towards the railroad tracks, follows them for a few hundred feet, then curves back into the forest where it continues as a narrow dirt and gravel path. The trail follows along the railroad tracks for much of its length, though you can’t always see the tracks due to trees and other vegetation that block the view.

Chapel Trail at Valley Forge continues into the forest after flanking the railroad tracks for a short distance

Chapel Trail at Valley Forge continues into the forest after flanking the railroad tracks for a short distance

Typical view of the railroad tracks from the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge

Typical view of the railroad tracks from the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge

About a mile from the start of the Chapel Trail is a turnoff for the Washington Memorial Chapel, which is where the trail gets its name.

Side trail from the Chapel Trail to the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Side trail from the Chapel Trail to the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge

While much of the eastern half of the Chapel Trail has a fairly smooth surface of dirt and gravel and is relatively flat, there are some hilly sections covered with roots and rocks. On foot this terrain is insignificant, but on bike you must be a little more careful due to loose rocks, especially when tempted to head downhill at top speed.

Typical terrain on the eastern half of the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Typical terrain on the eastern half of the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Rough and hilly section of the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Rough and hilly section of the Chapel Trail at Valley Forge

A mile and a half from the start of the Chapel Trail is a fork. A left leads to Varnum’s Quarters and a right to Washington’s Headquarters, which is the way you want to go. A directional sign is at the intersection.

Intersection of the Chapel Trail and side trail to Varnum's Quarters at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Intersection of the Chapel Trail and side trail to Varnum’s Quarters at Valley Forge

West of the Varnum’s Quarters turnoff, the Chapel Trail gets even rougher, though again, only for bikers. Just a couple minutes beyond the turnoff is a short but very steep hill lined with irrigation steps, so you’ll need to push your bike up the hill unless you are Lance Armstrong or on performance enhancing medications yourself. Referencing the Valley Forge National Historical Park trail map, this is where the trail makes a significant turn away from the railroad tracks between Varnum’s Quarters and Washington’s Headquarters. When it makes a turn back towards the tracks, it’s all downhill.

There is a trail at the start of the hill with the irrigation steps that forks to the right and continues along the railroad tracks. It merges back with the Chapel Trail at the bottom of its downhill run back towards the tracks. Is it a more level detour? Who knows. I did not take it, but it might be worth checking out because the irrigation step hill sucks on a bike. Keep in mind that the official Chapel Trail is the hill with the steps.

Steep hill on the Chapel Trail just west of the turnoff for Varnum's Quarters at Valley Forge

Steep hill on the Chapel Trail just west of the turnoff for Varnum’s Quarters at Valley Forge

No sooner do you get back to the railroad tracks—though now high above them—than the trail heads up another steep hill with lots of roots and loose rocks. I stood up to peddle in order to get a little more oomph into it, but my back tire just spun as it spit out loose rocks. I eventually came to an abrupt stop and had to push my bike up this hill as well.

Rough and hilly terrain on the Chapel Trail west of the turnoff for Varnum's Quarters at Valley Forge

Rough and hilly terrain on the Chapel Trail west of Varnum’s Quarters

Like the first hill, it’s not that long to the top of the second, and once there it’s all downhill, only this time the trail is a wide gravel path. At the bottom is the road that leads to the Washington’s Headquarters parking lot, 2.25 miles from the start of the Chapel Trail.

Final segment of the Chapel Trail before coming to Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge

Final segment of the Chapel Trail before coming to Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge

For all intents and purposes, this is the end of the Chapel Trail. If you plan to make the loop hike that I described at the start of this trail review, you must get to the J. P. Martin Trail. To do so, either take a left and follow the road to the trail, or cross the road and follow the mowed grass path. The grass path is the official Chapel Trail, and it also ends at the J. P. Martin Trail. If sticking to the official trail doesn’t matter to you, then all depends if you prefer to ride on pavement up another hill or on grass on slightly more level ground.

Joseph Plumb Martin Trail near Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge

Joseph Plumb Martin Trail near Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge

Other than the steep hills, I enjoyed my trek on the Chapel Trail, especially since it was part of a longer ride. There are a variety of things to see, and if mountain biking is what you are after, it is probably the best mountain bike trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park, though that’s not saying a lot. Total distance from the start of the Chapel Trail to the J. P. Martin Trail is 2.3 miles.

DIRECTIONS TO THE VALLEY CREEK TRAIL

If you want to continue on the loop around Valley Forge National Historical Park, you must now get to the Valley Creek Trail. Take it from me, getting there is very confusing, so here is what you must do. Take a right on the J. P. Martin Trail and proceed down the hill until it dead ends at the Washington’s Headquarters property. Take a left on the gravel path and head out to the main road.

View of Valley Forge Road / Hwy 23 from the Washington's Headquarters property

View of Valley Forge Road / Hwy 23 from the Washington’s Headquarters property

Take the pedestrian crosswalk to the other side of the street and then turn right to continue west on Valley Forge Road. There is a narrow path along the road that leads over a bridge (at the bridge you must travel on the actual road). This is the start of the Horse-Shoe Trail, and while bikes are generally not allowed, they are up until the Valley Creek Trail intersection.

The Horse-Shoe Trail starts at Valley Forge Road near Washington's Headquarters

The Horse-Shoe Trail starts at Valley Forge Road near Washington’s Headquarters

Stone marker commemorates the start of the Horse-Shoe Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Stone marker commemorates the start of the Horse-Shoe Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Just past the bridge is a gravel road on your left, an old stone building, and a sign that points to the PATRIOTIC ORDER SONS OF AMERICA. Turn here and proceed up the road. Pass by the first left-hand turn, then stay straight (left) when the road forks 75 yards later. This is a very steep hill. I had to get off my bike and push, but then again I’m old and out of shape.

Northern section of the Horse-Shoe Trail near Valley Forge Road / Hwy 23

Northern section of the Horse-Shoe Trail near Valley Forge Road / Hwy 23

Just past the fork is another intersection. Stay straight on the slightly narrower gravel path that bars vehicles at that point. A sign identifies it as the Horse-Shoe Trail and indicates that the intersection with the Valley Creek Trail is .2 mile ahead. There is a large bulletin board next to it with information about Valley Forge National Historical Park.

No vehicles beyond this point on the Horse-Shoe Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

No vehicles beyond this point on the Horse-Shoe Trail at Valley Forge National Historical Park

After a few minutes’ walk there is another fork; take a right to remain on the Horse-Shoe Trail. The Valley Creek Trail intersection is just another 100 yards ahead. The Horse-Shoe Trail continues uphill to the right while the Valley Creek Trail proceeds downhill to the left. If you are on a bike, you must take the Valley Creek Trail, as no bikes are allowed on the Horse-Shoe Trail from this point on.

Northern trailhead for the Valley Creek Trail at the intersection with the Horse-Shoe Trail at Valley Forge

Northern trailhead for the Valley Creek Trail at the intersection with the Horse-Shoe Trail at Valley Forge

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Last updated on May 30, 2022
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