Prince William Forest Park

PRWI Pyrite MineIn 1936, the United States goverment chose the land that is now Prince William Forest Park as the site where inner-city youth from Washington, D.C. would venture out into nature. The Great Depression was weighing heavily on the youth of America’s cities, and parks were born to relieve this burden. To this end, 5 cabin camps were built to allow youth to recreate in nature during overnight camp-outs.

From this legacy, Prince William Forest Park has grown into a center of recreation for Washington, D.C. area residents and visitors from around the world. 15,000 acres of piedmont forest and 70% percent of the Quantico Creek watershed reside within the park’s boundaries. The 5 cabin camps still operate both as the site of educational overnight experiences and as vacation spots. In addition, this park, which boasts the only preserved piedmont forest in the National Park Service system, has group tent, familiy tent, and backcountry camping, as well as 37 miles of hiking trails and 21 miles of bicycle-accessible trails. Visit Prince William Forest Park today to enjoy its historic and natural resources and join in this legacy.

Prince William Forest Park MapLocation:
 Prince William Forest Park is located in Prince William County, Virginia, 32 miles south of Washington, D.C. Take I-95 to Exit 150 (VA Route 619 West). Sites include Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine, Cabin Camp 3, South Valley Trail, and Taylor Farm Trail.

  • Field Studies available: Watershed Watchdogs (various sites), Exotic Invaders (various sites), Don’t Get Sedimental (various sites), Water Canaries (various sites), Talkin’ Trash (Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine only), Mine Over Matter (Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine only)
  • Habitat: Woodland edge; river/stream bank; man-made lake; recovering farmland
  • Terrain: The Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine site lies along the North Branch of the Quantico Creek. This section of the creek is slow moving and relatively straight. It is accessible only by a 1-mile hike down the Pyrite Mine Road and Cabin Branch Trail. The site does not have a wide expanse of bank but does have many sites where small groups may access the stream. During spring rains, the site can be quite marshy and damp. Canopy cover at the Pyrite Mine site is almost non-existant as the site was once an operating Pyrite, or “fool’s gold” mine. After an attempted reclamation in 1995, very few plants have come back, leaving mostly alien species and a few spotty trees.

    Cabin Camp 3: A gravel road leads from the parking lot area to Lake 3. This man-made lake, like 4 others in the park, was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The walk to the lake takes approximately 20 minutes and has a few mild hills. Once at the lake, large amounts of stream bank erosion and eutrophication can be seen in this area that was never meant, by mother nature, to be a lake.

    The South Valley Trail meanders along the South Branch of the Quantico Creek. In the section closest to Parking Lot “A,” where most BTW field studies take place, the terrain is flat, riparian, and easily accessible by vehicle.

    Taylor Farm was once the home of Robert and Jennie Taylor, who operated a medium-sized farm here through the 1920s. Unfortunately, like many early families, the Taylors planted Wysteria vines beside their home for its beautiful purple flowers. The Taylors’ once-fertile fields are now in a stage of primary succession, and Wysteria (an invasive species) and many other Alien Invaders have taken over. An old farm road leads to the Taylor Farm site from the Turkey Run Ridge area. This road meanders up and down a few small hills. Once at the field, the terrain is very flat but completely covered with low shrub plants.

  • Not suitable for the disabled
  • Facilities: Restrooms near the Taylor Farm Trail. For all other sites, the nearest restrooms are at the visitor center.

For more information on Prince William Forest Park, including directions, visitor information and hours of operation, visit their official website: