Located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Valley Forge National Historical Park commemorates the location of the Continental Army’s 1777-1778 third winter encampment, a training program that is credited with facilitating a notable turning point in the American Revolutionary War. Between December of 1777 and June of 1778, more than 12,000 members of the Continental Army trained at an encampment approximately 20 miles outside of Philadelphia known as Valley Forge.
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Chosen as an encampment site because of its proximity to the cities of York and Reading and its strategic distance from British troops in Philadelphia, soldiers at Valley Forge trained under the leadership of General George Washington, enduring harsh weather conditions, diseases, and significant resource shortages. Despite the troops’ hardships, the training program and the morale and strategy it established is credited as a major turning point in the American Revolutionary War leading to eventual colonial victory.
In 1893, the Valley Forge site was established as a Pennsylvania state park, centered around General Washington’s former headquarters within the camp. The park was operated by the Valley Forge Park Commission until 1923, when the organization became part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In 1961, the park was declared a National Historic Landmark, and in 1966, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In July of 1976, in honor of the United States Bicentennial celebration, the park was gifted to the care of the National Park Service as a national historical park.
Today, Valley Forge National Historic Park spans more than 3,500 acres of land within the suburban Philadelphia city of King of Prussia, located near the Schuylkill River. More than 1.2 million people visit the park annually to explore its restored and recreated historic Revolutionary War-era structures, monuments, memorials, and museum facilities. The park also holds an extensive collection of artifacts related to the Revolutionary War and the declaration of America’s independence, including the George C. Neumann Collection, which contains 1,600 firearms and weapons utilized during the war, and the John F. Reed Collection, which highlights rare manuscripts and documents from the 18th century. A photograph and postcard collection is also highlighted, along with an archaeological collection of items uncovered during park excavations.
The park’s Valley Forge Visitor Center serves as an entrance point for the facility, offering a variety of park information and exhibits. Visitors may view the 18-minute orientation film “Valley Forge: A Winter Encampment” within the Center’s auditorium and may search through a muster roll of Continental Army soldiers who trained at the Valley Forge encampment. A special museum exhibit, Determined to Persevere, is also highlighted, and an Encampment Store sells Revolutionary War-themed books and gifts. A variety of ranger-led programming embarks from the Center, including 90-minute trolley tours and storytelling programs.
A number of preserved historic buildings are showcased throughout the park, including the Washington’s Quarters colonial home occupied by George Washington from 1777-1778, fully restored in 2009. Several other general quarters buildings are also located within the park and open to the public for exploration, including one utilized by the Marquis de Lafayette. A number of replica log cabins and earthwork structures have also been reconstructed based on historical accounts of structures used during the encampment, including an Inner Line Defenses ditch and an abatis.
The park’s Washington Memorial Chapel was constructed in honor of Reverend W. Herbert Burk’s 1903 sermon honoring George Washington and serves as a functioning Episcopal church, complete with a National Patriots Bell Tower carillon. A number of memorials are also located within the park, including the National Memorial Arch, dedicated with an inscription by George Washington in honor of the members of the Continental Army. In 2009, the park also acquired and restored the Valley Forge Train Station, which now serves as a museum and informational facility.
26 miles of nature trails are offered within the park, allowing for outdoor hiking and bicycling opportunities. Trails include the 8.7-mile Joseph Plumb Martin Trail loop, the River Trail, and the Valley Creek Trail. Several park trails also connect to broader Philadelphia-area trail systems. A variety of outdoor sporting and wildlife activities are also offered, including horseback riding, fishing, and kayaking along the Schuylkill River.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Park information and demonstrations are provided daily at Washington’s Headquarters and other locations by park rangers dressed in period-appropriate attire. Field trip opportunities are offered for elementary and secondary students, incorporating Pennsylvania curriculum standards, and a Homeschool Days program offers periodic educational special events for children ages 3-15. A variety of public special events are also offered throughout the year, including themed ranger-led walks, bicycling tours, and an annual five-mile Revolutionary Run event in April.
1400 N Outer Line Dr, King of Prussia, PA 19406, Phone: 610-783-1077