January 2, 2021
It seems we have a tradition of trying to hike around the new years. This year, we did a nice hike at Fort Totten Park on New Year’s Eve and then on the second, headed out to Prince William Forest Park for a longer hike. New Year’s Day this year was a wet one, so didn’t want to go hiking in the rain.
We have been to Prince William Forest a few times, though it had been a while. We started running into traffic issues coming down from DC on 95 to get there, making the drive longer than it really needed to be. With everything going on and the holiday, ended up being a quick trip this time. We started off by heading to the visitor center first. While this was closed, it had the larger parking lots. This proved the point that we had not been here in a while, as we realized that we normally drive down the scenic road and pull off at one of the multiple parking lots to access the trails. The boys did see the playground though and I believe that may have provided some motivation for the hike.
We hopped back into the car and headed over to the necessary parking lot (Lot D) that was adjacent to the trail head. Parking in all lots seemed to be pretty full and we lucked out both times we had to park. Not far from the lot was the start of the trail, and also the start of one way driving for cars.
Pyrite Mine Road is a fire road that heads directly to the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine Site. All-Trails wanted us to cut over on the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine Trail, but we decided to stay on the road and make a loop of it rather than having to backtrack. It then connects with the North Valley Trail (Light Blue Blaze) and you walk over a couple of the boardwalks as they are rehabilitating this area from the mining.
The site has a few buildings, or at least the foundations remaining and the boys seemed to get excited about this. The first building we saw before the boardwalk was apparently the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine’s commissary. There is a lookout off of the boardwalk to see where the main operations of the mine were, however due to the rehabilitation, it is mostly just a wooded area with a creek. Eli seemed to be confused, as he was expecting to see more.
We continued on the boardwalk and crossed over the creek. The other side had a few more foundations, which I later learned are the three main buildings of the mine, which included the boiler that powered the mine, and two other buildings for the machine shop and engine room. Guess they had rails so that machinery would travel back and forth. We stopped to eat at these foundations and the boys enjoyed getting to see them up close.
We pressed on after lunch, and there were a few more raised walking areas. I imagine some of this area can become pretty flooded as we are now parallel to the creek.
Shortly afterwards we started to run into the Quantico Creek Cascades. When we hiked this area in the past, I believe we had seen these, but both Linda and I felt like this was much more than we remembered. We stopped for a closer look, not realizing that we would have a few other good sections left ahead of us. After a few photoshoots we came to another lookout and decided to head back up the hill on the Quantico Cascades Trail (Yellow Blaze).
It was a steep ascent and everyone was ready to finish up. The trail continues till you run into the Scenic Drive. Since the road is one way, half of it is for bikes and pedestrians. So we were able to quickly walk back to the parking lot, eventhough there was a bit of protesting from littler legs. The boys were ready to check out the playground though, so we hopped in and drove back to the Visitor Center for a little break. On the way, I realized that I forgot to turn off my tracking apps. Luckily I was able to edit the All-Trails recording.
It was a nice day to be out, even if the trail was a bit wet and muddy. And as always, great time exploring with the family.
Prince William Forest Park
18170 Park Entrance Road
Triangle, VA 22172
Last modified: January 8, 2021