On this beautiful, slightly blustery Saturday morning we ventured about 35 minutes outside of DC to Prince William County, Virginia for a historic hike.
Manassas National Battlefield Park is home to two Civil War battles: Battle of First Manassas and Battle of Second Manassas, or [First/Second] Battle of Bull Run for southerners. Both battles ring of historic value, allowing for a hike laden with not only beautiful Virginia nature, but also educational opportunities.
As you pull into the park, you question whether this will be a hike or a reliving of those eighth grade field trips you so didn’t enjoy the first time around. You know, the ones where the only highlight was if the boy you liked joked with you. But never one to back down from a plan, we proceeded.
First, we headed into the Visitor Center for a map and a quick oodle over my son from all the workers … it never gets old to have strangers tell you how wonderful your son is. Assuming of course they keep a safe distance and don’t stick their hands in or near his mouth. (And you thought a stranger touching your belly when you were pregnant was the worst it could get as far as invading personal space.)
Our expectations were low for the actual hike. After all, it is only a battlefield and the sign in the Visitor Center made reference to a reenactment. How great could this be – especially for two non-history buffs? We were wrong, completely wrong.
There are multiple paths you can follow, all of which take you through the historic battles that helped shape America. The hike we chose goes along the parameter of the battlefield for just under six miles and passes two historic homes – both original – and even a family burial ground. Be sure to take the time to enter the homes. In one, you’ll find carvings from young, unfortunate soldiers who were wounded in battle. If the incredible rolling hills and beautiful scenery doesn’t move you, seeing the carvings certainly will.
Are you a trail runner? This is the perfect training ground for you. Leave the little one at home and venture out for a rugged run. We saw more than a handful while we were hiking and all had smiles; probably because the terrain flows from a carved out field path to wooded, root-filled steps to riverbeds. Its silence will clear your mind and the fresh air will clear your lungs.
Wildlife is also abounding along the MNBP trail. Birds, frogs, brightly colored insects and even a wild turkey crossed our path. It was quite fun!
The trail itself is definitely not suitable for any kind of stroller. By the end of six miles and carrying the ‘now not feeling so little’ guy you’ll be wanting a snack, so be sure to pack a little cooler that has some veggies and water.
While hike number six did not lack historical learning opportunities, it’s one of our favorite hikes so if you have the opportunity, do it and make your junior high history teacher proud while burning some calories with nature!