The Crossing Trail (Prince William Forest Park, VA)


The Crossing Trail, Prince William Forest Park, August 2016

– Revolutionary War Series –

The Crossing Trail in Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park is effectively a walk in the woods with a historic twist: the highlight of this short, easy circuit is where it crosses the old Telegraph Road, which served as the main artery for north-south travelers in the area for centuries. It also provided passage for General George Washington and Rochambeau’s troops as they marched to Yorktown for what proved to be the pivotal battle of the Revolutionary War in 1781.

The Crossing Trail hike information Prince William Forest Park

The Crossing Trail map Prince William Forest Park

Map of The Crossing Trail, Prince William Forest Park; adapted from

The hike

To reach The Crossing Trail, drive (or walk) east along the modern-day Telegraph Road from the Visitor Center for about 1/3 mile. Park in the first of two parking areas, where the start of the trail is visible on the left. (Note: If you round a bend and reach the Telegraph Picnic Pavilion, you have gone too far.)

The Crossing Trail, marked with a large informational wayside, begins as a wide path that gradually climbs to merge with what appears to be an old roadbed. (Note: This is not yet the old Telegraph Road of George Washington lore.) Within a couple minutes, the path ascends a low pass between woody knolls, then more or less levels out as it approaches the old Telegraph Road.

Also known as the “Potomac Path,” this abandoned north-south thoroughfare dates to the precolonial era, when Native Americans used the thruway, and is billed (on the informational sign at the junction) as a “forerunner to today’s interstate highways.” It was abandoned in the 1930s, but not until after seeing heavy use during the Revolutionary War and Civil War.


Old Telegraph Road, used by George Washington’s troops as they marched on Yorktown in 1781

Continuing on, bear left as the trail merges with the old road, then take a left onto the much fainter continuation of The Crossing Trail at the junction at 2/10 mile. From here the footpath skirts a ravine and ascends through a woody hollow, reemerging onto (modern) Telegraph Road at around ½ mile. The exit is about 70 yards down the road from the start, so take a left to return to the trailhead and parking area.

Easy and short, allot around 15-30 minutes for the entire walk.


Continuation of the old Telegraph Road and The Crossing Trail

This entry was posted in Easy Hikes, Prince William Forest Park, Revolutionary War, Virginia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Crossing Trail (Prince William Forest Park, VA)

  1. Pingback: Visitor Center Loop (Prince William Forest Park, VA) | Live and Let Hike

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