Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valley Forge National Historical Park, PA - Mount Misery and Mount Joy

Valley Forge - National Park Service
See "The Story of Valley Forge Mountain" for an interesting history of the hiking areas.

Washington's Headquarters Parking:
GPS  Coordinates 40.102376, -75.457431
(My GPS did not tell me to turn in the proper place for the last turn into the parking lot.  Turn right at the sign to Washington's HQ parking if your GPS does not tell you to turn.)

View Larger Map

Mount Misery Trail Map
Mount Joy Trail Map
(Maps open better in IE than Firefox.)
Map of trails from parking lot through Washington' Headquarters to Valley Creek and Horseshoe Trails.

3.95 miles - Mount Misery
4.30 miles - Mount Joy
7.55 miles - Mount Misery and Mount Joy

Both the Mount Misery and Mount Joy trails can be accessed from Washington's Headquarters parking lot.  The hikes can be done together or separately and you can spend some time exploring the Washington's Headquarters area.

From the parking lot take the sidewalk that curves back and forth down to the train station.
Walk through the train station platform all the way to the end then turn left and go down the steps.  The building ahead on the left is Washington's Headquarters.
Continue straight as the sidewalk turns into a gravel path.  You can explore this area before or after the hike but you want to end up on this gravel path heading towards the stoplight at the road to get to the Horse-Shoe Trail.
At the stop light, cross the road then turn right walking in the grassy area along the road and cross over the bridge.  Just after the bridge turn left following the sign for the Horse-Shoe Trail and Valley Creek Trail.  Follow the yellow blazes for the Horse-Shoe Trail which will take you up Mount Misery.  The Valley Creek Trail will be the return route.
Yellow blaze of the Horse-Shoe Trail
The Horse-Shoe Trail going up Mount Misery
Ruins along the Horse-Shoe Trail
Ruins of a Bottling Plant at Colonial Springs on the Horse-Shoe Trail

Where the yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail goes right just after the the trail register and the yellow horseshoe on the tree, turn left following the sign for the covered bridge.  The trail will eventually have white blazes.
Limited seasonal views from Mount Misery
The white-blazed trail descends to a parking lot.  Walk through the parking lot, turn left on the paved road and walk towards the covered bridge.  Pick up the Valley Creek trail to the left of the covered bridge.
Covered Bridge - 1865
Valley Creek Trail
At the end of the Valley Creek Trail, turn right on Valley Forge Road and cross back over the bridge.  Either turn left and cross over at the stop light to complete the hike or continue straight crossing over Valley Creek Road to go on to Mount Joy.  The trail starts to the right just a few steps after crossing Valley Creek Road.

Trail going up Mount Joy
View from top of Mount Joy.
Old observatory sign.
The sign above was for the Mount Joy Observatory built in the early 1900's and demolished in the 1980's.  The trail leads to a clearing which I believe is the summit where the observatory would have stood.  This link gives more information.  Beyond the clearing the trail continues downhill and across paved roads to a new observation deck:
The observatory sign leads to an observation deck at Redoubt 3.

The Mount Joy trail eventually joins up with the paved multi-use Joseph Plumb Martin Trail briefly before looping back around for the return route.
Heading back through Washington's HQ area to the parking lot.
How sweet of Friends of Valley Forge Park to put a dog water bowl outside the restrooms! 

[  0.00]  From parking lot follow curvy sidewalk downhill to Valley Forge Train Station; at the end of the train station platform turn left down the steps; continue straight to gravel path to stop light at Valley Forge Park Road
[  0.50] Cross over Valley Forge Park Road at stop light; turn right and cross bridge over creek; follow yellow blazes to left for Horse-Shoe Creek Trail
[  0.70]  Turn right at information kiosk
[  0.80]  Keep left at fork
[  0.85]  Keep straight on yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail when the Valley Creek Trail goes left
[  0.90]  Trail turns right where trail straight ahead is blocked by wooden beam
[  1.15]  Ruins on left
[  1.45]  Just beyond trail register turn left on white-blazed trail towards covered bridge when the yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail turns right
[  1.75]  Map shows trail split that I missed - keep right
[  1.85]  Trail forks at unmarked intersection, keep left (not on map)
[  2.15]  Walk through parking lot; turn left on paved road and walk towards covered bridge
[  2.25]  Turn left just before covered bridge and proceed down to the Valley Creek Trail
[  2.60]  Keep straight on the Valley Creek Trail when an unmarked trail comes in from the left
[  3.10]  At intersection turn right on yellow-blazed Horse Shoe Trail heading back towards Valley Forge Park Road
[  3.35]  Turn right on Valley Park Road and cross over bridge
                *** for Mount Misery 3.95 mile hike only turn left at light back to parking lot ***
[  3.45]  Cross over Valley Creek Road and shortly thereafter turn right on gravel road following sign towards Mount Joy (Mount Joy trail will not be blazed)
[  3.55]  Veer right at fork; left will be the return route
[  3.70]  Keep straight as trail (not on map) comes in from left
[  3.95]  Keep right as trail comes in from left (left will be return route)
[  4.10]  Keep right with paved road and bridge on left (bridge will be return route)
[  4.25]  Turn left at old observatory sign; cross over clearing
[  4.40]  At split go either way as trails will join back together
[  4.50]  Cross paved road and keep straight; keep right at fork
[  4.60]  Cross parking lot to viewing deck; retrace steps all the way back to old observatory sign
[  5.05]  Turn left at old observatory sign to continue on Mount Joy trail
[  5.60]  Keep left on paved trail when dirt trail ends; shortly ahead turn left on paved Joseph Plumb Martin Trail
[  5.80]  Pass cannons, cabin and restrooms on the right
[  5.95]  After crossing parking lot exit, watch on the left a few steps ahead for a clearing through the woods; turn left, cross over street and proceed through that clearing on an umarked trail (green trail on map) which leads to the wooden footbridge from earlier
[  6.10]  Cross wooden footbridge, cross paved road, then turn right on dirt trail to head back to Washington's Headquarters
[  6.25]  Keep right at the fork
[  6.65]  Keep straight as trail comes in from left
[  6.75]  Turn left at Valley Forge Road; cross Valley Creek Road; turn left and cross Valley Forge Road at light
[  7.25]  Arrive at parking lot


  1. Thank you so much for this detail! I wasn't very familiar with Valley Forge and this was the perfect guide. Every time I thought I may have been turned around, your amazing detail and description cam to the rescue!
    I am going to use your guides again and again!

  2. Mount Joy Observation Tower was not demolished it was sold and moved. =:-)

  3. This detail is wonderful, so appreciate your taking the time to do this. Taking this hike for the first time and feel much more comfortable now!

  4. It should be noted that there's a 2 hour time limit at this Washington Headquarters parking lot. I'm not sure how well enforced it is. I was parked there on a recent rainy Tuesday for 5 hours and no ticket was received. Still, on busy days & weekends, one might get a summons. But....the hike was very enjoyable with easy, well-maintained trails.