Valley Forge National Historical Park has launched a new initiative to raise awareness about the Park’s trails and outdoor recreation opportunities.
The ’78 Mile Challenge encourages visitors to walk, hike, run, pedal, or paddle through the 3,500-acre park, logging their miles along the way. The name and the 78 miles are a reminder of the Continental Army’s encampment at the site in 1777-78.
One of the champions of the program is Blake McGready, an interpreter who works at Valley Forge National Historical Park. He was one of the people who organized the ’78 Mile Challenge. He has seen first-hand how important the Park has become for outdoor enthusiasts.
He also sees the ’78 Mile Challenge as an opportunity to reach them in a new way.
“The Park receives millions of visitors ever year, and most of them use the park recreationally,” McGready said. “They come to run, walk, or bike, and therefore spend little to no interactive time with the National Park Service.”
“By encouraging visitors to record their distances, note what trails they’re frequently on, and come into the Visitor Center to claim a prize, I believe we are creating stewardship, in a way. I hope with these small steps our recreational users will come to see Valley Forge as their own neighborhood National Park.”
The ’78 Mile Challenge is part of a larger National Park Service (NPS) initiative. According to the National Park Service website, Healthy Parks Healthy People US was established in 2011 “to reframe the role of parks and public lands as an emerging, powerful health prevention strategy.”
McGready saw the work other parks were doing and helped bring it to Valley Forge. “Several National Parks launched these mileage challenges,” he said. “It seemed like Valley Forge would be a terrific fit to host a similar challenge.”
Valley Forge Park is home to nearly 30 miles of trails to explore, either on your own, with your family, or even with the family pet. In addition to the 78-mile prize, kids who take the challenge can earn achievement stickers at 25 and 50 miles. Dogs are also encouraged to complete the challenge along with their owners.
Visitors can print their ’78 Mile Challenge Log form at nps.gov/vafo. Once you’ve accumulated 78 miles, return the form to the Visitor Center by October 31, 2018, to claim your prize.
Log Miles at Park Programs
As part of the ’78 Mile Challenge, visitors are encouraged to take part in regularly scheduled Park programs. Here’s a few programs that will help you log miles:
Ranger-Led Walks – 0.25 Miles
Ranger-led walks are hosted twice daily during the summer months and on weekends in September and October. These short walks are a great starting point and provide historical context for your adventure.
Trail Tuesdays – 2.5 Miles
The Valley Forge Park Alliance hosts weekly walks in the Park, usually a 2.5-mile walk along the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail from the Visitor Center’s lower parking lot to the National Memorial Arch and back.
Guided Bird Walks – 1.5 Miles
Join avid local birders on a walk to discover the native birds living in Valley Forge National Historical Park. These two-hour programs are held twice monthly through October.
Bike Tours – 5-7 Miles
The Encampment Store at Valley Forge National Historical Park offers guided bike tours of the Park that highlight some of the Park’s key monuments and historic sites.