Manassas National Battlefield Park
Administered by the National Park Service, 12521 Lee Highway, Manassas, VA 22110 Tel. 703-754-1861. This area is located in Prince William County, VA
Write-up assembled by Andy
About the ParkThe Manassas Battlefield Park was the scene of two major battles fought during the American Civil War in the years 1861 to 1865. The "First Battle of Manassas" was the first large-scale battle of war, the "Second Battle of Manassas" occurred just over a year later and pitted the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee against the Union Army of Virginia under John Pope. Both battles were Confederate victories.
Confederate Forces - 32,200 men, 2,000 killed/wounded
On a warm July day in 1861, two great armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. Their ranks were filled with enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms gathered together from every part of the country. Confident that their foes would run at the first shot, the raw recruits were thankful that they would not miss the only battle of what surely would be a short war. But any thought of colorful pageantry was suddenly lost in the smoke, din, dirt, and death of the battle. Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered. At day's end, nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the fields of Matthews Hill, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge. Ten hours of heavy fighting swept away any notion the war's outcome would be decided quickly. The Union forces under the command of Irvin McDowell retreated in panic towards Washington, D.C. along with members of Congress and other picnicers who had travelled to Manassas to view the spectacle.
Confederate Forces - 55,000 men, 8,400 killed/wounded
In August 1862, Union and Confederate armies converged for a second time on the plains of Manassas. The native enthusiasm that preceded the earlier encounter was gone. War was not the holiday outing or grand adventure envisioned by the young recruits of 1861. The contending forces, now made up of seasoned veterans, knew well the reality of war. The Battle of Second Manassas, covering three days, produced far greater carnage - 3,300 killed - and brought the Confederacy to the height of its power. Still, the battle did not weaken Northern resolve. The war's final outcome was yet unknown, and it would be left to other battles to decide whether the sacrifice at Manassas was part of the high price of Southern independence, or the cost of one country again united under the national standard.
Weather and SnowThe local climate is typical of the weather experienced in Washington, D.C. Summer temperatures are usually in the low-90's, and normal mid-winter daytime temperatures are around 42 degrees. Late afternoon and evening thunderstorms can occur on any given day during the summer months, along with very warm temperatures, and oft times withering humidity.
About the area......Today, summer wildflowers add beauty to a battlefield where more than 10,000 Americans gave their lives for the Union and Confederate causes.
While the Manassas Battlefield Park is worth visiting for historical purposes alone, the area also has a well developed hiking/horseback riding trail system. The Park is located roughly one mile west of Interstate I-66 at the Rt. 234 Manassas exit, providing quick and easy access to those interested in visiting.
I enjoy the Manassas Battlefield Park for its open fields and rolling hills. There are not many "farmland" style hikes available in Virginia, and that makes this area special. The fields are interspersed with stands of young trees, monuments, and historical markers, bringing an appreciation for the historical events that took place on these fields, as well as worthwhile hiking. There are many places where one bursts out of the close growth of young timber into open fields laced with wildflowers and blue sky. It's possible to leave the traffic and crowds behind by making a long hike of the trails. One could easily spend an entire day hiking and taking in the historical perspectives. During the winter, the area is frequented by cross-country skiers who traverse the gentle grades along the trails, or practice telemarking on some of the steeper hills.
If you lack the time to visit some of the larger parks further afield, the Manassas Battlefield Park is a great way to spend a full day of hiking while remaining close to the city.
Trails worth hiking?It can be a challenge putting together a complete hiking circuit, but not out of the question. All the trails offer varying perspectives of the battlefield, either in open fields or young stands of forest. My favorite circuit starts at the Stone Bridge parking area, follows along the quiet waters of Bull Run, then crosses open fields to the Carter's "Pittsylvania" homesite, then on to Matthews Hill, with a loop back to Rt. 29 (Lee Highway/Warrenton Turnpike) and the Stone Bridge parking area. This circuit requires a short stretch of road walking along busy Rt. 29 and is not suitable for young children. This circuit can be made much longer by crossing Rt. 234 at Matthews Hill and incorporating a loop in the Brawner House region. If this isn't enough, you can always hop in the car and travel west on Rt. 29 another three miles to the Conway Robinson State Forest for a couple miles of additional hiking (write-up coming soon).
PermitsThere is a $2.00 fee per adult (anyone over 16 year of age) to enter the parking area for the Visitor Center, and users should pay the fee if they intend to use any section of the Park. However, nearly all the trails are accessible from the roads that cross the Battlefield Park. The Visitor Center is open from 8:30am to 5pm daily (except Christmas) and from 8:30am to 6pm during the summer. There are some excellent exhibits and artifacts on view in the Visitor Center, and it is worth visiting. Interpretive hikes led by NPS Rangers are also available.
Mountain BikingStrictly prohibited on all park trails.
Cross-country SkiingAn excellent area for beginner skiers. The grades on the trails are gentle, and the open fields provide plenty of obstruction-free practice area. The two major roads that cross the park are plowed when it snows.
CampfiresNot allowed. The Park does not have camping or picnic facilities.
AccessFrom the intersection of I-495 and I-66, head west on I-66 to the Rt. 234 Manassas exit (West). The park Visitor Center is about one mile down the road on your right. The entrance is clearly marked.
The MapA TRAIL MAP (223K) from the official NPS brochure is available here, but it does not include all the hiking trails in the Park. A more detailed hiking map may be purchased at the Visitor Center for $0.50.