Hiking and History and Nature, Oh My!

Above: Don’t miss the park’s Junior Ranger Program. Kids three to 12 can participate and receive an official Junior Ranger Badge.

Plan a trip to Manassas National Battlefield Park this summer and see what you and your family can discover.

With our close proximity to Washington, D.C., many of us take for granted the myriad of historical and free activities available all year round. But right in our backyard is a historical gem with nearly 5,100 acres, 40 miles of hiking over eight different trails, historic buildings, cemeteries, statues, informational placards and cannon, that you can visit time and time again and find something new each visit. Each season the Manassas National Battlefield Park offers new activities and the National Park Service offers a multitude of educational opportunities for adults and children alike. In addition to the obligatory cannon photos, you’d be surprised how many other things your kids might find photo- (maybe even Instagram-) worthy at the Battlefield. 

Some of the best kept secrets about the Battlefield are its kids programs designed to get kids unplugged and outdoors. But shhhh, don’t tell them they’ll also learn about history, it might just spoil the fun.

TRACK Trails 

TRACK Trails is a partnership with Kids in Parks where kids can earn prizes by completing and registering their adventures on kidsinparks.com. The Manassas National Battlefield offers two TRACK Trail adventures. 

The Stone Bridge TRACK Trail Adventure is a 1.3-mile loop along the Bull Run. It showcases the biodiversity of the park and offers history lessons along the way. There are four adventures your kids can track on this trail: Manassas Birds, Nature’s Hide and Seek, Manassas Need for Trees and the Stone Bridge Trail War Tales. 

The Brownsville Picnic Area TRACK Trail Adventure is an easy .4-mile loop featuring open field, wetland, and woodland habitat with views of Young’s Branch. The three adventures to track on this trail include Nature’s Hide n’ Seek, Birds of the Greater Washington, D.C. Area and Manassas Need for Trees. The brochures for each trail and adventure can be found online at kidsinparks.com. And if your family likes to travel, they can even find other TRACK Trails across the country to add to their collection.

You can grab a trail map at the visitor’s center that highlights the eight different trails and their mileage. Hikes at the Battlefield aren’t technical or steep and most all are easily accessible to young children. There are also horse trails, picnic areas, public restrooms and drinking water accessible to all.

Junior Ranger Program

The Manassas National Battlefield Park Junior Ranger Program is a fun way to keep your child learning about history while exploring the park. This program is for kids three to 12-years-old and takes between one and two hours to complete. There are different activities suggested for different ages. 

The Junior Ranger book is free and available at the Henry Hill Visitor’s Center, where a guide will explain the book to your child. The book features activities like word searches and puzzles and takes your child through the park to find the answers. When your child finishes the assignments and turns in their completed book, they are sworn in as an official Junior Ranger and receive a badge. Their journey doesn’t end there. The National Park Service has a website called WebRangers that is specifically for kids to learn more about the National Parks.

The park volunteers truly love what they do and enjoy answering questions from curious kids.

Scout Ranger Programs

The Scout Ranger Programs are a collaboration of the National Park Service, Girl Scouts of the United States of America and Boy Scouts of America/Scouts BSA to encourage scouts to participate in educational and/or volunteer service projects in National Parks; to increase awareness of the National Parks; and to provide the opportunity to protect our natural and cultural resources. Through these programs scouts can earn a Resource Stewardship Certificate or Badge at Manassas Battlefield by completing 10 hours of service and the respective requirements for each badge/certificate. Opportunities offered to scouts for these programs include:

  • Attending a Ranger Lead Tour of the Manassas National Battlefield Park
  • Attending an environmental educational program
  • Volunteering for service projects
  • Completing the Junior Ranger program, and/or
  • Hiking one or both TRACK Trails

Since these programs are in partnership with the National Parks Service, they don’t need to be completed at the same National Park. Your scout can begin at Manassas National Battlefield and finish at another park. The Scout programs offer additional options that can be tailored to meet a scout or troop’s needs. For more information on the Scout Programs, contact the park’s volunteer coordinator at 703-361-1339.

Living History

If your kids are interested in really seeing what it was like on the Battlefield during the Civil War, there are numerous Living History demonstrations that take place on Henry Hill throughout the summer. Historical reenactors dress in authentic uniforms and this summer the Battlefield offers the 158th anniversary commemoration of the First Manassas [Battle] and the 157th anniversary commemoration of the Second Manassas [Battle]. The schedule and full details are available at https://www.nps.gov/mana/planyourvisit/living-history.htm.

Plan a trip, (or two, or three) to the Battlefield and see what you and your family can discover (and score!) this summer. ϖ

Frannie Barnes
About Frannie Barnes 36 Articles
Frannie Barnes is a content writer and editor, and the owner of ForWord Communication. She lives in Gainesville with her husband, three active kids, cat, and dog. To contact Frannie, you can e-mail her at franniebarnes@forwordcommunication.com.

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