Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Exploring the Chopawamsic Backcountry Area

With summer fast approaching, Shira and I have started thinking about where we want to take our Nieces and Nephew camping. One of the closest primitive camping options is the Chopawamsic Backcountry Area in Prince William Forest. The campsites are accessible via a 2.2 mile loop. We wondered: would the relatively short hike make for an accessible backpacking trip that would be fun for the kids?

A week or so ago it hit me: uh, why don't we just go and check the area out? Today good weather and our schedules conspired to give us an opportunity to do just this.

Here's a bit of useful intel: even if you're planning to just day-hike in Chopawamsic, your first stop needs to be at the visitor center. Along with paying your park entry fee, you'll go through the usual permiting process and the park ranger will give you a key to the gate. From there, you can head to the turn off at Breckenridge Road, and start down a spooky looking 1 lane road.

Useful bit of intel #2: when you see this sign, you're going the right direction

Once we got these logistics sorted out, finding the parking lot and trail was a breeze.

We did the 2.2 mile loop with ease. It has a few hills in a couple of places, but it's not especially challenging. Much of it is under forest canopy, so there's no summit or breathtaking view that's your destination. Of course, little wonders abound, but that's true of any outdoor space you truly take the time to explore.

Throughout the loop there are turn offs to each of the 8 campsites. We were especially impressed with #3, though, we didn't explore them all in detail. All the campsites looked clean and well maintained.

There's a trail down to the Breckinridge Reservoir which we didn't take. That would have probably exposed us to completely different terrain.

After mulling it over, I doubt we'll plan to do our next kids camp-out there. I'm sure it would work well enough, but the benefits of a state campground are just too numerous to pass up: cooking over a real fire, hitting the beach for swimming, no-stress campsite selection and not to mention, clean restrooms. I'm excited to take the kids backpacking, but I think we'll hold off another year or two.

We certainly had a great time exploring this new section of park and I'm psyched to add it the my list of next-door-nature options.

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