Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is known for the quality of its parks, lakes, and hiking trails and its dedication to preserving them. The county-owned Peace Valley Park, with Lake Galena at its heart, is one of the region’s most well-maintained, and deservedly popular, spots for relaxing and enjoying nature.
A community treasure
In 2021, the Bucks County Commission approved a measure providing permanent protection to the water supply and natural habitats of Lake Galena while continuing the public’s right to enjoy the lake and the park for generations to come. The preservation proposal is additionally set to generate approximately $25 million in immediate revenue through partnership with the local nonprofit water and sewer authority.
The 1,500-acre park’s central location in Bucks County – about 20 miles from downtown Doylestown – and easy terrain gradient make it ideal for a family day out with young children and older adults. Some 14 miles of nature trails, and the meadowlands surrounding them, brim with wildlife and wildflowers.
Lake Galena and its hiking trail
The clear, calm surface of the more than 350 acres of Lake Galena offers an ideal location for sailing or kayaking. There’s great fishing in the lake as well. Fish species include bass, channel catfish, and white perch.
It’s easy to rent a sailboat, rowboat, kayak, or paddle boat near the lake, where a little exploration will put you in sight of herons, kingfishers, woodpeckers, osprey, and close to 300 other local and migrating bird species. Deer, muskrats, and groundhogs are among the mammals you might spot in the park.
The park’s 6.5-mile blacktop hiking and biking trail circumnavigates the lake, providing another vantage point to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. The park hosts regular 5K run-walk events free to the community. And the Annual Peace Valley Duathlon gives people of all ages the chance to run and bike through the vivid seasonal colors.
The trail is also inviting for walkers and for families with strollers. Except for one small portion near the northeast side of the lake, it’s generally flat. Playgrounds and picnic sites abound, although certain spots are restricted as conservation areas for local flora and fauna. Another important thing to keep in mind is that swimming in the lake is prohibited.
The town under the lake
Also known as Peace Valley Reservoir, Lake Galena was created in 1974, when local authorities dammed the northern branch of Neshaminy Creek. As a reservoir, Lake Galena serves as part of the Bucks County region’s water supply system. As a recreation area and natural treasure, it’s been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA) due to its diversity of species.
The area just north of Peace Valley Park and Lake Galena holds historic significance as the site of the former village of New Galena. In the mid-19th century, residents discovered the presence of galena ore – a mineral also called “lead glance” – on these lands, and a local mining industry developed. Industrialists and tourists who flocked to the area eventually became residents, energizing the local real estate economy. By the latter part of the 20th century, bust had followed boom, and New Galena was almost abandoned. At that point, local parks and recreation authorities decided to flood the ghost town and its mine to create Lake Galena. Peace Valley Park grew up around the dam, as did the trails shortly thereafter.
Center for information
The solar-heated Peace Valley Nature Center on Chapman Road, by the eastern edge of Lake Galena, is the best place for most new visitors to begin a day at the park. The center hosts educational displays about the park and its wildlife species and offers helpful information as you plan your day. The center also offers seasonal birding and walking tours.
Birding backpacks available at the center include binoculars and a field guide. A duck blind is nearby, and there’s easy access to trailheads.
A storybook trail and beyond
Among these trails, families with young kids will especially enjoy Pooh Tree Loop. This path is so named because it’s an easy trail winding through a wooded expanse that includes an 80-foot-tall, hollowed-out sycamore called the Pooh Tree. Kids can go inside and get a chance to pretend to be Winnie-the-Pooh in his storybook-famous home in a tree.
The trail crosses over Neshaminy Creek at numerous spots, making it a perfect place to imagine oneself to be Pooh, Christopher Robin, or Piglet splashing through puddles. The trail also offers picturesque views of Lake Galena from atop Chapman Road Bridge.
Beyond the easy walking of Pooh Tree Loop and the blacktop loop around the lake, Peace Valley Park offers more rugged, wilderness-edged trails, but even these are quite accessible. They take walkers and hikers deeper into the woodlands with mature tree growth and into quiet sanctuaries populated by fields of wildflowers, wading blue herons, paddling turtles, and choruses of frogs.
Peace Valley Lavender Farm out on New Galena Road is only a few miles from the park and offers strolls through fields of lavender and a gift shop filled with lavender-infused products.
With its wonders of nature, an escape into tranquility, and a sense of community, it’s easy to see why Bucks County locals continue to make Peace Valley Park a part of their lives.