WASHINGTON'S TRAIL is a driving route through western Pennsylvania. Traversing modern highways, the route commemorates young George Washington's first military and diplomatic venture in the Fall and Winter 1753 - 1754. Today, the route follows major roads. However, in some areas there are alternate historic or scenic routes suggested which may more closely align with Washington's travel in the Fall of 1753.
Historic markers are erected along Washington's route through scenic western Pennsylvania countryside. Pick up the trail at the Maryland/PA border and follow it north. Relive Washington's first military expedition- retrace the steps of our first president. And don't forget to take advantage of the historic and natural attractions along the way.
In 1753, the imperial nations of France and Great Britain and the Native Americans all claimed control of the Ohio Country, the area encompassing present-day western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Acting on orders from Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie, twenty-one-year-old George Washington embarked upon a dangerous expedition north from Williamsburg to deliver a diplomatic message to the French ordering them to evacuate the region. Already the French had erected three forts to reinforce their claim to the area: Fort Presque Isle (Erie, PA), Fort LeBoeuf (Waterford, PA), and Fort Machault (Franklin, PA).
During his journey to the French forts in the winter of 1753-1754, young Washington encountered many hazards. There were "excessive rains and vast quantity of snow". He was nearly shot by an Indian guide near Harmony, PA, and nearly drowned in the icy waters of the Allegheny River near present-day Pittsburgh, PA. When Washington returned to Williamsburg in January 1754, he reported to the governor that the French intended to remain entrenched in the Ohio Country. This marked the beginning of the military struggle know as the French and Indian War.