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Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Overview

As one of the easiest crossings of the Alleghany Mountains, Cumberland Gap saw steady foot traffic from 1775 to 1810 as American settlers moved west then sent their trade goods and livestock east.  It later became the corner where the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia all converge.  Today there is a tunnel on Highway 25E, maintaining the park’s quiet and its appearance of centuries ago. 

Highlights

Pinnacle Overlook, Tri-State Peak, Wilderness Road Trail, Hensley Settlement, Gap Cave

Must-Do Activity

All visitors will want to drive the steep four-mile long Pinnacle Road, along which trailheads lead to scenic overlooks and earthen forts dating to the 1860s.  Reservations are recommended if you want to take a tour of the Hensley Settlement or Gap Cave, which typically sell out.  Even if you cannot make it on a tour, there are 85 miles of shady trails through the park’s 24,000 acres of forest to make your visit worthwhile.

Best Trail

At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park you can follow in the footsteps of salt-seeking bison, Shawnee and Cherokee warriors, hundreds of thousands of pioneers, and Civil War soldiers from both sides.  Hike the Wilderness Road Trail to the saddle of the official Cumberland Gap, which is marked by a sign.  You will also pass the same Indian Rock that was seen by frontiersman Daniel Boone when he helped blaze the Wilderness Trail in 1775.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You can see parts of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee from Pinnacle Overlook at 2,440 feet in elevation.  With its commanding views, you can see why both sides found the Cumberland Gap strategic during the Civil War.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cuga/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except for the separate tours of Hensley Settlement and Gap Cave (reservations recommended).

Road Conditions

The four-mile long road up to Pinnacle Overlook is paved but steep enough to be closed to all trailers and vehicles over 20 feet in length.

Camping

The park’s Wilderness Road Campground is large and open year round.  Free permits are available for backcountry campsites.  Black bears are common in the park, so proper food storage is required.

Related Sites

Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (Tennessee-Kentucky)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Explore More – Who was the Virginian who first “discovered” and named the Cumberland Gap in 1750?

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Morristown National Historical Park

Overview

Not as famous as Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania, Morristown was the winter camp for the Continental Army during the winter of 1776-77, following the successful Christmas surprise attack on Trenton, New Jersey.  General George Washington again chose this site for his 10,000 troops during the winter of 1779-80, considered by historians as the harshest weather of the 18th century.  Morristown was established as the nation’s first National Historical Park in 1933.

Highlights

Ford Mansion, films, Wick House, replica huts at Jockey Ridge

Must-Do Activity

In the town of Morristown, the Georgian-style Ford Mansion served as George and Martha Washington’s home during the winter of 1779-80.  Tours inside the house start at the museum behind it, which also has exhibits and a film.  Down the road, there are no remains of the earthworks built in 1777 at Fort Nonsense, but interpretive panels at the site explain its strategic position and how it later got its name. 

Best Trail

A short trail leads from a parking area up a small hill to replicas of soldiers’ huts at Jockey Ridge.  There are a total of 27 miles of trails in this section of the park that are also open to horseback riding and cross-country skiing.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Wick House at Jockey Hollow has been restored to its 1750 appearance.  It served as the quarters for Major General Arthur St. Clair during the winter of 1779-80.  Costumed interpreters are sometimes on hand to take visitors inside the farmhouse.

Peak Season

Summer, though winter is more authentic to the American Revolution.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/morr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved and parking is free

Camping

Allamachy Mountain State Park is about 20 miles northwest of Morristown, New Jersey.

Related Sites

Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

Gateway National Recreation Area (New York-New Jersey)

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – Morristown National Historical Park is part of which National Heritage Area and located along which National Historic Trail?

Ninety Six National Historic Site

Overview

Ninety Six was a bit of a misnomer for this 18th-century trading village in South Carolina.  It was estimated at the time to be 96 miles from a major Cherokee village, but was actually closer to 78.  Then again, Seventy Eight does not have the same ring to it, does it?  A small stockade built around a barn survived two attacks by Cherokees in the 1750s, then during the American Revolution the town fell into British hands after a battle on November 19, 1775.  They proceeded to build a star-shaped earthen fort that was partially reconstructed in the 1970s.

Highlights

Reconstructed Revolutionary War earthen fort, museum, film

Must-Do Activity

In 1781, six year after the town fell into British hands, a month-long Patriot siege led by General Nathanael Greene failed, but the Patriots abandoned their underground tunneling when they learned of British reinforcements arriving.  The British wound up retreating to Charleston anyway and burning the town behind them.  Ninety Six never fully recovered and remained undeveloped, which allowed archaeologists in the 1970s to rediscover the old tunnels and zigzag trenches designed by Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko. 

Best Trail

With interpretive pamphlet in hand, you can get a good idea of Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s strategy from atop the observation platform built along the one-mile self-guided trail.  The park also contains the 27-acre Star Fort Pond, which is accessible by road or the Cherokee Path Trail from the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

This is the only National Park Service site we know of where visitors are encouraged to brandish a musket.  They also have a pillory to pose in.

Peak Season

Spring and fall, since it can be very hot in the summer with little shade.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/nisi/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Access road paved

Camping

Greenwood State Recreation Area has a campground on a lake about nine miles north.

Related Sites

Cowpens National Battlefield (South Carolina)

Fort Sumter National Monument (South Carolina)

Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – Who was Robert Gouedy and why was he significant in the history of Ninety Six?

Arkansas Post National Memorial

Overview

Arkansas Post National Memorial is in the southeastern section of its namesake state near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.  The French first settled this area in 1686 in order to trade with a large village of Quapaw Indians.  From 1763-1800 the fort was controlled by the Spanish, who were attacked by the British here in 1783 in what became known as the Colbert Incident, considered one of the final battles in the American Revolution.

Highlights

Museum, film, ruins, cannons, wildlife, fishing

Must-Do Activity

Following the Louisiana Purchase, the post briefly served as the territorial capital, then that moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1821.  It fell into decline until Fort Hindman was built during the Civil War, after which time much of the shoreline was washed away by the Arkansas River.  There are not many human structures left to see at the site, but the bayou offers great opportunities for birdwatching.

Best Trail

A trail passes Park Lake through the Old Townsite to shoreline views of Post Bayou and the Arkansas River.  A trench dug by the Confederate army during the Civil War is also visible from the trail and a side road north of the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There are plenty of cannons around to pose with, but Tiff was most excited about the original location of The Arkansas Gazette newspaper that started right here in 1819 and is still printed today in Little Rock (which is where she grew up with Wondon).

Peak Season

Spring and fall when there are less mosquitoes.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/arpo/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Camping is not allowed within the park, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages campgrounds at Pendleton Bend and Merrisach Lake Park.

Related Sites

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi-Tennessee)

Explore More – Following the 1863 Civil War battle to take the fort, how many Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner?

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Overview

In Manteo, North Carolina, the Outer Banks islands protect Albemarle Sound, where Roanoke Island can be found.  If that name sounds familiar, it is because it was here that Fort Raleigh became the first English settlement in North America.  First scoped out in 1584, its original inhabitants all left with Sir Francis Drake after supply ships failed to arrive.  The 117 colonists that came in 1587 actually wanted to settle further north on Chesapeake Bay, but their captain left them here instead.  John White soon sailed back to England to get aid, but an ongoing war with the Spanish Armada kept him away until 1590.  Upon his return he found the fort deserted, the buildings stripped, and a fencepost marked “CROATOAN” (the name of nearby island).  White was thwarted in his attempt to land on Croatoan Island by a hurricane, so to-this-day nobody knows the true fate of the colonists.

Highlights

Museum, site of first British colony in America, Lost Colony Outdoor Drama

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service museum has excellent displays, including the videos of Sir Walter Raleigh (the fort’s namesake) in the Elizabethan Room.  It offers all the theories on happened to the settlers so visitors can decide what they believe.  “The Lost Colony” did lend its name to an outdoor musical performed most nights throughout the summer within the boundaries of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. 

Best Trail

The Thomas Hariot Nature Trail provides views of the reconstructed earthen fort, musical theater, and Albemarle Sound.  Hariot was a scientist who searched Roanoke Island in 1585 for precious metals and made drawings of the local flora and fauna.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Waterside Theatre has hosted the outdoor symphonic play “The Lost Colony” every summer since 1937.

Peak Season

Summer beach season when the musical theater has performances

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fora/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except for tickets to the Lost Colony Outdoor Drama.  Admission is also charged at the adjacent Elizabethan Gardens.

Road Conditions

All roads paved.

Camping

There is a private campground nearby, but we recommend you reserve a campsite near the beach within beautiful Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Related Sites

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)

Wright Brothers National Memorial (North Carolina)

Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)

Explore More – What was the name of the baby girl born at Fort Raleigh, famous as the first child born of English parents in the Americas?