Tag Archives: hiking

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park

Overview

There are only a handful of the 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system that we feel do not deserve that level of recognition, and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is one of them.  Despite its lofty sounding name, almost none of the land within this 3,700-acre park established in 2002 is owned by the federal government.  The majority of the acreage is private and inaccessible, and the rest is managed by a variety of non-profit organizations making this site more suitable to have simply remained a portion of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.  There are several National Heritage Corridors and affiliated sites much more deserving of inclusion on the NPS list of 419 units than this one.

Highlights

Hupp’s Hill Museum, driving tour, Belle Grove historic plantation

Must-Do Activity

If you need the stamp for your NPS passport, stop at the Visitor Contact Station located in a strip mall in Middletown, Virginia.  There you can pick up a free guide to help you follow the driving tour focused on the October 19, 1864 battle fought at Cedar Creek.  There is also a free app available on the park website.  Managed by a non-profit that organizes an annual reenactment of the battle, Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park has a museum (fee).  You can also pay to take a tour of the manor house at Belle Grove.

Best Trail

When we visited in 2016, there was some talk of establishing a walking path with interpretive signs, and it now seems the Morning Attack Trails total 1.7 miles in length.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Available for guided tours (fee) between April and December, the manor house at Belle Grove plantation dates back to 1797.  Union General Philip Sheridan used the house as his headquarters in 1864 and most of his 31,600 camped on the property.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

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

Fees

Admission charged for guided tours of Belle Grove manor house and entrance to Hupp’s Hill Museum.

Road Conditions

Some of the roads on the driving tour are unpaved and not recommended for buses or RVs.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia-Maryland-Virginia)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Explore More – Belle Grove was owned by Isaac Hite, Jr. and his wife Nelly, who was the sister of which U.S. President?

Antietam National Battlefield

Overview

Antietam National Battlefield was established in 1890 to commemorate those who fought in Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day in American military history with more than 23,000 total casualties.  In fact, it was in the aftermath of Antietam that Clara Barton earned her nickname “The Angel of the Battlefield” before going on to found the American Red Cross in 1881.  The battle was a draw, but together with a Union victory at Harpers Ferry stopped the Confederate advance north and provided the impetus for President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

Highlights

Museum, film, driving tour, Observation Tower, Pry House Medical Museum, cannons

Must-Do Activity

Your entrance fee allows you access to the museum and eight-mile driving tour, as well as 3,200 acres of beautiful Maryland countryside.  Even though this site holds a grisly honor, today it is a charming open space with picturesque bridges and monuments, perfect for a pleasant walk or bike ride.  During our visit, Burnside Bridge was being rebuilt after it collapsed in 2014.  Overall, it is a much quieter spot than nearby Gettysburg National Military Park.

Best Trail

The park has more than doubled in size since 1990 and there are walking trails accessible all along the driving tour route.  At a minimum, you should get out of the car to walk “Bloody Lane” before climbing up the Observation Tower.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A split-rail fence provided cover for Confederate troops on Sunken Road, also known as “Bloody Lane.”  A nice view of it and the Maryland countryside is offered from the Observation Tower.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Reservations are required for organized groups to camp within the park, but there is a walk-in campground located five miles south within Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  Greenbrier State Park offers a developed campground about 15 miles away.

Related Sites

Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland)

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia-Maryland-Virginia)

Clara Barton National Historic Site (Maryland)

Explore More – How many Union soldiers are interred at Antietam National Cemetery (alongside veterans from four other wars)?

Homestead National Monument of America

Overview

In the midst of the Civil War, a Republican-dominated legislature passed the Homestead Act of 1862, which allowed citizens to stake a claim to 160 acres of unappropriated government land.  Until its repeal in 1976, over 270-million acres across 30 states were transferred from public land to private ownership under this law.  Potential landowners had to apply and pay a fee then “prove up” their claim by farming at least 10 acres and building a home within five years.  Nebraska’s Homestead National Monument of America was authorized in 1936 to remember this era of settlement.

Highlights

Heritage Center, film, Palmer-Epard cabin, Freeman School, restored tallgrass prairie

Must-Do Activity

Since 1939, half of this 200-acre piece of land has been managed to resemble the tallgrass prairie that existed here when the Freeman family claimed this T-shaped homestead on January 1, 1863.  It was one of the first farms started after passage of the Homestead Act by Congress.  Inside the Heritage Center, there are many unique exhibits that tell the story of settlement across the western United States of America (plus Florida).  Do not forget to stop by the Education Center and one-room Freeman Schoolhouse that was used from 1872 to 1967.

Best Trail

At the National Monument, 2.5 miles of walking trails connect the museums at the Heritage Center and the Education Center, passing by hedgerows of Osage-orange trees. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Heritage Center’s roofline is designed to resemble a single-bottom plow stands and it sits at the edge of a restored tallgrass prairie ecosystem.  Similar to Fort Scott National Historic Site and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, prescribed fire is used here to promote the growth of native plants.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved except a short section to access the parking lot for the Freeman School.  The parking lot at the Heritage Center is exactly one acre in size to help visitors visualize the 10 acres required to farm for “proving up” a homestead.

Camping

Four miles east of the National Monument, Beatrice, Nebraska has two city parks with campgrounds.

Related Sites

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (Kansas)

Scotts Bluff National Monument (Nebraska)

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (Arizona)

Explore More – Which First Amendment right was first challenged in court because of its use in teaching at the one-room Freeman School?

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Pea Ridge National Military Park

Overview

This 4,300-acre park memorializes a battle fought early in the Civil War for control of the Union state of Missouri.  It took place in March 1862, seven months after the events at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.  Pea Ridge National Military Park is located near Fayetteville, Arkansas and also contains a section of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.  Two regiments fighting on the Confederate side during the Battle of Pea Ridge were Cherokees that were forced to march to Indian Territory from North Carolina in 1838.

Highlights

Museum, film, driving tour, Elkhorn Tavern, cannons

Must-Do Activity

A quality film and further exhibits at the visitor center help fill in any unclear parts about the battle on March 7-8, 1862 that kept Missouri in the Union.  The seven-mile driving tour includes informational stops that explain the battle in chronological order from the Confederate assault at Leetown to their eventual retreat from Elkhorn Tavern. 

Best Trail

There are ten miles of hiking trails and 11 miles of equestrian trails that run through the park.  Also, a portion of the infamous Trail of Tears follows the route of the telegraph wire road from 1838.  To learn more about the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, we recommend a visit to Fort Smith National Historic Site, which is only a two-hour drive away.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Stop to walk around a reconstruction of Elkhorn Tavern, which was used as a hospital by both sides during the battle and later as a Union telegraph station.  The original building was burned by Confederate guerillas in 1863.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Beaver Reservoir is 20 miles away and has public campgrounds.

Related Sites

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Missouri)

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Fort Smith National Historic Site (Arkansas-Oklahoma)

Explore More – The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail has multiple routes; how long is it in total?

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Overview

Early in the Civil War control of the state of Missouri hung in the balance.  Union and Confederate forces gathered near Springfield and both organized surprise attacks for the morning of August 10, 1861.  Rain overnight caused Confederate General Sterling Price to cancel his plan, but Union General Nathaniel Lyon went through with his in the face of overwhelming odds.  The strategy worked briefly but cost Lyon his life.  Even though the Union army retreated that day, seven months later they prevailed during the Battle of Pea Ridge in northern Arkansas, successfully keeping Missouri in the Union. 

Highlights

Museum, film, driving tour, Ray House, cannons

Must-Do Activity

Missouri stayed in the Union throughout the war despite the $10-million in property damage caused by guerrilla fighters, making it the third most fought-over state.  Start your visit by watching a short film, then peruse the excellent museum before taking the five-mile driving route that provides an overview of the battle at eight interpretive stops.  The paved road is heavily used by locals for jogging and biking, so drive carefully.

Best Trail

A portion of the infamous Trail of Tears crosses through this park following the route of the telegraph wire south towards Elkhorn Tavern in Arkansas’ Pea Ridge National Military Park.  There are also hiking and equestrian trails through the park’s 1,926 acres.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Rebuilt at its original location, there is a reconstruction of the Ray House, which was used as a Confederate hospital.  Nearby split-rail fences add to the bucolic ambiance.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Paved, but gate closes tour road exactly at 5 p.m.

Camping

Within five miles there is a private campground near Interstate-44, plus a variety of state parks within an hour’s drive.

Related Sites

Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (Missouri)

George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

Explore More – How many Union soldiers were buried in the sinkhole near Totten’s Battery on Bloody Hill (then in 1867 were moved to a National Cemetery in Springfield)?