Tag Archives: National Historic Site

San Juan National Historic Site

San Juan National Historic Site

Puerto Rico

Managed by National Park Service

Established 1949

75 acres

Website: nps.gov/saju


San Juan, Puerto Rico was established in 1509 as a military outpost by Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León and 30 years later construction began on the Castillo San Felipe del Morro to guard San Juan Bay.  Starting in 1634, Castillo San Cristóbal was added to the east, eventually becoming the largest fortification built by Europeans in the Americas (covering 27 acres).  The city was captured by the English in 1598, but quickly abandoned due to disease and lack of provisions.  U.S. warships destroyed the fort’s lighthouse during the 1898 Spanish-American War, after which the U.S. seized Puerto Rico and Guam, gained protection over Cuba, and bought the Philippines.  The U.S. military turned over the San Juan forts to the National Park Service in 1961, and 22 years later they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro), Castillo San Cristóbal, Paseo del Morro

Must-Do Activity

It does not matter which fort you start with, but both are unique and worth exploring with plenty of interpretive signs found throughout.  It is about a one-mile walk between the two forts on a sidewalk that follows the wall and bastions protecting the north side of Old San Juan (and providing a great overlook of the Cementerio Maria Magdalena de Pazzis).  Most visitors arrive by cruise ship, so drivers are very aware of pedestrians, and the whole area has sidewalks and crosswalks.

Best Trail

The Paseo del Morro follows the shoreline outside the walls surrounding the western edge of Old San Juan, only accessible from Castillo San Felipe del Morro or further south through the San Juan Gate.  Watch for friendly feral cats, huge orb-weaver spiders, and anole lizards along the paved route.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The forts’ sentry boxes (garitas) are the symbol of Old San Juan and all of Puerto Rico.  We had to add this park to the list of Top 10 National Park Service License Plates.

Peak Season

Year round




$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Street parking is always full around the forts, but there is a parking deck with reasonable hourly rates.  The free White Trolley runs between the two forts and the cruise ship piers.


There are no campgrounds in San Juan, but plenty of other accommodations.  Camping on the island of Puerto Rico is permitted at Bosque Estatal de Cambalache, Bosque Estatal de Río Abajo, and Reserva Forestal de Carite.

Related Sites

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Florida)

Christiansted National Historic Site (U.S. Virgin Islands)

El Yunque National Forest (Florida)

Explore More – Who was the Irish-born engineer who designed Castillo San Cristóbal, because Spain and Ireland were both enemies of England?

Grey Towers National Historic Site

Grey Towers National Historic Site


Managed by U.S. Forest Service

102 acres

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/greytowers


The sole National Historic Site managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Grey Towers was the ancestral home of Gifford Pinchot, the agency’s first director and the twice-elected governor of Pennsylvania.  Completed in 1886, the 43-room, L-shaped mansion was built to look like a French château.  After Gifford’s father endowed the nation’s first graduate forestry program at Yale, their summer school was held on the property from 1901 to 1926.


Mansion tour, Letter Box, Bait Box, Finger Bowl, Pinchot Timeline Trail

Must-Do Activity

We had just visited the three National Park Service sites in Hyde Park, New York before we stumbled upon this spot while driving to Steamtown National Historic Site, so we opted not to take another guided tour (fee) inside a mansion.  It was a beautiful September day, so instead we enjoyed an hour walking around and photographing the property while stopping to read the numerous interpretive signs.  Our favorite cottage was the Bait Box, a playhouse for Gifford’s son.

Best Trail

There are self-guided interpretive trails around the 102-acre property, including the Pinchot Timeline Trail and Forestry Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Finger Bowl was a unique outdoor dining area where chairs were pulled up to the edge of a pool that had bowls of food floating on its surface.  It sits beneath a beautiful, wisteria-covered arbor.

Peak Season



The grounds are open daily 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through October and the gates are locked at 4:30 p.m. the rest of the year.  Guided tours (fee) of the home and gardens start every hour on the hour starting at 11 a.m. Thursday through Monday in the summer.


There is no fee to walk the grounds, but it costs $8 per person to take the tour (50% off with America the Beautiful pass).

Road Conditions

The road to Grey Towers is paved and there is limited handicap parking located much closer to the house than the main parking lot.


See our blog post on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for a list of State Parks and State Forests with campgrounds in the area.

Related Sites

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (New York-Pennsylvania)

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Steamtown National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Nearest National Park

Shenandoah (Virginia)

Explore More – Gifford’s father regretted the environmental damage done by which industry where he made his fortune?

Fort Bowie National Historic Site


The spring at Apache Pass has attracted humans to this part of the Sonoran Desert for hundreds of years (at least).  As you might have guessed from its name, the Apaches were the area’s inhabitants when the Butterfield Overland Mail route built a station here in 1858.  Four years later, after Apaches ambushed the Union Army during the Civil War, they constructed Fort Bowie to help keep peace in New Mexico.  The fort received an upgrade in 1868, and then was used to fight against Cochise and Geronimo until it was finally abandoned in 1894.


Fort Bowie ruins, cemetery, stage station ruins, site of wagon train massacre

Must-Do Activity

To visit the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center, the literal “must-do activity” is to hike 1.5 miles from the trailhead.  You do pass interpretive signs, a cemetery, and ruins along the way, plus you earn an “I Hike For Health” pin just by getting there.  For those unable to hike the trail, contact the NPS for alternate access directions.

Best Trail

Getting to the NPS visitor center means hiking three miles roundtrip in a shadeless desert.  If it is a nice day, make a loop of it by taking Overlook Ridge on the way back to the trailhead.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The post cemetery has freshly-painted wooden grave markers, including one for Geronimo’s two-year-old son.

Peak Season






Road Conditions

Access to this NPS site requires driving a graded dirt road that is impassable during flash floods.


Private campgrounds are available in Bowie and Wilcox, Arizona, but we recommend a night at the NPS campground in Chiricahua National Monument (which is well-known for its ringtail and coati sightings).

Related Sites

Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)

Coronado National Memorial (Arizona)

Tumacacori National Historical Park (Arizona)

Explore More – When did Geronimo finally surrender to U.S. troops before being sent to Fort Bowie and on to Florida’s Fort Pickens (now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore)?

Steamtown National Historic Site


In downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, 52 acres have been turned into a dreamscape for railroad enthusiasts by the National Park Service (NPS).  Specifically, the site is dedicated to steam engines, which truly got started in 1830 with the South Carolina Railroad and lasted more than century before being fully replaced by diesel locomotives.  A unique opportunity at this park is the chance to take one of several steam train excursions (additional fee) that leave from the site.


Museum, film, turntable, tours, steam train excursions

Must-Do Activity

Steamtown National Historic Site is located on the grounds of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, which relied on the region’s cleaner-burning anthracite coal.  The park includes a theater, multiple museums, a 90-foot-diameter operating turntable, restoration shops, locomotives, and a collection of railroad cars.  A highlight is one of the few Union Pacific “Big Boys” built to haul freight trains through the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.  Guided tours are included with your admission fee, although there is enough to read and watch in the extensive museums to keep you busy all day long.

Best Trail

There is no trail, but you will get your daily steps if you tour the entire facility.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The turntable is surrounded on one half by the glass-fronted NPS visitor center and history museum, which makes for some cool photographs.

Peak Season






Road Conditions

All roads are paved and ample parking is available.


See our blog post on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for a list of State Parks and State Forests with campgrounds in the area.

Related Sites

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (New York-Pennsylvania)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

Explore More – What year was the park’s oldest locomotive built for the Chicago Union Transfer Railroad Company?

Top National Park Service Site in Each State

We kicked off our travel blog by highlighting our favorite National Park Service site in each of the 50 states.


Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site


Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve


Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument


Buffalo National River


Lava Beds National Monument


Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


Weir Farm National Historic Site


First State National Historical Park


Dry Tortugas National Park


Andersonville National Historic Site


Kalaupapa National Historical Park


City of Rocks National Reserve


Pullman National Monument


Indiana Dunes National Park


Effigy Mounds National Monument


Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site


Mammoth Cave National Park


Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve


Appalachian National Scenic Trail 


Catoctin Mountain Park


Lowell National Historical Park


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


Grand Portage National Monument


Vicksburg National Military Park


Ozark National Scenic Riverways


Big Hole National Battlefield


Scotts Bluff National Monument


Great Basin National Park

New Hampshire

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

New Jersey

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument

New York

Fort Stanwix National Monument

North Carolina

Cape Lookout National Seashore

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park


Chickasaw National Recreation Area


John Day Fossil Beds National Monument 


Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Rhode Island

Roger Williams National Memorial

South Carolina

Congaree National Park

South Dakota

Jewel Cave National Monument


Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area


Big Bend National Park


Capitol Reef National Park


Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park 


Fort Monroe National Monument


Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

West Virginia

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve


Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

…and finally our home state…


Yellowstone National Park


Honorable Mention

District of Columbia

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site