Tag Archives: National Historic Trail

John Muir National Historic Site

Overview

Martinez, California is now a bustling suburb of San Francisco, but it was once home to a fruit ranch managed by the famous 19th-century preservationist John Muir.  The house where he did most of his writing between 1890 and his death in 1914 is now backed by a freeway.  Classic non-fiction accounts of his outdoor adventures are still in print and include The Yosemite, Travels in Alaska, and Our National Parks.  His work as co-founder of the Sierra Club helped inspire elected officials to preserve huge sections of public land for the enjoyment of future generations.

Highlights

House tour, film, Mount Wanda, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail museum

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit by watching the well-produced interpretive film A Glorious Journey (20 minutes).  Ranger-guided tours are the only way to step inside Muir’s 14-room Victorian house (free ticket required).  After the tour you can walk through what remains of the fruit orchards.  Also check out an adobe house on the property that is now a museum dedicated to the 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

Best Trail

Off site is located a 326-acre portion of John Muir National Historic Site around Mount Wanda, named for one of Muir’s daughters.  A one-mile trail leads to the summit and full-moon hikes are guided by park rangers in the summer months.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Muir planted a giant sequoia tree from the Sierra Nevada here and it is quite large after a century of growth.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, though there is limited parking in the small NPS lot.  Be aware that traffic can be heavy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Camping

There is no camping nearby, but perhaps you can follow in Muir’s footsteps and head for Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada.

Related Sites

Muir Woods National Monument (California)

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (California)

Explore More – What did John Muir call his second-floor writing room where he composed some of the most influential works of his time?

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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)?

Fort Laramie National Historic Site

Overview

Fort Laramie National Historic Site in eastern Wyoming was originally founded in 1834 for its strategic location at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers.  Purchased by the U.S. military in 1849, it saw its share of history as a major military post on the Oregon Trail, Pony Express, and Cheyenne-Deadwood stage route. West of the fort, stop at Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site and Register Cliff where pioneers left their mark along the North Platte River.

Highlights

Museum, film, 1874 Cavalry Barracks, 1849 “Old Bedlam”

Must-Do Activity

Come for the free 4th of July festivities and explore the restored buildings encircling the parade grounds, in between watching demonstrations of cannon firing and oxen plowing.  The National Park Service (NPS) employees host a variety of old-fashioned activities for kids and adults, including a three-legged race for adults.  Grab a partner and join in the fun or simply watch from the sidelines with a cold sarsaparilla, cream soda, or birch beer in your hand.  You are sure to have a good, old-fashioned good time even if you head home before the fireworks.

Best Trail

Fort Laramie was never a condensed, palisaded fort, so walking to all 11 restored structures covers quite a bit of distance (like Fort Union in New Mexico).  You can also hike along the banks of the Laramie River where the Oregon National Historic Trail once led.

Instagram-worthy Photo

“Old Bedlam,” the former quarters of bachelor officers, dates to 1849 making it the oldest documented building in Wyoming.  The right side is now restored to appear as officers’ quarters and the left side to post headquarters in 1863 when Lt. Col. William O. Collins lived on the second floor with his wife.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The last portion of the drive is a graded dirt road, as is the parking lot.

Camping

The town of Fort Laramie offers camping at its small municipal park, or head west to Guernsey State Park with its historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures.

Related Sites

Scotts Bluff National Monument (Nebraska)

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

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Fort Union National Monument

Overview

Fort Union was a military outpost on the historic Santa Fe Trail first constructed in 1851.  An earthwork fortification was built during the Civil War before Confederate troops were pushed back into Texas after a nearby battle in early 1862 (see Pecos National Historical Park).  At its peak, 1,666 soldiers were stationed here, making it the largest fort in the southwest U.S.  This expansive post was abandoned in 1891 and officially became a National Monument in 1954.

Highlights

Museum, film, adobe ruins, wagon ruts on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Must-Do Activity

Fort Union was not the most popular place to be stationed in the 1800s, especially for the military wives who bemoaned the constant winds and frequent dust storms.  That said; expect it to be windy during your visit.  The adobe walls here are smoothed by years of erosion and appear to be melting back into the prairie soil from which their bricks were formed in the 1860s.  If you line it up right, you can take a neat photograph where all the window frames are in a row.

Best Trail

Wagon ruts can be seen at Fort Union since it was located on the 1,200-mile Santa Fe National Historic Trail (like Fort Larned in Kansas and Bent’s Old Fort in Colorado).  Since there was no stockade around the fort, walking to all of its ruins covers quite a distance (like Fort Laramie in Wyoming).

Instagram-worthy Photo

The smooth adobe walls make a great backdrop for a wagon that looks like it needs a fresh coat of paint before it hits the Santa Fe Trail again.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The fort is not far off Interstate 25, but the last portion of the drive is a graded dirt road, as is the parking lot.

Camping

Storrie Lake State Park is 33 miles from Fort Union and there is also free camping in the summer at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge located just off Interstate 25.

Related Sites

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

Fort Larned National Historic Site (Kansas)

Pecos National Historical Park (New Mexico)

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