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Grey Towers National Historic Site

Grey Towers National Historic Site

Pennsylvania

Managed by U.S. Forest Service

102 acres

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

Overview

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.

Highlights

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

Summer

Hours

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.

Fees

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.

Camping

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?

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Overview

Columbian mammoths grew up to 14 feet in height, much larger than woolly mammoths that reached about 10 feet.  About 65,000 years ago, a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths died in a ravine here due to unknown causes, possibly a flood or drought.  Then about 51,000 years ago, another three mammoths died at the same spot before the onset of a new glacial period.  Many of the fossils have been left in situ within the Dig Shelter, but others are on display at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex.

Highlights

Dig Shelter tour, Eagle Trail

Must-Do Activity

Established in 2015, this National Monument was already developed for visitors by the city of Waco and Baylor University.  As such, annual America the Beautiful passes provide no discount for the guided tour to the Dig Shelter where the 65,000-year-old Columbian mammoth and camel bones have been excavated.  First discovered in 1978, this dig site has since had a building constructed around it, making it a pleasant place to visit year round.

Best Trail

From the paved Mammoth Trail, there is the short Deer Loop that connects to the longer Eagle Trail.  Located south of Waco Mammoth National Monument, Cameron Park in Waco has trails along the Brazos and Bosque Rivers.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Dig Shelter is only viewable on a guided tour (admission charged).

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

$5 per person for the tour (no discount for America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Many private campgrounds can be found around Waco, Texas, in addition to six Corps of Engineers campgrounds on Waco Lake that take reservations.

Related Sites

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (Nebraska)

Explore More – A small tooth was discovered here from a cub of what fearsome Ice Age predator?

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Overview

The Timucuan Indians inhabited northeastern Florida’s coastal wetlands and maritime hammocks when French colonists first arrived in 1562.  The settlers constructed Fort Caroline (a National Memorial established in 1950), which the National Park Service (NPS) administers as a unit of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (established in 1988).  Start your visit at the NPS museum at Fort Caroline National Memorial, which provides information on the indigenous Timucuan, as well as the European colonization efforts.  Then you can tour a one-third scale reconstruction of the triangular Fort Caroline based upon a drawing from 1564 by French artist Jacques le Moyne.

Highlights

Fort Caroline, Kingsley Plantation, Theodore Roosevelt Area

Must-Do Activity

The second place the NPS manages a visitor center is at Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island east of Jacksonville, Florida.  Established in 1798, it is the oldest remaining plantation house in Florida.  Slaves here harvested Sea Island cotton, which is still grown in a small garden alongside indigo, another regional cash crop.  Visitors can take a self-guided trail around the property, but tours inside the main plantation house are only offered on weekends and require a reservation.

Best Trail

The 1.5-mile Willie Browne Trail winds through the 600 undeveloped acres at Theodore Roosevelt Area, donated by the trail’s namesake to the Nature Conservancy in 1969.  The Spanish Pond Trail connects this trail with Fort Caroline National Memorial.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The tabby walls of 23 of the original 32 slave quarters still stand in a row at Kingsley Plantation. 

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All major roads are paved, but the fastest route between Fort Caroline and Kingsley Plantation is probably via the St. Johns River Ferry.

Camping

The NPS does not have a campground, but nearby Little Talbot Island State Park, Huguenot Memorial Park, and Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park all do.

Related Sites

Fort Caroline National Memorial (Florida)

Fort Matanzas National Monument (Florida)

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Florida)

Explore More – Florida had “relatively liberal” racial policies under Spanish rule, but that changed when it became a U.S. territory in what year?

Hovenweep National Monument

Overview

Partially surrounded by Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (run by the Bureau of Land Management), Hovenweep National Monument occupies a remote area on the southern Utah-Colorado border.  Established in 1923, it is composed of six units, the largest of which has a National Park Service (NPS) visitor center on the rim of Little Ruin Canyon, the location of the variable architectural styles of Square Tower Group. 

Highlights

Square Tower Group, Holly Group, Cajon Group, Hackberry Group, Cutthroat Castle Group

Must-Do Activity

At Square Tower Group a two-mile loop hike takes visitors past an impressive collection of structures that date back to the 1200s, the same period that Ancestral Puebloans inhabited nearby Mesa Verde National Park.  The variety of building styles in this narrow canyon is remarkable, from Square Tower and Hovenweep Castle to Twin Towers and the unique Eroded Boulder House.  There is almost no shade to be found on the sagebrush plain of Cajon Mesa, so visiting in the heat of summer may not be as enjoyable.  The good news is that it makes for boundless vistas, especially to the south where Sleeping Ute Mountain looms.

Best Trail

The loop trail at Square Tower Group is paved and wheelchair accessible to the first overlook at Stronghold Point, but then gets much rougher over its two miles, especially at the end where it drops into Little Ruin Canyon.  A four-mile one-way trail connects this area to the Holly Group of ruins.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Little Ruin Canyon has one of the highest density collections of ruins anywhere in the southwest U.S., including the cool Eroded Boulder House, a part of the Square Tower Group.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Despite its remote location, roads are paved to Square Tower Group, but accessing most of the other units requires driving or hiking rough dirt roads.  Further east in Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, visitors can drive well-maintained roads to the Escalante Ruins and Lowry Pueblo, as well as the two trailheads for Sand Canyon.

Camping

The NPS runs a 30-site campground (for a fee) at its visitor center near Square Tower Group.  Dispersed camping is allowed in many parts of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Related Sites

Yucca House National Monument (Colorado)

Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah)

Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Explore More – Hovenweep is a Ute-Paiute word that translates as what?

Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Overview

Anyone who has watched the musical Hamilton is familiar with the life story of Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton Grange National Memorial is the only National Park Service (NPS) site dedicated to this “founding father.”  It is also the only one of 45 National Memorials built by the person it honors.  What you may not know is that his historic home in New York City has been moved twice, once in 1889 and again in 2008.

Highlights

Museum, tour, statue at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Must-Do Activity

The Grange gets its name from the Hamilton family’s ancestral home in Scotland.  Built in 1802 on a 32-acre estate in Upper Manhattan, Hamilton only lived there two years before being shot and killed in an infamous duel with Aaron Burr.  Today you enter the home through the basement where the NPS runs a museum.  Access upstairs is available on guided tours or during daily “open house” hours, but you must leave large items in lockers.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Grange was tucked between St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and an apartment building until 2008 when the NPS moved it to St. Nicholas Park, part of the original 32-acre estate.  A statue of Alexander Hamilton still stands where the house resided for more than a century.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

It is easiest not to drive into New York City, instead opt to take public transportation.

Camping

None

Related Sites

African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)

Federal Hall National Memorial (New York)

Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site (New York)

Explore More – After resuming his law practice in 1795, Hamilton represented free and enslaved African Americans and defended a newspaper editor sued for slander by which future president?