Tag Archives: trail

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Overview

Many retaliatory acts occurred in the aftermath of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, leading the U.S. Army to launch a campaign against the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa following the signing of several peace treaties.  In November 1868, after unsuccessfully seeking protection at Fort Cobb, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Big Mouth returned to their winter villages in the Washita River Valley.  The very next day a surprise attack was launched by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, capturing 53 and killing thirty to sixty Cheyennes, including Black Kettle and his wife.  Under Major General Philip Sheridan’s policy of “total war,” approximately 800 horses were then slaughtered and the village burned. 

Highlights

Museum, film, interpretive trail

Must-Do Activity

The events that took place the morning of November 27, 1868 in western Oklahoma have been described either as a battle or a massacre.  A small National Park Service (NPS) visitor center with exhibits on the events is shared with the U.S. Forest Service’s Black Kettle National Grassland.  Located just down the road on Highway 47 is a self-guided walking tour of the prairie battlefield. 

Best Trail

The 1.4-mile hiking trail through the battlefield leaves from an overlook of the historic site down to the Washita River where trees grow.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The vegetation is typical of Oklahoma prairie with grasses, yucca, and Indian blanket (in bloom in late May).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, or you can head 25 miles southeast to Foss State Park.

Related Sites

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Montana)

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma)

Explore More – When was this National Historic Site authorized by Congress?

Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

Overview

Located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, Pu‘ukoholā Heiau translates as “temple on the hill of the whale.”  Under the rule of Kamehameha I, the heiau was built in 1790-91 after a prophet told his aunt he needed to appease the family war god.  In 1810, after years of warfare, Kamehameha I finally became the first king of the unified Hawaiian Islands.  Following his death nine years later, his son abolished the kapu system of beliefs and the heiau fell into ruin.  This 86-acre site was added to the National Park Service (NPS) system in 1972.

Highlights

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, Mailekini Heiau, John Young’s Homestead

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the NPS visitor center and check out the metal artwork that tells the story of the demi-god Maui.  Then walk the interpretive trail for views of several heiau, including the submerged Hale o Kapuni Heiau dedicated to the shark gods.  You can also park across Highway 270 and walk to the site of John Young’s homestead.  Young was a British sailor stranded on Hawai‘i in 1790 who became a trusted military advisor of Kamehameha I. 

Best Trail

A short portion of the 175-mile long Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail runs through this site, though at present most of the trail is not publicly accessible.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau measures 224 by 100 feet with 20-foot high walls and was constructed without mortar by stacking volcanic rocks.  The heiau are closed to the public, but can be photographed from downhill.

Peak Season

Year round, but each August there are ceremonies held at the heiau.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Samuel Spencer County Park offers camping nearby, but reservations are required.

Related Sites

Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (Hawai‘i)

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (Hawai‘i)

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

Explore More – The kikiako‘i (or stone leaning post) was at least six feet tall and used by chiefs to observe sharks feeding at Hale o Kapuni Heiau; when was it accidentally broken?

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Overview

On November 29, 1864, in the middle of the Civil War, a tragedy played out on this spot where Chief Black Kettle and 700 other American Indians were peacefully spending the winter in accordance with the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise.  A surprise attack led by Colonel John Chivington killed between 165 and 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho, primarily women, children, and the elderly.  The site is held sacred by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, so is only viewable from an overlook above the cottonwood-lined creek.  It serves as an important reminder of the terrible acts people can undertake when they dehumanize their fellow men.

Highlights

Memorial, trail, overlook

Must-Do Activity

Authorized in 2000 upon the discovery of two grisly letters describing the gruesome event, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site opened to the public in 2007.  It is located in a remote section of the eastern Colorado plains, down a long dirt road, but it does have a small visitor center in a trailer staffed by the National Park Service (NPS).  Near the parking lot you will find posted the letters written by Captain Soule and Lieutenant Cramer, whose units refused to fire during the massacre.  Be warned that the description of the mutilation of the bodies is painful to read and not suitable for children.

Best Trail

There is a 0.8-mile self-guided walking trail with a few interpretive signs. There is also a 600-mile Sand Creek Massacre Trail designated on highways between here and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We took this photo from the overlook of the 1864 Cheyenne and Arapaho camp in November nearly 153 years after the massacre.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The dirt access road is well maintained.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Oklahoma)

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

Explore More – Who was the Colorado Territorial Governor that authorized the 100-day volunteer cavalry to “kill and destroy” hostile American Indians?

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Overview

While there was some limited European settlement on the west coast prior to her journey, the popularization of the Oregon Trail for families can be traced to publication of the letters of Narcissa Whitman after her journey in 1836.  While in the Black Hills she wrote, “It is astonishing how well we get along with our wagons where there are no roads.  I think I may say it is easier traveling here than on any turnpike in the States.”  Narcissa came with her doctor husband and other Protestants to establish missions among the American Indians.  The Whitmans did much to open the west to emigrant families and you can visit their graves at this 138-acre National Park Service (NPS) site in Walla Walla, Washington.

Highlights

Museum, film, millpond, Whitman Memorial, Oregon National Historic Trail

Must-Do Activity

The Whitmans set up near Waiilatpu, which translates to “place of the people of the rye grass.”  The main Oregon Trail would eventually detour south of their mission, but the couple would still care for stragglers, even adopting 10 children.  Following a devastating 1847 measles epidemic they and eleven others were killed by grieving Cayuse families who blamed the doctor for poisoning them.  News of the November 29 attack and subsequent retaliations spurred Congress to create the Oregon Territory within the year. 

Best Trail

A self-guided interpretive trail leads up to an overlook of Waiilatpu from atop the Whitman Memorial hill.  The trail passes a restored millpond and the Great Grave where 13 victims were buried in 1847, including Narcissa Whitman and her husband.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A portion of the Oregon Trail passed through Waiilatpu until rerouted south after 1844.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is not an NPS campground, but private campgrounds are located in Walla Walla, Washington.

Related Sites

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Washington)

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (Washington)

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (Oregon-Washington)

Explore More – In addition to those killed in the attack at Whitman Mission on November 29, 1847, how many others were held hostage for a month until their ransom was paid?

Canyonlands National Park

Overview

Canyonlands National Park was established in 1964, part of a large expansion of the National Park Service (NPS) system during the Johnson administration.  It is divided into four distinct areas that are not easily connected by roads: The Needles District, The Maze District, Horseshoe Canyon Unit, and the most heavily-trafficked Island in the Sky District near Moab, Utah.  Backpacking is a major draw to this park, as is whitewater rafting on the Colorado and Green Rivers.

Learn more in our guidebook to the 62 National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Chesler Park, Druid Arch, The Maze, Great Gallery

Must-Do Activity

Horseshoe Canyon is a separate unit of Canyonlands National Park accessible by good dirt road from Highway 24 southwest of Green River, Utah.  Its main attractions are four large pictograph panels estimated at 3,000 years old at the bottom of the 800-foot deep canyon.  The largest panel, dubbed the Great Gallery, stretches over 200 feet with numerous life-sized human figures painted in red and white on a sandstone wall.  It is a 3.5-mile hike to get there from the trailhead on top of the canyon rim that drops down to and then follows a meandering stream which passes three smaller panels.

Best Trail

There are miles of incredibly scenic trails in The Needles District, many of which leave from Elephant Hill Trailhead.  We recommend the six-mile roundtrip hike to Chesler Park where you will see the pointy formations that gave this district its name.  Druid Arch or Angel Arch make great destinations for long day hikes, but you should at least stop at Slickrock Foot Nature Trail to get a feel for sandstone beneath your soles.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You may have never heard of the Island in the Sky District, but you have surely seen a sunrise photograph of Mesa Arch since it makes it on many calendars.  Walk the half-mile loop to the edge of the cliff where this famous formation frames distant mountains.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

There are seriously rough 4×4 roads throughout this park, so ask a park ranger about road conditions before attempting any drive.  The scenic drive that dead ends at Grand View Point in the Island in the Sky District is entirely paved.

Camping

There is running water at Squaw Flat Campground in The Needles District, but none available at the small Willow Flat Campground in the Island in the Sky District.  White Rim Road and Chesler Park are also famous for their backcountry campsites accessible by 4×4 vehicles (permit required).  Due to high demand, backpacking permits within this park are among the most expensive in the entire NPS system.

Related Sites

Arches National Park (Utah)

Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah)

This design we created to celebrate Canyonlands National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – It may look small in photographs, but just how tall is Druid Arch in The Needles District?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.