Civil War Day Hikes Near Washington, DC

Civil War Day Hikes Near Washington, DC
The Eastern Theater of the Civil War was the realm in which nearly all of the war's most famous battles took place, and most of these sites are within a few hours of Washington, D.C. They are also remarkably well-preserved, and in most cases look very much as they would have in the 1860s, excepting a few power lines and monuments. This makes them excellent places to combine a love of history with a good day hike, but keep in mind that some of these parks are better for the hiking part than others.


The Battle of Antietam took place on September 17th, 1862. It represented the crescendo of the spectacular victories by Robert E. Lee after he took command of Confederate forces in Virginia earlier that year. The all-day battle resulted in a stalemate and produced over 22,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest single day in American history. The modern park is arguably the best preserved of all the Civil War battlefield parks in the Eastern U.S. The wood lots and farmer's fields are much the same as they were in the 1860s. This makes the park and its expansive surroundings ideal for a long walk through the rolling hills of the Central Maryland countryside.

P.O. Box 158
Sharpsburg, MD 21782
Tel: (301) 432-5124


Chancellorsville and the Wilderness

These two battles took place so close together that the outer peripheries of the two battlefields overlap. The ground in the 1860s was a dense second-growth forest, filled with brambles and underbrush. Today, the woods are more mature and not such a tangle, but they are still dark and foreboding. Chancellorsville was fought in May 1863, and saw what is considered by some to be Lee's greatest victory, but also saw the death of Stonewall Jackson. The Wilderness was fought roughly a year later as the first encounter between Lee and Ulysses Grant, and resulted in a stalemate. The forested nature of the ground means that the two sites feature several miles of hiking trails, and between the two battlefields a single, long day of hiking is necessary for a thorough exploration.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
120 Chatham Lane
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22405
Tel: (540) 371-0802


While relatively well-preserved, Gettysburg is still not quite as pristine as the other battlefields due to the frequent construction of monuments. The field is literally strewn with them. The battle that remains widely considered the "high-water mark of the Confederacy" lasted three days, and cost more than 56,000 lives. The park's great expanse makes for a pair of excellent strolls down the lines occupied by both armies during the battle.

1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325
Tel: (717) 334-1124 ext. 8023

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Although is was never the site of a major battle, Harper's Ferry was either at the center of or very near several important events and engagements in the Civil War. Just as important to the outdoorsman, it is located near the C&O Canal Towpath, a virtually flat, wide dirt trail that runs from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The path is ideal for long riverside hikes in the woods or mountain biking, and both will be ground that saw a great deal of Civil War activity.

Harper's Ferry National Historic Park
P.O. Box 65
Harpers Ferry , WV 25425
Tel: (304) 535-6029


Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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