Antietam Battlefield Hiking Trails

Antietam Battlefield Visitor Center

Antietam Battlefield Visitor Center

Today’s hike was a compromise: I wanted to go to the C&O Canal, and Candee wanted to head for the Pennsylvania border and walk a few miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead, we found something literally between the two.  I was surprised to find out that Antietam Battlefield has a little over 12 miles of hiking trails, and the visitor center has a map covering these trails, plus other sheets that give a historical breakdown for the events of September 17, 1862.

Burnside Bridge

Burnside Bridge

The logical place to start this journey seemed to be Burnside Bridge.  The bridge is on the Union Advance Trail (1 mile), which is one of three trails available from the parking area at Auto Tour Stop 9.  The loop trail covers the area where Confederate troops defended the bridge, and upon crossing the creek, one enters the scene where Union troops made their advances prior to capturing the bridge.

Looking downstream

Looking downstream

The well-maintained trail traverses woods and a field before returning once more to the bridge.  Along the way, there are a number of monuments and interpretive signs.  The most impressive of these is dedicated to the 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.  The soldiers in this group returned to the site on October 8, 1894 to mourn their fallen brethren.

Field on the Union Advance Trail

Field on the Union Advance Trail

Heading back up the hill on the Union Advance Trail, a left turn leads to the 1.8 mile Snavely Ford Trail.  This shaded path follows Antietam Creek much of the way, and it lacks in historical data found along many of the other trails.  The last stretch is a slightly uphill grade leading back to the parking lot and the starting point of the Final Attack Trail.

Antietam Creek running alongside of the Snavely Ford Trail

Antietam Creek running alongside of the Snavely Ford Trail

The 1.7 mile-long Final Attack Trail begins and ends in large sorghum fields.  The plants were knee to waist high and are an inviting green backdrop that innocently hides much of the ground that was littered with bodies during the bloody twelve-hour battle.

Sorghum up close

Sorghum up close

It’s said that if you’re not learning, you’re not living, and neither one of us could have identified sorghum before today’s hike.  Besides molasses, sorghum is also a gluten-free alternative that can be used in brewing and making flour.  For our purposes, we were more interested in the wide paths cut through the crop that made up much of the Final Attack Trail (1.7 miles).

Through the sorghum!

Through the sorghum!

The trail heads straight out of the parking lot before coming to a sweeping right hand turn that eventually becomes a loop.  The scenery continues to impress as one comes to a split rail fence and several monuments in the distance that are accessible from the main road.

Split-rail fence and monument

Split-rail fence and monument

Suddenly, the trail turns away from the fence and heads up a hill, which is crowned by a monument dedicated to the 16th Connecticut Infantry.  From here the path turns back toward the parking lot.  I think we learned a lot about the Battle of Antietam–and a little bit about sorghum–but many miles of trails remain.  We may have chosen to hike in Antietam Battlefield as a compromise, but I would like to return someday and give this fantastic park the time that it deserves.

One of many tributes to the fallen soldiers

One of many tributes to the fallen soldiers

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jamie on September 9, 2014 at 7:00 am

    The trails at Antietam make for enjoyable walking. The last time I hiked there I was at the other end of the park (Cornfield, East/North Woods). The battlefield is located in scenic country and your pictures capture that nicely. And that last picture of the clouds enhaloing the monument is superb!

    From the looks of your pictures, it appears as though you had the trails pretty much to yourselves. With the park’s battlefield anniversary on tap for next weekend, you timed your visit just right!

    Reply

    • Posted by LevelWalker on September 9, 2014 at 8:39 am

      It was surprisingly quiet in the park. The trails are very well maintained, and the sorghum–with which we were fascinated–made for a nice touch. I’m planning on hitting the other end of the battlefield at some point–probably after the anniversary. In all, I would highly recommend a trip there. The books in the visitor center were on sale (as in very cheap!), and a Civil War buff could spend days there for a small price.

      Reply

      • Posted by LevelWalker on September 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

        Another thing that I had forgotten was the fact that two words in our everyday lingo–hooker and sideburns–were represented at the battle.

        Reply

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