The significance of the Monocacy National Battlefield is that on July 9. 1864 the Confederate army was delayed at this site by Union troops, and the result is that the rebels were forced to return to Virginia. This was during the third–and final–Confederate push into the north, and the Union effort has since given this skirmish the nickname of “The Battle that Saved Washington, DC.”
That’s the history in a sentence or two, but I came to Monocacy to hike as well as seek knowledge. Upon learning that the battlefield is bisected by both I-270 and Route 355, I had a bad feeling about the place. I have never really been on a hike I didn’t like, but I fully expected this to be the first, mainly because the trails are scattered over four locations.
I’ve been wrong before, and Monocacy would prove me wrong again. In spite of the sundry sites and footpaths, I really liked this place! Even the constant roar (in places) of interstate traffic didn’t put a damper on our two outings at the park.
The Junction Trail out of the visitor center parking lot is kind of bland, but the center itself is full of near souvenirs and great learning opportunities, so I’m going to give our first stop a passing grade. We also walked to the Best Farm from this location, and the stunning house and corn cribs were well worth the additional walk.
Our second stop was a brief, circular hike at Gambrill Mill. Much of the short jaunt was on a boardwalk suited for disabled history buffs. We are always very impressed by equal opportunity hiking! After completing the loop, I stopped to take a picture of Edgewood, former home of James H. Gambrill. The mansion is now used as a National Park Service training facility.
The hiking/sightseeing improves after a short drive to Thomas Farm. Here, a 2.2 mile lariat includes a nice walk along the Monocacy River. After completing these trails, the Worthington House is about a mile down the road, and a 3.8 mile double-loop circumnavigates a cattle farm. In this section, we were fortunate enough to see two bald eagles and several deer. One eagle was clutching what looked like nesting material and made a quick beeline across a large field near the river.
Our journey around the Monocacy National Battlefield resulted in 8.7 total miles of hiking with an approximate combined elevation gain of 460′. Monocacy doesn’t have nearly as many signs and props as Gettysburg or Antietam, but it does allow for a bit more use of the imagination. The bottom line is that this is a great place for a historical hike, and I’m already looking forward to going back someday!