Maryland Civil War Road Trip Itinerary

We are in a really beautiful place in our lives right now for work-family balance. I am able to stay home with Baby Bear and Papa Bear is in school so he has a normal schedule with evenings, weekends, and even holidays off!  Just a few weeks ago he was off for Spring Break, so we decided to take an adventure!  

He is really into history and since this is our first time living on the East Coast in many, many years, we decided to do some exploring in the Maryland area.  

If history and battlefields aren’t your thing (to be honest, they aren’t really MY thing!) we mixed in plenty of outdoors time and even a little shopping.

Day 1 - Driving Day & Arriving at Camp

Our first day was just a driving day.  This was the first trip with the Airstream this season.  This was also the first year we had to winterize the Airstream.  As far as we could tell, she faired well!  Not major damage except a small crack in the shower handle…..easy fix!

We have done our best to get Baby Bear used to road trips….I mean, we drove cross country when he was only four months old!  But, alas, our best laid plans failed.  He HATES the car!!  Even with the pups in the back seat with him.  Needless to say, it was a loooooooonnng seven hour drive with a crying baby.  

We tried ALL of the tricks too.  Snacks.  Toys.  Blanket.  Window open.  Window closed.  Favorite music.  Quiet.  Even the iPad!!  Nothing worked.  Back to the drawing board on that one!

When we got to the campground, Papa Bear and I were both pretty beat.  We set up camp, then I headed back out to pick up some Chipotle for dinner since we were both too exhausted to consider cooking.  We both were just hoping for some sleep and a fresh start the next day!

Campground

We stayed at the Gambrill State Park Rock Run Campground in Frederick, Maryland.  

It was a lovely little state park.  Since we were there in the middle of the week, and a little before the true season started, we had the park practically to ourselves!  The camp hosts were some of the nicest and most helpful that we had ever met!  And the proximity of the park to the things we wanted to see was excellent. 

At the time, the sites were first come first serve.  We had our pick of the campground and chose site #22 which was perfect!  It was close to the campground amenities,  but also private.  There was even a little stream running next to the site so we fell asleep to the peaceful sounds of running water.

 

Day 2 - Antietam Battlefield

After surviving the night, we woke up to a beautiful day and were ready for an adventure!  Nonna (my mom) was coming to meet us for breakfast and our adventure!  We had a yummy scramble and hit the road to Antietam Battlefield

It was about a 45 minute drive from the campground to Antietam. We drove through several small, charming little towns along the way.  Then we came upon the Antietam Visitors Center.    Right as we walked in, we were informed that there was a ranger led talk upstairs in the observation room.  The ranger did an excellent job of describing the events of the battle and from this viewing room, you could envision the whole thing.  

Of all of the battlefields we have visited, Antietam was my favorite.  We learned that Antietam looks almost exactly as it did when the battle actually occurred.  The homes are the same, the fence lines are even the same, and farmers are allowed to plant their crops in the field so long as they are crops that would have grown at the time of the battle.  

After the ranger lesson, we hopped back in the car for the self guided driving tour.  We explored stop by stop, getting out to read signs and take pictures along the way. The wind was vicious that day, so our stops outside were fairly brief.  

For lunch, we found a little place called Dans Restaurant and Tap House in Boonsboro (about 15 minutes from the battlefield). Lots of local beers on tap and tasty American style food. 

Nonna went home after lunch. Papa Bear, Baby Bear, and I were still recovering from our driving day, so we decided to rest and nap for the afternoon! 

After a nice little nap, we took a quick drive through the historic district of Frederick which was full of shops, restaurants, and parks!

Day 3 - Harpers Ferry & Campground Hiking

The next stop on our Civil War History Tour was Harpers Ferry. Compared to Antietam, Harpers Ferry was SIGNIFICANTLY more touristy and crowded.  It was also a MUCH nicer day!  The other interesting thing about Harpers Ferry is that the parking and information desk is about 2 miles away from the actual town (bottom left on the map). From there you take a free shuttle to the “lower town” where you will find the actual visitors center and all of the “attractions”

The town of Harpers Ferry was a little touristy for me, but the scenery was gorgeous!  You are on this little peninsula between the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. There is a rail road track across the river and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Tow Path.  All around there are trees and historic buildings.  We thought we would want a full day here, or maybe even two days, but just a morning was plenty to see everything.  One of the best views is from Jefferson Rock.  Its a bit steep in the beginning but then levels out.  Worth the walk!

We thought about getting some lunch at a local brewery, but it turns out that most of the breweries are only open on Thursday – Sunday….and it was Tuesday.  So we went back to camp and made some lunch at “home.”

Since the day was so beautiful, we decided to explore some more around the campground.  There were several hiking trails so we hit the woods!  We took the Green Ash Trail to the Tea Room at the top of the mountain.  Then continued along the Black Locust trail to the Frederic Overlook.  And returned via the Yellow Poplar Trail.  All in all we did about five miles.  The Green Ash Trail was steep.  And Papa Bear was carrying Baby Bear in the hiking back pack!  Once we reached the top, the trails were fairly level.  The views were lovely and the weather was perfect!

 

Day 4 - Catochtin Mountain Park Hiking and Monacacy

This morning we took a break from history and went to Catochtin Mountain Park which is the home to Camp David. It is a beautiful, forested area with a river (Cunningham Falls) and a ton of hiking trails!   Papa Bear put Baby Bear on his back again and up we went!  From the Visitors Center we went to Thurmont Vista was was a beautiful overlook.  Then we continued to Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock.  The last portion from Chimney Rock back to the Visitors Center was significantly longer than either of us realized, so we were pretty beat by the end of that!  Wolf Rock wasn’t particularly spectacular but I did enjoy the view from Chimney Rock.   

There is a third battlefield in the Frederick area that neither of us knew anything about until planning this trip.  Its a tiny battlefield called Monacacy.  Since we were in Frederick, we decided to stop by.  The Visitors Center is well done and the Rangers were friendly and helpful but, honestly, the site itself is not really much of anything.  There is a major road running through the middle of the landmarks which takes away from the historical atmosphere.

What we also discovered in our exploring was the Monacacy Aqueduct which WAS worth the visit!  The aqueduct was built as part of the C&O Canal.  Its no longer in use, but the structure and the surrounding park is tranquil. 

It was getting to be evening at this point and we wanted to grab a small bite to eat and have a beer.  Papa Bear found this really cool brewery called Vanish.  Once we got there, we learned that there wasn’t any food…again…the Thursday through Sunday thing.  So we had some tastes then went back “home” for some dinner.  If you are around on a Thursday-Sunday though, I think Vanish would be a really cool place!

Day 5 - Civil War Medicine Museum and Antiquing

For our last day in the area we decided to spend some time in the town of Frederick.  I wanted to check out the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and my grandparents were driving in from Washington DC to meet us.  The museum was relatively small, but well done.  If you have any interest in the history of medicine, I would stop by to take a look.

When my grandparents arrived we sat together in a little coffee shop for a few minutes to make a plan for what to do.  My grandmother and I have a tradition of antiquing together and she recently got me started on collecting antique silverware.  Frederick is rich with antique shops so we hit the streets to find some silverware.

The place we found was HUGE!  I think it was called something like the Antiques Emporium and had probably 200+ vendors.  We stumbled upon the jackpot of antique silverware.  So, together, we found a pattern that I liked and bought a set of four (knives, forks, teaspoons, and soup spoons).  The price was a steal too!  But more than anything, I am so fortunate to be able to make memories like that with my grandmother.  Papa Bear sat outside with my grandfather while Baby Bear napped in his stroller.  

After all of the shopping, we were craving some hearty Italian food.  We found a place called Pistarros which was delicious and had outdoor seating (double win!) We filled our bellies with pastas and pizzas then strolled to a park to let Baby Bear play on the swings a little (his new favorite)

We said goodbye to my grandparents and headed back to the campground to get organized for the trip home.

Day 6 - Drive Home

Since we (ahem – Baby Bear!) had such a horrible time driving down, we tried something new.  We arranged the seats so that I could sit in the back with Baby Bear and the two pups.  It was a little crowded and poor Papa Bear had to be alone in the front seat, but Baby Bear did much better which made it a better drive all around!!

I hope this gave you some ideas for your next trip!  This area of the country was just lovely in mid-aril.  The weather was a little cool and windy in the beginning, but with a jacket, it was comfortable.  And it was just the right temperature for hiking.  

The one site in the area that I did not mention was Gettysburg.  We had been there before, so we did not go on this trip.  But if you haven’t been, Gettysburg is fantastic to see.  Its a very large battlefield with a lot of history.  

Even if history isn’t really your thing, this was a GREAT trip to take!

Have you traveled to this area?  Or are you planning a trip for the future?  Please share your plans or your tips!

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