New trails opening this spring at Antietam

Union Advance Trail provides 'new' old view of Burnside Bridge

Union Advance Trail provides 'new' old view of Burnside Bridge

March 29, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD - On Sept. 17, 1862, two Union regiments under the command of Gen. Ambrose Burnside charged down a rocky hillside to capture the stone bridge below - a feat that took several attempts over the course of 3 1/2 hours.

It will probably take about 10 to 15 minutes for visitors to Antietam National Battlefield to travel halfway up a new trail in the park to see the modern view of what Burnside saw before that charge.

That particular view of what became Burnside Bridge hasn't been seen by many people, Park Ranger Brian Baracz said.

As park officials were determining what new trails to create, this spot was a popular suggestion by park rangers who had taken some hiking groups off the beaten path to this view.

The Union Advance Trail, already open, is one of three new trails expected to be open by the end of June at Antietam. The other two are a West Woods Trail and a trail that passes Sunken Road, aka Bloody Lane.


The trails provide a nice walk, and the park is a birder's paradise with eagles, hawks, bluebirds and finches among the sightings, said John Howard, battlefield superintendent.

"We'll always be the battlefield, but we'd also like to get folks to come out and enjoy it for the resource it is," Howard said.

Battlefield staff did the labor for the three trails. The only additional cost was for signs, Howard said.

The Civil War battle at Antietam was the bloodiest, one-day battle in American history with an estimated 23,110 men killed or wounded.

The Union Advance Trail has been completed, except for signage. The trail starts on the east side of Burnside Bridge. The 1.1-mile trail, which has a moderate degree of difficulty, covers grass, an uphill climb and goes through a wooded area.

With the Union Advance Trail, hikers can go from the Sherrick Farm Trail to the Union Advance Trail to the Final Attack Trail, 4.1 miles of trails south of Md. 34.

When the other two new trails are completed by the end of June, hikers can take the older Cornfield Trail to the new West Woods Trail and a still-to-be-named trail that goes by Sunken Road. These trails, north of Md. 34, will total 4.7 miles.

With existing trails and two more trails Howard hopes to have done by summer 2009, hikers will be able to park by the Cornfield and walk trails to every section of the battlefield.

New, free brochures will be available later this spring with maps of the three new trails. The park also is creating 16-page color brochures for each trail. Those brochures will cost $2 to $3, Howard said.

Park rangers at Antietam began the season's guided weekend tours earlier this month.

Guided tours begin at 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, rain or shine unless there is severe weather, Baracz said. These tours begin at the visitors center and take about two hours. After a 30-minute orientation, participants drive to three key areas of the battlefield. These tours provide an overall look at the entire battle and are appropriate for children to senior citizens, with little walking involved, Baracz said.

More in-depth guided tours are held at 1:15 p.m. on Sundays through mid-May (except holidays) and can last 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Participants show up at designated areas. These tours are usually geared to a specific area of the battlefield. Hikes can go off the designated trails and can involve some uphill climbing, Baracz said. A full-day hike will be held May 13.

This Sunday's tour will be of The East Woods with participants meeting at Auto Tour Stop No. 2, The North Woods. An in-depth tour of the new Union Advance Trail will be held Sunday, April 15.

Hikers don't need to wait for the guided hike to try out this new trail, whose path is distinguished by the different shading of grass and the newly disturbed dirt.

If you go ...

WHAT: Union Advance Trail, a new 1.1-mile trail at Antietam National Battlefield

WHEN: The trail is ready for use. Signs are expected to be posted in three weeks. The park is open from dawn to dusk. The visitors center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Memorial Day; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

WHERE: Antietam National Battlefield off Md. 65, about 10 miles south of Interstate 70.

COST: A three-day pass to Antietam costs $4 per person or $6 per family.

DIRECTIONS: If taking the trail on your own, it begins at Burnside Bridge. After crossing the bridge from the west to the east side of Antietam Creek, hikers turn left and walk alongside the stone wall, across the grass and up around the tree line to a fresh dirt trail with small tree stumps. This takes them atop the hillside where they can see the bridge below.

The new trail, which has a moderate degree of difficulty, continues through some trees and back down around to the bridge.

MORE: A park ranger-led tour of the Union Advance Trail will be held at 1:15 p.m. Sunday, April 15. Meet at Auto Tour Stop No. 9.

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