Journey Through Hallowed Ground – MD

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005/2009)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation, Historic
  • LocationVA, MD, PA
  • Length57 of 180 total miles
Byway Visitor Information
The Journey National Heritage Area
Statewide Byway Partners
Maryland Byways Foldable Map - Download
Maryland Office of Tourism Development
This view of the northern Catoctin Mountains looks west from the Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway.
Lardner/Klein, Landscape Architects, P.C. Photo

Overview

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway encompasses 400 years of history in its 180 miles that traverse the JTHG National Heritage Area from Gettysburg, PA to Charlottesville, VA. Renowned for the large number of Civil War sites, JTHG NHA includes historic sites related to Native American, African American, Revolutionary War, and 20th Century history. Visit one or all 13 National Parks and many state parks, 9 Presidential homes, thriving wineries and breweries and other hospitable places, and miles of beautiful scenery that make up the Journey Through Hallowed Ground. Nature lovers will enjoy journeying from the historic town of Emmitsburg to scenic Point of Rocks. Take the time to visit a 78 foot tall cascading waterfall in Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, haven to fly fishermen, campers, picnickers, and lake lovers alike and explore Maryland’s rich Civil War history.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

This Journey Through Hallowed Ground is a wonderful pilgrimage to sacrosanct Civil War sites, pristine national sanctuaries and land considered by many to be sacred. Maryland’s “hallowed ground” falls in the middle of a scenic and historically significant route that stretches from Gettysburg, Pa. to Monticello, VA. At the heart of the journey is the ecologically diverse Catoctin Mountain area, where U. S. Presidents spend their vacation and travelers are given easy access to a variety of heritage sites, the state’s highest cascading waterfall, and abundant nature trails.

Visitors will begin just south of the Pennsylvania border in the historic town of Emmitsburg. During the Civil War, troops passed through this area before and after the Battle of Gettysburg. Union troops camped on the grounds of the former St. Joseph’s College, and officers planned battle strategies in the home of the school’s founder, Elizabeth Ann Seton. A national shrine to Mother Seton, the first American-born saint, includes a visitor center and basilica. Nearby is the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, a “holy mountain sanctuary” visited by thousands of modern-day pilgrims each year. As visitors travel southward into Thurmont, visitors will enjoy the circa-1856 Roddy Road Covered Bridge, which reaches across one of the area’s finest trout streams. Also here is Catoctin Mountain Park, home of Camp David. This presidential retreat is closed to the public, but several nearby paths trace the history of the industrial use of the mountain, from wood cutting to charcoal making. Nearby is Cunningham Falls State Park, featuring a 78-foot waterfall that beautifully cascades into a rocky gorge and a peaceful retreat for fly fisherman, campers, picnickers, and lake lovers. Visitors can sample apples, peaches and other fruits from local orchards, and stop by the 30-acre Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, where they can visit with lemurs, monkeys, panthers and more than 400 other animals nine months out of the year.

As visitors make their way to Sharpsburg, they should make a detour to South Mountain, the site of brutal, close-contact fighting prior to the Battle of Antietam. Here visitors will have the chance to experience one of the premier hiking opportunities in the United States: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia. Maryland’s 40-mile portion travels along the spine of South Mountain, weaving together several state parks and a Civil War battlefield.

As visitors enter Sharpsburg, they will link up with the Antietam Campaign Byway. This Civil War Trail features the national battlefield park that, in 1862, was the site of the bloodiest single-day battle ever to take place on American soil. Today, monuments along the beautiful landscape mark several key points, such as Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge. The inns of the area offer quiet, comfortable lodging and outfitters offer options for traveling down Antietam Creek.

As visitors make their way east, they will soon see the clustered spires rising above downtown Frederick, which has played a part in every major chapter of American history. Guided walking tours and candlelight ghost tours take visitors past impressive 18th- and 19th-century architecture, as well as several sites linked to celebrated “locals” such as Star-Spangled Banner writer Francis Scott Key. Specialty shops, art galleries, antiques stores and restaurants are abundant, along with parks, a minor-league baseball stadium and a wine trail that incorporates both city and country wineries. Civil War history is a topic of interest at local museums such as the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and is also explored on the outskirts of town at the Monocacy National Battlefield, famous for Robert E. Lee’s “Lost Orders” and the role they played in the Battle of Antietam, as well as for the 1864 “Battle that Saved Washington.”

Below Frederick, Burkittsville is another beautiful example of an American town from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This byway then enters Virginia at Point of Rocks, which achieved national recognition in 1830 when the B&O Railroad and C&O Canal fought over the right-of-way between Catoctin Mountain and the Potomac River. The railroad finally tunneled through the mountain in 1867, but visitors can pick up the C&O Canal Scenic Byway here at its midway point.

Driving Directions

Journey through Emmitsburg to Thurmont, known for its outdoor recreation activities and Camp David. As you make your way towards Smithsburg, enjoy the premier hiking opportunities provided by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Travel to Sharpsburg, where you will link up with the Antietam Campaign Byway, featuring the site of the bloodiest single-day battle to take place on American Soil. As you drive east, make your way through downtown Frederick and Burkittsville to Virginia’s Point of Rocks.

Points of Interest

  • National Museum of Civil War Medicine

    Find a series of immersive exhibits that tell the story of the unsung heroes of the Civil War, the doctors and nurses. Discover new stories of patients, caregivers, and medical innovations of the Civil War.

  • National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes

    The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes is a beautiful mountainside shrine and features one of the oldest American replicas of the Lourdes Grotto in France.

  • Monocacy National Battlefield

    This is the site of the July 9, 1864 Civil War battle dubbed "The Battle that Saved Washington,” where Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early defeated Union forces commanded by Gen. Lew Wallace who later wrote "Ben Hur."

Itinerary

  • Remembering the Civil War on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground

    Just south of the Pennsylvania border is the historic border town of Emmitsburg. During the Civil War, troops passed through this area before and after the Battle of Gettysburg. Union troops camped on the grounds of the former St. Joseph’s College, and officers planned battle strategies in the home of the school’s founder, Elizabeth Ann Seton.

    Follow the byway south and west for about 20 miles to reach Smithsburg. Branching west off of the main byway, looming just beyond the town of Smithsburg is South Mountain, the site of brutal, close-contact fighting prior to the Battle of Antietam.

    Entering Sharpsburg, you link up with the Antietam Campaign Byway. This Civil War Trail features the national battlefield park that, in 1862, was the site of the bloodiest single-day battle ever to take place on American soil. Today, monuments along the beautiful landscape mark several key points, such as Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge. There are many cozy restaurants in this town that are great for lunch.

    Driving east to get back on the primary route, you soon see the clustered spires rising above downtown Frederick, which has played a part in every major chapter of American history. Guided walking tours (and candlelight ghost tours) take visitors past impressive 18th- and 19th-century architecture, as well as several sites linked to celebrated “locals” such as Star-Spangled Banner writer Francis Scott Key. Civil War history is a topic of interest at local museums such as the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and is also explored on the outskirts of town at the Monocacy National Battlefield, famous for Robert E. Lee’s “Lost Orders” and the role they played in the Battle of Antietam, as well as for the 1864 “Battle that Saved Washington.” Frederick also offers many comfortable lodging and dining opportunities alongside vibrant nightlife.

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