Welcome back everyone! I took a small break from posting for Thanksgiving, but now to continue with my hiking quest for the year! We pick up after the holiday when I was in sore need for exercise and solitude following
The Stones River National Battlefield is operated by the National Park Service and serves to commemorate the Battle of Stones River – one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War. The battle was fought from December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863 between General Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland and General Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. There were 24,645 total casualties and although the outcome was inconclusive, the Union considered it a boost in morale following the disaster that was the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Honestly, I’ve never been a big Civil War history buff, but one of my best friends is and I’ve not only heard him talk about the books he’s read on the subject, but also his plans to visit every major battlefield during the time of year when the battle took place, in order to experience the conditions as they would have been. I may not be a history major like him, but I feel like listening to him talk has made me more knowledgeable than your average bear about this particular subject. Plus, I absolutely love the National Park System (as you can probably tell from numerous previous posts), but had never been to a National Battlefield, so it seemed like the perfect time to go.
While the trails turned out to be lovely, the maps were terrible! I tried to download a map from the NPS website before leaving, but couldn’t open it on any of my devices. There were no trailhead signs at the Visitor Center parking lot, so I asked the ranger for a trail map, and all he had was a very crude copy with no details, no distances, and no trail names. The ranger took a highlighter and marked the trails I inquired about, as well as provided me with verbal instructions as to how to reach the trailhead, which turned out to be a mulched path people reach by taking a separate gravel path behind the picnic tables across from the Visitor Center.
Once on the Boundary Trail, there was still the issue of none of the intersecting trails being labeled with trail signs, but I used the map the ranger provided to help determine in which general direction I needed to continue. Thankfully the trail itself was well-maintained and easy to navigate. I almost wiped out tripping over a tree root, but that was because I was too busy taking a picture and not paying attention (lol). Just FYI, even though the path is pretty flat, there are a lot of large limestone rocks in many places, so it’s not stroller friendly.
Upon reaching the end of Boundary Trail, one completes the 3-mi loop to go back to the Visitor Center by taking Park Rd., which is a one-way road inside the park used by hikers, runners, bikers, and the occasional vehicle. Along the way were some cannons and silhouette figures of soldiers in the bushes, which served as a grave reminder that this was a battlefield, not just your usual hike in the woods.
Ultimately, I would recommend the Boundary Trail loop to anyone – not just history buffs – but I advise coming prepared with as much knowledge as you can about the route since there aren’t any signs upon which to rely and it would be easy to turn onto the wrong trail.