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Hitting the Trails: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

If riding in Gettysburg is on your bucket list, here are the pros and cons. If it’s not on your bucket list, it should be!

Photo taken by Marlee Fritz

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania harbored some of the bloodiest yet most influential battles during the Civil War. Between July 1, 1863 and July 3, 1863 there were 51,112 casualties. Rumors state that the souls of most of the soldiers who died in Gettysburg have remained there, making it one of the most haunted places in the United States. 

The history, along with the ghost stories, draw people from all over the world to visit the monuments, walk the battlefields and engage in ghost tours. There’s a lot of ground to cover and there’s no way one person can see it all in one trip.  Those of us that are horse enthusiasts like to cover more ground and experience it all while on our horses’ backs. 

If you’re thinking about making the trip to Gettysburg with your horse, here are the pros and cons of the overall experience. 

PROS

Riding the Battlefields is Breathtaking

Riding through and around the battlefields is an experience like no other. Viewing how the soldiers placed their stone and wood walls, along with how their canons were arranged is intriguing. In certain spots, you can see first-hand the views the soldiers had from the backs of their horses as they waited for their enemy. Riding areas where many Americans lost their lives is horrific, yet Gettysburg is a place that honors the soldiers. While you’re riding, you feel reverence and admiration for everyone involved.

Photo taken by Marcella Gruchalak

The Trails are Well Maintained and Easy to Ride

The trails at Gettysburg are some of the most well maintained trails I have ever ridden. There are no low limbs, trees down or obstacles in the path. Each trail we rode was a wide path and mostly flat with gradual graded hills — nothing steep with questionable footing. 

Photo taken by Marlee Fritz

The Trails are Plentiful

There’s a lot of ground to cover if you get the chance to ride the trails at Gettysburg. We rode 10 miles the first day and 12 miles the second. We took a different trail each day and there were still other trails we did not get to ride.  You’ll find yourself detouring to other trails which may or may not lead you to where you thought you were going to end up.

Photo taken by Marlee Fritz

The Scenery Is on Point

From monuments to experiencing United States history first hand, every house, tree, wall and field you pass has a heck of a story to tell from the Civil War if it could — and the fact that these landmarks are still standing tells a story in itself. Some stories go untold. One barn we passed had a story to tell that we did not catch until we looked it up at home the following week. We were so distracted by the beautiful scenery that we failed to notice the canon hole in the top of the barn.  

Photo taken by Marlee Fritz

CONS

Don’t Stray From the Trail

Those who drive the tour buses or give the foot tours are not horse friendly. If they see you riding up the street or straying from the trail, they make it very clear that you need to high tail it back to areas where horses are permitted. If you find your way to a campground, do not stray off the trail. You will get scolded if you dismount to have lunch at a nearby picnic table. Gettysburg National Military Park is not like other national parks where you are permitted to ride the streets and the campgrounds are horse friendly. They are very strict that you only ride on the trail.

Photo by Marlee Fritz

Hitching Posts Are Not in Convenient Areas 

It would be nice if those on horseback could ride up to the monuments, but that’s a big no no (found that out the hard way). Those of us on horseback would still like to stop and see the monuments. It would be nice if the hitching posts were placed where riders could tie their horses and still keep an eye on them from the monument. The hitching posts that are placed on the trail are back in the weeds and overgrown. So it would be an improvement just to have the hitching posts that are already placed in a well-maintained area where they are not overgrown.

Photo by Alicia Johnston

 Poor Access to Water 

In the 22 miles we rode, there wasn’t one place to stop and offer the horses water. Any creek along the trail was difficult to get down to or dried up from the hot weather. There were no watering holes or water spots at any point and you could not detour from the path to go off and find a place.

Photo by Alicia Johnston

Overall, if you like history and trail riding your horse, this is a great place to experience. There are so many things to encounter and so much history to learn. We didn’t get the opportunity to cross paths with any ghosts, but we were able to experience canons and monuments along with battlefields and houses still standing from the Civil War. Whether it is because of the ghosts or the tour guides, don’t stray from the path.

Happy trails and go riding!

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