The Top 10 Historic Trails
George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia
A scenic gateway to Washington, D.C., this short drive begins at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home from 1754 to 1799. It then follows the Virginia shoreline of the wide Potomac River, through beech, maple, and oak woodlands, to the colonial port of Old Town Alexandria and on through wetlands cherished by birdwatchers.
PLANNING: Avoid rush hour. The 25-mile (40 km) route ends at the junction with I-495. www.nps.gov/gwmp
Hallowed Ground, Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia
This tour, starting in Gettysburg, embraces an unmatched concentration of Civil War history. "Hallowed Ground" refers to President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and the drive takes in key battlefield sites including Antietam and Manassas, and passes Eisenhower National Historic Site and the homes of Presidents James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.
PLANNING: The 180-mile (290 km) route follows U.S. 15 and Va. 20. Best from spring through fall. www.hallowedground.org
Washington Heritage Trail, West Virginia
A loop of 136 miles (218 km) in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia visits scenes from George Washington's life. It begins at Harpers Ferry, the site of John Brown's raid in 1859, then passes Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, the old spa center of Berkeley Springs, and the Cacapon Resort State Park. Another stop, Charles Town, was laid out in 1786 by Washington's brother, Charles.
PLANNING: Go from spring through fall. The drive follows U.S. 340, W. Va. 230, 480, 9, U.S. 522, W. Va. 11, 20, 51. www.washingtonheritagetrail.org
Wilderness Road Heritage Highway, Kentucky
Pioneer and folk hero Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap to settle Kentucky in the late 18th century. Start at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and visitor center, near Middlesboro, then head north to Berea.
PLANNING: The 94-mile (151 km) route follows U.S. 25E, Ky. 229, U.S. 25. www.byways.org
Selma to Montgomery March Byway, Alabama
This drive follows U.S. 80 through a landscape where some of the key events of the American civil rights movement took place. A march from Selma on March 7, 1965, attempting to reach the state capital of Montgomery 54 miles (87 km) away, ended in a brutal police confrontation called "Bloody Sunday." Martin Luther King, Jr., led another march on March 25; it started with 3,000 people and ended five days later with 25,000. Various memorials, landmarks, and exhibits can be seen along the route.
PLANNING: Allow at least four hours to give yourself plenty of stopping time along the way. www.byways.org
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication