Pennsylvania Civil War Trails

The Pennsylvania Civil War Trails has put together a rich collection of themed driving tours, descriptions of which are available on their website (see Online Resources). The group's News from the Home Front theme offers four tours exploring civilian life during the Civil War. Its Women and the War theme features tours examining the role women played in the Civil War and its aftermath. These tours are well planned and include intriguing suggestions for dining and lodging, but since their focus is on the entire Commonwealth's role in the war, many of them include significant locations as far afield as Pittsburgh, Altoona and Philadelphia.

Guided Driving Tours

Sometimes it helps to have someone along for the ride who can tell you about the sights you're seeing and provide historical and cultural context. At the Gettysburg National Military Park, you can hire a Licensed Battlefield Guide to drive you around the park and describe in detail the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.

Debra McCauslin of For the Cause Productions guides a driving tour that explores the role of Quaker fruit growers and free African Americans in northern Adams County who served as conductors along the Underground Railroad (see Online Resources). Her 2 1/2-hour tour, "Freedom Lies Just North," includes stops in the abandoned African American village of Yellow Hill and the historic Menallen Friends Meetinghouse. It also passes by historic mansions and homes where local residents sheltered fugitive slaves from the South on their journey to freedom in the North.

Online Resources

The Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail provides information about the many local businesses and attractions that make up the group's organization, including upcoming events, lodging and dining suggestions.

The Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau also lists a number of interesting driving tours in Adams County, including the Historic Conewago Valley tour. Visit www.gettysburg.travel

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau's self-guided driving tours can be found at www.explorefranklincountypa.com

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground offers a number of driving tours, many of which explore regions neighboring Adams County. Visit www.hallowedground.org.

The Pennsylvania Civil War Trails program provides a rich variety of driving tours and, perhaps not surprisingly, many of them focus on sights in the Adams County region. Visit www.pacivilwartrails.com

For the Cause Productions leads guided driving tours exploring Adams County's role in the Underground Railroad as well as its African American heritage. More information can be found at: www.gettysburghistories.com

Mason-Dixon Road Trip

Self-guided driving tours let you explore the region at your own pace

By Chris Little

We certainly are a nation that loves to explore the world from behind the wheel. And especially this year, as Gettysburg and Adams County observe the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg, there's more reason than ever to hop in the car and take a look around the area.

Driving tours—those unguided excursions you undertake with your steering wheel in one hand and a map in the other—let you get to know a lot of the countryside at your own pace. You can pull off the road at an intriguing old church, browse a taste-tempting fruit stand or even just stretch your legs while you read a wayside marker. Buy some peaches, snap a few photos—before the afternoon is over, you've developed a pretty good feel for the place.

Another one of the great parts about a driving tour is that you get to be your own tour operator. "Most of the folks who stop here and get tours through the county are people who are looking for what they enjoy—history, bridges, frontier," says Mary Harris, tourist information specialist at the Franklin County Visitors Bureau, situated just west of Adams County on the Pennsylvania-Maryland line. "They can tailor their tour to what they're interested in."

To get you started on your explorations of the Adams County countryside and beyond in the Mason-Dixon region, here's an overview of a few of our favorite local driving tours. Take your pick—or take them as inspiration to design an afternoon's exploration of your own. Then pack up a picnic blanket and some companions, and hit the road!

The Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail

Wine and fruit—what driving tour could offer richer rewards? The Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail (GWFT) was organized in 2009 to showcase the beauty and vitality of western Adams County agriculture. Less a scripted tour than a collection of interesting possibilities, the GWFT offers tourists the flexibility to pick and choose from among the group's many participating farms, wineries and agricultural markets to craft an afternoon—or a weekend—of exploration.

"That's what makes our trail so special," says Kathy Reid, president of the GWFT and president of sales and product development at Reid's Orchard and Winery in Orrtanna. "It was born in a farmer's brain, designed by farmers and is overseen by farmers and those who have a business that is integrated with the world of agriculture."

Historic Round Barn and Farm Market
Thompson Photography

Naturally, farm markets are thick on this tour. There's the friendly McDannell's Fruit Farm and Market, and the newly expanded Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm and Market, whose annual peach festival in the summer is a popular attraction. Boyer Nurseries and Orchards is another stop that ensures you'll head home with your back seat loaded with some of the best produce Adams County has to offer.

Those who prefer their fruit fermented will enjoy visits to two local wineries along the trail—the magnificently sited Hauser Estate Winery and the picnic-friendly Reid's Orchard and Winery—as well as Halbrendt's Vineyard, a small family vineyard available for visits, but not yet in wine production.

There's history to be found on the GWFT too. The Historic Round Barn and Farm Market, which offers a wide selection of fruits and vegetables in season, is housed in the architecturally significant 1914 barn-in-the-round in Biglerville.

Historic Conewago Valley Tour

While the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail guides visitors through the hilly fruit belt in northern and western Adams County, the Historic Conewago Valley Tour, created by the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, leads explorers to the eastern and northeastern parts of the county, through the rolling farmland and historic towns that lie in the valley drained by the Conewago Creek.

Exceptionally well marked with numbered roadside signs, this 40-mile tour begins and ends on Lincoln Square in Gettysburg. Heading east out of town, you'll pass Civil War sights such as the Daniel Lady Farm and the East Cavalry Field section of the Gettysburg National Military Park, where one of the largest mounted cavalry battles of the Civil War took place on July 3, 1863. You'll also pass working farms, restored Pennsylvania bank barns and old stone churches.

Those who like slightly more urban pleasures will enjoy tour stops in New Oxford, with its many antiques shops and charming Victorian-era buildings, and East Berlin, which is one of Adams County's oldest towns. Established in 1764, East Berlin has been designated a Pennsylvania Historic Site and National Historic District because of its many 18th-century Pennsylvania German buildings. Before looping back to Gettysburg, the tour also passes by the Great Conewago Presbyterian Church. Built in 1787, it's one of the two oldest churches in the county still in use.

"This tour is something that enables visitors to see things that they otherwise wouldn't," says Carl Whitehill, media relations manager at the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. "New Oxford, East Berlin and the eastern side of the county are areas that a lot of people don't get to." Whitehill adds that his office also provides maps of New Oxford walking tours for those who'd like to park their car and explore the town on foot.

Looking west to Franklin County

Located just west of Adams County on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, Franklin County is rich in Civil War and 18th-century history, and the Franklin County Visitors Bureau takes full advantage of the area's heritage by offering a wide variety of self-guided driving tours. For example, there's the Battle of Monterey Pass Driving Tour, a 22-mile journey that explores the setting of the second largest Civil War battle in Pennsylvania, which involved 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg. The Frontier Franklin County tour explores the county's colonial and early American history with stops at Fort Chambers, Fort Loudon—the pyramid-shaped stone monument marking the birthplace of U.S. President James Buchanan—and the Renfrew Institute and Museum in Waynesboro. Other tours exploring the county's role in the Civil War, the French and Indian War and the Underground Railroad offer something for just about any tourist's taste.

Exploring the southern mountains

Historic Round Barn and Farm Market
Tourism Council of Frederick County

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a tourism project focusing on the history-laden territory that stretches from Gettysburg to Charlottesville, Virginia, has put together a number of themed driving tours in and not far from Gettysburg and Adams County. For example, the group's 35-mile Catoctin Scenic Loop, which begins and ends in Frederick, Maryland, explores the Catoctin Mountains just south of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. It visits Maryland's Gambrill State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park before recommending a stop at Thurmont's Historic Cozy Restaurant for lunch and a visit to the restaurant's Camp David exhibit.

Take it from here

These are just a few tours to get you started on your explorations in and around Gettysburg and Adams County. For more details on these tours, see the Online Resources section.

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