Gettysburg National Military Park | BRIDLE TRAIL LOOP HIKE

Bridle Trail at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail at Gettysburg National Military Park

Length:  7.25-mile loop
Time:  5.5 hours
Difficulty:  Mainly easy with a few moderate hills on the south side of the park

The best hike at Gettysburg National Military Park is a loop around the southern end of the battlefield that utilizes the Bridle Trail—which is open to both horseback riders and hikers—and a few pedestrian-only trails. Total distance is 7.25 miles. Throwing in time to stop and photograph the many historical attractions along the way, the hike took me 5.5 hours. Those who just keep on walking can surely cut an hour or more off of my time.

Bridle Trail Loop Hike Map (click to enlarge)

Bridle Trail Loop Hike Map (click to enlarge)

Those on horseback must access the trail from the McMillan Woods parking lot, the only place within Gettysburg National Military Park that allows public horse trailer parking. For hikers, there are numerous places along the park roads where you can pick up the trail. I started near the observation tower just south of the Pitzer Woods stop on the Gettysburg Battlefield Tour (Stop 6). There is a parking lot at the tower. Look for the monument that marks the headquarters location for Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet.

General James Longstreet's headquarters marker at Gettysburg National Military Park

General James Longstreet’s headquarters marker at Gettysburg National Military Park

Much of the Bridle Trail is out in the open, so be sure to wear a hat and apply sunscreen if avoiding the sun is important to you. Also, sections on the south end near Big Round Top and Little Round Top are pretty narrow and somewhat overgrown. I don’t know if there is poison ivy along the trail, but there are briars. Therefore, I suggest wearing long pants, though I myself did not because of the excessive heat on the day I did the hike (95°F).

In addition to being hot, there were a lot of gnats in the forested sections of the trail. Luckily I had a mosquito head net with me, so I put it on to keep them from flying into my eyes and mouth and up my nose. For the record, I never saw a mosquito.

From where I started the hike at the observation tower, the trail runs along the west side of the road between the pavement and a field planted with vegetables. The National Park Service actually leases land on the battlefield to farmers who then grow crops or raise cattle or horses to help make the battlefield look more like it did during the Civil War.

Bridle Trail near the Longstreet Headquarters observation tower at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Longstreet Headquarters observation tower at Gettysburg National Military Park

Farms along the Bridle Trail on the west side of Gettysburg National Military Park

Farms along the Bridle Trail on the west side of Gettysburg National Military Park

A half mile into the hike, the trail crosses West Confederate Avenue and continues alongside the Philip Snyder Farmhouse until coming to Emmitsburg Road a tenth of a mile later. The farmhouse was built in the 1830s and was standing during the Battle of Gettysburg. You can look in the windows—there is nothing inside—but otherwise the house is closed to the public. It was from near this point that Confederate Major General John Bell Hood began his July 2, 1863, attack on Devil’s Den and Little Round Top.

Bridle Trail runs next to the Philip Snyder Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail runs next to the Philip Snyder Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

Philip Snyder Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

Philip Snyder Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

When the Bridle Trail hits Emmitsburg Road it continues to the right and follows a worn path next to the wooden fence for another tenth of a mile until coming to Slyder Farm Lane (Slyder not Snyder—this is not a typo). You must cross Emmitsburg Road to continue, and this is a major road, so be careful. A Horse Crossing sign indicates where to turn.

The Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail follows Emmitsburg Road until reaching Slyder Farm Lane

The Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail follows Emmitsburg Road until reaching Slyder Farm Lane

Slyder Farm Lane, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail route

Slyder Farm Lane, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail route

Slyder Farm Lane is the first of many farm roads that are part of the Bridle Trail path, and it is on these roads where I really felt like I had traveled back in time. I could imagine Confederate and Union soldiers marching down these same roads. Or travelers who were just passing through. Nothing has changed, and the scenery is lovely. The only downside is that the roads are out in the open. I did the hike in August, and it was over 90°F, about the same temperature as it was during the Battle of Gettysburg. I was hot and miserable in my T-shirt and shorts, so I can’t imagine how hot and miserable it must have been running around in a wool uniform while being shot at.

Slyder Farm Lane, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail route

Slyder Farm Lane, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail route

About a quarter mile down, the Bridle Trail veers from the dirt road and continues south—a sign marks the turn to the right. The road from this point is closed to horseback riders and hikers on weekdays in April, May, and October due to student education programs. If you take the road, you’ll come to the Slyder Farmhouse where you can continue east on a trail to South Confederate Avenue. However, you’ll miss the hike around Big Round Top. Thus, I took the right, and this trail report follows that route.

While you’ll miss the Slyder Farmhouse, you will pass the Bushman Farm, which was owned by the Reverend Michael Bushman and his wife, Amelia, at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg (Amelia inherited the farm from her parents). The farm was in the path of John Bell Hood’s men as they attacked Little Round Top, and it sustained a lot of damage. Today the house is owned by the National Park Service and is available as a vacation rental (make reservations on Recreation.gov). On the property are the farmhouse, a smokehouse (small, white building next to the farmhouse), and a barn. Eight Confederate soldiers were buried behind the barn after the battle, though they have since been moved. If there is no evidence that somebody is staying at the house, you are welcome to explore the grounds.

Approaching the Bushman Farmhouse along the Bridle Trail at Gettysburg National Military Park

Approaching the Bushman Farmhouse along the Bridle Trail at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bushman Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bushman Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

When done at the Bushman Farm, continue on the trail that runs past the side of the barn. The trail comes out on South Confederate Avenue in .4 miles. The scenery between the farm and road is wonderful. When you reach the road you will have hiked 1.5 miles on relatively flat and easy terrain.

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Bushman Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

The Bridle Trail takes a left at South Confederate Avenue and follows the road for .3 mile until crossing the Plum Run Bridge. However, hikers have the option to take the Hikers-Only trail that continues on the other side of the road. Take this trail, and for the next 1.75 miles you’ll be hiking through the forest along the slopes of Bushman’s Hill, Big Round Top, and Little Round Top.

Hiking trail near the base of Bushman's Hill on the south end of Gettysburg National Military Park

Hiking trail near the base of Bushman’s Hill on the south end of Gettysburg National Military Park

The first section of the trail proceeds up Bushman’s Hill. Some hiking websites refer to this trail as the Plum Run Trail, but there is no signage at the park that names this or any other trail.

Hiking trail on Bushman's Hill at the south end of Gettysburg National Military Park

Hiking trail on Bushman’s Hill at the south end of Gettysburg National Military Park

The hiking trail forks at the 5th New York Cavalry Monument. Take a left to see the monument, and if you continue a little farther, a marker for the Army of the Potomac and some cannon. When done, return back to the fork and continue to the right on the main trail.

Side trail to the 5th New York Cavalry Monument on Bushman's Hill on the Gettysburg battlefield

Side trail to the 5th New York Cavalry Monument on Bushman’s Hill on the Gettysburg battlefield

5th New York Cavalry Monument (1888) on Bushman's Hill on the Gettysburg battlefield

5th New York Cavalry Monument (1888) on Bushman’s Hill on the Gettysburg battlefield

Army of the Potomac Cavalry Corps marker and artillery on Bushman's Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park

Army of the Potomac Cavalry Corps marker and artillery on Bushman’s Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park

Cannon on Bushman's Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park

Cannon on Bushman’s Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park

The hike down Bushman’s Hill is much steeper than the hike up. While short—a tenth of a mile—it averages a grade of 15%, which is considered the start of strenuous hiking. This is also one of the narrow sections that I mentioned at the start of this trail report. While I didn’t get any poison ivy or ticks on me, I sure was wishing I had on my long pants regardless of the heat.

Narrow section of the hiking trail on Bushman's Hill, Gettysburg National Military Park

Narrow section of the hiking trail on Bushman’s Hill, Gettysburg National Military Park

If you keep an eye out, you’ll see some of the old stone fences now overgrown by the forest. At the north end of Gettysburg National Military Park on Culp’s Hill, many of these fences were built by Union soldiers. Most everywhere else at Gettysburg, the fences were built by the local farmers.

Remnants of a stone fence on Bushman's Hill, Gettysburg National Military Park

Remnants of a stone fence on Bushman’s Hill, Gettysburg National Military Park

At 2.1 miles into the hike, the trail connects back to South Confederate Avenue on the west side of Plum Run Bridge. To continue, cross the bridge and look for the trailhead on the right. At this point you will once again be on the Bridle Trail. If you were on horseback, you would have reached Plum Run Bridge by riding down the road from where the trail previously crossed South Confederate Avenue .3 mile back.

Plum Run Bridge near Big Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park

Plum Run Bridge near Big Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near Big Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near Big Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park

This section of the hike leads around the south and east sides of Big Round Top and does not go to the summit. It does traverse the slopes, so it is still hilly. In fact, this is the longest uphill section of the hike. Luckily it’s a gradual ascent, so you won’t really notice that you are going uphill. If you want to see the summit—no views, just some monuments—there is a trailhead for the Big Round Top Trail a little farther down South Confederate Avenue.

The trail forks just a short ways from the road, with the Bridle Trail continuing to the left and the Hikers-Only Trail to the right. If you are on horseback, it is important to know that this trail leads to the Slyder Farm, and as previously noted, the trail to the farm is closed on weekdays in April, May, and October. Thus, if you are riding your horse on one of these days, this is the end of the line for the Bridle Trail. You must turn around now and head back the way you came. If you are hiking, stay to the right on the Hikers-Only trail.

Just up ahead the trail forks again. I didn’t mention this earlier, but the hiking trail actually loops all the way around the base of Big Round Top. The section of the trail you just hiked is nothing more than a connector from South Confederate Avenue to the start of the loop on the southwest side of Big Round Top. A left at the fork sets you off hiking the loop in the clockwise direction (and back towards South Confederate Avenue just like the Bridle Trail). My intention is not to hike all the way around Big Round Top, but only halfway around, exiting the loop at the north end onto another hiking trail that continues north around the east side of Little Round Top. Thus, stay to the right at the fork.

Up until this point on the hike, the trail surface has been pretty smooth. Now it gets somewhat rocky, like the bottom of a stream bed. This is due to water rushing down the trail and washing away the top soil, exposing the rocks. There are also some tree roots to watch out for. The path is narrow and at some points very overgrown. However, what’s worse is that this section passes nothing of interest, not even a stray regimental marker. It’s basically just a hike through the forest.

Rocky segment of the hiking trail around the base of Big Round Top at Gettysburg

Rocky segment of the hiking trail around the base of Big Round Top at Gettysburg

Overgrown segment of the hiking trail around the base of Big Round Top at Gettysburg

Overgrown segment of the hiking trail around the base of Big Round Top at Gettysburg

Typical terrain of the hiking trail around the base of Big Round Top at Gettysburg

Typical terrain of the hiking trail around the base of Big Round Top at Gettysburg

The hiking trail eventually comes out on Wright Avenue, but just before the road is another fork. A left keeps you on the loop around the base of Big Round Top. A right leads to the road, which is where you want to go.

If you want to see the 20th Maine Infantry Monument where desperate fighting took place on July 2nd between Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Infantry and Confederates who were attacking the Union left flank on Little Round Top, take a left on Wright Avenue and walk a short ways to the parking lot—the monument is within eyesight just up the hill. Otherwise, walk straight across the road to start the hike north along the east side of Little Round Top. Almost immediately there is another intersection. A left leads over to the monument. I have no idea where a right leads to other than it heads towards Taneytown Road. Stay straight—actually sort of a left-right zigzag—to continue along the east side of Little Round Top.

Intersection of the hiking trail an Wright Avenue near Little Round Top, Gettysburg

Intersection of the hiking trail an Wright Avenue near Little Round Top, Gettysburg

As with the trail around the base of Big Round Top, the trail around Little Round Top is narrow, hilly—but not as hilly—and uneventful. It’s just another walk in the woods.

Typical terrain on the hike along the base of Little Round Top at Gettysburg

Typical terrain on the hike along the base of Little Round Top at Gettysburg

After .4 mile the trail comes out at the intersection of Wheatfield Road and Sykes / Sedgwick Avenues. You have now hiked 3.4 miles, which is roughly the halfway point.

Intersection of the hiking trail, Wheatfield Road, and Sykes / Sedgwick Avenues, Gettysburg

Intersection of the hiking trail, Wheatfield Road, and Sykes / Sedgwick Avenues, Gettysburg

The trail once again becomes the Bridle Trail, and the hike follows it all the way back to the starting point at the observation tower near Pitzer Woods. To continue, walk up Sedgwick Avenue until you reach the Major General John Sedgewick Memorial. Sedgwick was the commander of the Union Army of the Potomac’s VI Corps and was positioned in this area during the Battle of Gettysburg. There are other monuments along the road as well.

Monuments on Sedgwick Avenue, Gettysburg National Military Park

Monuments on Sedgwick Avenue, Gettysburg National Military Park

Major General John Sedgwick Memorial (1913), Gettysburg National Military Park

Major General John Sedgwick Memorial (1913), Gettysburg National Military Park

1st Massachusetts Cavalry Monument (1885), Gettysburg National Military Park

1st Massachusetts Cavalry Monument (1885), Gettysburg National Military Park

The Bridle Trail continues in the forest behind the Sedgewick monument and runs for a half mile before coming back out onto Sedgwick Avenue. This is another stretch of uneventful hiking through the woods, so if you are tired of the forest and don’t mind being out in the open, you can just continue walking down the road to United States Avenue.

Some sections of the trail are a boardwalk, but the area doesn’t look like a wetland, so I’m not sure what the reason is for having a boardwalk. Other sections are as narrow as the previous forest trails. The terrain is a little hilly with some moderate climbs, and the trail surface runs from smooth to covered in rocks. And as with the previous hikes in the forest, there are tons of gnats.

Boardwalk section of the Bridle Trail along Sedgwick Avenue, Gettysburg National Military Park

Boardwalk section of the Bridle Trail along Sedgwick Avenue, Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail along Sedgwick Avenue, Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail along Sedgwick Avenue, Gettysburg National Military Park

There are some remnants of stone fences, now overgrown, and the 1st New Jersey Brigade Monument (erected in 1888) is off to the left just before the trail comes back out on Sedgwick Avenue.

1st New Jersey Brigade Monument, Gettysburg National Military Park

1st New Jersey Brigade Monument, Gettysburg National Military Park

When you get back to Sedgwick Avenue, take a right and walk to the intersection with United States Avenue. The trail is now out in the open, and it will remain this way for the rest of the hike.

Gettysburg National Military Park's Bridle Trail near the intersection of Sedgwick and United States avenues

Gettysburg National Military Park’s Bridle Trail near the intersection of Sedgwick and United States avenues

Take a left on United States Avenue. The Weikert House is located on the corner. Be sure to continue along the road and not on the driveway that leads to the house.

Weikert House, Gettysburg National Military Park

Weikert House, Gettysburg National Military Park

No farther than 100 yards past the Weikert property, the Bridle Trail veers from the road to the left onto a dirt path. There are some short forested sections, but for the most part, the trail remains in the sunshine. I normally don’t like hiking on dirt roads because, after all, that’s not really hiking, but as I mentioned earlier, the dirt roads at Gettysburg truly take me back in time because nothing much has changed since the Civil War. I’ve got my walking stick and my knapsack with all my belongings in it, and I’m just passing through town. Hopefully I’ll find a place to rest my head and a warm meal at the next farmhouse.

Bridle Trail near the Weikert House at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail near the Weikert House at Gettysburg National Military Park

The Bridle Trail starts off to the south but soon turns west and eventually comes back out onto United States Avenue across from the Abraham Trostle Farm, 4.9 miles into the hike. I just love the section leading up to the farm. All of the reconstructed fences at Gettysburg National Historical Park, both wood and stone, are exactly where they would have been on July 1st when the battle began.

Bridle Trail leading up to the Trostle Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail leading up to the Trostle Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Intersection of the Bridle Trail and United States Avenue at the Trostle Farm in Gettysburg

Intersection of the Bridle Trail and United States Avenue at the Trostle Farm in Gettysburg

The Trostle Farm is a famous landmark that existed in 1863. This was the scene of heavy fighting on the second day of the battle, July 2nd. In fact, you can still see a hole in the barn made by a cannonball (the actual cannonball is on display at the Gettysburg Museum in park’s Visitor Center). The house and barn are private property, so you can’t go inside the buildings, but you can take photos from the road.

Trostle Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

Trostle Farmhouse at Gettysburg National Military Park

Trostle barn with cannonball hole in the wall, Gettysburg National Military Park

Trostle barn with cannonball hole in the wall, Gettysburg National Military Park

Captain John Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery of 110 men and six 12-pounder cannon (pounder refers to the weight of ball that could be shot) deployed along Wheatfield Road, about halfway between the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield. They quickly found themselves without support when the Union line at the Peach Orchard collapsed, and they were advised to retreat. They did so by the men, not the horses, pulling their guns with them and firing along the way. When they got to the Trostle Farm they were ordered to hold the position at all costs and slow the Confederate attack. There was now a quarter-mile gap in the Union line 500 yards farther back at the center of Cemetery Ridge. Bigelow’s men had to hold off the Confederates long enough so that other Union artillery batteries could fill the hole. They soon found themselves fighting Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade and were able to fire three tons of shells before finally being overrun. Twenty-seven men of the 9th Massachusetts Battery were killed or wound. They were still able to save two of their guns; Barksdale’s men got the other four. They also delayed the Confederates long enough for the other Union artillery to get into position.

Position of the 9th Massachusetts Battery at 6 PM on July 2, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg

Position of the 9th Massachusetts Battery at 6 PM on July 2, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg

The Bridle Trail continues on the left side of the Trostle Barn along another dirt road. Just up the hill is the marker for where Union Major General Dan Sickles was wounded. His headquarters was at the Trostle Farm.

Bridle Trail at the Trostle Farm, Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail at the Trostle Farm, Gettysburg National Military Park

The section of the Bridle Trail between the Trostle farm and Emmitsburg Road is the best hike in the park, and one of my favorite hikes from all National Parks I have visited. The scenery is again fantastic. A segment of the trail goes by a cornfield, which provides excellent ambiance for a hike through a Civil War battlefield. Despite the heat, I was happier here than in the forest. Of course when you hit the paved road, the illusion is over.

Bridle Trail north of the Trostle Farm, Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail north of the Trostle Farm, Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail runs along cornfields near the Trostle Farm and Emmitsburg Road, Gettysburg National Military Park

Bridle Trail runs along cornfields near the Trostle Farm and Emmitsburg Road, Gettysburg National Military Park

At 5.6 miles into the hike, the Bridle Trail comes to the Emmitsburg Road and continues directly across it. There are a few monuments at the intersection.

Bridle Trail near the intersection of Sickles Avenue and Emmitsburg Road in Gettysburg

Bridle Trail near the intersection of Sickles Avenue and Emmitsburg Road in Gettysburg

Bridle Trail continues on the other side of Emmitsburg Road in Gettysburg

Bridle Trail continues on the other side of Emmitsburg Road in Gettysburg

Wisconsin Sharpshooters Monument (1888) at Gettysburg National Military Park

Wisconsin Sharpshooters Monument (1888) at Gettysburg National Military Park

The trail turns south on the other side of Emmitsburg Road, runs along the road for 200 yards, and then merges onto another dirt road that leads to the historical Henry Spangler House and barn. Henry was one of three Spanglers who had farms in Gettysburg during the Civi War. His farm is near the location where Pickett’s Charge was launched on July 3, 1863. Today it is a private residence (though owned by the National Park Service).

The exterior of the Spangler House is original (though obviously repaired many times over the years). The interior of the house, on the other hand, has been altered by subsequent owners. The original barn burned down during the fighting at Gettysburg and was rebuilt after the battle. This replacement barn was torn down in 1935 and replaced once again with the current barn.

Road leading to the Henry Spangler Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Road leading to the Henry Spangler Farm at Gettysburg National Military Park

Henry Spangler Farmhouse and Barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

Henry Spangler Farmhouse and Barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

1935 version of the Henry Spangler Barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

1935 version of the Henry Spangler Barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

The Bridle Trail runs for a quarter mile until coming to West Confederate Avenue (6.2 miles into the hike), at which point it continues on the other side. There is a fork within sight of the road, so stay straight. The observation tower at Pitzer Woods isn’t very far south from here, but instead of turning south and following the road, the trail continues west.

Intersection of the Bridle Trail and West Confederate Avenue near the Henry Spangler Farm at Gettysburg

Intersection of the Bridle Trail and West Confederate Avenue near the Henry Spangler Farm at Gettysburg

This section of the Bridle Trail alternates between following the tree line of the forest and traveling through the forest. After a quarter mile it curves south and eventually comes up on the back side of the Gettysburg National Military Park Amphitheater. A statue of Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet is also at this location, as are a few portable toilets.

Bridle Trail near Gettysburg National Military Park's Amphitheater on West Confederate Avenue

Bridle Trail near Gettysburg National Military Park’s Amphitheater on West Confederate Avenue

Gettysburg National Military Park's Amphitheater on West Confederate Avenue

Gettysburg National Military Park’s Amphitheater on West Confederate Avenue

Confederate General James Longstreet statue at Gettysburg National Military Park

Confederate General James Longstreet statue at Gettysburg National Military Park

The last segment of the hike follows closely to West Confederate Avenue but is still in the forest. When you hit the next road crossing—Millerstown Road—you’ll be within sight distance of the observation tower and Longstreet’s headquarters marker where the hike began.

Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail along West Confederate Avenue

Gettysburg Battlefield Bridle Trail along West Confederate Avenue

Back at the Longstreet Headquarters observation tower at Gettysburg National Military Park

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Last updated on September 13, 2022
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