Stones River National Battlefield | ARTILLERY TRAILS

Cannon exhibit along Artillery Trail #1

Cannon exhibit along Artillery Trail #1

There are two Artillery Trails at the McFadden Farm stop on the tour of Stones River National Battlefield. These two loops take you through the fields where the Union artillery was placed. One trail runs through the field next to the parking area (Artillery Trail #1), and the other runs through a field on the opposite side of the tour road near the Artillery Monument (Artillery Trail #2). You can hike them as one, or pick between the two. Trail #2 is not that interesting, so unless you are out for exercise, just stick to Trail #1. I will, however, describe the routes as one hike.

Artillery Trail #1

From the parking lot, turn towards the field and look for the trailhead to your right. This is marked by a sign that reads, “Artillery Trail 1/2 Mile.” This mileage is referring to this one section, not the combination of both trails. It also refers only to the trail and does not take into account that the trail ends on the road into the McFadden Field area, but farther towards the main road, and you must walk a tenth of a mile on the road to get to get back to the parking lot, so figure .6 mile for the single loop hike.

Start of Artillery Trail #1

Start of Artillery Trail #1

Starting here will set you out hiking the trail in a counterclockwise direction. The trail is nothing more than a swath cut through the grass (which was very high when I was there) that borders the forest for the entire way around the field. You will walk a good ways while seeing nothing but grass, and you’ll be wondering what is the point, but eventually you will come to a series of thin, metal cannon sculptures pointing towards the river. These are located where real cannon would have been during the battle. Farther down the trail there are a few real cannon, though some were hard to see during my visit because the grass had covered them up.

Metal cannon sculptures take the place of real cannon

Metal cannon sculptures take the place of real cannon

The trail eventually circles around the field and comes out on the road, though much farther down from the parking lot. When you reach the road you will have the option of taking a left and returning to your car or hiking the second loop. If returning to the parking area, you will pass the McFadden Cemetery. You will also pass a trailhead for a hike to the Stones River. This will take you back to the parking lot as well, so if you have not seen the river, I suggest you take this route. As mentioned, Artillery Trail #2 is pretty much a waste of time. You will get much more out of a hike to the river (see the Stones River Loop Trail web page for details).

Trailhead for the Stones River Trail near the Artillery Monument

Trailhead for the Stones River Trail near the Artillery Monument

Artillery Trail #2

To take the second Artillery Trail loop, look for a gap in the wooden fence on the opposite side of the road (you will have exited from the Artillery Trail #1 field through a similar gap). This is the trailhead.

Start of Artillery Trail #2

Start of Artillery Trail #2

Like Artillery Trail #1, this is a swath cut through the grass and cannon, both sculptures and real, are placed sporadically along the way, always aiming in the direction they would have been aiming during the battle.

Cannon along the Artillery Trail #2

Cannon along the Artillery Trail #2

While this trail does form a loop, the loop does not cover much ground. In fact, it is nearly an out-and-back trail. When it reaches its farthest point, it simply loops around an island of small trees that you have been following. Thus, you essentially walk back the same way, but on the other side of the trees, maybe twenty feet from where you came in.

The loop portion of the hike begins not far from the park road. While you can go either way, it does get confusing at the point where the trail loops back around, so depending on which way you go, you will have different decisions to make. I went to the left at the fork, thus hiking the trail in a clockwise manner. This puts the grove of trees on your right and a field on your left. All of the cannon exhibits are along this section of the trail.

Start of the loop portion of Artillery Trail #2

Start of the loop portion of Artillery Trail #2

You’ll know when you reach the far end of the loop because the trail splits once again. You want to go right, which takes you around the end of the grove of trees and then back to the road. If you were to go left, while there is some sort of trail, no telling where you will end up.

If you were to start the loop in a counterclockwise direction (right at the fork), you won’t be faced with the confusing intersection until you loop around the grove of the trees. To get back to the tour road keep looping around to the left. Heading straight puts you on this other trail of unknown destination.

No matter which way you start off on the loop, once back at the road take a right to return to the parking lot. Each trail on its own is about .6 mile. If hiking both loops, the round trip distance is about 1.1 miles. If you add in the Stones River Trail hike, you are looking at about 1.5 miles. (You will pass the trailhead for the Stones River Trail regardless of which Artillery Trail loops you take).

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Last updated on March 9, 2020
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