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Fitness is a Battlefield: Create Your Own Civil War “Triathlon” at These Historic Sites

Photo credit: Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area

A triathlon is the ultimate test of endurance and strength. But any fitness fanatic can tell you getting into these events is tricky; you have to sign up in advance, locations aren’t always ideal and it can cost a pretty penny. That’s why it makes more sense to forge your own path. Train like an Olympic athlete with gorgeous sights of Civil War landmarks and get your hiking, biking and water workout in historic Maryland. (Take that, Ironman.)

Biking by battlefields

Warm up for a long ride in Carroll County. Featuring 10 bike loops with varying levels of difficulty and more than 150 miles of cycling, the tours venture through the idyllic back roads of this picturesque county.

Pedal patriotically through Frederick County’s Campaign Ride, taking cyclists from Rose Hill Manor Park to the Battle of Monocacy site, known as the “Battle That Saved Washington.” Plan your trip in August and make your way to historic downtown Frederick to see the only high wheel race in the United States, the National Clustered Spires High Wheel Race.

Take a history lesson on the go with a bicycle tour in Washington County with eight scenic loop tours on hundreds of miles of paved roads, highlighting historical sites like the Antietam National Battlefield, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Fort Frederick, Gathland State Park and the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum. (Tip: For a truly spectacular view and a more intense workout, check out the View of the Valley path, which climbs partway up South Mountain.)

Hiking through history

Photo credit: Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area

Get on your feet and work your way through the expansive Antietam Battlefield hiking trails. The National Park Service recommends 10 different trails, including three (Antietam Remembered, Bloody Lane Trail and West Woods Trail) that conveniently start at the Visitor Center. Follow the path of Union soldiers throughout the Civil War site, retracing their steps near the Burnside Bridge, Newcomer House and more. Stick to the Three Farms Trail for a 1.6-mile trek through the battlefield; it connects the northern Bloody Lane Trail and the Sherrick Farm Trail in the south, exploring the most beautiful and serene areas of the park.

If you’re looking for a real challenge, head to the South Mountain Battlefield, the only location where the 2,200-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail intersects with a major Civil War battlefield. Take a day hike along the trail from Gathland State Park, home of Crampton’s Gap and the War Correspondents Memorial Arch, to the Weverton Cliffs, offering a stunning view of the Potomac River and Harpers Ferry.

Water workout

Don’t forget to fuel up with a healthy meal on the Antietam Kayaking Tour and Brunch. Serving food at the Newcomer House before departure, the menu offers farm fresh eggs, seasonal fruit, handpicked vegetables and locally raised meat. A postcard-ready stream with charming stone arch bridges, Antietam Creek was voted one of the top 60 paddling streams in North America by Canoe & Kayak Magazine. Book in advance for tours running from May through September.

Paddle down the Monocacy Scenic River Water Trail in Frederick County. Spanning 42 miles from Route 77 to the Potomac River, canoers and kayakers can stay cool while getting fit, navigating the river’s twists and turns.

For more information on all the best recreational sites in historic Maryland, visit heartofthecivilwar.org.