Have you ever thought about creating your own Gettysburg scavenger hunt? For bicycling? With over 1,300 monuments and markers in Gettysburg National Military Park, the battlefield is a rich wonderland of opportunities. Try these step-by-step instructions to plan your next history tour. And I’m going to make it easy for you. Read on to see how.
What is a Battlefield Scavenger Hunt?
Civil War Cycling is about touring U.S. national military parks by pedaling along park roadways. With that in mind, when we speak about “scavenger hunts,” we are talking about riding our bicycles on park roads in search of specific historical artifacts or structures.
noun: scavenger hunt; plural noun: scavenger hunts
a game, typically played in an extensive outdoor area, in which participants have to collect a number of miscellaneous objects. Source: Google
Bicycling historians “scavenge” the outdoors to find items on a “scavenger hunt” list. For me, the hunt is complete when I have snapped photographs of everything on my list.
- Seven USA state monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park (GNMP)
- Eleven CSA state monuments at GNMP
- Eight equestrian monuments at GNMP
- Eighteen (plus two) bronze statues of individuals at GNMP or nearby cemeteries
Why Plan a Gettysburg Scavenger Hunt?
Gettysburg National Military Park has 1,300+ monuments and about 400 refurbished cannon spread over 6,000+ acres and about thirty-one miles of park roads. Clearly, that is way too much to see in a single day’s ride. I have no idea how long it would take to visit every monument or marker, and I have logged dozens of full-day rides.
Even so, these massive numbers do not make a Gettysburg scavenger hunt necessary. You could, for example, enjoy freely exploring the park and stopping to read historic waysides and monument inscriptions in a random, possibly whimsical, manner. Admittedly, when I take three-day bicycling trips to Gettysburg, my last day is always dedicated to that sort of impulsive, free-form ride.
The question then becomes, why plan a battlefield scavenger hunt?
First, because it is an effective way to learn history.
If you begin your ride with a plan to visit a particular set of monuments that share a common theme, your learning experience is strengthened. In other words, scavenger hunts offer a coherent and thematic — as opposed to a random, disjointed — learning opportunity.
Second, because it gives a solid sense of accomplishment.
If you are bicycling a U.S. national military park in order to learn more about American history, a ride that is focused on a particular historical theme or goal provides a greater sense of accomplishment than if the ride had no defined historical objective.
For example, in my first attempt to identify, map, find, and photograph all corps headquarter monuments at Gettysburg, I probably found only about half of them. There are many reasons for a less-than-perfect “score” on my Gettysburg scavenger hunt — including the monuments’ small sizes, their odd locations, and even bad weather and a drained camera battery. But that’s not the point; instead, the point is that I felt a strong sense of accomplishment when I was able to complete that hunt on another ride.
Third, because it is fun.
Scavenger hunts provide bicyclists an opportunity to combine hobbies like bicycling, history, cartography, and photography into one outdoor learning adventure.
What Makes for a Great Battlefield Scavenger Hunt?
The key to planning a Gettysburg bicycle route that visits a meaningful set of sites is to scale-down your expectations of what can be accomplished on a single day’s ride.
In a nutshell, there are four criteria for a great battlefield scavenger hunt:
- The list contains historically interesting physical items that you can photograph.
- It is logistically possible to find all items on the list in one ride or set of smaller rides.
- You or someone else has researched the (paper) location of each item on the map.
- During your ride, you have a way to “check off” each item that you find.
6 Steps to Create a Gettysburg Scavenger Hunt
I said that I’d make this easy for you, and I will! Please follow these step-by-step instructions:
Step 1 – Visit Web Link
Visit Civil War Cycling’s “Gettysburg Scavenger Hunts – Explore Like a Kid” page. Skim the evergreen, multi-page table of scavenger hunts available for your use. Pick one that interests you.
Step 2 – Click on “Hunt”
Next, click on one of the “Hunt” links on the page from Step 1. If you have never bicycled Gettysburg, I recommend that you select one of the following hunts:
Then read the short introduction at the top of the article.
Step 3 – Read and Think
For a single hunt, study the following on the “Hunt” page that you selected in Step 2:
- Table description of each monument
- Map pin for each monument
- Photo of each monument
And then most importantly, do the mental work of jumping from table to map to photograph — in whatever order makes sense to you — as you memorize the attributes of each monument:
- Name (from the table)
- Location (map pin)
- Appearance (photo)
Step 4 – Make a Simple Map
Download a PDF map of Gettysburg National Military Park. A paper version is also available in the kiosks at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center.
Refer to Civil War Cycling’s pins on Google Maps, and then mark their location on your paper map. Let it be messy. After all, your “trophy” for the hunt is a set of photos.
Step 5 – Design a Bicycle Route
This next step probably requires the most thought, but most bicycling tourists enjoy it:
Design a circular route that visits each location that you marked on your map from Step 4. If you’d like to skip ahead, it is very likely that one of Civil War Cycling’s pre-made bicycle routes will work for you.
In future posts, I will offer detailed guidance with the finer points of bicycling Gettysburg National Military Park safely and efficiently. However, if you will be riding before those posts are available, please consider reading these articles first:
- “My Top 3 Safety Mistakes While Bicycling Gettysburg“
- “The Ultimate Guide for Packing and Carrying Food to Bicycle a U.S. Military Park“
- “3 Considerations for Selecting the Best Bicycle for Touring Battlefields“
- “The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Bicycle-Friendly Hotel“
Step 6 – Ride
Finally, please enjoy your ride! Hunt with your camera, and check-off what you find (in case you need to repeat your Gettysburg scavenger hunt on another ride).