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High bridge and Appomattox NHP

Visiting Appomattox was a second round for us, as we went as a family back in September 2020 and just recent in April 2023. So, in this entry you will get a combination of this recent visit and a ‘recap’ visit before this site started.

This most recent trip was a visit tied to a boy scout camping trip with my son’s troop.  We biked the High Bridge Trail, at well, High Bridge State park.  We started the bike trail in Farmville and road over the 125-foot-tall High bridge, which is also the longest recreational bridge in Virginia (2,400-feet).  Although it stretches 31 miles from Pamplin to Burkeville, we only road about ~15 miles on the trail. 

High bridge from the ground with pillars and green lawn

The weather was perfect, sunny and pleasant.  The ride was fairly flat on a gravel roadway, that was wide enough for a group of scouts and the other visitors to the park that day.  There are several side trails that can be taken if you want to ride off the main trail.  We took the Camp Paradise trail, which was STEEP, down to the river, which afforded awesome views of the pylons/earthworks of the original 1858 bridge.  The original bridge had a role during Lee’s retreat at the end of the Civil War, which tied into our visit to Appomattox the next day.  There are also several picnic areas along the trail. 

Roaming Tip: There are several picnic areas along the trail that can be used to make a full day at the park. Check on the park map here.

We stayed at Holliday Lake State Park campground (lovely!).  Since the Appomattox National Historical Park was so close, we dropped in soon after they opened at around 9:30am. 

Rolling into the parking lot of the park, was easy with plenty of parking.   The park is basically a 19th-century village that is preserved to illustrate and tell the story of the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to the union forces under General Grant.  The site is well manicured, and you can easily stroll along the streets visiting the general store, the small Lawyers office across from the reconstructed courthouse and of course, visit the McLean house where the surrender occurred. 

Appomattox Visitor Center

Your first stop, after looking at the cool map under the flag near the parking lot, should be the courthouse.  This is the Visitor center, where you can get the unigrid, and watch the overview video found upstairs.  

McLean House and other Sites

Inside Appomattox court house

I was actually very surprised by the size of the “room where it happened.” It was small. When you look at paintings depicting the surrender it looks like a hoard of staff where in the room as well, but this clearly modified by the artist. During the two visits we made, a ranger was stationed on the porch of the McLean house to answer questions and to interpret the site for visitors.

Fun Fact: The house was apparently very popular and in the 1890’s they completed dismantled the McLean house with the intention of taking it to Washington D.C. This was eventually abandoned, and the house was eventually reconstructed on its original location in the 1940’s by the NPS.

Walking around the village, we found a General store and Lawyer’s office across from the courthouse/visitor center.  The tavern was under renovation during our first visit but has re-opened since.  They added an exhibit showing the effort to quickly print parole slips for all the confederate soldiers in Lee’s army.  A huge effort where the Clover Hill tavern was used as a makeshift printing office.  

Inside tavern at Appomattox historic Site

Another Fun Fact: Why are some of the stairs on the outside of the building? I asked the same thing! Simply put, it is easy. Integrating stairs inside a building was costly and time consuming. This style was apparently very common in this time period.


The NPS bookstore is behind the Clover Hill tavern in the Tavern’s kitchen.  Restrooms can be found here as well.  The two-room bookstore is full of stuff to complete the visit.  In looking for the cancellation stamps, it can be found right next to the cashier.  You can ask for expired stamps as well, which are located behind the counter.

Even with the second trip, there is still more to see.  Several hiking trails are around the site that can be explored, and we did not see all the houses/structures around the village.  This is a great option as a stop quick visit when you are traveling through Southwest Virginia.

Roaming Tips: 

  • Engage with the Park Ranger at the McLean house to learn more about the surrender and the history that surrounds it.
  • If you have more time, consider the hiking trails around the site.
  • Enjoy the unique architecture of the 19th century buildings.

Check out more National Park Sites in the Southeast USA HERE

Cancellation stamp for Appomattox National historic park Virginia

Unit: Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Path to 428+: 19

Region: Southeast

Month/Year: Sep 2020

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