Thursday, January 13, 2022

Day Trip: Cowpens National Battlefield

This weekend, Cowpens National Battlefield will hold a virtual celebration of its 241st anniversary (on Facebook; here's the link), which might offer an easy activity option if Charlotte weather is more sloppy sleet than fluffy snow.

We happened to visit Cowpens on this weekend last year and were able to see the event, which commemorates a pivotal turning point in the Revolutionary War with reenactments and educational displays and presentations, in person. While an online version won't be able to do justice to the musket fire, it may offer a helpful preview of what you can see and do when you get a chance to visit.

The Battle of Cowpens in 1781 was a defining moment in the American Revolution, a backcountry engagement that ignited a chain of events that led to the Patriots’ victory at Yorktown. Today, this historic site is the National Park Service Cowpens National Battlefield, a fun destination for both education and recreation. Located in Gaffney, SC, it’s about an hour and fifteen minutes from uptown.

As one might guess, Cowpens is named for the pastureland that blanketed this area at the time of the war. And, for those familiar with the area, it provided the ideal backdrop for the civil war that unfolded between the Patriots and the Loyalists. Read about the battle here

Even if you’re not big on American Revolutionary War history, you’ll appreciate the relics, reproductions and documentary videos on display at the museum in the Visitor Center. The park also periodically hosts other special events and rangers and volunteers are often on hand to share more.

The big draw for us, of course, are the trails and outdoor recreation options. There’s the Battlefield Trail, a 1.2-mile self-guided walking tour of historic landmarks within the park. (You can also take the Auto Loop Road, a 3.8-mile paved road that offers something similar by car.)

We enjoyed the Nature Loop, the trailhead for which is at a large and impressive picnic area located a short drive from the Visitor's Center. This 2-mile trail meanders through the woods and is well marked.

Here's a park map.    

Cowpens National Battlefied is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. year-round (with the exception of New Years Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President's Day, Indigenous People's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day), but there's trailhead parking on the eastern boundry of the park that's open from dawn until dusk for pedestrian and bike access before, during and after business hours. Admission to the park is free and open to the public, as are all programs. 

Interesting note: Cowpens National Battlefield is part of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution Parks in South Carolina, a group of parks that all tell pieces of the Southern Campaign story. These include Kings Mountain National Military Park, Ninety Six National Historic Site, and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. Each location marks a military event that influenced the American victory in the Revolution.

Cowpens National Battlefield makes for a fun day trip from Charlotte. You might consider tuning in for the online celebration event this weekend if you're looking for something to do, but do go ahead and add this to your list of outings for the next time you're looking to explore. 

How to get there: 
Cowpens National Battlefield is located at 4001 Chesnee Highway, Gaffney, SC, 29341. You can also access the park before, during and after hours by foot or bike using the trail accessible from the parking lot located at the corner of SC Highway 11 and Hayes Rd. (GPS coordinates: 35° 7.864' / -81° 47.824')