How to Visit Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

Discover how to visit Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. This concise guide will lead you through the park’s four historic battlefields, plus offer additional travel tips. Whether you’re a history buff or just love getting outdoors, I’ll show you how to make your visit to this Virginia gem a memorable one.

Key takeaways

  • The park is made up of four main battlefields. Visit them in the order in which they were fought: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.
  • Both Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville battlefields have full Visitor Centers with exhibits, films, and park rangers on duty.
  • The NPS app provides interactive maps and self-guided audio tours for each battlefield.
  • Restrooms are primarily available at Visitor Centers, with limited facilities along the driving tour routes.
  • Additional historic sites within the park, such as Chatham Manor, Ellwood Manor, the “Stonewall” Jackson Death Site, and Salem Church add depth to the battlefield tours.
  • The park is near Washington, DC, and Richmond, making it a good option for day trips, but spending multiple days allows for a more comprehensive visit.
Old Civil War artillery piece sitting on a hill in a field. There is a blue sky. Many of the trees around are without leaves because it is a cold but sunny winter day.
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park comprises four Civil War battlefields. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See disclaimer.

Things to know before you visit the park

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park is one of the top battlefields near Washington, DC. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with a few key details when planning your trip.

First, the military park is made up of four separate battlefields spread out around the area and a few additional smaller sites you’ll want to think about adding to your itinerary. I recommend that you visit the battlefields in this order, the order in which they were fought during the Civil War.

  1. Fredericksburg: Dec. 11 – 15, 1862 
  2. Chancellorsville: April 30 – May 6, 1863 
  3. The Wilderness: May 5 – 7, 1864
  4. Spotsylvania Court House: May 8 – 21, 1864

We took three full days to tour Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. This gave us plenty of time to do all of the battlefield tours and a couple of the short walking trails. There are some longer walking and hiking trails available as well that you could explore if you want to take more time there.

Plan the perfect trip to Virginia with this free printable travel planner.

If you have less time, you can visit any of the battlefields on a day trip. You can take a day trip from Washington, DC, or a day trip from Richmond would work also.

Visit the official NPS website or app for the most accurate information about park and Visitor Center hours. Both the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville battlefields have full Visitor Centers with exhibits, a gift shop, a park ranger on duty, and a film about the battle. 

Trails and Trail Maps: You can pick up trail maps at visitor centers or download digital versions from the NPS website.

NPS App: For a handy guide, download the NPS app before your visit. It includes interactive maps and important information about the park. Plus each of the four battlefields in this park has its own self-guided driving tour with audio you can play at each stop.

Facilities: While restrooms are available at the Visitor Centers, they are scarce elsewhere in the park on the driving tour routes.

PRO TIP: If you have flexible travel dates you need to check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). You get amazing flight deals sent straight to your inbox with instructions on how to book directly with the airlines. Check out Going here. Going is my favorite way to find great travel deals. 

Fredericksburg Battlefield

Fredericksburg Battlefield marks the place where, on Dec. 11-15, 1862, the Union and Confederate armies clashed in the Battle of Fredericksburg during the American Civil War. This historic battle is remembered for its staggering number of casualties and the courageous (foolish?) but doomed Union assaults against well-entrenched Confederate positions.

Start your tour of this battlefield at the Visitor Center where you can pick up a map and watch the short film about the battle. Then I recommend you do the Sunken Road walk which starts behind the Visitor Center. It’s only about half a mile total, but you’ll get to walk along one of the most significant spots in American Civil War history.

From the Visitor Center, you can continue your driving tour of the battlefield using the NPS app. The tour will lead you from the Visitor Center to Chatham Manor, Telegraph Hill, Howison Hill, and Prospect Hill. We took several hours to tour this battlefield including the Sunken Road walk, and a visit to Chatham Manor.

Old dirt road on a foggy morning. There is a low stone wall on each side of the road and a small wooden building painted white.
Sunken Road at Fredericksburg Battlefield in Virginia. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Chancellorsville

At the Chancellorsville Battlefield, you can step back in time to April 30 to May 6, 1863. This battle showcased the tactical smarts of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, catching the Union Army off guard.

Start your tour at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center and then continue with the self-guided audio driving tour that will take you through nine more stops including Bullock House Site, Chancellor House Site, McLaws’ Line, the Catharine Furnace Ruins, Slocum’s Line and Hazel Grove.

We spent less time at Chancellorsville than we did at the Fredericksburg Battlefield the previous day, so we used our afternoon to do The Wilderness self-guided tour also.

An man stands in front of interpretive signage on a rise overlooking a large open area in Chancellorsville, Virginia.
Interpretive signage at the self-guided tour stops provides additional information about the location. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

The Wilderness

The site of the Battle of the Wilderness tells the story of a significant and particularly deadly battle during the American Civil War. This dense forest, once a tangle of trees and underbrush, witnessed a grim and chaotic battle between Union troops commanded by Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee.

Touring the battlefield itself will give you a better understanding of the battle that took place there from May 5 to 7, 1864. The Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter provides context to help you imagine what happened in the area around you.

The NPS self-guided tour of The Wilderness includes several stops, including the exhibit shelter. And I recommend doing the short loop walk at the Brock Road-Plank Road Intersection stop. 

A black walkway through a forest. The path looks as though it has been made of recycled car tires. There are fallen leaves all over the forest floor.
The Wilderness, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Spotsylvania Battlefield

A visit to the park is incomplete without exploring the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield. This site witnessed intense fighting from May 8 to 21, 1864, immediately after The Wilderness.

Visit the Exhibit Shelter to get insight into the facts of the battle before heading to each tour stop. We spent the most time at the site known as the Bloody Angle where there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting for a full day.

Black recycled rubber tire pathway through a lightly wooded area. Most of the trees are completely without leaves and there is a blue sky.
Walk along the former battle lines at the Spotsylvania Court House. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Other sites in the park

As you explore the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, there are historic sites beyond the battlefields that help complete the full story of the battles in this area of Virginia.

Chatham Manor

Chatham functioned as a plantation and later as a headquarters and hospital during the Civil War. Guests can tour the house and grounds as part of the Fredericksburg Battlefield tour. The house resembles a museum, with displays and exhibits instead of furnished rooms.

Man walks down a stone walkway in front of an old large brick mansion. It is a wet and cloudy day.
Chatham Manor, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Ellwood Manor

Once a family home, Ellwood Manor is part of the Wilderness Battlefield and served as a Union field hospital. Guests can walk the grounds between sunrise and sunset even if the house is closed. The family cemetery on the grounds is the burial site of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s arm, which had to be amputated after he was shot by friendly fire during Chancellorsville.

“Stonewall” Jackson Death Site

The “Stonewall” Jackson Death Site near Guinea Station marks the house where Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson lost his life. Struck down by friendly fire and losing an arm at Chancellorsville, Jackson eventually passed from pneumonia in this small farm office building. 

Small white wooden building with two white chimneys. There is green grass around the building and the sky is blue with a few white fluffy clouds.
The Stonewall Jackson death site grounds are open year-round even if the building is closed to visitors. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Salem Church

During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Salem Church became a refuge for the wounded. Although most of the surrounding area of this church has been taken over by urban development, you can still get a taste of what this historic site once was.

Where to stay

You’ll find plenty of places to stay in Fredericksburg, Virginia

We stayed at the Residence Inn Fredericksburg. We had a quiet and comfortable stay there in a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen. And we always appreciate the free breakfast. This hotel is near a very busy and high-traffic part of town, so that caused a little frustration at times…but it also was nice to be close to a lot of food and shopping options.

mockup image of a free printable travel planner

Final thoughts on visiting Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

The Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park takes you right into the heart of Civil War history. While it may not be as famous as Gettysburg or other national military parks, it’s certainly worth a thorough visit.