It’s about 70 miles from the District to the Antietam National Battlefield, which this year is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest day in American history.
●Roads: The most direct route from the Capital Beltway goes up Interstate 270, then picks up I-70 at Frederick, then heads south on Route 65 (Sharpsburg Pike), which leads to the battlefield’s visitors center. For less interstate and more scenery, leave I-70 after Frederick and take Route 40 to Route 34 (Potomac Street) in Boonsboro. In Sharpsburg, turn right on North Church Street (Route 65) to reach the battlefield. Or leave Route 40 at Middletown for Route 17 to Burkittsvillle, then turn onto West Main Street and head into Gathland State Park before picking up Route 67 to Trego Road, which leads to Route 34.
●Sights: Many events are scheduled over the next two months at the battlefield park and in Sharpsburg. Next weekend, for example, visitors can join living-history programs at various locations.
The weekend of Sept. 15-17, the last weekend of summer, is jammed with commemorative events, and the park should be quite crowded. The phone number for the visitors center is 301-432-5124. Web address: www.nps.gov/ancm.
The drive from the District to the battlefield should take about an hour and 40 minutes if you don’t stop. But there are many worthwhile stops, including Burkittsville, Gathland State Park — visit the War Correspondents Arch or hike to Weverton Cliffs — and Boonsboro.
History buffs also would enjoy a side trip to Harpers Ferry, about a half hour’s drive south across the Potomac River.
Point of Rocks to Thurmont
It’s about 36 miles from the Potomac River at Point of Rocks to Thurmont in the Catoctin Mountains, a ride that can be done in under an hour without stops. The side trips involve history, hikes and sites. Virginians driving north from Leesburg can cross the Potomac bridge and join this trip.
●Roads: Routes 15, 77, 491, 550 and back to 15. On a map, this will look like a deflating balloon on a string. The northern section is a big loop branching west from Route 15 through Cunningham Falls and Catoctin Mountain parks, then up almost to the Mason-Dixon Line before heading south and reconnecting with southbound Route 15.
●Sights: Driving north on Route 15 puts you in range of the Monacacy battlefield (1864), which is to the southeast of Frederick off Route 355. You will be even closer to historic Frederick. In my holiday getaway guides, Frederick is a highway junction for western and northern escapes from the D.C. region, but downtown is worth a summer stop. The Frederick Visitor Center is at 151 S. East St. Phone: 800-999-3613. Web site: www.fredericktourism.org.