8 National Park Sites With Ties to LGBTQ+ History

San Francisco Commemorates World AIDS Day
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It’s Pride Month! We’re kicking off this joyous, meaningful month with a collection of features completely dedicated to LGBTQ+ travelers. Follow along on a gay writer’s adventures at Pride around the world; read about a bisexual woman’s journey to The Gambia to visit her staunchly religious family; and hear from a non-gender-conforming traveler about unexpected challenges and triumphs on the road. Then, find inspiration for your future trips with our guides to the best LGBTQ+ hidden gem attractions in every state, amazing national park sites with LGBTQ+ history, and actor Jonathan Bennett’s new travel venture. However you make your way through the features, we’re glad you’re here with us to celebrate the beauty and importance of inclusivity and representation within the travel space and beyond.

Far beyond the wilds of the mountains, canyons, and rivers, the National Park Service also preserves and highlights the stories of people, educating visitors about groups who have fought for freedoms and defined their own American experience. Of the more than 400 dedicated national park units across the U.S., multiple historical units have connections to the LGBTQ+ community, reflecting on the struggles, undoing erasure, and highlighting the resilience of an oft-persecuted minority group. From the hallowed grounds of Stonewall to a heartfelt memorial in D.C., here are eight national park sites with ties to LGBTQ+ history.  

01 of 08

Stonewall National Monument

Stonewall Inn Designated By President Obama As National Monument
Drew Angerer / Getty Images
38-64 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014, USA
Phone +1 212-668-2577

One of the most iconic national park sites rooted in humans rights, Stonewall National Monument is equivalent in awe to the Grand Canyon of LGBTQ+ heritage sites. The events that occurred at this gay club in New York City on June 28, 1969, which would come to be known as the Stonewall Uprising, would forever change the landscape for LGBTQ+ rights. Before this turning point, not only was it still taboo to present as anything but heterosexual and cisgender, it was also largely illegal, with violent consequences for engaging in homosexual behavior. An unprovoked police raid on the club on June 28 triggered a resistance, not just that night but in the years and decades to follow. This was the first time people fought back, and it inspired more social groups to emerge in the ensuing years, furthering the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Nowadays, visitors to the park can view historic photos on the fence around the monument, partake in a self-guided walking tour of LGBTQ+ sites in Greenwich Village, and explore Christopher Park, an important haven for Stonewall patrons on the night of the raid. 

02 of 08

Vicksburg National Military Park

Civil War Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Michael Warren / Getty Images
3201 Clay St, Vicksburg, MS 39183-3469, USA
Phone +1 601-636-0583

Vicksburg National Military Park is mostly known for its thunderous Civil War history. Still, the Mississippi park has surprising ties to LGBTQ+ history thanks to a soldier who, in the year of 1863, was trans. Ireland native Jennie Hodgers spent most of their life as Albert Cashier, dressed in men’s clothing and enlisting in the army. For many years and many battles, including the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, Hodgers maintained Cashier’s identity, including well after duty, achieving veteran status before being discovered and shipped to a mental institution, forced to wear female clothes. Now, when visiting Vicksburg, you can tour the battlefield, drive along the Tour Road, and witness historic musket demonstrations, all while reflecting on the important role an LGBTQ+ figure played in the park’s history.

03 of 08

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Monument, Indian Memorial, Sioux Indian riding a horse, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana Province, USA
Stefan Auth / Getty Images
I-90 Frontage Rd, Crow Agency, MT 59022, USA
Phone +1 406-638-2621

The legend of Little Bighorn is a significant event in U.S. history, especially as it relates to the rights of Native Americans and the lust for expansion by the ever-encroaching U.S. government on their lands. It all came to a head in June of 1876, when General Custer and his army tried to forcibly take the land from Sioux and Cheyenne tribes in present-day south-central Montana, culminating in a bloody battle that left hundreds dead on both sides. Much of that history is well known, but what’s less familiar is how one of the Cheyenne males, he’emane’o, usually dressed in women’s clothing. Not only was this not a smear on his legacy, but he was celebrated and honored as an important figure in the tribe. Even in the 19th century, when notions of non-binary or non-conforming were completely unrealized, it’s enlightening to see how far back topics of LGBTQ+ expression really go, especially in unexpected places like the battlefield of Little Bighorn. It adds another layer of consideration as you walk past headstones in the National Cemetery, hike the Deep Ravine trail, peruse the museum, and embark on scenic drives, learning about the battle and the struggle for Native American rights. 

04 of 08

Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain

Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain in Presidents Park

Tim Evanson, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20230, USA
Phone +1 202-208-1631

Of the many national park sites in Washington, D.C., few are as iconic as the White House. What most visitors might not know about, however, is the memorial to a couple of historical figures from the LGBTQ+ community. Archibald Butt and Francis Millet were two revered U.S. officials who died aboard the Titanic. Although not explicitly “out,” the close friends and housemates are known to have been romantic partners as well, something that was surely hushed up in the early 1900s. After their death, Congress commissioned a memorial in their honor, the Butt-Millet Memorial Foundation, making it the first memorial built on the Ellipse by the White House. Of the many things to do at President’s Park, including White House tours and self-guided strolls through Sherman Park and the Ellipse, the Butt-Millet Memorial Foundation deserves a stop for its same-sex significance. 

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

National AIDS Memorial Grove

Visitors Pay Respects At AIDS Memorial On World AIDS Day
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi Drive &, Bowling Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94122, USA
Phone +1 415-765-0498

For LGBTQ+ history in the U.S., San Francisco is a must-visit city for its deep connections to gay rights, figures, and memorials. One such place is the somber and serene National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. Located in the eastern section of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the most visited national parks in the country, the memorial is a place of quiet beauty and reflection, dedicated to the millions of lives lost or affected by AIDS. Considering how synonymous San Francisco is with LGBTQ+ culture, it’s a fitting locale for such a memorial, officially dedicated in 1996. Filled with lush gardens, meticulous landscaping, and the powerful Circle of Friends feature, where inscribed names are often covered with flowers from visitors, the Grove is a place to reflect on an epidemic that’s ravaged—and continues to ravage—the LGBTQ+ community. Not only is this a place to quietly connect, but the Grove is also a popular destination for peaceful picnics, performing arts events, and even outdoor weddings.

06 of 08

Alice Austen House

Alice Austen House
FlickrVision / Getty Images
2 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10305-2002, USA
Phone +1 718-816-4506

Sandwiched amidst the urban sprawl of New York City and New Jersey, Gateway National Recreation Area is an escape from city life with outdoor activities like hiking, paddling, swimming at Sandy Hook Beach, camping, and even exploring Fort Wadsworth. It’s also a national park with historical ties to LGBTQ+ artistry. This region was the home for Elizabeth Alice Austen, a Staten Island native who would earn renown as one of the country’s most celebrated female photographers. As an adult, her home base was a house nicknamed “Clear Comfort,” now a National Historic Landmark. It’s here where she spent much of her life with her lesbian companion Gertrude Tate. Today, Gateway National Recreation Area offers an idyllic blend of physical activities and cultural landmarks, including this home colored by art, creativity, and freedom of expression. 

07 of 08

Governors Island National Monument

Governors island and Manhattan
Maremagnum / Getty Images
10 South St, New York, NY 10004, USA
Phone +1 212-825-3054

Most people flock to Governors Island National Monument, off the southern tip of Manhattan, for iconic skyline views, picnics, and tours of ironclad military structures Fort Jay and Castle Williams. But this summertime oasis is also one of the most significant sites for gay rights activism. That’s thanks to Henry Gerber, a veteran who served in the U.S. military on Governors Island from 1925 and 1942. He was also one of the earliest and most prominent gay rights activists, especially when such sentiments were essentially non-existent. He helped found the Society for Human Rights, which focused on fighting oppression for gay men and lesbians. During a vital turning point for LGBTQ+ rights, Gerber bravely paved the way for progress.

08 of 08

Fire Island National Seashore

Dramatic Pink Sunrise at Fire island Lighthouse
Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty Images
Fire Island National Seashore, Fire Island, NY 11770, USA

For a national park that’s more straight-up fun and recreation, Fire Island National Seashore reigns supreme. You might not find any LGBTQ-connected military lore here, but you will find a safe and welcoming oasis in one of the most famously gay-friendly spaces in the National Park Service. Accessible via ferry, the park encompasses 26 miles of a barrier island in Suffolk County, revered as a peaceful summertime getaway for city-dwellers thanks to its pristine sandy shores and the fact that there are no public roads. Beach-goers from all walks of life flock here to swim, picnic, sail, hike through Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness and gawk at the iconic Fire Island Light. Still, the island is perhaps most notable for its gay community, especially in the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove sections. Filled with quaint boardwalks, drag shows, and rainbow flags, the island became a haven for the LGBTQ+ community in the mid-1900s, thanks to its isolation miles from shore, providing a natural barrier from police raids and homophobic assaults.

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8 National Park Sites With Ties to LGBTQ+ History