Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site: The Complete Guide

Experiencing History at Kentucky's Best Preserved Civil War Battlefield

A cannon at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site in Kentucky

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Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site

Address
1825 Battlefield Rd, Perryville, KY 40468-0296, USA
Phone +1 859-332-8631

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site near Perryville, Kentucky, is considered one of the least altered and best preserved Civil War battlefields in America. Walking the 745-acre National Historic Landmark is a sobering experience. With a landscape that has changed very little since the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, one can better imagine what the soldiers saw during each stage of the fierce fighting.

The Battle of Perryville left more than 7,600 killed, wounded, or missing. Although the Union sustained more casualties, Confederate troops were forced to withdraw to Tennessee. The South never again regained control of Kentucky, the birthplace of both Abraham Lincoln and his counterpart, Jefferson Davis.

Things to Do

The best thing to do at Perryville Battlefield is to visit the small, informative museum for a better understanding of the site's history, then grab a map and start walking. The paths are easy to follow, and more than 40 interpretive signs spread along the way explain what happened at various parts of the battlefield. The most popular walking route is around 1.4 miles, but you can follow up to 19 miles of weaving trails throughout the area. A playground and picnic shelter are available near the park entrance.

Trail at Perryville Battlefield in Kentucky

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Best Hikes and Trails

Many of the trails at Perryville Battlefield are simply mowed paths between interpretive signs and important areas. Watch for grass cut shorter and worn routes from previous visitors.

  • Confederate Right Trail: One of the most popular walks (1.4 miles) begins at the Confederate monument (erected in 1902) near the museum. The route proceeds counterclockwise and hits major points of the battle with names such as “Act of Mercy” and “Valley of Death.” Finish the circuit at the Union monument erected in 1931.
  • Slaughter Pen Trail: Look for a parking pull-off and trailhead on Bottom Lane near its terminus at Hayes-May Road. The short walk encircles a compact area, as the name implies, that was the location of a gruesome finale during the battle.
  • Fringe Trails: The Battle of Perryville involved a vast area larger than the current park. Many other trails to points of significance begin outside of the main area at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. You’ll want to grab a map and drive to the parking pull-offs for trails such as the Final Line, Confederate Artillery Trail, and others.
  • Driving Trail: A 3.7-mile driving loop takes in a lot of the battlefield and passes interpretive signs. Leave the museum and drive south on Bottom Lane, a gravel road. Turn right onto Hayes-May Road then right onto Whites Road. Finish the circuit by turning right again onto Battlefield Road (KY-1920) where you can reenter the park. Be on the lookout for interpretive signs and small parking pull-offs for different trailheads.

Reenactments and Special Events

A reenactment of the Battle of Perryville is held each October; hundreds of reenactors in full dress participate in the event. Cannons fire, mounted cavalrymen clash swords, and soldiers from both sides yell and charge. Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site is especially busy and festive during the annual reenactment.

Numerous other events take place throughout the year at Perryville Battlefield. Historical walks and lectures, special exhibits, and even ghost walks can be enjoyed. Check the official Perryville Battlefield website for dates.

Birding

Perryville Battlefield doesn’t only protect history—many species of birds and plants take refuge in the approximately 1,000 acres of preserved land. Birders can walk the Bird Trail through a variety of habitats to look for bobolinks, barn owls, raptors, and some rare species.

Scenic Drives

Perryville is located in an especially scenic part of the Bluegrass region. Horse and cattle farms occupy rolling hills in every direction. Kentucky’s distinctive stone fences run for miles alongside roads. For a scenic drive, go north on US-68 if you didn’t come that way from Lexington, or drive west on US-150 toward Bardstown and My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Perryville is located tantalizingly close to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.

Where to Camp

Camping isn’t available at Perryville Battlefield, and there are only a couple of options in the immediate area.

  • Pioneer Playhouse: Camping by tent or RV is available at Pioneer Playhouse in Danville. The Pioneer Playhouse began in 1950 and is the oldest outdoor theater in Kentucky. The campground has a dump station and 35 spots for tents or RVs.
  • Frisbee Field at Little Wing Hollow: Frisbee Field is a small, primitive campground located on the Chaplin River. No electric or water hookups are available, but you can rent a canoe or kayak.

Where to Stay Nearby

The hotels nearest Perryville Battlefield are located in Danville, a 20-minute drive to the east. A few hotels can also be booked in Springfield to the west of Perryville.

For an alternative to the hotel chains, consider staying at one of the many historic bed-and-breakfasts in the area.

  • Chaplin Hill Bed & Breakfast: Chaplin Hill is a three-room B&B located just 15 minutes from the battlefield. The antebellum plantation house was upgraded in the 1840s from a stone house constructed in 1790!
  • Maple Hill Manor: Located around 20 minutes away and closer to Springfield, Maple Hill Manor is an antebellum manor set on 15 picturesque acres that’s also a working alpaca and llama farm.

How to Get There

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site is located 2 miles north of Perryville, Kentucky. Once in downtown Perryville, take KY-1920 (Jackson Street / Battlefield Road) for five minutes to the park.

  • From Louisville (1.5 hours): Drive south on Interstate 65 then take exit 112 for KY-245 South (Clermont Road). On the other side of Bardstown, turn left onto US-150 (Springfield Road).
  • From Lexington (1 hour): For a scenic drive, take US-68 (Harrodsburg Road) south all the way to Perryville. Consider making plans to stop along the way at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill or Old Fort Harrods State Park for two more historic sites to enjoy.

Accessibility

Perryville Battlefield is spread over a vast, hilly area that makes accessibility a challenge. Walking trails consist of mowed grass. The 3.7-mile driving tour is the best option for people with special mobility needs. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. The Confederate monument can be reached via a short, mulched trail from the parking area. The Union monument can be viewed from Park Road.

Tips for Your Visit

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site is open daily until 7 p.m. Entrance to the park is free.

The museum and gift shop are only open on Saturdays and Sundays until 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children from ages 7 to 12. Entrance is free for children under 6 years old.

If visiting on a weekend, don’t skip the museum! You can grab a map, but more importantly, you’ll get some context and have a much better understanding while walking the battlefield. Without this context, you won't realize that an ordinary split-rail fence may have served as valuable cover during an assault. Information greatly enhances the experience you'll have at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site.

Dogs are allowed in the park, but they must be kept leashed.

The gates at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site are locked at 7 p.m.

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Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site: The Complete Guide