Pea Ridge National Military Park is located in Northwest Arkansas. The park preserves the site of a momentous Civil War battle.
Pea Ridge National Military Park
On March 7-8, 1862 the battle that saved Missouri for the Union took place near a building known as the Elkhorn Tavern.
About Pea Ridge National Military Park
16,000 Confederate troops were heading north to capture the city of St. Louis when they ran into 10,000 Union Soldiers.
The soldiers fought for two days in the Battle of Pea Ridge before the Confederate troops retreated. This was such an important win for the Union that many say this was one of the most important Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River.
Today the park is one of the most intact preserved Civil War Battlefields in the United States. The park honors those who fought in the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862.
Is Pea Ridge National Military Park worth visiting?
The park provides visitors the opportunity to view a preserved Civil War Battlefield. This is an opportunity to learn more about the events of the Civil War and what happened during the Battle of Pea Ridge.
History of the battle of Pea Ridge
The Pea Ridge National Military Park is one of the most well-preserved battlefields from the Civil War.
The Battle of Pea Ridge was quick but bloody, not lasting more than a day. The Battle of Pea Ridge was the Confederate attempt at pushing their way back into Missouri.
Before the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Union had driven the Confederate forces out of Missouri to Arkansas.
Both the Confederate and the Union armies had experienced a few issues with their leadership.
But, by the time the Union and Confederates faced each other on the battlefield, the Confederates were being commanded by Major General Earl Van Dorn and the Union by Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis.
On the 7th of March 1862, the Confederates and the Union fought at Elkhorn Tavern. It was here that a tactical miscalculation by the Confederate Gen. Van Dorn, coupled with the confusion of the forces regarding the chain of command on the battlefield, led to a Union victory.
The Union victory at Pea Ridge meant that Missouri remained in Union hands. At the same time, it opened up Arkansas to a Union advance.
Before the Battle
Before the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Union army had successfully driven the Confederate forces out of central Missouri.
The Confederate army at this time, 1861 to early 1862, was under the command of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, however, he was relieved of his position by the Confederate president Jefferson Davis and replaced with Van Dorn.
Van Dorn planned on defeating Curtis and hoped that by doing so, he would gain a Confederate foothold into Missouri once again.
He knew that Curtis and the Army of the Southwest were encamped near Leetown, North East of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and planned to surround them here along Little Sugar Creek.
Curtis expected the Confederates to attack his position. So he sent patrols out regularly to check for signs of an impending attack.
On March the 4th, a Union patrol just so happened to encounter the Confederates. The Confederates had accidentally stumbled into the middle of the Union patrol just outside of Bentonville.
The skirmish at Bentonville did not achieve much other than giving Gen. Curtis time to prepare for the Confederate attack. Curtis managed to slow their advance considerably.
The Battle of Pea Ridge; Leetown
The Bentonville blunder gave away the Confederate's position. It gave Curtis time to prepare his position for the impending attack.
The Confederates outnumbered the Union, and so they needed every advantage. Curtis slowed Van Dorn's advance by creating obstacles on the route his troops were marching along.
Van Dorn had split his forces into two divisions to move around Pea Ridge, to meet at Elkhorn Tavern where they would encircle the Union forces.
One division under Gen McCholloch headed West around Pea Ridge to come up behind the Union forces, and the other under Gen. Price traveled along the Bentonville Detour.
The Battle of Pea Ridge began on the morning of the 7th of March when McCulloch’s men engaged with the Union forces at Leetown.
The fighting here was fierce, with the Confederates outnumbering the Union. The Confederates overwhelmed the small number of Union forces they first came into contact with and pushed the Union into a wooded area on the edge of a field.
McCulloch was supposed to continue to Elkhorn Tavern to reinforce Van Dorn.
Instead, McCulloch pursued the retreating Union forces and was subsequently shot and killed. Not only was McCulloch killed, but his second-in-command also fell during the fighting.
Although the Confederates attacked the Union forces in the woods once more, they failed, with the only remaining high-ranking Confederate commander taken prisoner.
Much confusion ensued with no clear leadership on the field. The Confederates abandoned the battle at Leetown, all seemingly headed in different directions.
While one-half of the Confederate army had engaged the Union at Leetown, Van Dorn’s forces were at Elkhorn Tavern along with Price's division.
Despite outnumbering the Union, Van Dorn did not attack the Union forces with the full force of his army.
Instead, Van Dorn used a staggered approach, sending in one division at a time. This seemed to work in Van Dorn's favor at first.
But once it became clear that the other half of his army would not be joining them, Van Dorn changed tactics and charged with the full force of his army. This tactic managed to gain the Confederates some ground.
The Union made an impressive stand at Elkhorn Tavern despite being outmanned. The Confederates managed to push the fight away from the tavern and into Rudricks Cornfield.
That was all the Confederate forces would accomplish during the battle. The Union was reinforced here and managed to hold the line until nightfall when the fighting subsided.
A Union Victory
At nightfall, Curtis used his time wisely. The Confederates had managed to push the Union back and, by doing so, had cut off their supply line.
Despite this, Curtis remained sure that the Union would win the battle. He reinforced the Union position in Ruddick's Cornfield, resupplied his men with food and ammunition, and let his men rest.
While the Union army became battle-ready again, a grave error on the Confederate side came to light.
In his haste to meet the Union at Pea Ridge, Van Dorn had left his supply trains behind. The Confederate army was hungry and lacked sufficient ammunition. The conditions, coupled with the deaths of two high-ranking officials, demoralized the Confederate army.
By noon on the 8th of March, the Battle of Pea Ridge was over.
The Confederates were quickly defeated, seemingly no match for a well-fed and armed Union forces.
Van Dorn had no choice but to pull back and retreat. This retreat meant Missouri was in Union hands and that Arkansas was left open to a Union advance.
Things to know before your visit to Pea Ridge National Military Park
$0.00, There is no fee to visit this park.
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Free National Park Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
CST - Central Time Zone
Pets must be on a leash less than 6 feet in length. Pets are not allowed inside buildings.
Cell service is limited along the auto tour.
The battlefield driving tour road is open for visitors to tour 7 days a week from 6 am to sunset.
Public Wi-Fi that is available is inside the visitor center.
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
There is a large parking lot in front of the visitor center.
Each of the tour route stops have a parking area or pull out varying in size.
There are no restaurants within the park.
There are no gas stations within the park.
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
During our visit we were able to get the following stamps
Pea Ridge National Military Park, Pea Ridge, AR
Trail of Tears NHT, Pea Ridge NMP
The parks National Park Passport Sticker is part of the 2006 Passport Sticker Set.
We use the Explorer Edition Passport Book that can be expanded and updated. This is a great way to track all of the parks you have visited over time.
Electric Vehicle Charging
EV charging stations are available in Rogers and Bentonville, Arkansas
Details about Pea Ridge National Military Park
Size - 4,300 acres
Check out how the park compares to other National Parks by Size.
The park was created by an act of Congress in 1956.
The park was dedicated during the Civil War Centennial in 1963.
In 2021, Pea Ridge NMP had 82,854 park visitors.
In 2020, Pea Ridge NMP had 80,455 park visitors.
In 2019, Pea Ridge NMP had 102,753 park visitors.
National Park Address
15930 E Hwy 62
Garfield, AR 72732
Pea Ridge National Military Park Map
Where is Pea Ridge National Military Park?
The entrance road is located on Highway 62, 1.3 miles east of the intersection of Highways 62 and 72.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Bentonville, AR - 15 miles
Tulsa, OK - 131 miles
Kansas City, MO - 221 miles
Wichita, KS - 252 miles
Oklahoma City, OK - 236 miles
Memphis, TN - 351 miles
St. Louis, MO - 304 miles
Dallas, TX - 367 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
Gateway Arch National Park - 305 miles
Mammoth Cave National Park - 532 miles
Indiana Dunes National Park - 610 miles
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 699 miles
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - 840 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
The visitor center is at the entrance of the park.
Getting to Pea Ridge National Military Park
Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA)
US Airways, Northwest, Delta, United, Continental and American Airlines serve this facility.
Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
Joplin Regional Airport (JLN)
Boone County Airport (HRO)
Branson Airport (BKG)
Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM)
Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF)
From the Northeast (Republic, MO)
Take US 60 to Monett, MO, then south on MO 37 to Gateway, AR. Go west on US 62 to the new park entrance.
From the North (Joplin, MO)
Take US 71 south until the Pea Ridge Exit and then go left on AR 72. At the town of Pea Ridge follow 72 to US 62. Turn left on US 62 and drive 1.3 miles to the Park.
From the South (Ft. Smith, AR)
Take I-49 north. Go through Fayetteville, AR. Continue north on I-49 to the US 62 exit and follow signs to the park.
From the West (Tulsa, OK)
Take the Cherokee Turnpike to US 412 to Siloam Springs and Springdale, AR. Take I-49 north to US 62 East and follow signs to the park.
There is no public transportation to the park.
Best time to visit Pea Ridge National Military Park
The best time to visit Pea Ridge is mid May to Late September if you are ok with muggy weather.
Weather and Seasons
The summers are hot and muggy in Pea Ridge while the winters are cold and snowy.
The hottest weather is from June 3rd to September 16th with average temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The coldest weather is from November 27 to February 25th with the average temperature below 54 degrees Fahrenheit.
May gets the most rain with 12.7 days of rain during the month. January gets the most snow with 2.8 inches.
Muggy weather lasts from May 22 to September 22 with July having the muggiest weather.
Best Things to do in Pea Ridge National Military Park
While at the visitor center you can view the 28-minute orientation film "Thunder in the Ozarks."
There is a bookstore that includes one of the finest Civil War related selections of books in the National Park System.
We were unable to visit the visitor center due to park construction. During our visit, the entire parking lot was being redone and the visitor center was closed.
The park's Junior Ranger booklet can be picked up at the visitor center.
If you are unable to get a booklet during your visit you can send an email or letter to the park requesting a booklet.
Self-Guided 7-mile, 10-stop auto tour road on a paved road. Make sure to pick up the park brochure from the visitor center or information stand. It has information on each of the stops along the auto tour.
1st Stop - Trail of Tears
You can see the shallow depressions in the ground that are remnants of the original Telegraph Road. This road was traveled by thousands of Cherokees and other American Indians during the winter of 1838-39.
They had to travel the road during their forced removal from their homelands.
This road was the route of the Butterfield Overland Stage Line from 1857-61.
2nd Stop - General Curtis' Headquarters Site
Union commander Samuel R Curtis placed his headquarters here before the Battle of Pea Ridge.
The commander believed that any Confederate attack would happen 2 miles south of here against his fortified line overlooking Little Sugar Creek.
He orchestrated the movement of the Union Army from this spot.
3rd Stop - Lee Town
In this small village the wounded from both sides were brought to buildings and tents that served as field hospitals.
There is no visible evidence of the village today.
4th stop - Leetown Battlefield
Confederate forces attacked through the woods north of this field and across the tour road. They failed to defeat the Union army deployed along the south fence line.
Two Confederate Generals died during the battle Ben McCulloch and James McIntosh.
5th Stop - Armies Collide
Pea Ridge was the only Civil War battle in which Native American troops participated. Two regiments of Cherokees totaling about 1,000 men fought for the Confederate Army.
6th Stop - West Overlook
The brochure says that from the overlook the Boston Mountains should be visible.
During our visit we could not see anything from the Overlook through the trees.
7th Stop - East Overlook
Make sure to stop at the East Overlook stop on the auto tour. There is a 464 foot trail to an amazing overlook.
The trail is paved and even to the overlook. From the overlook you can look out over the battlefields and see just how big the park is.
There are fantastic interpretive panels that describe what happened during the battle and where each set of troops was positioned.
8th Stop - Elkhorn Tavern
Before the Civil War the Elkhorn Tavern served travelers along the Telegraph Road.
Elkhorn Tavern served as a hospital during the Battle of Pea Ridge and was also the headquarters for Confederate General Earl Van Dorn.
The building was hit by a cannonball during the battle but survived. In 1863 Confederate Guerillas burned the tavern down. It was rebuilt in the 1880s in the style of that
There is a short walk from the parking area to the Elkhorn Tavern. It is paved except for in the parking area.
The present building is a reconstruction of the tavern.
9th Stop - Confederate Sunset
At sunset on March 7th, Confederate soldiers charged across this field in an attempt to smash the regrouped Union forces.
They were met with devastating musket and artillery fire which drove them back into the woods.
10th Stop - Federal Line
On the morning of March 8th Union artillery deployed here. Their fire forced the Confederate soldiers to retreat from the Tavern area.
The Union line runs from present day US-62 to the south to the bare open hill to the northwest.
Additional Stop - Little Sugar Creek Trenches
This stop is located .6 miles from US-62. You can see time eroded Union trenches on the bluff above Little Sugar Creek.
Hiking in Pea Ridge National Military Park
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
There are ten miles of hiking trails and 11 miles of horse trails that wine through the 4,300 acres of the park.
Williams Hollow Loop Hike
Trailhead - Elkhorn Tavern
Distance - A little over 2 miles
Difficulty - Moderate to Strenuous
This loop trail starts at the Elkhorn Tavern and travels north on Telegraph Road. The trail continues to the Tanyard site and then continues to the Williams Hollow Field Hospital site.
The trail heads south up a hill along Broad Ridge towards Clemens Field and then onto Huntsville Road.
The trail continues along the old Huntsville road back to the Elkhorn Tavern.
How to beat the crowds in Pea Ridge National Military Park ?
We did not encounter any crowds while in the park. The auto route makes it really easy to avoid crowds.
Where to stay when visiting Pea Ridge National Military Park
There is no National Park lodges or overnight parking available within the park.
The majority of lodging is available in Bentonville and Rogers, Arkansas.
Comfort Inn Bentonville - A free breakfast buffet, a grocery/convenience store, and a library are just a few of the amenities provided at Comfort Inn Bentonville. In-room Wi-Fi (surcharge) is available to all guests, along with dry cleaning/laundry services and a fireplace in the lobby.
Courtyard By Marriott Bentonville - Consider a stay at Courtyard By Marriott Bentonville and take advantage of a grocery/convenience store, a terrace, and a coffee shop/cafe. The onsite bistro, The Bistro, features American cuisine and happy hour. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with dry cleaning/laundry services and a bar.
Home2 Suites by Hilton Bentonville Rogers - You can look forward to a firepit, laundry facilities, and a gym at Home2 Suites by Hilton Bentonville Rogers. Guests can also expect to find a business center. All guestrooms at Home2 Suites by Hilton Bentonville Rogers have comforts such as laptop-friendly workspaces and air conditioning, in addition to amenities like desk chairs and separate sitting areas.
National Park Camping
There is no camping available within the park.
For a fun adventure check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Escape Campervans has offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, New York, and Orlando
Some of the campgrounds in the area include:
Edge of the Woods RV Park and Campground - Cassville, MO - 18 miles from the park
This campground offers Lodging, RV and Tent Sites
NWA Hideaway - Springdale, AR - 20 miles from the park
This campground offers RV Sites
Kettle Campground - Eureka Springs, AR - 23 miles from the park
This campground offers RV Sites
Check out additional campgrounds in the area on Campspot.
The Pea Ridge Campaign of 1862 - Video
Parks Near Pea Ridge National Military Park
Check out all of the National Parks in Arkansas along with neighboring National Parks in Louisiana, National Parks in Mississippi, National Parks in Missouri, Oklahoma National Parks, Tennessee National Parks, and Texas National Parks
National Park Service Website - https://www.nps.gov/peri