Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Established by Congress in 2008, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is a 560- mile-long land and water route which connects historic sites throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The trail follows the events of the War of 1812 and highlights the unique natural landscape of the Chesapeake Bay.

A Symbol of American Independence

In September 1814, Americans were engaged in our second war for independence against Great Britain—the War of 1812. Only a month earlier, America’s political leaders had fled Washington as the White House and Capitol went up in flames at the hands of British forces. The powerful British navy set its sights on Baltimore, and began to sail up the Chesapeake Bay. Imprisoned on a nearby ship, attorney Francis Scott Key witnessed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry. By dawn’s early light, the broad stripes and bright stars of the Fort’s huge American flag gallantly remained. The courageous defense of the fort inspired Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Today, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail allows visitors to follow American and British troop movements throughout the region. Historic sites mark important battles, as well as moments which defined our nation’s history—including Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the Star-Spangled Museum and Flag House, and Washington, D.C. landmarks such as the White House.

Outdoor Adventures and Activities

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail provides a multitude of activities for outdoor recreation in the Chesapeake region. The water trails along the Sassafras, Potomac, and Patuxent rivers offer over 200 miles of boating, kayaking, and canoeing. In addition, the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network includes over 160 locations for picnicking, birding, and hiking along the iconic landscape of the Bay.

Preserving and Connecting the Chesapeake Landscape

The national parks along the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail are valuable to the regional economy and treasured landscape. Each year, over 54 million people visit National Parks in the Chesapeake watershed, spending over $1.5 billion and supporting over 20,000 jobs.

Along with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, NPCA is leveraging both water trails to promote land conservation and connectivity along the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake watershed.

Download our fact sheet (PDF) >

Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail


With more than 50 national parks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the National Park Service is responsible for protecting some of our nation’s most sacred natural, cultural, and historic places. However, underfunding our national parks threatens what is needed for rangers, interpretation, and other services. Contact your senators and representative and urge them to support full funding of our national parks.

Every action taken helps preserve the national parks of the Chesapeake landscape for future generations. Click here to find additional information, events, and volunteer opportunities.







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