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Camp Nelson National Monument, KY – Volunteer Vacations 2023

April 16 @ 4:00 pm - April 22 @ 10:00 am

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Join this project to support trail access at Camp Nelson National Monument, a location steeped in African American and Civil War history. Initially established as a Federal army supply depot and hospital, Camp Nelson was one of the largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers during the Civil War, and served as a refugee camp for their wives and children. Thousands of enslaved African Americans risked their lives escaping to the camp, located within the slaveholding state of Kentucky, with the hope of securing their freedom and, ultimately, controlling their futures by contributing to the abolition of slavery. Camp Nelson represents the courage and determination of formerly enslaved African Americans to secure their own emancipation. It also illustrates the nation’s struggle to define the meaning of freedom during and after the Civil War.

Over five miles of hiking trails allow visitors to experience first-hand the rolling pastoral landscape of Camp Nelson National Monument. This trail system and numerous interpretive markers provide an opportunity to explore earthworks and fortifications that protected Camp Nelson and allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of soldiers in order to gain an understanding of the sites’ significant role during the Civil War.

During the week, the American Hiking Society volunteer crew will work on upgrading the wooded Fort Jones Trail that takes hikers through the woods to Fort Jones and the two Stone Forts. Fort Jones, with its extensive stone revetment walls, is one of the best-preserved Civil War forts in the state. The Stone Fort Overlook affords a breathtaking view of the Hickman Creek Valley and the Hickman Creek Nature and Conference Center. These trails provide opportunities for viewing a beautiful central Kentucky landscape and stretching your legs, while learning about various sites that made up the busy and complex Camp Nelson supply depot.

Volunteers will work to remove invasive vegetation along the Fort Jones Overlook Trail. This trail has been taken over by multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle. Volunteers will use provided loppers and herbicide to remove these invasive plants 15 feet off of the trail corridor enabling native vegetation to re-populate the area. Volunteers should be prepared to hike up to 3/4 of a mile through relatively flat terrain. All tools and day hiking gear including volunteer’s backpacks can be hauled to the project location by a truck.

There is no experience needed to join a Volunteer Vacation! Your expert hosts will provide detailed instruction, tool demonstrations, and project oversight throughout the week. All you need is a willing attitude and to be in good physical condition to participate in moderate physical activity for approximately 6-8 hours a day with plenty of breaks, at your own pace. Find out more about what it’s like to join a Volunteer Vacation and other frequently asked questions here.

AHS acknowledges with gratitude that this project takes place on the traditional lands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), Hopewell Culture, and Adena Culture peoples past and present. We honor the land itself, the Indigenous communities who have stewarded this land for generations, their deep and sacred connection to these lands, and those who continue to steward these lands today. We offer this land acknowledgement as the first of many steps to stand as an ally and amplify Indigenous voices. We invite the American Hiking Society community to join us through continued efforts to support Indigenous communities and learn more about the history of the lands on which we live, work and recreate.


National Park Service




Day hiking up to 1 mile each work day.

Project Rating


Minimum Volunteer Age


Maximum Group Size


Area and Attractions

Camp Nelson National Monument is located just 20 miles outside of Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington is known as the "Horse Capital of the World," since it is home to the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland race course and the Red Mile race course. The area is noted for its beautiful fertile soil and Kentucky Bluegrass is plentiful in the limestone rich soils. Camp Nelson National Monument is located very near the palisades region on the Kentucky River. Nearby are several hiking trails in local nature preserves including the Red River Gorge area, part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Nearby historic sites include Ashland, the Henry Clay Home, and the Appalachian Arts Center at Berea. There is also a large number of distilleries in the region open for tours and tastings.

Accommodations Description

Volunteers will stay in or near the Glass House, a residential home used as office space by the park's staff. The house has two bathrooms available with access to flush toilets and showers. Volunteers can choose to pitch a tent nearby outside the home, or select from one of several unfurnished indoor spaces in the Glass House to sleep. Volunteers need to supply their own tent and personal camping gear including sleeping bag, sleeping pad, towels, and personal cup/bowl/mug/eating utensils. Contact volunteer@americanhiking.org for assistance with gear needs.


Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, KY is the closest major airport. Airport pick up and drop off is available for volunteers and will be arranged upon confirmation of the trip.


Camp Nelson National Monument
6614 Danville Loop 2 Road, Nicholasville, KY 40356 United States + Google Map