This is an excerpt from Hiking Tennessee by Victoria S. Logue.
Despite the fact that Alvin C. York is one of the most celebrated soldiers in American history, he actually set out to be a conscientious objector. In 1914, he joined the pacifist Church of Christ in Christian Union but was denied formal conscientious objector status when he was drafted for service in World War I in 1917. The story is he prayed about being a soldier and felt God was calling him to do his duty for his country. Thus it was that in 1918, while on patrol along the front in France, he and his platoon found themselves behind enemy lines. Caught in an ambush that left more than half of his platoon dead, York managed to lead the few remaining soldiers in a counterattack. At the end of the skirmish, 132 German soldiers were captured.
York became a celebrity for his bravery and was awarded the Medal of Honor. When he returned to the United States, he found himself overwhelmed with offers for both commercial and political endorsements, movies, and books. At first, he rejected these offers in the belief it was wrong to profit from an act of war. But when the Nashville Rotary Club raised the funds to buy York his Pall Mall farm in 1922, and the costs of running the farm, house, and school he built became a burden, he became more open to offers. After his death, his widow sold the farm to the state of Tennessee. Today, visitors can see his home, gristmill, general store, post office, and the York Bible School, as well as some of his original belongings.
Directions: From Interstate 40, take exit 317, U.S. 127, north to Pall Mall. The York sites are on both sides of the highway; parking for the trail is at the home site.
Hours Open: The park is on central time, and the office is open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. daily April through October, and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. November through March. The park is closed for some state and federal holidays.
Facilities: There are restrooms at the gristmill and park area, which has two picnic pavilions that can be reserved, as well as picnic tables and playground equipment. Fishing is allowed in the Wolf River, into which trout are released during the summer months. The York home and general store can be toured at no cost. The park is not generally wheelchair accessible. Pets are allowed only on a leash.
Permits and Rules: A Tennessee fishing license is required to fish.
For Further Information: Sergeant Alvin C. York State Park, 2700 North York Highway, Pall Mall, TN 38577; 931-879-6456. Website: tnstateparks.com/parks/about/sgt-alvin-c-york.
Other Areas of Interest
In addition to York General Store, the Forbus General Store, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is just five miles west of the York historic site. Built in 1892 by W. M. Johnson, who operated the store until his death in 1941, the store’s top floor was once used as a meeting place for an Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge. Over time, the store has included a gas-powered gristmill, a blacksmith shop, a post office, and several granaries. While it was once a genuine general store selling everything from hardware to caskets, today it is a tourist destination selling various foods, including handmade fudge, and trinkets. For more information, call 931-879-5427.
The gravesite of Sergeant Alvin C. York can be visited in the state historic area that bears his name.
York Burial Site Trail
Distance Round Trip: 1.4 miles
Estimated Hiking Time: 45 minutes
This out-and-back hike takes you along the scenic Wolf River, which you cross on a suspension bridge, before climbing to the road and taking you around to the cemetery entrance and York’s gravesite.
Caution: General precautions include staying hydrated in the summer months, keeping an eye out for poison ivy, and using insect repellant, if necessary.
Trail Directions: The trailhead is to the left of the barn, which is at the back of the parking lot and adjacent to the York home at N 36º 32’ 33", W 84º 57′ 36″ (1). Begin the hike to the left of the barn, hiking alongside the barn and silo on a path in a field. At .17 mile, the trail enters the woods and then descends slightly to the right as it curves toward the Wolf River.
At .35 mile, you will pass a bench on your right, and at .42 mile, you will reach the suspension bridge over the Wolf River at N 36º 32′ 42″, W 84º 57′ 17″ (2). Cross the bridge and head right, crossing a bog bridge at .48 mile. Climb the stairs up to the road.
The Wolf River Cemetery is straight ahead, but you will turn left down the road to reach the entrance. You will pass the Wolf River United Methodist Church on your left at .6 mile. Turn right onto a gravel road. At .69 mile, turn right into the cemetery and follow the signs for York’s grave on the right at .71 mile or N 36º 32′ 53″, W 84º 57′ 15″ (3).
Return to the trailhead by backtracking.
- Suspension bridge
- York Burial Site
Learn more about Hiking Tennessee.