This month we continue our Find Your Park in our backyard series, featuring the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, better known as the Appalachian Trail or just the A.T. by passionate hikers. The Appalachian Trail is a footpath that spans over 2,100 miles across of Appalachian Mountain Range from Georgia to Maine.
Almost 40 miles of the A.T. is right here in Maryland, and you can access it not far from the Inn. This tract follows the ridge line of South Mountain from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to Pen Mar Park at the Mason-Dixon Line in Cascade, MD. You will find some of the most impressive scenery in the state here.
The trail was first conceived in 1921 by a Harvard-educated forester named Benton MacKaye. His revolutionary idea was to create a linear park, or a retreat from urban life, in a wilderness belt extending from Maine to Georgia. Within a few years the Appalachian Trail Conservancy would be created and with the help of thousands of volunteers from hiking clubs, federal agencies and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the A.T. became reality in 1937. Today the trail is managed by the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.
Every year in the spring hundreds of people begin their “thru-hike” of the trail, meaning they hike the entire length of the trail in one season…. all 2,1oo plus miles! This endeavor takes four to six months, incredible stamina and a lot of planning. If you’re not ready for a “thru-hike” than our little piece of the trail is perfect for a day hike, a weekend backpacking trip or a scenic nature walk. The 40 miles located in Maryland is fairly easy to hike in comparison to the rest of the A.T. There are some rocky areas, a few steep climbs and the elevation change is just 1650 feet from the Potomac River with an elevation of 250′ to High Point at 1900′.
For the weekend backpacker there are several shelters and campsites spaced out along the trail about a day’s hike apart. If you are staying at the Inn and you want to get out for a great day-hike we have three recommended hikes: Greenbrier State Park to Annapolis Rock, from Greenbrier to Washington Monument State Park, and from Gathland State Park to Weverton Cliffs.
For the nature lover in each of us, the trail is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. These state parks are an excellent place to put-in on the trail and see all the flora and fauna that Maryland has to offer.
Some points of interest while on these hikes are:
- At Gathland State Park, you’ll find the War Correspondents Arch, a 50-foot-tall monument that honors Civil War correspondents.
- At the Washington Monument State Park, you’ll find the first monument dedicated to George Washington. This stone tower was built in 1827 by the residents of Boonsboro and offers great views to the east and west.
- Annapolis Rock is one of the most popular stops along the trail. On a clear day, the views from this lookout are spectacular. Annapolis Rock offers a vista of Greenbrier Lake and the Cumberland Valley.
- Finally, just before descending down the trail to the C & O Canal Towpath, Weverton Cliffs provides a beautiful 180 degree view of the Potomac River, with Harpers Ferry visible in the distance.
So whether you’re looking for some scenic beauty and wildlife, a taste of history, a little exercise, or just wanting to get away from it all, the A.T. offers all these things and much more.
Now get out and Find Your Park – Visit the Appalachian Trail!