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Annapolis Rock/Black Rock Cliff, MD

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.9 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
840 ft
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Parking on US40. 39.53555, -77.60408

The Annapolis Rock/Black Rock Cliff hike on the Appalachian Trail, is one of the most popular in Maryland, and for good reason. The views from both lookouts are spectacular on a clear day. From Annapolis Rock the vista is to the southeast and Greenbrier Lake, and from Black Rock Cliff a 180 degree panorama west.

Annapolis Rock is also a popular camping area, with a campground of 16 sites including 2 group sites. A campground caretaker is also on-site during the warmer months, and helps monitor the area and provide information to hikers. The Annapolis Rock Campground is a non-fee first come-first-serve location.

Annapolis Rock is not only a popular location for hikers, but also a favorite spot for rock climbers. Black Rock Cliff, 1.0 miles further north on the Appalachian Trail is the favorite of the two overlooks with many local hikers for its panoramic views and less traffic.

  • Mile 0.0 – From the parking area on US40 start down the old paved section of the connector trail. Turn left at the blue blazes for the 75yard walk down to the intersection of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) and pedestrian bridge over I70.
  • Mile 0.1 – Turn right/north on the white blazed AT as it follow I70 and shortly passes beneath US40. This section of the hike is noisy with the traffic on I70, but shortly after passing beneath US40 the A.T. will turn right and start ascending the South Mountain ridge. At the ridge the trail turns back to the left and the noise of the traffic starts fading into the background.
  • Mile 0.5 – Pass through a utility clear cut and arrive at the 1st connector trail for the Pine Knob Shelter. Along with the shelter there are 2 large campsites suitable for multiple tents. After passing the 1st Pine Knob Cabin connector trail, pass the second in another 200 yards. From this point the A.T. will become significantly steeper for the next 0.5 miles.
  • Mile 1.1 – At the ridge the A.T. will pass through several fern areas and reach the intersection of the Annapolis Rock connector trail.
  • Mile 2.5 – Turn left for the 0.2 mile decent to Annapolis Rock Cliff and camping area.
  • Mile 2.7 – From the Annapolis Rock Cliff return to the A.T.
  • Mile 2.9 – Turn left/north on the A.T. for 1.0 miles to the intersection of the Black Rock Cliff connector trail. The trail sign is not as evident when hiking from the south, but is located just before the A.T. begins a steeper descent.
  • Mile 3.9 – Follow the the Black Rock Cliff connector trail for 75 yards to the overlook. To return head south retracing your route back to the US40 connector trail.
  • Mile 7.9 – Arrive back at the US40 parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Annapolis Rock/Black Rock Cliff Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Peter Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, September 05, 2016
Holy hikers, Batman! Never hike Annapolis rocks on a major holiday. I hiked it today, arriving at 8:30 a.m., and there were already 40 or so cars parked in the parking lot. That said, I only passed people returning from their hikes this morning on the way out.

A couple of things to note about this hike: 1. There are 3 ascents, the first snd third of which are short and easy, the second is moderately long. I see people stopping on the way for breathers all the time on the second ascent.

2. The logs they use on this section to combat erosion are unusually large. Try to go around them as opposed to over them on that second ascent and you'll have an easier time.

3. After the second ascent, the difficulty level of this hike is a max of 2. It's almost entirely flat, with miniscule hills here and there.

4. Because of the popularity of Annapolis Rocks, there are a lot of exposed roots. There are a few places where a foot can get caught under one, and the your hike's over. 5. Annapolis rocks may be the most popular, but Black Rock cliff is much better. The view is much better and there are a lot fewer people. 6. Black Rock cliff is marked on the left side of the trail on a tree. It's not that easy to see sometimes. The way to know you've gone too far is if you start going substantially downhill. The view at Black Rock is an unobstructed view due west, whereas at Annapolis Rocks half the view is that of another mountain in front of you. 7. I have a hard time believing this hike is 7.9 miles. Hiking at my top speed with two 10-15 minute breaks at Black Rock and Annapolis Rocks, I completed the whole hike in 2 hours and 15 minutes. By the time I left this hike today at 10:45 a.m., there were no fewer than 300 cars there, parked up and down both sides of the road. This is not typical for a normal weekday or weekend, but expect it on holidays. If you want good solitude on this hike, I would suggest doing it in the winter. I have on occasion been out there all by myself.

By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 29, 2016
A pleasant hike overall once one gets away from I-70. I should have thought a bit more about the weather. There were a few showers, which didn't bother me, but cooler temps meant fog as well. I didn't get good views from Annapolis Rock or Black Rock, except down. The rock formations are among the most striking I have seen anywhere. Lost count of the number of people on the trail -- 12 or so, most through-hikers doing a 15 mile or so segment of the Appalachian Trial. Most everyone using two hiking poles (should I?). I met one of the two caretakers and chatted with him for a bit -- this is a great program supported by PATC. He says it's a lot more crowded on the weekend -- come early then, especially in better weather. The trail was in generally good condition with comfortable elevation changes, so comfortable I thought it was a much shorter hike until I double-checked the distance.

By: Alex Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 11, 2015
We got to the trail around 10:30. Overall, the hike was a good time. Most of the path was fairly even and easy to hike, which would make this a great spot for beginners. Even for those with hiking experience, there were some great views to make for a worthwhile trip. We didn't partake, but there were several rock climbers in the area who seemed to enjoy their time as well. Many families brought dogs along with them, both large and small - most of the terrain seemed fine for them. The only downside was near the beginning of the trail - there's a very rocky and uneven path. Walking up it wasn't too bad, but coming down put a lot of strain on my feet. I saw another group of hikers trip and fall, which wasn't too bad but it was an annoyance. I'd also be cautious of dogs walking on the uneven portion. Overall, it was still a good time.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 15, 2014
This is nice beginners hike. The trails are wide and well worn since youre on a popular section of the AT. The only climb is during the first mile or so. After that, the trail is relatively flat and easy. Both vistas offer a pretty view and some fun climbing on the rocks. We got there early so we had both spots to ourselves which was nice.

By: Brent Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 15, 2013
We hiked this right after the snow storm. There was 3" of snow on the ground. This made the hike for us. This hike would have been a breeze otherwise. The trail is even and most of the trail is fairly easy. I suggest this hike for winter time when there is hardly anyone out and it isn't so steep that you are sliding down the mountain. It is also nice that if you are tired after the first overlook you could turn back. Some locals also come from the opposite direction for a shorter but steeper climb. Would be great for hikers with dogs. With the wind after the first half mile we never heard the highway at all. Overall great hike with good views.

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