We did this hike as a one day 41 mile benefit challenge hike for the Blue Sky Fund, but we recommend doing it as a 4 day backpack, as also described on this site, which we used for planning our hike. This is also a very busy portion of the AT. If you can only do a day hike, park at the I-70 Parking area and hike 2.3 miles north on the A.T. to see Annapolis Rocks and then 1 more mile to see Black Rocks.
The directions below should give you enough information to keep your orientation and know how far you have come. We will also highlight the places to camp if doing this is done as a backpack.
DAY ONE -10 Miles
Mile 0.0 – Parking is at the Pen Mar County Park . If leaving a car overnight you should park in the gravel lot across from the park as the main parking lot is locked each night. The trail begins just to the right of the Overlook Pavilion and A.T. Sign, go 0.3 miles North on the AT, cross the RR Track and then reach the PA Line (Mason Dixon Line). Stop, take a photo. turn around and then head South on the AT, passing Pen Mar Park. Note: If backpacking you could leave your gear at Pen Mar Park and pick it up as you return south.
Mile 3.1 – Side trail to High Rock, supposedly really good views.
Mile 18.3 – Pine Knob Shelter, this is the Day 2 campsite.
DAY THREE – 12.8 Miles
Mile 18.9 – I-70 AT Footbridge and spur trail to I-70/Rt 40 Parking Lot, 40 cars (Parking Lot Coordinates: 39.5355,-77.6040)
Mile 19.0 – Boonsboro Mountain Rd, 1st crossing.
Mile 19.7 – Boonsboro Mountain Rd, 2nd crossing.
Mile 21.9 – Pass through Washington Monument Parking lot. Note: Coming south before reaching the parking lot is a spur trail to the Monument.
Mile 23.7 – Turners Gap (Alt US 40, Old National Pike). Parking is directly across the road on the east side of the Inn closest to the AT (Parking Lot Coordinates:39.4841,-77.6198).If leaving car there, ask permission of the South Mountain Inn Lodge staff.
Mile 24.0 – Dahlgren Backpack Campground. Privy and hot shower.
Mile 24.8 – Reno Monument Rd.
Mile 25.7 – Rocky Run Shelter
Mile 26.2 – Lamb's Knoll Rd
Mile 27.9 – White Rock Cliffs
Mile 30.7 – Crampton Gap Shelter, this is the Day 3 campsite.
DAY FOUR – 10 Miles
Mile 31.1 – Crampton Gap/Gathland State Park Parking (Parking Lot Coordinates: 39.406,-77.6393). Continue on the AT by crossing Gapland Rd.
Mile 38.4 – Railroad Crossing, turn right at C&O Canal Towpath
Mile 40.0 – Sandy Hook, Rt 340 Underpass
Mile 41.2 – Middle of Goodloe Byron footbridge into Harpers Ferry, WV.
Mile 41.5 – Train Station parking lot (small fee for 3 days).
(Parking Lot Coordinates: 39.32442,-77.73)
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Reviews For The Maryland Challenge Hike (5 Most Recent)
in the past 2 weekends, my 11 yr old son and i have done the ~3.5 miles to High Rock from the PA border and back and from I-70 back up to annapolis rocks and back...all in prep for a July 27/28 hike of the first half of the MD challenge. We plan to do the 2nd half on a weekend on August. Thought it was great and a challenge for novice hikers like us, and some experienced explorer scouts we met along the way. i would note that the Mason Dixon Line sign at the MD-PA border appears to have been vandalized. Only the post and the MD-PA small sign remain. The trail was well marked with blazes especially during the tricky rocks climbs as you get close to high rock. The only partly negative comment i would make was there are no mile markers, so only way to tell where you were (especially with an 11 yr old asking "are we almost there") was by time or the guidebook. Otherwise very solid hike ut a gret time for my son and me.
Date of Hike: Friday, July 05, 2013
Do not take this trip lightly. I tried this with a dozen of my best pals and it turned bad in a hurry. Although it was only 42 miles over 2.5 days, most of the guys had never hiked more than 10 miles. By mile 8 the blisters and cramping started, and then came the hills. Guys started dropping like flies and getting separated to maintain the pace. We packed ultra-light, but were also ultra-inexperienced. Due to a lack of water and appropriate rations, two of the guys suffered from rhabdomyolysis - the breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream. To top it off, a male black bear invaded our camp on the second night and made off with our food bag. Be forewarned, if you think you're fit because your were a star high school athlete or do cross-fit three times a week, you better look in the mirror and be honest with yourself.
Date of Hike: Saturday, May 18, 2013
I found that I went into this thinking I knew a lot of things that turned out not to be true.
(1) I thought I wouldn't get blisters since I didn't get any when I ran a marathon. (I now believe it's not possible to walk 41 miles without getting blisters.)
(2) I thought the difference between mile 21 and mile 41 would be like the difference between getting stabbed once and getting stabbed twice – both would hurt, but there wouldn't be much of a difference between the two. (I now see that the last few miles take things to a whole new level.)
(3) I thought my daily runs would be adequate preparation. (I now see that it would have been better to run in those barefoot sneakers, since the trail is littered with sharp 6-inch rocks that stab your feet every time you misstep.)
As far as logistics, I do have a few pointers:
(1) It's important to plan your start time so that you finish the downhill section of the hike before dark (about mile 35). There's a lot of sharp rocks to stab your feet, not to mention that you don't want to trip off the side of the slope. We hiked in May, and we started at about 4:45AM.
(2) There is plenty of water. You shouldn't need to carry more than 1.5 liters at any one time if you have a water filter. If you don't, there's tap water at a few locations, including the original Washington Monument (mile 21) and Gathland State Park (mile 30). We hiked in May (65-70 degrees) with 2.5 liters per person, and didn't need to fill up until the Washington Monument. (Although the sun set a half hour earlier since we hiked in May, I preferred hiking in the cool weather, which meant we had to stop for water less often.)
(3) There's plenty of overnight parking across the street from Pen Mar Park (free), and if you're willing to pay $10, you can park at the Amtrak station in Harpers Ferry (about 50 feet from the bridge between Maryland and West Virginia). If you're trying to save $10, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is 0.60 of a mile from the Amtrak station, and they'll let you park there for free on the weekends if you call ahead.
(4) I recommend hiking from Pen Mar Park to Harpers Ferry, because of the thankfully flat tow path in the last 3 miles. However, Pen Mar Park doesn't allow camping. We ended up sleeping in the parking lot across from Pen Mar, by putting down the car seats so that we could set up sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and pillows. This was more comfortable than I expected, and made things logistically easier the next day.
Date of Hike: Thursday, July 26, 2012
The Heathens completed the MD Challenge hike 7/26-29 starting at PennMar going southbound. Because of some MD highway driving challenges we started on the trail at 1315 and given that it was around 100F that day we stopped at the new Raven Rocks shelter (very nice). Water at the spring next to the old shelter (0.4 downhill) was running although not strong. We used up our heaviest meal of gnocci and dehydrated venison meat sauce for dinner and bagged it. We pushed to Pine Knob. An older shelter but nice and also close to the spring - about 20yds. Water was running better than at Raven and out of a pipe instead of the rocks. Dinner was Thai shrimp and soba noodles followed by after dinner cigars. Next stop was to be Crampton Gap but the spring which is posted as "sporadic" was dry. So we pushed on to Gathland State Park a half mile further. Plenty of water there at the spigot next to the drink machine. Now cameled up we pushed to Ed Garvey. That made for a 16mi day and put us closer to Harpers Ferry for our last day. Water at Garvey is .5 downhill. We stopped at other shelters along the way for breaks including Ensign Cowall and Rocky Run and at Pogo Campsite. Both shelters had water although getting to the water at Cowall required walking thru and couple of mud holes to get to the stream. Rocky Run had great water next to the old shelter. Pogo had water running well also. There were a lot of stretches that ran parallel with the contours that were flat fire road and some that were rock fields that required rock hopping and pounded your feet. Stop and take in the view at Washington Monument State Park and a cold drink at Gathland. If you arrive on a Sunday, time your arrival in HF for 1300 or later as they still have their antique Blue Laws - no beer! All in all a nice hike.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 05, 2011
I did this hike as the start of my section hike of the AT. I started at the Mason-Dixon Line (Being a MD resident figured it would be the most appropriate place to start, home state first!) and finished in Harper's Ferry, WV in 2 days. Hiked 24.2 miles (according to my gps) to Dalhgren's Hiker's Back packing campground the first day ,and Hiked an additional 18.2 miles to Harpers's Ferry the following day....Great hike, Weaverton Cliffs is well worth the effort...not to mention it is very close to the end!..Walking to Harper's Ferry along the C&O Canal is a beautiful site...Hike your own Hike!
If I did it again I would break it into three days....One thing I got out of this AT hike is ...It's not about mileage per day its about enjoying your hike. Take it slow and steady. Keep on living!