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)
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!
Date of Hike: Friday, June 24, 2011
I have a love-hate relationship with this hike. I did it the first time in June 2009 with a buddy who thru-hiked the AT after college & he had way better equipment & more realistic expectations than I did. The results were quarter & half dollar sized blisters all over my feet & sore ankles/knees from over correcting my steps trying to avoid the blisters for the last 10 miles. Plus not having a Camelbak wasn’t; a good idea & it slowed me down quite a bit. To top it all off it didn’t help I went out drinking the night before & got a ride to Harpers Ferry after sobering up from one of my associates at 4am to drop his car off & then another ride to Pen Mar on 2-3 hours of sleep. Needless to say it wasn’t my best day.
We did it differently Friday June 24th. First off we slept near the trail. Second, I had better shoes, a 3 liter camelback & the proper nutrition the night before & during the hike this time around.
We started at 5:30am & took the obligatory picture at the Mason Dixon line sign. The first real test is the step climb up High Rock on Quirauk Mountain about 3-4 miles in. Leading up to the ascent a few portions of the trail here are very technical with tons of opportunities for ankle breakers. I believe this this the highest point on the AT in Maryland also. Two hours later we were passing the Cowall Shelter. We were hoping to stop for breakfast but there were tons of thru hikers still sleeping in & around the shelter so we continued on over Wolfsville Road & up the next incline. ½ mile later we took our first rest. This was a good place to stop, we were just under 4 hours into the hike.
We started flying&hellippassing the Washington Monument (water tap here to replenish the liquids & modern bathrooms) in under 7.5 hours, Dahlgren Chapel/US-40 at Turners Gap in under 8.5 hours. We were over 23 miles in. Then my Garmin GPS running watch died. I had & highly suggest bringing Map 5 & 6 of the AT across Maryland from the PATC. They provide very good detail of the trail.
On any normal hike South Mountain wouldn’t be that big of a deal for us but after 27 miles it was a decent test. After this summit it’s a roller coaster for the next 9 or so miles. We stopped at Gathland State Park at Gapland Road to check the feet & fuel up. All good. We were averaging about 5 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes but these 5 miles from Gathland to the Weverton Cliffs seemed like an eternity. Every hiker we encountered we asked, “How much further to Weverton Cliffs?&rdquo Yes, I know I had the map but at this point I was too lazy/tired to stop & pull it out. When they learned we were doing, “The 3-State/Maryland Challenge&rdquo they were impressed & excited for us. Even though we weren’t thru hiking & going ultra-light on this mission, it seems this accomplishment is a badge of honor on the trail.
One of our goals on this hike was to hit the nasty Weverton decline before nightfall. Its 2 downhill miles of pure hell on spent, weary legs & we didn’t want to do this in the dark. We made it down & under US-340 just as the sun disappeared. The headlamps came out & we were about to cross the railroad tracks but a train was stopped there & just getting moving. We rested for a few minutes till it passed. It was one of the loudest things I’ve ever been around but I could of slept for a few hours while that thing rumbled by.
Finally the C&O Canal Towpath! Just under 3 miles of flat, slightly uphill hardpack. I must have been delirious because I suggested we run it because our ride was waiting for us in the Harpers Ferry NHP Visitor Center parking lot. We did & hit the G. Byron Memorial footbridge & set foot into Harpers Ferry just shy of 10:00pm. 16 hours, 10 minutes! If that train hadn’t stopped us we could of done it in sub-16 hours.
Only 2 nickel sized blisters on the insides of my heels. Other than that, just tired legs & sore feet.
We like doing this hike around the Summer Solstice toward the end of June to get the longer days of daylight. Oh & wear very comfortable, light, breathable shoes for this one. Next time we will incorporate Virginia into it so we can call it the, “4 State Challenge”.
If you’re crazy enough to do this hike or are a glutton for punishment like me feel free to email me if you have any questions about the hike. Tim
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 13, 2010
This was my first introduction into longer distance day hiking - and it nearly broke me! Did this hike as part of 1 Voice Trekking to raise awareness for abused and neglected children. 6 of us did the hike. We started at 4:30am on Saturday and ended 9pm that night.
We stayed out Friday night at PennMar Park north of Frederick at the Mason Dixon line. Took our Eagles Nest Outfitters hammocks and strung them up in the pavillion and slept for a few hours on Friday night. Since we did this as an awarness raising event, they let us stay the night in the park, although we ran into a few college students that had the same idea and were camping out. Normally the park does not allow camping - if you want to camp, I would call ahead of time.
Did the first 6 mile section in the dark at a 3 mph pace after a healthy dose of caffeine. We broke up the 41 miles into a few sections and had goals for each of those sections so we could keep our sanity tackling smaller hikes at a time. We wanted to stick to a 2.5 mph pace to keep the juices flowing. I feel like my body was "broken in" with this hike for future long distance day hikes.
As someone told me who did this hike before, "you will be so happy when you get to Weaverton Cliffs." Uh, he was right. In November there was also not much daylight so it was tough hiking to the cliffs in the dark over rocks covered by leaves. Not much talking amongst us at this point, but a lot of yelling when someone kicked a rock!
a few things I learned:
1. I trained for this hike by running, strength training, and with a sprint routine. Almost a waste. Cardio was not the problem. The issue was structural. If you have time in your schedule to hike all day on a few Saturdays, that would work. Hike the Catoctin Trail first (I did the reverse) and then do the MD challenge if you are not in thru hiking shape already.
2. don't bring too much food. clif bars, goos, and pbj and 3 liter resevoir worked for me.
3. wear boots/trail runners with a toe guard. Keen Obsidians worked great for me.