The Appalachian Trail is a footpath across 2,168 miles of Appalachian Mountain ridgelines from Georgia to Maine. Almost 40 miles of the A.T., as it is affectionately known, cross Maryland, most of which follow the ridgeline of South Mountain.
In 1921, Benton MacKaye, a Harvard-educated forester and self-styled philosopher, came up with a revolutionary idea: a linear park, extending from Georgia to Maine. Thousands of volunteers and many legislators helped make it happen. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the trail became a reality by 1937.
Trail users of all types enjoy the A.T. -- most just for short day hikes or an overnight backpacking trip. Others set out for weeks or months on the trail. Hundreds of people each year "thru-hike" the trail -- hike the entire length of the trail in one season. This takes four to six months, lots of planning, and incredible strength of body and mind. Others who hike the entire trail may take many years to do it, as time, money and other constraints restrict them to doing a section at a time. Either way, it is a rewarding experience.
Maryland's 40 miles are considered fairly easy by A.T. standards, with only a 1,650 foot change in elevation from the low point at the Potomac River (250' elevation) to the high point at High Rock (1,900' elevation). There are few rocks and steep climbs compared to other parts of the trail in other states. However, it still offers plenty of challenges and some impressive scenery. For beginning backpackers, those getting in shape for longer trips, and those with just a few days to spend on the trail, the entire length of trail in Maryland can be done in a four or five day backpacking trip. Trail shelters and backpackers' campgrounds are spaced approximately a day's hike apart.
Scenic overlooks and historic sites provide a great destination for those looking for a challenging day hike. Some popular day hikes include hiking from Greenbrier State Park to Annapolis Rock and Black Rock, from Greenbrier to Washington Monument State Park, and from Gathland State Park to Weverton Cliffs.
Remember, the Appalachian Trail can be strenuous with steep slopes and difficult footing. Please follow safe hiking practices. For more detailed information about the A.T. in Maryland, you can purchase the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's Maps 5 and 6 -- Appalachian Trail across Maryland and the Appalachian Trail Guide to Maryland and Northern Virginia -- at the Greenbrier Visitor Center or Camper Registration Office.
Whether your goal is scenic beauty, history, bird and wildlife watching, exercise, or just wanting to get away from it all, the A.T. offers all these things and much more. Help protect the beauty of the trail by following Leave No Trace practices -- leave nothing but footprints, and take nothing from the trail but memories.
The Appalachian Trail
Ranger Supervisor Tammy McCorkle shares her experiences, and those of other day hikers and thru-hikers, of what it's like to hike the Appalachian Trail in the Fall 2002 edition of The Natural Resource Magazine.
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