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21357
Maryland

Hike the Appalachian Trail: From Mason-Dixon to the Potomac

Speak with local history experts, visit Harpers Ferry and learn about the region’s traditions and culture as you spend four days hiking the Appalachian Trail’s “Maryland Challenge.”
Rating (5)
Program No. 21357RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,149
Maryland

Hike the Appalachian Trail: From Mason-Dixon to the Potomac

Speak with local history experts, visit Harpers Ferry and learn about the region’s traditions and culture as you spend four days hiking the Appalachian Trail’s “Maryland Challenge.”
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,149
Program No. 21357 RJ
climate
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At a Glance

Complete the entire Maryland stretch of the Appalachian Trail! Inspired by participants who took our popular program “Hike the Appalachian Trail in Four States!” (#18537), this hiking adventure takes on a different section of the trail — “The Maryland Challenge” — stretching 41 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Potomac River. While some super-endurance hikers tackle all 41 miles in a single day, we will cover the distance at a more leisurely pace, spanning the state of Maryland over four days. Meet some knowledgeable locals and hear from regional experts on topics such as the geology of the Appalachian Trail, Civil War history and traditional healing plants and medicinal herbs.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Brave the steepest descent in Maryland down to a small tributary of Grove Creek and cross Little Antietam Creek on your way to summit Quirauk Mountain.
  • Meet a Civil War expert who transports you back to the fierce fighting that took place at South Mountain.
  • Follow a portion of the C&O Canal Towpath along the Potomac River to historic Harper's Ferry.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room. This program is based at Shepherd’s Spring, 15 miles from the closest AT crossing. Sag wagons transport cyclists to and from starting and ending locations each day. Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Walking with Spring, the first thru-hike of the AT
by Earl V Shaffer
It was the spring of 1948, and a young man from Pennsylvania had to work out of his psyche the sights, sounds and losses of WWII; he took a hike- for four months! On August 5 of that year, Earl Shaffer became the first person to hike uninterrupted the entire length of the AT. Written soon after the first of his three thru hikes and including photos from 1948, this book chronicles Shaffer's adventures along a path that at the time was showing the neglect of the war years and has since been rerouted significantly to its semi-permanent location. His simply stated story has served as inspiriation for more than 9,000 men and women who have since followed in his footsteps... and many thousands more who have tried.
In Beauty May She Walk, Hiking the AT at 60
by Leslie Mass
In 2001, Leslie Mass turns a lifelong fantasy into reality. She began a grueling journey - a thru-hike of the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail. A wife, mother, and suburban college administrator, Leslie is just like any other woman you might pass ona grocery aisle. Her story is an inspiring physical and mental journey to reach the goal of a lifetime.
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Tales of the Trail
Shepherd's Spring
D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:00-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the conference center lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, daily hike information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Prior to the evening meal, feel free to walk around and explore our campus and hiking trails. Shepherd’s Spring is situated in a beautiful 220-acre setting of rolling, wooded land along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

Dinner: In the Shepherd's Spring Dining Room, we’ll have a buffet dinner with salad bar and dessert plus beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. (Shepherd's Spring is an alcohol-free facility.)

Evening: Orientation: 6:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Our programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, and evening entertainment. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. After the Orientation session, we’ll hear tales of the trail from Appalachian Trail (AT) “thru-hikers” who have experienced the entire trail from Georgia to Maine. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Hike Mt. Quirauk Summit, Mason-Dixon Line
Shepherd's Spring
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s); driving about 25 miles, approximately 1 hour each way. Hiking approximately 9 miles; rocky terrain, steepest descent of the program; stone steps and switchbacks aid in descent.

Breakfast: In the Shepherd’s Spring Dining Room, we’ll have a buffet breakfast with hot selections as well as fresh fruit and cereal with beverage choices of milk, juice, coffee, tea, water. We’ll also pack our own lunches from foods provided and take them with us in our day packs to have on the trail.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard our van(s) and travel to the beginning point of today's hike at Wolfsville Road. We’ll begin with the steepest descent in Maryland down to a small tributary of Grove Creek, then cross near homes before descending Buzzard Knob in Raven Rock Hollow. After another water crossing at Little Antietam Creek, we’ll begin the climb onto Quirauk Mountain, once known as Mount Misery!

Lunch: At the Devil's Racecourse shelter, we’ll have the lunches we prepared.

Afternoon: Continuing our hike, we’ll carry on with the ascent of Quirauk Mountain, stopping at High Rock to enjoy the excellent views of the surrounding countryside. The mountain’s summit at 2,100 feet is the highest point of the trail in Maryland. Our hike will end in Pen Mar Park, once a great amusement park. The Mason-Dixon line at the edge of the park marks the Pennsylvania border.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet.

Evening: A local expert will join us for a presentation on where the mountains came from. We’ll learn about the geology of the mountains and trails of the AT, especially in Maryland.

DAY
3
Maryland's Acclaimed Vistas & Monuments, Civil War History
Shepherd's Spring
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s); driving about 25 miles, approximately 1 hour each way. Hiking approximately 12 miles; mountainous terrain, steep ascent at the end of the day.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet. We’ll also pack our lunches and take them with us to have on the trail.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard our van(s) and travel to the same beginning point as yesterday, where we will hike southbound. We’ll pass Hemlock Hill shelter quickly, where the trail becomes very rocky for a short distance on our way to Black Rock. The Black Rock Hotel once stood nearby, but its remote location kept it from becoming successful and it burned in 1920.

Lunch: At Pogo Campsite, we’ll have the lunches we prepared.

Afternoon: As we continue hiking, we’ll have vistas from Black Rock and Annapolis Rock that have been popular with picnickers for 200 years. We will crest the top of South Mountain at Pine Knob, elevation 1,714 feet. The trail crosses Interstate 70 using a pedestrian footbridge near Frederick, then continues to the first Washington Monument in the country. This stone monument was completed by the residents of the nearby town of Boonsboro in honor of our first President. We’ll ride back to Shepherd’s Spring at the end of our field trip.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet.

Evening: We’ll be joined by a Civil War expert who will describe the fierce fighting that took place across the face of South Mountain, the site of tomorrow's hike. The battle of South Mountain set the stage for the battle of Antietam, still recorded as the single bloodiest day in American history.

DAY
4
Hike Across Three Major South Mountain Gaps
Shepherd's Spring
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s); driving about 15 miles, approximately 1/2 hour each way. Hiking approximately 9 miles; mountainous terrain including a long rocky ascent up Lamb's Knoll.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet. We’ll also pack our lunches and take them with us to have on the trail.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard the van(s) and take a short ride to Washington Monument State Park where we’ll begin our hike. We will pass the small Dahlgren chapel and the stately South Mountain Inn — founded circa 1732 — near the National Road crossing. Here, according to local legend, the ghost of "Old Yowler" is said to lurk. The nearby Dahlgren campground provides showers and flush toilets for thru hikers. We continue to Fox's Gap and the Reno Monument. A monument for the North Carolina troops is also near the trail at Fox Gap.

Lunch: At the Rocky Run Shelter, we’ll have the lunches we prepared.

Afternoon: Next, from Rocky Run Shelter, we’ll climb the trail climbs that rises steadily to Lambs Knoll, site of communication towers of the NSA (National Security Agency). White Rocks is a quartzite cliff just beyond the crest. From there, the trail will head sharply downhill. Another easy climb or two will take us into the final Gap — Crampton's Gap — now known as Gathland State Park. George Alfred Townsend, the first nationally known journalist, erected a large stone arch here to honor fellow journalists. Aboard the van(s), we’ll drive through Antietam National Battlefield on our way back to Shepherd’s Spring.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet.

Evening: We’ll gather with a local expert for a presentation on traditional healing plants and mountain herbs. Some of the plants we've been seeing on our hikes have provided relief to locals for generations.

DAY
5
MD Hike concludes, Harpers Ferry, C&O Canal, AT Conservancy
Shepherd's Spring
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s); driving about 15 miles, approximately 1/2 hour each way. Hiking approximately 10.2 miles; mountainous as well as flat terrain.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet. We’ll also pack our lunches and take them with us to have on the trail.

Morning: We’ll board our van(s) and travel to where our hike ended yesterday at Gathland State Park. We’ll hike along a short side trail that offers a view from Weverton Cliffs before we start the trek down switchbacks to get off South Mountain.

Lunch: At Weverton Cliffs, we’ll have the lunches we prepared.

Afternoon: Our hike down from Weverton Cliffs will be aided by a series of 16 switchbacks. Here the trail crosses railroad tracks leading into the town of Brunswick and joins the C & O Canal Towpath along the Potomac River. We’ll follow the towpath to Harper's Ferry. Crossing the Potomac River alongside a railroad bridge completes our 40-mile trek through Maryland. Only 13 states left to go! At the end of the field trip, we’ll ride back to Shepherd’s Spring.

Dinner: Before our locally-sourced meal this evening, the chef will discuss Shepherd Spring’s farm partners and the ingredients in each dish. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We’ll ride to O'Hurley's General Store in nearby Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to enjoy music of the Appalachian region played by a rotating group of local musicians who have gathered every Thursday night for the past 30 years, playing instruments such as hammered dulcimers, guitars, and banjos. This is a real treat for the ears, eyes, snapping fingers, and tapping feet plus an opportunity to meet and interact with musicians and members of the local community. Returning to Shepherd’s Spring, prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Shepherd's Spring
B

Activity note: Check-out 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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