Last Updated: 12/06/2013
Welcome to a web site full of information on hiking in the Mid-Atlantic Region (PA, MD, VA and WV) ... topo maps, 3-D maps, elevation profiles, GPS data, directions, trail notes, photos.... everything you need to prepare for an excursion into the wilderness. Information for 305 hikes and over 3,544 trail miles are now available. Venues such as, but not limited to, Shenandoah National Park/VA, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, VA and WV, the Monongahela National Forest in WV, state forests throughout PA, Green Ridge State Forest in MD and regional, state, county and federal parks throughout the Mid-Atlantic region are represented.
"Yet in the walks I take through nature in quest of truth and demonstration, I recognize a poetry in earth and sea and sky, ruled in their cycles of harmonious actions, deeper and more sublime than ever muse un- taught in science could inspire." William B. Rogers: First State Geologist of VA, First president of M.I.T. and namesake of Mt. Rogers, Va.
Latest Published Hikes
PVSP-Hilton Area, MD
After two years of hard work my first book is finally finished - Orders are now being accepted: The Mid-Atlantic Hikers Guide: WV. I've teamed up with Scott Adams Enterprises to produce a two hundred and eighty-nine page manuscript complete with large topo maps, elevation profiles and waypoint tables, all keyed together to totally integrate the hiking experience. There are sixty-four hikes in all, ranging from a 2 mile flip-flop walk to visit the beautiful Sandstone Falls on the New River to 25+ mile, three day, strenuous forays into the wilderness areas of the Mountain State, and all other kinds of hikes in between.
I 11/11/13 - Our winter hiking schedule has been posted.
10/06/13: I would like to introduce our newest and youngest member of the Hyker's Hall of Fame - Mini-MIA:
M. R. Hyker's Latest Adventure(s)
12/04/13, Billy Goat Trail - Section A, Great Falls, MD: So I’m nearing completion of my second book: “The Mid-Atlantic Hiker’s Guide: Central Maryland”. Most of the hikes in it I have completed multiple times and the details are still pretty fresh in my mind. There are a handful, however, the memory of which seem to be somewhat blurred. I set these aside so that I could re-hike them and refresh my memory. The Billy Goat – A Trail was one of them. Besides, I had no GPS data to make an accurate map. Thinking back, the last time I did this hike was in the previous century. I was having a rough day working on the book and after I performed a suggested Windows Update lost internet accessibility. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back … a statement that I was surely not where I was supposed to be. I didn’t even change into my hiking clothes. I just grabbed my pack, GPS and a trail snack and headed out. Thankfully the D.C. Beltway traffic had calmed down by the time I hit it so I made good time. I was walking down the towpath by 10:15.
It was the middle of the week in December so I was figuring I would have the park mostly to myself. Much to my chagrin there was a heard of fifty high school students and teachers outside of the visitor center. I quickened my pace, hoping to stay in front of them for as long as possible. First I made the obligatory trek out to the main Great Falls Overlook on Olmsted Island – a winding stretch of boardwalks and bridges. The Potomac squeezes its way through cracks in the island with a force greater than anything I have experienced. Back in the day I can remember the American Olympic Kayaking team running this gauntlet. The main falls was as I remembered it - impressive.
I quickly backtracked and continued south on the towpath thinking I was still in front of the kids. I turned right onto the Billy Goat – A Trail. I was alone with the exception of a small family unit. We played leap frog until I decided to take an intentionally long photo op along Mather’s Gorge, letting them get well ahead of me before I continued. About 0.5 miles into the trail there is a sign warning of extremely difficult terrain ahead. I continue on and soon find myself leaping from one boulder to another. Needless to say I was a bit more cautious than I was fifteen years ago. I’m just not that nimble anymore. No sooner had I started the moderately difficult bouldering then I heard voices coming toward me. It was the Mountain Club of Maryland that goes hiking every Wednesday and they were led by a good friend of mine – Bubbles (He’s a scuba diver!). We chatted for a while and then went on our separate ways. I gave them a few minutes and then turned and took a photo of the rock hop called a trail. Just as I reached the end of this first bit of bouldering the first wave of kids hit me – about twelve young and svelte men, one with his arm in a sling. Their teachers had decided to attack the trail form the north! I stepped aside and let them pass. Shortly after the main horde came through, some laughing and carrying on, but many not quite so happy. I continued on only after I was assured by the “sweep teacher” that the last kid had passed me. From here to the towpath I think I encountered 3 hikers and 2 runners. (I really can’t believe people run this course. One misstep and it would be all over!) The one part of this hike that was still fresh in my mind is a fifty foot traverse of a rock ledge and there it was before me. To many who have come here this had become a defining moment in their life. In reality the climb is not as bad as it looks as you simply walk up a crack in the face of the cliff. You can see it in the photo. Only near the top did I have to use my arms to pull myself up.
Shortly after the traverse I arrived at the emergency cut-off trail. I took a break here and seriously thought about truncating the hike but If I ended it here I would have an incomplete story to tell so I continued on. In total there is only about 100 feet of elevation gain in the entire hike but it seems like the trail stewards went out of their way to make sure that the trail went over nearly every rock outcrop along the rim of Bear Island. Many of the boulders had been polished over time as a result of the weather and frequent use, creating a slippery surface in places. At times it seemed like going down was more tedious then climbing up. At this point, especially being alone, I was not too proud to use my posterior parts in these situations. I passed a couple of vernal ponds (There was a real trail around them!) and crossed a small stream before turning away from the river. The trail was easy for a bit as it seemed to follow a mini-gorge created by the closeness of Sherwin Island. From here I could smell the towpath but there was still two rock scrambles to negotiate before it came into view. There was a fallen tree across the path a mere 30 yards from the towpath. The only one I’d seen all day. “It must be for me!” I said to myself and proceeded to take a brief break and give myself a pat on the back for completing this rugged little trail. The walk back to the car was more of a saunter than a hike, maybe even just a stroll, as I took in the beauty of Wide Water and the historically significant locks and a lock house. (Lockmasters lived in them when the canal was a functional means of navigation up and down the Potomac. They would collect tolls from the barges.) To top off my trek I startled a hawk that was having lunch along the banks of one of the near empty locks. He begrudgingly left, flying to a nearby tree with his leftovers in his talons.
Latest Outing Critiques
Name: Jeeremy Krones
C&O Canal/Long Pond Shuttle
Criitique: While this was a great hike on a beautiful day, it was
nothing like what we expected. The group members (13 UMD students)
each rated the hike, and our average is 3.2 (the highest was a 4,
the lowest was 2.5). We started the hike at
10:30am and finished at
4:10pm on a cold, windy day (~20ºF).
This trail is not in any way strenuous. Moderate, certainly, and
even on the tough side of moderate *at times*, but by and large this
was not nearly as difficult as any other 'strenuous' hikes we've
done nor was it any more difficult than many of the moderate hikes.
If anything, the distance of the trail (NOT 15 miles – very possibly
closer to 12)
Date: 11/24/13 Rating: 3.2
Criitique: While this was a great hike on a beautiful day, it was nothing like what we expected. The group members (13 UMD students) each rated the hike, and our average is 3.2 (the highest was a 4, the lowest was 2.5). We started the hike at 10:30am and finished at 4:10pm on a cold, windy day (~20ºF). This trail is not in any way strenuous. Moderate, certainly, and even on the tough side of moderate *at times*, but by and large this was not nearly as difficult as any other 'strenuous' hikes we've done nor was it any more difficult than many of the moderate hikes. If anything, the distance of the trail (NOT 15 miles – very possibly closer to 12)(if you did the entire hike, from the canal to Headquarters I can guarantee you it was 14.7 miles. If you did the short version, not hiking the canal part, it was 12 miles. I think your group is just in excellent physical condition.) made it more difficult than most other trails in MD. Additionally, while the trail is very clearly blazed (no real trail notes needed: follow the Red blazes until the first marked junction and then follow the clearly marked signs to the Headquarters, on Blue blazes), it is NOT very well maintained. Slope cuts were highly eroded; our downhills were steep, slippery, and dangerous at times; and the "boardwalk" bridge in the last few miles was treacherous to cross (pictures to come). The bridge is warped in the middle and very unstable to cross. The final critique is that there were no great views – we did it in the wintertime, which means that in the summer whatever views we saw would be even less due to more leaves. However, it was a nice trail, and an interesting one. The landscape and geological formations were great to look at, and the various bodies of water were fun. The cabin added to the experience, too. NOTE: from the first kiosk at the turn-off from the C&O Canal, just follow the base of the slope (as mentioned in the notes) instead of following the red blazes right off the bat; the "trail" is nonexistent on the slope, and more use can only increase the erosion and potential danger until a real tread is constructed.
Name: Paul D. Hike: Lumberjack Trail/Seneca Creek Loop
Date(s): 11/15-17/13 Rating: 4
Critique: Five of us geezers hiked and camped at Judy Springs for a two-nighter. Parked at Lumberjack Trailhead just after the BIG switchback o the right. Hiked in on Lumberjack. Arriving Friday around 2 at Judy Springs gave us first choice of sites. We took the big site across the bridge, being a bit more private than the field site. Firewood was scarce, as this is a very popular area to camp. We had 15-18 hikers come by throughout the weekend, some camping nearby. Others were sent downstream to the smaller, but more beautiful waterworks sites. Trail conditions were wet on all trails, an inch of snow on trails on Friday, after the couple inches they rec'd. earlier in the week. The field descent down Judy Springs trail was slippery. Highs were in the 40's, down to 32 Friday, then warming as the weekend went on, to a high of 61 on Sunday. We did have moderate rain Friday night which dampened our party to a 9 pm. lights out. The rain sound was beautiful and lulling in the tent. Clear weather on Saturday so we hiked downstream for 40 minutes to the big waterfall and back. Four stream crossings each way! that I remember, all rock-hoppable at the low water level we encountered, but were still dicey. One of us had a slamdown cuz the rocks were quite slippery. Would be impossible in high water. A leisurely pace and many wet sections plus the crossings resulted in a 2.5 hour hike, about 3 miles total, including more pic taking and a long lunch at the great flintstone furniture site, just below the big fall. Then back up to Judy Springs for night two. Clear weather sunday monring, and we left around 1030 am, hiking out on Seneca Creek Trail. Made record time with food and beer-lightened packs. Trail also quite wet and muddy. Reached FR112 and hiked five minutes back up to the cars. A great outing, no injuries, many beautiful photos taken, and camaraderie shared. I only give it a four rating instead of the five it deserves because of all the company we encountered, but that's to be expected in a place this beautiful, even in mid-November. The whole area is a gem.
Name: Ted E. Bear and Shortstack Hike: Oregon Ridge
Date: 11/09/13 Rating: 4
This was Ted E. Bear’s first hike after recovering from a painful bout of plantar faciitis and his first hike in this park. Oregon Ridge was a great place to test out how well the old feet would work. For a small park this 5 mile hike had a little of everything: rock hops, hills, views, stream crossings, and even a quaint little pond. Shortstack knew the park so we didn’t pay attention to the directions which we had with us just in case. We did get a little off track once or twice because of the heavy leaf litter covering the trails this time of year. On the brisk Saturday morning when we started there were few other hikers, but by the time we finished the parking lot was full - so start early. (Gates opened at 8:45.) The only negative was a particular ignorant arrogant local with a dog, who ignored the leash your dog rule, and when behind us, the dog got in front of us once or twice. Fortunately the dog had bells on so we heard it coming. Owner of dog with bells on - please leash your dog! Note what we think of you above.
Laura T. Hike: Lost Pond Circuit
Date: 11/09/13 Rating: 3
Critique: Nice views and a pleasant hike - enough hills to get the heart rate up without being killer. Nice for an afternoon after work. At 3pm on a chilly Friday, I only saw a handful of other people. But the rocks, oh the rocks... The rocks rolled under my feet. The rocks caught my trekking poles. The rocks slowed my pace to a crawl, especially going down hills... I stubbed my toes several times on rocks hidden beneath layers of leaves. I'm sure it's a very different hike in the spring and summer.
Name: Laura T. Hike: Hashawha Pderimeter
Date: 11/08/13 Rating: 4
I hike the loop at least four days a week. It's a great hike. Trails are well marked and fairly well maintained, though out on the Yellow loops (Wilderness Trail) you will find newly downed branches and such (and don't take Yellow Loop 1 in the summer if you dislike spider webs). The only treacherous part is the descent of Yellow loop 3 to the stream. I would recommend trekking poles for that. You can also cut around that (and add some length) by taking the equestrian trails when they're not closed for hunting). Scenery is nice and you'll see everything from muskrat to deer to black rat snakes. Many butterflies in the summer months. I do hesitate to call it easy. It's easy if you're fit but if you're just starting to hike or only go on the occasional weekend, you /will/ be winded by some of the Yellow loop hills. The injured raptor cages and Bear Branch nature center are nice additions, especially if you're hiking with children. There is some trail traffic but even on weekend afternoons I don't usually see more than 2-3 other groups.
Name: Rob Hike: White Rocks Circuit
Date: 11/08/13 Rating: 4
Fun hike, I would agree with the moderate description. Few additional notes. Stop and pick up a map at the crossing of the Yellow and Pink Trails (Wilson Cove/Old Mail). I did this hike in the autumn after all the leaves fell, so at times on the Racer Hollow Trail (orange) it was difficult to pick up the trail. Outlook was amazing. Lots of campsites along the way if you want to do an easy backpack trip. As far as the directions, very accurate. Don't make the same mistake I did though: When you leave the White Rocks trail, don't go all the way back down the mountain!
Name: Ed S. Hike: Red Creek/Dunkenbarger Loop
Date: 08/25/13 Rating: 4.5
Critique: This is a nice hike, especially with regards to water features. It's rather different than the meadows of Dolly Sods North. On the plus side are the waterfalls and cascades, plus some mountaintop views. On the minus is the lack of the expansive meadows to the north. I suppose the main issue I had with the hike (other than it taking longer than expected) was that many stretches seemed somewhat typical, and not too much different from other more nearby destinations. But that should not make one think that this is a bad hike. The waterfalls, and the views make this hike more than worthy. The different forest types, from dense pine and spruce stands, rhododendron lowlands, and mixed forests give it a wide variety as you move from trail to trail. The streams are different, from serene Dunkenbarger Run, roaring Big Stonecoal Creek, majestic Red Creek, and the cascading side runs of of Red Creek. Watch out for muddy trails, especially Dunkenbarger and parts of the Red Creek Trail.
Name: Ed S. Hike: Green Ridge North Circuit
Date: 09/29/13 Rating: 4
Critique: A good hike, among the hollows and low hills in Green Ridge State Forest. I started at the old US40 crossing, and also took the spur to the Mason-Dixon Line to extend the hike. The hike runs often in the lowlands of creeks in the area, fairly dry at this time of year. Others are up on narrow benches constructed in the steep bluffs high above the creeks. In other places, it wonders along the low hills and shale barrens of the area. The trails are not that busy, which makes it a good place for seeing wildlife. The trails are often narrow, and you do have to be on a near constant lookout for poison ivy, especially near road crossings and floodplain campsites.