Summary: This is part 1 of 4 hikes that could be done as individual day hikes or strung together for a 4 day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail to complete the state of Maryland.
This hike begins just north of the Mason Dixon line. Shortly after passing the Mason Dixon line you enter Pen Mar Park, once an amusement stop along the Western Maryland Railroad. Portions of the trail follow old rail grades here.
Almost immediately you begin the ascent of Quirack Mountain, reaching the highest point of the AT through Maryland. The trail is sometimes rocky and slow going, but most of the way is well cleared and smooth. This section also boast the steepest grade of the AT in Maryland and you will be going UP, but it is fortunately for just a short distance.
A nice spring/stream serves Ensign Cowell shelter, which you can make your first night's destination, or push on just 2/10 of a mile to Wolfsvill Road, where there is room to park a second car if day hiking.
Trailhead: Begin at PenMar Park. Take US15, North from Frederick and then pick up MD 550 West. When you reach Fort Ritchie, turn right, staying on MD 550. Almost immediately turn left and pass under train bridge. Next, turn right onto Pen Mar Road. You come upon a spot where the AT crosses the road. There is room for two cars to park here. (Lat:39.67502 Lon:-77.53136)
Trail Guides for Appalachian Trail MD - PenMar to ENS Cowell:
Appalachian Trail Guide to Maryland and Northern Virginia
by Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club)
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs,
Ranger Contact: Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (www.patc.net) 703-242-0693
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Brian Talbert, who has posted 20 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 2 Submit your own review
Reviewed by Viewer on 11/18/2011
Reviewed by JEK on 12/13/2010
Nice hike, weather turned cold and I got some snow. Snow made the rocky/small boulders section slick and I was glad I brought my hiking poles. The Cowell Shelter was clean, neat and in great condition. I spent a nice snowy night there and then hiked out to I-70 the next morning. Looking forward to hiking the rest of the Maryland AT through out the winter. No bugs and very few people makes for a quiet interesting hike. I have to come up with a better system to keep water in hydration bladder and tubing from freezing.
Reviewed by Matt on 8/10/2010
My first AT experience. I'm planning the Maryland portion, Pen Mar to Harpers Ferry in the fall. Decided to do a day hike to see what I was in for. I guess I should have picked a cooler day (upper 90s!), but I'm glad I went. Climbing that mountain was an eye opener! Quite the rocky climb up to High Rock and thank goodness for the spring at the Devilsracecourse shelter. I was able to replenish my dog's water supply there. At least now I know I can do 10+ miles of backpacking a day, over some pretty (in my novice opinion) steep terrain.
Reviewed by mort on 6/14/2010
We started at PenMar 6:30 AM and finished at the I-70 Footbridge parking lot by 3:45 PM. 18.5 miles total in one day was a huge endeavor and a significant challenge. However, if you are a hiker in good shape with plenty of water, it is a nice Maryland 1/2 challenge to do with some good friends/family. First 10 miles are the toughest, once you get on top of South Mtn it is a fairly moderate grade the rest of the way with a bit of downhill at the end. Go for it and let us know how it went!
Reviewed by Malcolm on 12/17/2008
Pen Mar Park on the Trail is very close to where I stay with friends in Cascade. I always make it my first port of call when I'm in Maryland. The feel of the place is so evocative & it doesn't take much imagination to step back in time. I especially enjoy sitting in the Overlook admiring the view. i always make sure that I walk a little bit of the Trail.
Reviewed by Molly on 2/12/2008
i loved it but i think it was a bit strenuous soooooo the views were great! peace punch cap'n crunch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reviewed by Jimmy on 9/10/2007
Just completed this hike with a friend on Sunday. We started at PenMar and hiked to Wolfsville Rd. The GPS had the distace at 10.1 miles. 6 hours and some change with 3-4 breaks. I found the terrain to be diffiuclt compared to the other parts of the AT in MD. I am a novice hiker. Overweight, but workout 4 days a week of hard cardio and found this partiuclar hike to be the most demanding hike I've ever done. The rocky parts really ripped my feet apart and the steep inclines had my heart rate hovering in the 140s and topping at 150. Not a hike for someone looking to have a relaxing hike and take in the beauty of Western MD.
Reviewed by The Brit on 7/13/2007
Got dropped off at the top of the hill (it was 7.30pm) (thanks for the tip, John P.!!) - WONDERFUL view from High Rock. About 2 miles to Devil's Racecourse - camped at the top. Difficult descent shortly after DR, followed by not the easiest ascent! ENS Cowell really good rest stop, or overnight if needed. Good water.
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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