Monday, August 2, 2010

Appalachian Trail Maryland: Annapolis Rock

Annapolis Rock was my favorite stop along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. I am incredibly indebted to the two PATC Trail Patrol members that recommended to Redwing, Lil Dipper and myself to spend the night at Annapolis Rock. Mind you that I had just visited Maryland's Washington Monument State Park earlier in the day. The Washington Monument section of the Appalachian Trail is well maintained and the view of Boonesboro, Maryland from the top of the monument is not to be missed. But, Annapolis Rock is a definite must stay.

Getting to Annapolis Rock

NOBOs will first make a moderately steep climb up from I-70. After leveling out, watch for the blue blaze trail on your left. If you reach the Pogo camp site, you've overshot quite a bit.

Day hikers should head north on the Appalachian Trail from South Mountain State Park. There's a parking area on US Highway 40 (Baltimore National Pike) just north of the I-70 footbridge. From the south end of the parking area, walk over the hump towards the sound of the freeway. Continue down the paved section to the footbridge. You'll see a trail on your left. Don't cross the footbridge, but continue down the left side of the footbridge, hike along the I-70 fence line, and back up just past the next overpass (US 40). Follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail about 2.2 miles to the blue blaze trail to Annapolis Rock.

SOBOs should watch for the blue blaze trail on their right about a mile after the Pogo camp site. The trail from Pogo is relatively flat and mostly dirt. You'll be able to make up some of the time you lost coming through the 3 miles of rocks.


First, there's considerable camping available at Annapolis Rock. The guidebooks all make clear that while hiking the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail, one must stay at shelters or in the immediate area around a shelter. Like many newbies, I wasn't aware that camping at Annapolis Rock was an option. Coming down the trail, one first sees a large bulletin board with a map of the Annapolis Rock area and the various camping areas. Even with a third of the tent camping areas closed for reforestation, we had a selection of many very nice camping areas.

Taking an immediate left at the sign, we wandered through dense mountain laurel and examined site after site looking for the ideal spot. About halfway down on the left, we found a nice clear area with an ideal set of trees and a convenient log.


Second, Annapolis Rock offers nice amenities for its type of location. Sure, there's the showers at Dahlgren Camp that the kind folks of Maryland offer as a gift to hikers and the clean restrooms and machines with cold sodas at PennMar park. But, considering this is a primitive camp site by national park service standards, Annapolis Rock features two privies and a piped spring. The piped spring was gushing so much water that it looked like a broken water main. (I'm still not convinced that much water can come from the a spring at the top of a hill for as long as it did and not be man made.)

Dinner and a Sunset

Third, the actual Annapolis Rock formation and its vista is truly worth the extra effort to hike down the blue blaze. The PATC Trail Patrol mentioned we should first make camp and then take our mess gear down to the rocks for dinner and a sunset. Annapolis Rock accomodates a lot of backpackers with room for all to enjoy the sunset. Rather than another meal at another generic wood picnic table, we had the fun challenge of selecting a dinner spot and the reward of "dinner and a show."

So, whether North bound or South bound along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland, give serious consideration to remaining overnight at Annapolis Rock. Get there well before sunset, select a campsite, and head on down to Annapolis Rock for a memorable sunset with your fellow hikers.

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