Spring has sprung, and it’s time to get out and explore new trails. Mix things up with your usual weekend routine and discover fresh sights with a hike to Maryland’s Weverton Cliffs.
Once you reach the cliffs, take in sweeping views of the Potomac River and majestic panoramas of the surrounding landscape. You’ll be treated to stunning sights of four national park sites, including the Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and Harper’s Ferry National Park. Make sure you’ve got plenty of storage space on your phone, because these breathtaking sights are definitely Instagram-worthy.
For the full experience, head to Gathland State Park in Washington County, Md., and take the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The park is located on the former estate of George Alfred Townsend, an American Civil War correspondent who wrote using “Gath” as his pen name, and is less than two hours from Washington. Learn more about the details of his life, career, and estate by visiting the Gathland State Park’s museum.
The large stone monument at the park, known as the War Correspondent’s Arch, was built in 1896 and serves as a testament to the service of all the correspondents during the Civil War. Take a moment to read through the memorial plaque, featuring 152 names of the newspaper journalists, artists, and photographers who documented the monumental events. On Sept. 14, 1862, part of the Battle of South Mountain occurred here.
Insider tip: If you’re heading on the hike with friends, leave one car at the bottom of the Weverton Cliff overlook and take the other to start your journey at Gathland State Park.
The hike encompasses a little over 7 miles and takes around four and half hours from the state park. Along the trail, take time to relax and enjoy the quiet stillness that nature has to offer. The hike has a rocky terrain with a light to moderate difficulty, making it suitable for both novice and seasoned trekkers. Lace up a durable set of shoes with a thick sole and remember to pack a light snack.
Around the 4-mile marker, you’ll encounter the Ed Garvey Memorial AT Shelter. This quaint cabin is complete with an overhead loft space for thru-hikers and boasts plexiglass windows to capture the morning rays of sunlight. In a tradition dating to the 1930s, visitors often jot down a quick journal entry in the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Shelter Log Book.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail winds on for 41 miles in Maryland and on your hike you might cross paths with one of many outdoor adventurers who opt to backpack the whole route along the East Coast, or locals with a friend or canine companion.
Within Washington County, visitors can enjoy five national parks and eight state parks. History buffs will appreciate a visit to the Antietam National Battlefield and Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park, while outdoor recreational opportunities abound along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. The state parks range from French and Indian War-era Fort Frederick State Park and Washington Monument State Park, site of the nation’s first monument to George Washington, to the natural beauty of Greenbrier State Park and the activities on the Western Maryland Rail Trail.
“We hope that visitors will take advantage of being able to visit all five national park sites right here in our county. The National Park Service is encouraging the use of (Twitter hashtag) findyourpark … and visitors can certainly find their parks here, and unique ways to explore them,” said Dan Spedden, who leads local tourism efforts.
If you’re short on time, another option is to take the trail from Weverton Road leading directly to Weverton Cliffs. This trail has multiple switchbacks and clocks in at a mere 0.7 miles, but it does have a steeper incline.
This season, embark on a new adventure, and experience the one-of-a-kind views at Weverton Cliffs.
Washington Co. Tourism: visithagerstown.com