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  1. #1

    Default Help with miles per day - Pen Mar to Harpers Ferry

    Let's assume you're dealing with a couple over the hill and somewhat out of shape flatlanders thinking about doing this section in the spring. We've done Springer to NOC over several hikes, and we've found that 8 miles per day was our comfort level for GA and NC. With that as a comparison, how many miles per day seems reasonable for us to do the Maryland section? I see some people knock it out in a day or something crazy like that and that makes me think maybe this is really an easy section and we could do it in three full days. Does that seem reasonable, or should we plan on 4 or 5? If it weren't for the pictures of some of the rocks that you have to hike on, I'd think we could maybe push for 3, but I don't know. Any input is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Keep in mind you have to stay at shelters or campgrounds in MD.
    No dispersed camping. But why not just plan on 5 days that would be your 8 miles a day average and if you get into harpers ferry early enjoy it.

  3. #3
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    And the first and last days aren't really full days because of driving shuttles and such.

  4. #4

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    "Go with what you know" would be the most practical I think. 8-miles per day is not a bad speed and time to do things like take photographs, linger at a view with lunch, waiting out weather, or just working out stiff muscles. Trying to second guess one's last known hiking speed can be problematic given the variables, including a full winter to wade through before a spring start. You may find you can move at 10-miles per day in that section of trail when you get out there, which can easily be eroded by sore muscles, light injury (twisted ankle type of thing), or roaring weather that pins you down for a day or so.

    As JNI64 points out, if you arrive at Harpers Ferry ahead of schedule other adventures can open up from there.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Keep in mind you have to stay at shelters or campgrounds in MD....
    Using the distances between shelters (ignoring spur trail distance) these are the options that have the shortest "long day".
    Mileages from the AT Distance Calculator (2021 data) www.atdist.com/at/atdist

    For 5 days:
    PA/MD Line to Ensign Cowell Shelter = 9.8 mi
    to Pine Knob Shelter = 8.2 mi
    to Rocky run Shelter = 7.5 mi
    to Ed Garvey Shelter = 7.0
    to ATC HQ HF = 7.0 mi

    For 4 days:
    PA/MD Line to Ensign Cowell Shelter = 9.8 mi
    to Pine Knob Shelter = 8.2 mi
    to Crampton Gap Shelter = 12.5
    to ATC HQ HF = 11.1 mi

    For 3 days:
    PA/MD Line to Ensign Cowell Shelter = 9.8 mi
    to Rocky Run Shelter = 15.7
    to ATC HQ HF = 16.1 mi

    There are some campgrounds that could be used to adjust these itineraries, but I'm not sure exactly where these are.

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    Also, if you want trips with a shorter first day:

    5 Days:
    PA/MD Line to Raven Rock Shelter = 4.9 mi to Ensign Cowell Shelter = 4.9 mi to Pine Knob Shelter = 8.2 mi to Crampton Gap = 12.5 mi to ATC HQ HF = 11.1 mi

    4 Day:
    PA/MD Line to Raven Rock Shelter = 4.9 mi to Pine Knob Shelter = 13.1 mi to Crampton Gap = 12.5 mi to ATC HQ HF = 11.1 mi

  7. #7

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    If you overshoot try to line up a shuttle and keep hiking! You wouldn't be too far past your intended ending point and a shuttle probably isn't much of a cost if you are coming from FL.
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  8. #8

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    Appreciate all the input, especially the detailed one from Odd Man Out. And as one pointed out, if we use the winter wisely to get in shape, 4 days might make sense. But if we fatten up over the off season, I guess that seals the deal for 5 days. Again, thanks to all.

  9. #9
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    The free campsite called Dahlgren is about halfway I think and has real toilets, sinks, hot water, I can't remember if they have showers but it's nice. It's right after you cross rt 40 and is right on the trail.There's a nice place to eat right there to called south mountain inn, although a little pricey.
    The Md AT also is home to the original Washington monument just a short walk off trail is America's original Washington monument.

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    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Ps, either way yo go stop at the Ed Garvey shelter it's just a short walk off trail and really nice. Check out the loft might be a nice last night romantic chance on trail haha, have fun....

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Ps, either way yo go stop at the Ed Garvey shelter it's just a short walk off trail and really nice. Check out the loft might be a nice last night romantic chance on trail haha, have fun....
    LOL, I'm hiking with one of my male friends, we'd have to be out there on the trail for a lot longer than a few days before we started thinking of a romantic interlude in a shelter. Not that there's anything wrong with that..... Thanks for the info about Dahlgren, that looks promising!

  12. #12

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    That's my favorite piece of the AT, I did it the first time in the Boy Scouts in about 1969. It was called the "Four State Hike" because you used to cross the Sandy Hook bridge and walk several miserable road miles in Virginia before entering HF. The last time I did it we took three days, and spent one night at the POTC Bear Creek Cabin, on the south side of Lamb's Knoll. We always try to stay in these cabins as a special treat... Please take your time on this beautiful, historical hike, with so many interesting sights. Look for Reno's grave... Look for geocaches (see geocache.com), there are many on this stretch. Check out both Rocky Run shelters; the old one is typical of what we used to find on the AT. Look for the aircraft crash site right on the AT about three miles south of the top of Lamb's Knoll--It's all still there but quite overgrown and eroded now. Look for Civil war trenches from the Battle of South Mountain... This is a nice hike to do late in the Fall after the leaves have turned and fallen, then you can see a lot more, maybe some wildlife.. We've done it a few days before Thanksgiving, after running the JFK 50, which is partly on the AT... I was sore but still able to backpack.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    The free campsite called Dahlgren is about halfway I think and has real toilets, sinks, hot water, I can't remember if they have showers but it's nice. It's right after you cross rt 40 and is right on the trail.There's a nice place to eat right there to called south mountain inn, although a little pricey.
    The Md AT also is home to the original Washington monument just a short walk off trail is America's original Washington monument.
    My first backpacking trip was ca. 1968 when I was about 9 and my dad took me on a weekend trip on the AT in MD. I don't recall too many details. My dad was an avid backpacker with first class gear (for the day) but I just had a canvas ruck sack so I'm sure he carried most of the gear. I remember seeing the Washington Monument and hiking to a log three sided shelter for the night. I'm sure we didn't hike far. Sometimes wondered where we went.

  14. #14

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    Maryland is considered the easiest state on the AT. You may want to consider joining the “Maryland Hiking & Backpacking” Facebook group too. It seems every weekend there are folks planning a 4-5 day trip on that section. The section is very beginner-backpacker-friendly. You’ll do fine even out-of-shape!

  15. #15

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    As others have noted, it's one of the easiest sections of trail, much easier than GA and NC. If you average even 2mph, that means you're hiking for four hours per day. What will you do with the other 20 hours each day? I think that even in non-hiker shape you could count on 12 miles per day and not have any issues.

  16. #16

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    I did MD in 2.5 days as my first state of my section hike. It was a bit much but 3 full days would have been perfect. 12-15 miles a day should be doable
    Trail Miles: 4,334.8 - AT Trips: 72
    AT Map 1: 2193.1 Complete 2013-2021
    AT Map 2: 270.2
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 167.0
    BMT Map: 52.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  17. #17
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    Agree, along with Shenandoah NP and southern PA, MD is some of the easiest miles on the AT. I did this section in 2.5 days in early November with only 10-11 hrs of daylight and it still wasn't too bad. The toughest part IMO is the northernmost 15 miles where the trail gets pretty rocky. Here is my recommendation if you want to do it in 5 days (the first and last days are really half days):

    Day 1: Pen-Mar to Raven Rock Shelter (4.9 mi)
    Day 2: Raven Rock Shelter to Pogo Campsite (9.7 mi)
    Day 3: Pogo Campsite to Dahlgren Campground (9.1 mi) or Rocky Run Shelter (10.9 mi)
    Day 4: Dahlgren Campground or Rocky Run Shelter to Ed Garvey Shelter (10.9 mi/9.1 mi)
    Day 5: Ed Garvey Shelter to Harper's Ferry (6.2 mi)
    It's all good in the woods.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Ps, either way yo go stop at the Ed Garvey shelter it's just a short walk off trail and really nice. Check out the loft might be a nice last night romantic chance on trail haha, have fun....
    Ed Garvey is a nice shelter, but the 0.8 mile round trip to the water straight down the side of the ridge is a killer!
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Ed Garvey is a nice shelter, but the 0.8 mile round trip to the water straight down the side of the ridge is a killer!
    I remember doing that water run in 2014 and wishing that I’d hauled enough water from HF for dinner! It’s weird how “bonus miles” like that just suck.

  20. #20
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mclaught View Post
    LOL, I'm hiking with one of my male friends, we'd have to be out there on the trail for a lot longer than a few days before we started thinking of a romantic interlude in a shelter. Not that there's anything wrong with that..... Thanks for the info about Dahlgren, that looks promising!
    Hey never say never. Who knows a box of wine a tea candle celebrating a ending of a hike. What happens at the Garvey shelter stays at the Garvey shelter, lol !!
    And Google c&O canal and civil war history for the area you may want to come back....

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