Hiking the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club section of the Great Eastern Trail
The PATC section of the Great Eastern Trail (GET) is 291 miles long. From the north, it begins where the Standing Stone Trail in Pennsylvania connects to the Tuscarora Trail near Cowans Gap State Park. From the south, it begins at the Virginia-West Virginia line where the Meadow Mountain Trail crosses from Pocahaontas County, West Virginia, into Bath County, Virginia.
There are two major segments of this section of the GET: the 165-mile (156 miles in PATC territory) Tuscarora-Allegheny link, now called the Headwaters Section
of the Great Eastern Trail, from Meadow Mountain Trail to an intersection with the Tuscarora Trail in Virginia, and 135 miles of the Tuscarora in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Just north of Cowans Gap State Park, Pennsylvania, the GET doglegs toward the northwest on the Standing Stone Trail. To hike the PATC/GET section you will need, from south to north:
- National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps 791 and 792
for the southern part of the Tuscarora-Allegheny link. Some outfitters, such as REI, also carry these maps.
- PATC map F
, map L
and map K
for the northern part of the link (Map F
) and the Tuscarora Trail (all three maps
- Entering West Virginia, you will need the Monongahela National Forest map in order to make the connection to the Allegheny Trail. The West Virginia Scenic Trail Association produces maps of the Allegheny Trail and these can be obtained from their website
Additional help in hiking the link is available (all downloadable) from the following:
1. There is an excel spread sheet describing the 165 mile route - click here to access it
(or here for a pdf version
of the spreadsheet). Or, there is a more general description, with important information about water sources and the like in a Microsoft Word document (click here
.) In addition, you will need two National Geographic Society Trails Illustrated maps, numbers 791 and 792
2. A map in seven sections, as described below. Click on the Map number for a PDF version of the map. The maps proceed from north to sough describing the Headwaters Section
; from the junction of the Tuscarora Trail and the Mill Mountain Trail on Great North Mountain, south to the junction of the North Mountain Trail and the Orkney Springs Trail, in Northern Virginia.
; taking the hiker south along the North Mountain Trail, down the ridge on the Snyder Trail, along the shoulder of Virginia 259, onto State Road 820, along Forest Road 302, and along the Carr Mountain Trail to where it meets Forest Road 232.
; continuing on Forest Road 232, joining Forest Road 85, and then south on the Shenandoah Mountain Trail to where it intersections with Hone Quarry Trail.
; continuing south on Shenandoah Mountain Trail, North River Trail, and back onto the Shenandoah Mountain trail along the western edge of Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness, and then across U.S. 250.
; continuing south on Shenandoah Mountain Trail.
; coming off the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, continuing south on a series of road shoulders (VA 678, 625, 624) to the Piney Mountain Trail. It ends in Hidden Valley in the Warm Springs Ranger District.
; leaving Hidden Valley on the Bogan Run Trail, continue south on the shoulder of VA 600, and then use a gated road in the T.M. Gathright Wildlife Management Area to connect with the Meadow Mountain Trail in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
Two short sections – 0.4 mile of the Muddy Run Trail and about 4 miles of the Carr Mountain Trail – are incomplete. They are flagged and blazed, but not completely built. A separate section describes ways to walk around these sections.*
The GET has several alternate walking routes. Two are on the Headwaters Section
and afford the backpacker the opportunity to find water and campsites off the Shenandoah and Great North Mountain trails. A second is in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Each of these alternate routes is described below.
On Shenandoah Mountain, a northbounder can descend from Shenandoah Mountain on road 173E. The Benson Run Trail goes north for 3.5 miles before it joins road 396D. The road rejoins Shenandoah Mountain Trail in about 4 miles. Near its southern terminus, Benson Run Trail affords a camping spot beside the stream, a year-round water source.
Near the north end of the North Mountain Trail (PATC Map F
), on road 691, the Long Mountain Trail diverges to the north (left). This 13.7 mile alternate route takes the hiker to Trout Pond Recreation Area, where there is camping, water, showers and a small store in the vicinity. This section connects at the north end to the Tuscarora Trail, near Half Moon Lookout, via Long Mountain, Bucktail Cutoff and Half Moon trails.
Arriving at the Potomac River and the town of Hancock, Maryland, the hiker has two choices. The main route is along the C&O Towpath to the east, and then proceeding north from a point just west of Licking Creek Campsite, continuing on the Tuscarora Trail. The alternate route takes the hiker west along the Towpath to Green Ridge State Forest, where a series of trails connects to the southern terminus of the Mid State Trail at the Mason-Dixon line. Refer to PATC Map K
* Around the Muddy Run Trail (NGS Trails illustrated Map 791
In Hidden Valley, instead of continuing east on the Hidden Valley Trail, turn south onto Road 241, and then turn east onto SR 621. At the next intersection, turn north onto U.S. 220 until you reach Road 635, where you will turn east. You are now back on the main route.
* Around the Carr Mountain Trail:
Coming off Shenandoah Mountain at Hall Spring, continue east on Road 85, but do not turn left on 232E. Instead, go east on Forest Road 87, until it becomes SR 818. Follow that all the way to VA 259, then turn north until you reach SR 820. You are now back on the main route.
Click here to visit the Great Eastern Trail website