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Gathland State Park to Weverton Cliffs, Maryland

Winter Hikes - Gathland State Park to Weverton Cliffs, Maryland

The War Correspondents Arch at Gathland State Park near Burkittsville, Md., was built by George Alfred Townsend, a newspaperman during the Civil War. The arch features names of American journalists who died in the war. A stretch of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park.
The War Correspondents Arch at Gathland State Park near Burkittsville, Md., was built by George Alfred Townsend, a newspaperman during the Civil War. The arch features names of American journalists who died in the war. A stretch of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park. (By Timothy Jacobsen For The Washington Post)

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Length of trail: 12 miles

Time for hike: About five hours

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Degree of difficulty: Moderate

Driving distance from downtown Washington: 65 miles

Getting there from the Beltway: Take Interstate 270 about 30 miles north toward Frederick. Then take Interstate 70 west 1.3 miles to Route 340 west. Travel 12 miles to Route 17 north. Turn left onto West Main Street, which becomes Gapland Road, and travel 1.2 miles until you see a monument and signs for Gathland State Park.

The Appalachian Trail is one of the country's most famous routes. Stretching from Maine to Georgia, it runs more than 2,175 miles along the one of the oldest mountain chains in the world. Although only a small percentage (about 40 miles) runs through Maryland, it is arguably among the most scenic portions, with monuments dotting the trail.

The trail runs through Gathland State Park, once owned by Civil War correspondent George Alfred Townsend (whose nickname was Gath). There he built a journalists' memorial, a castle-like arch listing the names of reporters killed during the war listed on it. Updated plaques around the park include the names of American journalists who have died covering wars around the world.

The hike begins at the parking lot across the street from the memorial and near the museum. Follow the white blazes that represent the Appalachian Trail south along the top of the mountain for six miles. The hike earns a moderate rating for its length, but it is mostly flat with few rocky patches and nearly continuous views of the valleys below. About four miles into the hike is the Ed Garvey Memorial Shelter, which offers a lovely view and a good spot to rest.

The real treat on this hike is Weverton Cliffs, the turn-around point for this hike. During the summer both Gathland and Weverton can be crowded, but in the winter you will have all the time you want to take in the panoramic view of the Potomac River as it snakes between Maryland and Virginia.

What else to know: Maps of the Appalachian Trail can be purchased through the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's Web site, http://www.potomacappalachian.orghttp://for about $6. Click on "Store" then "Maryland." The trail appears on Maps 5 and 6. Maps are not provided at Gathland, but the hike is well marked with white blazes.

Suggested by David Erdman of the Northern Virginia Hiking Club. To learn more about the club, visit http://www.nvhc.com.


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