Thurston Griggs Trail to Ensign Phillip Cowall Shelter

HARD 15 reviews
#8 of 14 trails in

Thurston Griggs Trail to Ensign Phillip Cowall Shelter is a 11 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Hagerstown, Maryland that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

11.0 miles
1,883 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips




wild flowers


The Thurston Griggs Trail (TGT) is a rugged .9 mile trail that crisscrosses a stream and ascends 625 feet until it meets the Appalachian Trail. From there, the hike heads north to the Cowall Shelter, for a lunch stop. The hike has many extremely rocky sections of trail, six stream crossings, and a total ascent of 1500+ feet. Take the Thurston Griggs Trail from the parking area, heading immediately across a stream and continue on. You'll shortly get to a dirt road, cross the road and continue on the trail (trail sign indicating AT) that follows the stream upwards. The TGT will arrive at the Appalachian trail at Pogo Camp Ground. Turn left to head north towards the Ensign Phillip Cowall Shelter. Around mile marker 5.25 you'll cross a paved road to continue northward on the AT. You'll see that there is a parking lot to the right that also provides access to this trail. The Thurston Griggs Trail is a feeder trail to the Appalachian Trail near Smithsburg, Maryland. Thurston Griggs was one of the Mountain Clubs most illustrious members who recently passed away at the age of 95. He spent numerous hours contributing to the Appalachian Trail and other hiking and conservation endeavors.

17 days ago

This is a great trail! There are a couple of creek crossings in the first half mile of the trail, so make sure to wear shoes you can get wet if the water is flowing from recent rains. The steep climb at the beginning is difficult, but not too bad if you hike frequently.

Once you get to the ridge, make sure you take a left before you go over the tiny stone bridge (it's more like a rectangular rock laid over two smaller rocks that is marked "AT"). If you cross this bridge and pass the Pogo Shelter, you're heading South toward Black Rock. You want to be heading north instead.

This section of the AT is fairly flat at first and then gets super rocky with larger boulders that make up the trial. On 7/29/18 there was a huge blowdown from the recent storms that prevented passage past mile 3.5 of this trail. You could potentially bushwack around it, but after already taking the AT South for two miles to check out Black Rock, we decided just to turn around at the blowdown.

Didn't see too many people early on a Sunday morning on the hike in, but saw more people on the hike out late-morning/noon. The parking lot is pretty small, so get there early!

2 months ago

This is a great trail. I only ran into 3 people the whole way down and back. Definitely some areas that test your hiking stamina. One of my favorite trails. Definitely going to do it again.

3 months ago

Awesome! If you don’t wanna stay around the shelter there’s an abandoned house just a bit further up with a perfect shed for an overnight.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Great trail! We went a bit further down to black rock to check out the views and for some scrambling!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

This trail is actually about 12.25 miles, not 11. This is a fun but challenging trail. Very rocky both and the beginning and throughout. There's limited parking at the trailhead. A few nice views. Overall a great challenging hike.

Monday, October 17, 2016

This is a VERY rocky and challenging trail for the beginning backpacker or day hiker. There are no springs or privys. There is a creek on the Thurston Griggs blue blaze.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

AT part is a bit busy but otherwise a great hike. Trees in the fall are beautiful.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Its tough but a rewarding walk in the woods.

trail running
5 months ago

7 months ago

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Saturday, July 01, 2017