Appalachian Trail: Pen Mar to Ensign Cowell Shelter

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Pen Mar Park

Appalachian Trail: Pen Mar to Ensign Cowell Shelter is a 20.3 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 20.3 miles Elevation Gain: 3,966 feet Route Type: Point to Point

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

The Mason Dixon Line, Highest AT Peak in MD, Steepest At Grade in MD! This is part 1 of 4 hikes that could be done as individual day hikes or strung together for a 4 day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail to complete the state of Maryland. This hike begins just north of the Mason Dixon line. Shortly after passing the Mason Dixon line you enter Pen Mar Park, once an amusement stop along the Western Maryland Railroad. Portions of the trail follow old rail grades here. Almost immediately you begin the ascent of Quirack Mountain, reaching the highest point of the AT through Maryland. The trail is sometimes rocky and slow going, but most of the way is well cleared and smooth. This section also boast the steepest grade of the AT in Maryland and you will be going UP, but it is fortunately for just a short distance. A nice spring/stream serves Ensign Cowell shelter, which you can make your first night's destination, or push on just 2/10 of a mile to Wolfsvill Road, where there is room to park a second car if day hiking.

hiking
bugs
rocky
11 months ago

Went with my boyfriend and a group of close friends- the trail was a good challenge but not enough water supply! The maps showed different streams we were supposed to be passing but there was nothing for roughly 8 miles. The AllTrails map is wrong, so I suggest checking different resources before planning a trip to this section! We went uphill over huge rocks for miles. The view is great once you get to the overlook. There are lots of campers and through hikers but enough space for everyone, that’s for sure.

backpacking
bugs
rocky
11 months ago

I read a lot of reviews on this trail before going. I rated it 4 stars because it is one of the harder trails in MD, while the views aren't that spectacular, but still beautiful. We brought quite a bit of water and our filter systems because we knew there were only supposed to be a few water sources. There ended up being only one water source, despite what the map showed, and the terrain is on the harder side of moderate. There are many steep sections where with a lot of rocks. It was a tough couple of days for sure, in 90's and incredible humidity. When we got to the spring it was refreshing and we were able to fill our packs. The shelters are nice but PACKED as this is part of the Appalachian trail. Camping was nice but the bugs are terrible even with bug spray. That's the summer for you tho and it's the same everywhere. The views are amazing in the few spots you can see out, but there is a road attached so people can drive there. We found a heard of teenagers at the top hanging out near their cars. This is why I said they aren't the best. Compared to say, Maine, these leave a bit to be desired. It was a great trip, definitely worth the experience, but expect it to be pretty difficult and over-prepare on the water if you're going during the summer. Spring and Fall probably wouldn't be too bad, but Winter with snow might be almost undoable. Map is wrong on Alltrails, you start in the Pen Mar park in PA not too far from Waynesboro, but not in Waynesboro. Park outside of the park, walk into the park and go left of the pavilion to the trail. The sign is marked and if you go right you continue the Appalachian trail north into PA. This trail heads south into MD. The other side goes North into PA. Total trail length somewhere around 9.6 miles and then back so almost 20 miles with going down to the spring and back. The water source is 0.4 miles down hill from the Raven shelter. Ensign Cowell shelter is roughly another 4.5 miles further south. I think I would like to do this trail in the fall when the temperature is low. I'm pretty sure it would be more enjoyable then. Overall great trail, experience and views.

hiking
bugs
rocky
Sun May 26 2019

pretty! go through the park and hop on the trail! left to PA right through MD

hiking
Sun Apr 28 2019

The current map for this trail is incorrect. The description is still correct though. You travel South from Penmar (not North) and it's only about 9.5 miles. This section of the Appalachian Trail is probably the most difficult section in Maryland, but the views from the overlooks are worth it. There is a parking lot just South of the shelter on Wolfsville Road so you can place a car there if you decide to only do point to point, or as a bail out option if you decide to go further down the trail to another point.

Mon Jul 30 2018

Graet hike.

hiking
Wed Jul 20 2016

Troop 37 went on this hike and we had a great time the hike was great walk and a good over night

backpacking
Mon Jul 04 2016

There is limited parking at the Trail Head in Penmar. We did not want to finish at route 30 so we pushed a little farther to Ridge Rd where there is also limited parking. I broke this trip down to 2 days so my boys (8 and 10) wouldn't get burnt out. We hiked most of the day, played in the woods, splashed in some creeks, and then stopped for the night at the Antietam Shelter. Creek is clean and clear and a good source to refill from. Had I known earlier we would have stayed the night at the Tumbling Run Shelter just a mile further North. Tumbling Run is much nicer and very well cared for. This area is so large that overnight backpackers will not bother the through hikers. The rest of the hike was a good push and we finished tired and happy!

hiking
Sat Jun 25 2016

Probably the most technical section of the AT through MD. Lots of rocks about a mile and a half out from Pen Mar.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
9 months ago

hiking
Sat May 18 2019

hiking
Sat Jul 28 2018

Sun Apr 17 2016