The Green Ridge Hiking Trail is one of the best backpacking outings in Maryland at any time of year, but summer is when you can get the most fun out of it. Although it’s called a ridge trail, the majority of the trip is along one creek or another, each with miles of small ripples and cascades—and a profusion of wading and swimming holes. Even if you don’t take advantage of these streams to cool off, the trail fords them well over 60 times (yes, 60 times!), so you’ll be glad warmer weather has had raised the water temperature a few degrees. Along with a three-state vista, this 18.1-mile trip is one of the Blue Ridge’s consummate weekend outings.
(This is also a one-way hike and the car shuttle involves miles of dirt road driving, so allow ample time. Details of the shuttle and the hike may be found in 50 Hikes in Maryland.)
Another reason to do the hike in summer is that serviceberry’s flowers have developed into berries that are a favorite food of grouse, turkeys, deer, bears, raccoons, and those of us in the know. The fruits were once harvested and cooked into pies and preserves—or eaten fresh. Most hikers of today overlook this treat. (Be sure to taste them one at a time. Most are enjoyable, but some can be dry and pithy.)
A pool where Pine Lick and Fifteenmile Creek meet is a local swimming hole, and even though it’s less than 2 miles into the hike, it may be hard to resist wandering in.
One evening in camp beside the ford of Fifteenmile Creek at 4.5 miles, I was serenaded by gobbling turkeys and honking ducks. The call of a barred owl and cheeps of spring peepers started about the time I crawled into the sleeping bag.
The journey’s highlight comes once the trail descends to Big Run. Not only does it cross the stream 26 times, but also wanders through hemlock and mountain laurel groves, passes many possible campsites close to the stream, and provides ample opportunities for dips in the shadow of large rock outcroppings. A few hundred feet after the final ford, the trail rises to MD 51 at 18.1 miles.
AN INVITATION TO AN APPALACHIAN TRAIL WEEKEND
There’s still time to sign up for either of the two Appalachian Trail Weekends I will be directing at Mountain Lake in Virginia this year (June 18-20 & October 1-3). The program’s schedule includes two good day hikes and presentations about thru-hiking, lightening your pack, and wildflowers; participants get to stay at and enjoy meals served in the resort—where Dirty Dancing was filmed. More information at www.mtnlakeconservancy.org.
Photo credit: Maryland Department of Natural Resources