Northern terminus of the Tuscarora Trail
|Length||252 mi (406 km)|
|Location||Eastern United States|
|Trailheads||South: Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
North: Appalachian Trail near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
|Elevation change||2,600 ft (790 m)|
|Highest point||Southern trailhead, Shenandoah National Park, 3,000 ft (910 m)|
|Lowest point||Potomac River, C&O Canal National Historical Park, 400 ft (120 m)|
|Sights||Overall Run Waterfall (SNP)|
The Tuscarora Trail is a 252-mile (406 km) long bypass route of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the US states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. In the south, the Tuscarora begins where the Appalachian Trail intersects Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. In the north, it rejoins the Appalachian Trail at the top of Blue Mountain just west of the Susquehanna River and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, creating a 435 mi (700.1 km) circuit known as the Tuscalachian Loop.
The Tuscarora Trail (including the Big Blue section) was built as an alternative parallel route for the Appalachian Trail. It was built farther west, in a more wild corridor, because it was feared that development would force closure of the AT, before passage of the National Scenic Trails Act of 1968.
The Tuscarora Trail was originally built as two separate trails: the 142 mi (228.5 km) Big Blue Trail in Virginia and West Virginia, and the 110 mi (177.0 km) Tuscarora Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Throughout most of the 1960s a number of sections of the Appalachian Trail were in danger of being closed by commercial land owners. To ensure the trail's continuity, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy began to consider alternative routes that could be used to bypass those sections which appeared to be threatened, with the goal of maximizing public land usage. Work began on the Big Blue Trail in 1967, just one year before the Appalachian Trail received protected status. Though a continuous footpath was now assured, the Keystone Trails Association and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club decided to complete both trails for use as AT spur trails.
By the 1980s, much of the trail in Pennsylvania had been closed due to a gypsy moth onslaught that had killed much of the surrounding oak forest. The trail became overgrown with brambles, briars and other vegetation to become impassable. The trail has since been re-opened and is now maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
Today the Tuscarora Trail is an official side-trail of the Appalachian Trail and is blazed in blue.
- Keystone Trails Association (2008). Pennsylvania Hiking Trails. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3477-6.
- Lupp, Thomas; Brown, Pete (2013). The Tuscarora Trail: A Guide to the North Half in Maryland and Pennsylvania (5th ed.). Vienna, VA: The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. ISBN 978-0-915746-73-6.
- Mitchell, Jeff (2005). Backpacking Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3180-5.
- Hargan, Jim (2005). The Shenandoah Valley & Mountains of the Virginias, An Explorer's Guide: Includes Virginia's Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains & West Virginia's Alleghenies & New River Region (1st ed.). Countryman Press. ISBN 978-0881505771.
- Schlimmer, E. (2005). Thru Hiker's Guide to America: 25 Incredible Trails You Can Hike in One to Eight Weeks (Thru-Hiker's Handbooks) (1st ed.). International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press. ISBN 978-0071433648.
- Keystone Trails Association p.3-4
- Lupp p.1
- Mitchell p.82
- "THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT". National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
- "Tuscarora Trail". Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
- Lupp p.2-4
- "Tuscarora Trail". Keystone Trails Association. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
- The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
- Gorp Guide
- York Hiking Club page including map
- Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources