Tuscarora Trail

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Tuscarora Trail
Darlington Signs.jpg
Northern terminus of the Tuscarora Trail
Length252 mi (406 km)
LocationEastern United States
TrailheadsSouth: Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
38°17′34″N 78°40′45″W / 38.29278°N 78.67917°W / 38.29278; -78.67917
North: Appalachian Trail near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
40°17′39.9″N 77°5′26.9″W / 40.294417°N 77.090806°W / 40.294417; -77.090806
Elevation change3,060 ft (930 m)
Highest pointSouthern trailhead, Shenandoah National Park, 3,440 ft (1,050 m)
Lowest pointPotomac River, C&O Canal National Historical Park, 380 ft (120 m)
Hiking details
Trail difficultyStrenuous
SightsOverall Run Waterfall (SNP)
HazardsSevere Weather

The 252-mile (406 km) Tuscarora Trail is a long distance trail in the Ridge and Valley Appalachians that passes through the US states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.[1] In the south, the Tuscarora begins at a junction with the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Mathews Arm Campground, 0.4-mile (0.64 km) south of the AT's crossing of Skyline Drive at MP 21.1 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,[2] creating a 435 mi (700.1 km) circuit known as the Tuscalachian Loop.[3] The Tuscarora Trail was built as an alternative parallel route for the Appalachian Trail.[2] 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.[1][4]

Trail Sections[edit]

Southern terminus of the Tuscarora Trail, Shenandoah NP

The Tuscarora trail is divided into 22 sections with section 1 being at the northern terminus of the trail (the top of Blue Mountain) and section 22 being at the souther terminus of the trail (the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park).

Trail sections [5]
Section Length Name
Section 1 12 miles (19 km) Sterretts Gap
Section 2 13.2 miles (21.2 km) Flat Rock
Section 3 8.1 miles (13.0 km) Blue Mountain
Section 4 8 miles (13 km) Amberson Ridge
Section 5 10.4 miles (16.7 km) Knob Mountain
Section 6 15.7 miles (25.3 km) Cowans Gap
Section 7 9.6 miles (15.4 km) Tuscarora Summit
Section 8 13.9 miles (22.4 km) The Lockings
Section 9 9 miles (14 km) Licking Creek
Section 10 7.9 miles (12.7 km) C&O Canal
Section 11 9.8 miles (15.8 km) Potomac
Section 12 18.2 miles (29.3 km) Sleepy Creek
Section 13 12.4 miles (20.0 km) Shockeys Knob
Section 14 11.1 miles (17.9 km) Gainesboro
Section 15 10.4 miles (16.7 km) Devils Backbone
Section 16 7.8 miles (12.6 km) Capon Springs
Section 17 11.2 miles (18.0 km) County Line
Section 18 15.7 miles (25.3 km) Sugar Knob
Section 19 6.1 miles (9.8 km) Fetzer Gap
Section 20 13.5 miles (21.7 km) Massanutten West
Section 21 15 miles (24 km) Massanutten East
Section 22 7.6 miles (12.2 km) Mathews Arm


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.[6]

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.[1]

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.[7][8]

Today the Tuscarora Trail is an official side-trail of the Appalachian Trail and is blazed in blue.

The Tuscarora will eventually become a component of the Great Eastern Trail, which will extend from Alabama to the Finger Lakes in New York state.

See also[edit]



  • 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.


  1. ^ a b c Keystone Trails Association p.3-4
  2. ^ a b Lupp p.1
  3. ^ Mitchell p.82
  4. ^ "THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT". National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  5. ^ "Hike the Tuscarora". The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. 2017. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  6. ^ "Tuscarora Trail". Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  7. ^ Lupp p.2-4
  8. ^ "Tuscarora Trail". Keystone Trails Association. Retrieved 2014-03-29.

External links[edit]