Today we decided to take a small break from the C&O Canal and hit yet another trail that crosses the towpath along the way. The Tuscarora Trail runs through 33 miles of West Virginia in Berkeley and Morgan Counties before crossing the Potomac on the Route 522 bridge and entering Maryland in Hancock. From there it merges with the towpath to Licking Creek before heading north into Pennsylvania.
From south to north, the Tuscarora Trail splits off from the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park and goes through West Virginia and Maryland before rejoining the AT near Maysville, Pennsylvania. The 250-mile trail was created because it was feared that the Appalachian Trail corridor would disappear due to overpopulation in the Mid-Atlantic area. The AT, as we all know, was saved, but the Tuscarora Trail continues to be a popular destination for hikers. The trail is maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and in spite of the sometimes difficult terrain, it is well-marked and has several beautiful rustic shelters along its route.
Our journey began as we followed Potomac Road off of WV Rt. 9, and we picked up the trail at the intersection with Burnt Mill Road. From there, we headed to a parking area on Jim West Road and looked for the trail marker. The hike began with a steep climb up a fairly significant hill, and after a series of switchbacks we came to the top and followed the blue blazes to a private dirt road. The land owners have a few rules (such as stick to the road), but I have to applaud anyone who lets a major hiking trail pass through his property. We actually met one of the locals during today’s hike and had a pleasant conversation with him. It’s great that people can still get along if we all respect each other.
From Jim West Road (with all due respect to Artemus Gordon), it’s about a 3.5 mile mile walk to River Road, or a seven mile round trip. It’s not an easy hike, but it’s a clean and peaceful one for the most part–although the traffic on I-70 across the river is audible for the last mile or so. The trail runs under countless oak, hickory, and walnut trees, and the squirrels and deer are plentiful.
After getting back to the car, we decided to head to River Road and check out the Tuscarora Trail on the way to the Rt. 522 bridge. Surprisingly, the next 2.7 miles of the trail is a junction/merger with the road. In fact, if you’re ever traveling the River Road (between WV Rt. 9 and Rt. 522), be sure to check out the blue blazes on the telephone poles as you get close to the merger with 522. Walking along the road looks a little bit risky, and I imagine most people take the railroad tracks instead. I suppose that’s one of the myths involving major hiking trails: they’ve got to head into civilization sometime. However, walking along a well-traveled road for a couple of miles is a minor issue considering that there’s plenty of the Tuscarora Trail literally cutting through the middle-of-nowhere.