Slackpacking Maryland

Destination: Harpers Ferry, MD

| Activities: Hiking and Slackpacking

The Appalachian Trail, while often rugged and remote, is designed to accommodate both people who want to hike the entire trail and those who choose to section hike it, either by backpacking or by slackpacking. The A.T. in Maryland follows a 40-mile route along the backbone of South Mountain, a north-south ridge that extends from Pennsylvania to the Potomac River. This state is steeped in Civil War history and home to the original Washington Monument. This section is easy by A.T. standards, and is a good place to find out if you're ready for more rugged parts of the Trail. Join us as we continue our travel along the trail.


  • Hiking the entire 40.2 miles of the AT in Maryland, from the Mason-Dixon Line to Harpers Ferry
  • Hiking on some of the easier sections of the AT—but don’t be fooled, there are still rocky paths, ups and downs, and challenges on the trail
  • Learning the role that this area played in the Civil War
  • Enjoying the beautiful vistas
  • Experiencing spacious solitude at the Blue Mountain Retreat


  • 1 - 3 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Five nights lodging at Blue Mountain Retreat
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 6
  • Transportation between Dulles and the hostel and daily shuttles back and forth to the trailhead

What's not included: Travel to and from Dulles airport (IAD), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and travel insurance

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is rated a 4 because you will be hiking from 7.5 to 11.5 miles a day (see the itinerary for daily mileage) four days in a row and requires being in excellent physical condition. You can always choose to stay at the hostel for the day, which is a pleasant 3-mile walk from the town of Harpers Ferry. A rating of 4 requires aerobic conditioning for at least 40-50 minutes 4-5 times a week with additional endurance exercise (e.g. going for a 2-hour hike with elevation gain once a week) and strength training. Going for longer hikes before the trip is recommended if you want to hike the entire 40 miles. This is an ideal first slackpacking trip for anyone who wants to see what they're like but with a shorter commitment and for any woman who is interested in section hiking the Appalachian Trail. Rating: 1 2 3 [4] 5.

This is a hiking trip through the state of Maryland along the legendary Appalachian Trail. You will be hiking in the mountains with constant elevation gain and loss on a trail that is very rocky at times. We're staying just outside the historic town of Harpers Ferry, although there will be limited time to visit it.

We will be staying in the lovely Blue Mountain Retreat for the week. It is a private, spacious house with ample parking space. There is a wraparound deck with a dining area, and a living room full of comfy chairs to relax in after a long day of hiking.

The lodging has 9 bedrooms 4 bathrooms, 2 living rooms and 2 dining rooms. Some bedrooms can accommodate up to 4 people, but we will only have a maximum of 2 people per room.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Meet at 1 p.m. at the Dulles Airport (IAD) or 3 p.m. at our lodging in Harpers Ferry. If you are flying, group transportation from the airport to Harpers Ferry will be arranged for 1 p.m. The shuttle ride is about an hour and will deposit you right at the door of our retreat. If you prefer to drive to Harpers Ferry, please plan to arrive at 3 p.m. We will start with introductions and a discussion of all things hiking as well as an overview of our trip. There will be some time to relax and go for a walk while the guides prepare the first of many delicious dinners. We'll head to bed early, anticipating an early morning.

Overnight: Blue Mountain Retreat, Harpers Ferry (D)
After a delicious and hearty breakfast, we will have about an hour shuttle to our hiking start at Pen Mar Park near the Pennsylvania and Maryland state line. Hiking southward along the Appalachian Trail on our first leg through Maryland, this part of the trail is mostly forested and has a little of everything: easy flat walking, some rocky ascents and descents, plus occasional great views. We reach 1800 feet a couple of times, including the appropriately named, High Rock. We will take a break at the Raven Rock trail shelter and get a glimpse of through-hikers experience. Then, a few more hills —down and up and down — when we emerge from the forest to our pick-up location at Route 77. Tonight (and every night) we'll return to our private retreat where our guides prepare a home-cooked meal, designed to replenish our spirits and bodies.

Distance: 8.2 miles. Overnight: Blue Mountain Retreat, Harpers Ferry (B,L,D)
Another day on Appalachian Trail! We'll enjoy breakfast before shuttling back to the place we ended the previous day. Today we go back to Foxville Road/Route 77. We start off hiking with a relatively short uphill, then down and back up to a ridge along South Mountain State Park. In fact, we travel in South Mountain State Park for our entire trip through Maryland, with some smaller state parks adjoining along the way. South Mountain was the site of some important Civil War battles and we pass placards that memorialize the struggle at several points along the way. We pass a couple of shelters, which make for nice breaks, and several rocky outcrops that drop off steeply to views of patchwork green farm fields below and the blue hills in the distance. This section has two gorgeous overlooks of the surrounding valleys and mountains at Black Rock and Annapolis Rocks. We finish the day at the A.T. trailhead parking lot off I-70. Hiking on the A.T. footbridge that crosses I-70 frequently draws honks and waves from cars passing below and confirms our own inclinations that Hiking is way more fun than driving! After a long and satisfying day, we'll shuttle 'home' for another delicious dinner and a bit of relaxation.

Distance: 11 miles. Overnight: Blue Mountain Retreat, Harpers Ferry (B,L,D)
Once again, we return to yesterday's finish to continue hiking south through Marylands forested mountains. It's not every day you hike past a monument to our first president, but today's trek has a stop at the Washington Monument in Washington Monument State Park. Located atop South Mountain, this is the first completed monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington -- a stone tower initially erected by the citizens of Boonsboro in 1827. After admiring the stonework and history, we continue on past the Dahlgren Backpacker campground and through Fox's Gap. We have some more up and down hiking, including a rocky trail down from White Rocks Cliff. We end the day's hike at Gathland State Park, rich with civil war history. It's best known for the imposing War Correspondents Arch, the only monument dedicated to the memory of Civil War correspondents. We're getting pretty close to the end and it’s a short drive back to our lodging and dinner.

Distance: 11.5 miles. Overnight: Blue Mountain Retreat, Harpers Ferry (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we shuttle back to Gathland State Park where we continue our journey across Maryland. Our trail gently slopes up, past the Ed Garvey shelter (a great lunch stop), and onward to the dramatic Weverton Cliffs. Our last views are spectacular from here, as we enjoy a snack looking over the Potomac River and into West Virginia and Virginia. Then it is a short steep downhill to the Potomac River, where the trail follows the historic Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath.

Today, we'll have completed our grand total of 40.2 miles across Maryland! After we have time to freshen up at our lodging, we'll drive into nearby Harpers Ferry where we'll have a couple of hours free to explore. We'll have dinner there tonight at a local restaurant, celebrating our adventures along the trail, getting all our 'trail names' straightened out, and perhaps thinking about our next A.T. opportunity!

Distance: 9.5 miles. Overnight: Blue Mountain Retreat, Harpers Ferry (B,L,D)
Depending the weather, and our interests, we have a couple of options this morning for a last hike or visit to Harpers Ferry. For those of you driving, you are free to leave any time after 11 a.m. For those of you flying out of Dulles, the shuttle will leave Blue Mountain at 11:00 a.m. and you can plan to fly any time after 2:00 p.m.


*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.


(13 reviews)
4.9 Food
4.6 Lodging
5 Safety
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Sj T.
0 months ago

Laura R.
11 months ago

Yes it was amazing. I was looking forward to it since March hoping that it would happen. I'd say it exceeded my expectations.

Doris E.
1 year ago

Consider offering to hire us a local guide (at our expense) for an hour tour of Harpers Ferry on the last day to enhance the experience. It’s always fun to have a mother/daughter team on the trip. I’ll never forget Laura Roth saying she’d chosen this Slackpacking Maryland because “my mom can do this trip”. Patty Burrow was able to hike through her injury because Karen Abis offered Patty her extra pair of hiking shoes, just another example of what makes AGC participants special. And Shiela and Nicole’s brought a selection of local adult beverages, which was especially fun and thoughtful.

Sheila J.
1 year ago

It actually exceeded my expectations.

Julia W.
1 year ago

A good time was had by all! Delicious cooking, good strong coffee in the mornings by 6, dessert every night and a fun dinner out on the last night. What more is there?

Karen A.
1 year ago

Nicole M.
1 year ago

exceeded expectations!

Rachael S.
1 year ago

What a delightful walk in the woods!

Krassimira P.
1 year ago

Pamela H.
1 year ago

Meeting all the great women and realizing that I can hike 10 miles a day for 4 days in a row!

R D.
2 years ago

It is a wonderful trail and will become a very popular trip.

Tara M.
2 years ago

These trips are always excellent!! It's what keeps me coming back. Highlights: Everyone on the trip Finishing all of Maryland on the AT!!! The day when we almost beat the rain I love coming "home" to a meal each night. Its such a nice break for me.

Lynn W.
2 years ago

I enjoyed hiking with other women in such an historic area of the Appalachian Trail. The guides were great.

  1. Where do we eat?

    The guides will be cooking breakfasts and most dinners at the Blue Mountain Retreat. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you'll take a packed lunch. You'll go out for one dinner where you can order off the menu; other nights you'll relax at the retreat and have dinner there.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    We can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-intolerant although we can not guarantee a completely gluten-free diet, if we know well in advance. If you’re severely allergic or if you have other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register. If you’re vegan, you may want to bring some additional protein bars.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise you'll be sharing a room with one other woman.