I can’t think of a better way to spend a spring Sunday in Maryland.

After I taught a morning Zumba class, we loaded up Johnny’s truck with basic supplies for a short day hike on the Appalachian Trail.

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The Appalachian Trail in Maryland is beautiful – you go from flat, forest terrain to uphill/downhill cliff terrain, to water/creek terrain. There are tons of access points for day-hikers, too.

We chose the Washington Monument State Park access point in Middletown, MD. There’s a large parking lot, area for picnics, the monument to check out, and clear directions for heading either north or south on the Appalachian Trail.

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We climbed to the top of the monument and got to see a breathtaking view! There are maps at the top that describe the observation points. You can see three different states from the top lookout: West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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We spent a few minutes on top, and then came down so others could view. There’s some room at the top, but only a couple of groups can be there at one time. There’s a dark, windy staircase climb to get to the top, but it’s short and the view is more than worth the effort.

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After a quick picnic by the monument (awesome trail fuel: turkey/cheese/mustard sandwiches with fresh grapes, cantaloupe, and a pickle each), we decided to head south on the trail for an early afternoon hike.

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Heading south from Washington Monument State Park, we walked toward Dahlgren Campground, one of my favorite pit stops on the trail last summer (mostly because it offers showers. A hot shower after three days without one is amazing), and toward Rocky Run Shelter.

I didn’t know the exact route we’d walk beforehand, which I probably should’ve planned, but the trip was somewhat spontaneous, and we decided we’d walk until the sun went down.

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Consulting a guide later, I learned that we covered 8 miles total that afternoon. Here’s the milage, elevation and each point worth noting:

Mile Elevation Point
0 1550 feet Washington Monument
0.4 1400 feet Washington Monument Road
0.6 1350 feet Monument Road
2 1000 feet Turners Gap, Route 40
2.2 980 feet Dahlgren Campground
3 910 feet Reno Monument Road
4 970 feet Rocky Run Shelter

Once we hit Rocky Run Shelter, we figured it was a good turnaround point since the sun was starting to hang lower in the sky.

The descent from the Monument was fun, getting back up it was a major calf workout!

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect: cooler at the top (Washington Monument), and a great 70 degrees toward the bottom.

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I loved our short day hike trek — it took us about 3.5 hours to walk the full 8 miles. We also stopped a few times along the way to take silly pictures, grab water and refuel, and find the perfect spot to leave behind a small memento, a bit of “Trail Magic” for someone else to find.

If you’re looking for a short day hike that’s fairly moderate (there is a steep climb on the way back toward the monument), I highly recommend this route.

Our next adventure will happen during our birthdays (our birthdays are a day apart!), when we venture to Virginia for more AT hiking!