The 6th section of the Appalachian Trail takes you quickly through 50 miles of Maryland and not-so-quickly through another 220 of Pennsylvania. It is common to take a few days of much-needed rest in Harper’s Ferry, as it symbolizes the mental accomplishment of being half-way done with one’s thru-hike. Also, to mentally prepare for the foot pain of the upcoming “Rocksylvania” portion of the trail. Following this break though, are some significant milestones of their own, such as crossing the Mason Dixon Line, reaching the true half-way point, the Allenberry Playhouse, and the historic Doyle Hotel.
For me, there’s a bit more nostalgia here as well, as it takes me Waynesboro, Pennsylvania where I spent 3 months working at a summer camp. The camp is just a couple miles from the Appalachian Trail, and though I thought about it constantly, never had a chance to hike it. I had every intention of hiking the trail the following spring, and if not for such a great time at that camp which led to a full-time job in September, I would have. To this day, working at this summer camp is the closest I’ve ever been to the Appalachian Trail, having yet to take a single step on the trail. In 63 days, that changes. Hello Neiman!
- Start of Section: Harpers Ferry, WV (1024.8)
- End of Section: Delaware Water Gap (1294.7)
- Total Miles: 269.9
- Total Days: 17
- Avg Daily Miles: 15.9
- Town Stops: 4
General Strategy for Section 6
- 1024.8 – Harpers Ferry is located in the Northeast corner of West Virginia, almost immediately upon exiting town, you cross the border into Maryland. This marks your cross into “the north”, in civil war terms, and there are some iconic monuments and memorials to the civil war located over the next few hundred miles to commemorate it.
- 1034.8 – First up is the National War Correspondents Arch, a 50-foot tall memorial built by Civil War correspondent George Alfred Townsend in 1896 dedicated to journalists killed in combat. This arch is located in Gathland State Park, built on the former estate of Townsend (whose pen name was “Gath”).
- 1043.6 – Next is the first monument dedicated to George Washington, located in Washington Monument State Park. The monument sits atop a steep 1/10 of a mile summit to South Mountain’s Monument Knob.
- 1065.4 – The Mason Dixon Line. I’m not going to say that I thought this demarcation line was the formal separation of the Union from the Confederacy, but I’m not going to say it I didn’t. This is also where to briefly go off-trail, if one wants to stop visit the aforementioned summer camp in Waynesboro 4.6 miles to the west. Assuming anyone is there this time of year, I hope to do just that.
- 1065.7 – So obviously, following the Mason Dixon Line, marks the entry to Pennsylvania.
- 1084.0 – A quick jaunt through Pennsylvania’s Caledonia State Park, which although nothing fancy, does have the Caledonia Furnace, an iron furnace that was owned by Thaddeus Stevens beginning in 1837. The park also hosts a nice recreational area and the Totem Pole Playhouse, a summer stock theatre.
- 1103.4 – Cue the Bon Jovi music! Harpers Ferry was symbolic, but now we are officially halfway there. Although the trail changes in length every year, Pine Grove Furnace State Park houses another AT Museum and Festival (May 6). To celebrate the midway accomplishment, it is tradition for thru-hikers to complete the Half Gallon Challenge, where one must finish a 1.5-quart tub of Hershey’s ice cream, plus a hand-scooped pint, in one sitting. Bring. It. On.
- 1115.9 – As this naked hiker describes it, think of hedge or cornfield maze, but make it out of rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Not to be dramatic, but I expect this to be a real-life simulation of the Maze Runner movie.
- 1122.7 – If you are anything like me, you should look forward to spending the night here in Boiling Springs, PA. Besides the fact the AT cuts directly through this trail tow (e.g. no need for side-trails or hitchhiking), it’s a big town with lots to do. One of the accommodations I’m most looking forward to resides here – the Allenberry Resort, an inn & playhouse that hosts Gypsy on stage this May.
- 1148.3 – Although not planning to stay in here, the next big town the AT bisects is Duncannon, PA. Here you can meet Trail Angel Mary, well known for her hospitality to hikers and general kindness. Or drop in to view the legendary Doyle Hotel, where Pat and Vickey Kelly house, feed and share stories with more than 1,200 hikers each year. I’d like to spend some time admiring the Doyle for sure.
- 1203.8 – Fort Dietrich Snyder Monument, dedicated to the lookout post used to warn of approaching enemies during the French and Indian War.
- 1226.2 – The Pinnacle and the Pulpit, considered to be the two premier vistas in the PA portion of the AT, offering endless views of Lehigh Valley and its surrounding ridges Tri-County Corner.
- 1248.1 – It’s no joke why Pennsylvania is nicknamed Rocksylvania, and the Knife Edge and Bear Rocks sections here will leave no doubt why. That’s a trail??
- 1259.9 – If the rocks haven’t beaten you down yet, another great 360-degree view awaits you at the Superfund Detour. With a name like that, it’s sure to be something interesting.
- 1286.6 – More rock scrambling along Wolf Rocks. Honestly, this one makes me severely rethink the plan to hike 15+ miles a day in Pennsylvania.
- 1294.7 – The final destination of Section 6, Delaware Water Gap!
Upon reaching Delaware Water Gap, there are not too many accommodations to choose from, but one common hiker destination is the Church of the Mountain Hiker Center. This hostel provides an outdoor shelter, indoor bunk room, shower, lave, and sitting room for visitors. Many of the biographies and journals I’ve read from thru-hikers include a stay at this church, for good reason, as it provides one complimentary stay to any hiker for the night.
Up next is Section 7 where we take on the entirety of New Jersey and New York sections of the trail. Hello Neiman!