Trail Trials: Thurston Griggs Trail to Black Rock
Along the mountainous landscape outside of Smithsburg, Maryland, the Thurston Griggs and Appalachian Trails combine to form a lightly trafficked 3.4 mile out-and-back route to Black Rock, one of the best views in the state! The Thurston Griggs Trail is a 0.9 mile connector path to the AT and is rated moderate for difficulty. The Appalachian is much easier to walk and its intersection with Thurston Griggs is about three-quarters of a mile from the overlook.
The Thurston Griggs Trail is named after a decorated 50-year conservationist of the Appalachian Trail. Griggs started working on the AT in 1959 and held numerous leadership positions for the National Park throughout his career. He even regularly hiked 10-12 miles of trail per day well into his mid-80s! Amazingly, I found his memoirs online and they’re quite the interesting read—click HERE for the content!
Anyway, I started my journey on the Griggs Trail. The trailhead is at the end of a residential street…rather odd, but hey, I’m not complaining! The path parallels a scenic stream for most of the way up and it’s pretty much a straight shot to the Appalachian Trail. The terrain is rather rocky, but well maintained, and the grade is fairly challenging. You’ll definitely feel a rigorous burn on the way up!
At the top is the Appalachian Trail intersection and the Pogo Campground. I made a right on the AT and the footpath became less rocky and relatively flat. Pretty soon, I reached the Black Rock Overlook. The overlook area is quite expansive, stretching a couple hundred yards with three different rock outcroppings! Black Rock stands an imposing 1200 feet above the Cumberland Valley, and on a clear day like when I went, you can see forty miles out!
The entire trip took me a little under two hours – 40 minutes of hiking each way and about 20 minutes at the overlook. For most people, the trip should take no more than two and a half hours in total. I had a pleasant experience hiking to Black Rock. It’s not too strenuous, but just challenging enough to get a good workout in! Plus, the view is absolutely spectacular! Venture out and experience this trail for yourselves! Trail Rating: 9/10