This is a five mile segment of the famous Appalachian Trail, which follows the South Mountain ridgeline. The trail crosses on a footbridge over I-70, passes through some guy's yard, then this segment begins across the street. I did the hike in early Spring (first week of April), so only some of the trees had begun getting leaves/blooms. Really, it more resembled a late fall/winter hike. From Spring to Fall, it will be so heavily vegetated that, in most cases, you will not be able to see far off trail.
The first half mile is a 150-foot climb up Bartman Hill, on the rockiest portion of this segment. The rest of the segment varies from wide and smooth to slightly narrow and slightly rocky. Overall, a great surface, with minimal odds of joint injury. Also, any deadfall has been cleared, so no head banging. However, I am told that Eastern Diamondbacks have been spotted on the trail. (At 30 degrees, it was too cold for them.)
You will descend Bartman Hill, re-cross Boonsboro Road, then begin a more or less steady climb up to 1500 feet, just before you descend to 1300 feet, at 2.5 miles, where a powerline cutout crosses Turner Gap (site of one of three Civil War battles on September 14, 1862.).
Immediately after Turner Gap, you will begin the steepest part of the segment, a 250-foot climb to the top of Monument Knob, which is marked by a stone observation tower that was built in 1827 in honor of George Washington. It's wide panorama made it an ideal outpost for Union signal units during the Antietam Campaign. (You can see the battlefield, some six miles southwest, from the tower top.) After enjoying the view, follow the Washington history walk down to a paved parking area. (Which has toilet and water facilities.) The trail picks up again just east of the park HQ.
You will head east for about a half mile, cross paved Monument Road, then turn south and begin another 150-foot climb, before descending 400 feet to the end of the segment on Old National Pike at Fox Gap. (Another of the September 14, 1862 battles.) There are a number of historical markers around the trailhead at Old South Mountain Inn, including the Dahlgren Chapel, built in memory of the admiral who invented the guns used by the USS Monitor. There is a water tap down the gravel road, but the only bathroom facilities I saw in the area would be at the Inn, which is only open from late afternoon on.
Finally, if you are a Civil War buff, nearby Hagerstown is a great place to base yourself out of: Gettysburg is just 60 minutes northeast, Antietam (still the bloodiest day in American history) 15 minutes south, Turner Gap, Fox Gap and Crampton's Gap 20 minutes east, and Harpers Ferry 45 minutes southeast. - Apr 10 2012 kingsnakeOne-Way Notice:
This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example