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Tuscarora Trail: Pt 6: Cowans Gap: PA 641 to Cowans Gap SP: A Strenuous 15.7 Mi

  • Jun 29, 2013 · 9:00 AM
  • This location is shown only to members

The Tuscarora Trail: Section 6 - Cowans Gap: 
PA 641 to Cowans Gap State Park: A Strenuous 15.7 Mile Section Hike with Shuttle Service

Optional Camping at Cowans Gap State Park

From PA 641 the trail follows paved roads across Path Valley but that is a very short section of this hike because upon reaching Mountain Green Road, the trail ascends to the crest of Tuscarora Mountain (el. 1900 ft.) passing over the Pennsylvania Turnpike. After entering Buchanan State Forest, the trail descends to the Fannettsburg-Burnt Cabins Road crossing and begins to follow many other roads and side trails until it reaches Cowans Gap State Park.

"The south end of the section is in Cowans Gap State Park. Cowans Gap is named after Samuel Cowan who settled in the area around the time of the American Revolution.  The north end of the section begins on PA 641, 0.8 miles south of Spring Run. From PA 641 the trail follows paved roads crossing PA 75 (elevation 810 ft.) in Path Valley, one of the routes, followed by the Tuscarora Indians on their journeys through the area.  The trail follows Mountain Green Road and then ascends to the crest of Tuscarora Mountain (elevation 1900 ft.) on a woods road passing the Mountain Green Hunting Club. This is a climb of about 1100 ft. over 3.9 miles.  The trail follows the ridge, and soon enters the Buchanan State Forest.  After passing above the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it continues along the ridge until it descends to Fannettsburg-Burnt Cabins Road leaving the State Forest.  The trail continues to descend and parallels the South Branch of Aughwick Creek in Allens Valley.  It reaches the Burd Run Shelter shortly after reentering the Buchanan State Forest.  The trail uses and crosses many side trails, including Forbes Road Trail, until it reaches Cowans Gap State Park.  Forbes Road was the first westward road built through this section of Pennsylvania.  It was built in 1755 to transport and supply troops during the French and Indian wars and was used by General Forbes in 1758." Portions taken by permission from The Tuscarora Trail Guide Book"

NOTE: Trail Register (Sign in Sheet Along the Trail): There is a 'trail register' along the trail at mile 4.7 of todays hike. If is along the Tuscarora Trail that is within the Tuscarora State Forest. Please take a couple of moments and sign your name to assist those in charge of overseeing the trail in measuring how much use the trail gets. It also assists those responsible with the appropriation of proper resources and funding to keep it open and maintained. Thank you so much and know that you make a difference. It's the 'write' thing to do to keep the trail open and maintained.

Unique Sites We Will See on This Section

About Mile 1.0 - Path Valley (PA 75)

The Tuscarora Path was the route used by the Tuscarora Indians when they migrated in the 1760s from North Carolina to Iroquois country in upstate New York. The Indians generally traveled in the valleys and along streams.

About Mile 5.2

Prominent View of Western Valley and Mountains.

Buchanan State Forest

The trail is within or near this state forest from mile 6.1 to mile 24.2.

Forbes Road, Mile 12.1 to 12.9:

A westward road opened in 1755 and used by General Forbes to transport and supply troops during the French and Indian War.

Cowans Gap, Mile 15.8:

The gap is named for Samuel Cowan, who settled in the vicinity during the American Revolution.

Sweet Fern: (In Season): Within the first mile of this hike, there is a nice population of sweet fern, a flowering plant, not a fern.  The name comes from the fragrance emitted when crushing the foliage.

What Is the Tuscarora Trail?

The Tuscarora Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that splits off from the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, passes through West Virginia and Maryland, then rejoins the Appalachian Trail near Marysville, Pennsylvania. It is 252 miles (406 km) long, and includes both the 110-mile (180 km) trail section formerly known as the Tuscarora Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the 142-mile (229 km) trail section formerly known as the Big Blue Trail in Virginia and West Virginia.

The Tuscarora Trail (including the Big Blue section) was built as a speculative alternative route for the Appalachian Trail. It was built further west, in a more wild corridor, because it was feared that development would force closure of the AT, before the Federal effort to conserve that trail.

Much of the trail in Pennsylvania was closed in the 1980s because a gypsy moth onslaught had killed much of the surrounding oak forest. The trail became overgrown with brambles, briar's and other vegetation to become impassable. The trail has since been re-opened and is now maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

The Tuscarora Trail is today an official side-trail of the Appalachian Trail and is blazed in blue.

This trail eventually will become a component of the Great Eastern Trail, which will extend from Alabama to the Finger Lakes in New York state.

Trail Information

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Fort Loudon, PA
Length: 15.7 miles

Exposure: Mostly shady; less so in winter

Elevation Gain: ? feet
Trail Type: Point to Point with Volunteer Shuttle Service (No Retracing Steps or Hiking Out and Back)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Season: Year-round
Local Maps: PATC Map J and K

Camping Information

There is optional camping at Cowans Gap State Park

We are planning on camping out for the weekend, everyone is welcome to join in on the camping. Click Here to make your reservations and pretty please post your camp site so we know where to find you. 

Irina and I and a few others have reserved site number 11 for both Friday and Saturday nights. We are planning on potluck style meals so bring to share the fire and company of friends. I will be going up Friday at 3pm and exploring the area after setting up.

Weather Information
We hike rain or shine. Click here to see an up to the minute forecast for the area where we will be hiking.

Carpool Information

There are 2 carpools for this hike!

Baltimore Area Carpool
To carpool or caravan from the Baltimore metro area, meet at Savage Station. Click here for directions to Savage Station.  Use the comment section to discuss carpooling with other members.

If you can drive or want to carpool from additional locations, please post your location in the comment section below. For those who need a ride, reach out to the drivers. Make friends, and support the environment - by just offering a ride!

Directions to the Trailhead

Click Here for Directions to Where We Meet for This Hike

Meet and Greet: 8:45-9:00a.m.

Hike Time is 9:00 a.m.

Carpool Time at Savage is 6:30 a.m.

Gear Information Click here for suggestions for what to wear and what not to wear for our hikes.

Please remember we are a social hiking group that values fellowship and camaraderie and practice good hike etiquette. We take breaks as necessary and have at least one guide in the front in addition to a "sweeper" in the back which means that no hiker is left behind. If you get upset because someone has to rest at the top of a hill etc. then please find another group! We are very supportive, encouraging, and focus on safety while getting or staying fit on the trail and practicing Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

Fido is Welcome on This Hike!

Be sure to take the hike leaders numbers with you just in case!



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  • Kelly B.

    Thank you so much to Sandy and Steve for all your coordination! Gorgeous views and some fun rocks to kick it off after the contrasting Amish PA countryside. really fun group! thanks everyone- hope camping saturday was a blast and a rain-free one!

    1 · July 1, 2013

  • irina r.

    Thank you Sandy and Steve for doing this for us. We had a blast !

    1 · June 30, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Irina, thank you for crackin me up,

      2 · July 1, 2013

  • Sandy B.

    Lets see 4 miles of road walking before we hit the woods, then 3 miles of over grown rocky ridge walking and the last 8 1/2 miles were regular trail, you know ups, downs, rocks, flat areas great day. Thanks everyone who came out to camp and hike with us.

    3 · July 1, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thank you for organizing sandy and steve,

      2 · July 1, 2013

  • Michelle A.

    Great hike today, thanks Sandy and Steve!! And great meeting everyone. Loved Cowans Gap campground, I'll be back. Weather was great, as were the views of farmlands, bushwacking and rock hopping also added to the fun!!

    3 · June 29, 2013

  • Kellie C.

    Thanks Sandy and Steve for volunteering to lead this hike.

    1 · June 29, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is anyone driving from rockville or bethesda area?

    June 16, 2013

    • Selma B.

      Daniel, first I apologize for getting back to you so late! I will join you tomorrow night. I have to cancel this hike because I have to attend a training tomorrow. See you then

      June 28, 2013

    • Daniel C.

      Alright Selma no worries at all. See you tmr. Kemeria see ya there at 6.

      June 28, 2013

  • irina r.

    Guys the camp located next to huge lake YAY , kayaking , boating and etc . For Saturday , after hike and lunch, we can have kayaking adventure ! OXOXO!

    2 · June 27, 2013

  • irina r.

    About food, I will bring for Saturday breakfast ( may be will be enough for Sunday ) eggs, bacon, sausages .

    1 · June 25, 2013

    • Deborah C.

      Are we allowed to bring in wood from the outside?

      1 · June 27, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I'm bringing peanut butter and jelly and bread

      June 27, 2013

  • Linda

    Hi - I'm not camping out, but I'll be driving in on Sat am. Just wanted to confirm the hike time. It is listed as 10am at the top, but 9am in the hike details. Thanks!

    June 27, 2013

    • Kellie C.

      I found the original e-mail communique for this hike and it was to be at 9am. This is my fault (Kellie) and not Steve's or anyone else's. What a Rookie mistake for me to have made given I have experience posting thousands of hikes over our 6 years, argh. So sorry about that and how unusual I did that given I have a methodical way of posting events-blush. Thanks for keeping me on my toes Linda and enjoy the hike.

      June 27, 2013

  • Michelle A.

    Booked Site 12 for Friday night. As of right now, not planning to arrive until 9ish Friday, but depending on work/traffic, plans could change.

    2 · June 20, 2013

    • irina r.

      5 people per site, Debie , do not reserve the site, ask Jonathan, he reserved the site, and I think he has the room, contact to him.

      2 · June 20, 2013

    • Michelle A.

      Irina, I think this means 2 tents per a site "A maximum of two sleeping units are permitted per campsite, of which only one may be wheeled."

      1 · June 26, 2013

  • Michelle A.

    Looks like I can work in Bethesda Friday so Kelly and I should be getting up there early evening between 6-7pm

    2 · June 26, 2013

  • Ashley B

    Good morning! I was wondering if you guys will be camping out both Friday and Saturday night? Thanks!

    June 17, 2013

    • Jonathan

      I have reserved site 52.

      1 · June 18, 2013

    • Jonathan

      Also, I don't expect to arrive before 8:30 on Friday night.

      June 18, 2013

  • Michelle A.

    I'm interested in camping fri night but won't get up there until after work/rush hour

    1 · June 9, 2013

    • Michelle A.

      I haven't yet, figured I would next week if we need one. I'd have 3 for my site so far me, Kelly. And Kemeria.

      June 18, 2013

    • Michelle A.

      But note Kelly and me are only planning to camp Friday night.

      1 · June 18, 2013

  • irina r.

    Debbie, you may be better come for camping at Friday , any time, and hike next day , instead to drive at night, just a thoughts :)

    1 · June 9, 2013

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