Annapolis Rock/Black Rock Cliffs, Washington County
TOP CHOICE FOR ICONIC MARYLAND VIEWS
If you’ve ever seen photos of an Appalachian Trail overlook in Maryland, they were probably taken at Annapolis Rock. Both Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliffs — just one mile apart on the Appalachian Trail (AT) — offer striking views of rural Maryland. My go-to route for access to both of these views is hiking the Thurston Griggs Trail to the AT, then heading southbound, first to Black Rock and then to Annapolis Rock. The Thurston Griggs Trail is a moderate, rocky climb any time of year, but it can be especially tricky in the fall when fallen leaves can betray your footing. There are also several small water crossings along the way, but if you enjoy peace and solitude on the trail like I do, this is definitely the route to take. The soothing sound of trickling water and wildlife are icing on the cake. I recommend starting early or hiking on a weekday because there are only a few parking spots at the Thurston Griggs trailhead, which is tucked away at the end of a residential street.
The vast majority of hikers heading to Annapolis Rock start at the parking lot off of Maryland Route 40, just east of the entrance to Greenbrier State Park. Despite the large lot size, it fills at peak times, especially on Saturdays and whenever the weather is good. This also translates to a very busy section of trail on the AT, excepting cold and bad weather days. The hike from Route 40 to Annapolis Rock is moderate and gradual with a few steep sections. There is also a low lying section that is frequently wet and muddy, depending on rainfall. That part of the trail often freezes and becomes a slick stretch of land during the winter months.
Once you work your way up the mountain, the blue blaze side trail to Annapolis Rock is well marked, whether you’re hiking north or south on the AT. Once you turn onto the blue blaze trail, you’ll pass through a small camping area before arriving at the top of the impressive rock formations, also popular with rock climbers. On a clear day, the southeast view from Annapolis Rock is beautiful, looking out over Greenbrier Lake.
Black Rock is located one mile north of Annapolis Rock on the AT. It’s not as well marked as the side trail to Annapolis Rock so you’ll want to be aware of the distance you’ve traveled and be on the lookout for a wooden sign with blue lettering. There’s a sign for hikers traveling both north and south but they’re on trees several feet above eye level. Black Rock isn’t at large as Annapolis Rock but the view from there is equally as impressive with a 180-degree panoramic view looking west. From the highest rocks you can still see Greenbrier Lake in the distance. Annapolis Rock is by far the busiest of the two overlooks when it comes to hiker traffic, so I think of Black Rock as the perfect spot to stop, rest for a bit and enjoy your favorite trail snacks.