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Originally constructed as a new route for the Appalachian Trail in response to development pressures in Northern Virginia, the 248-mile Tuscarora Trail became an extended side trail when the AT became a National Scenic Trail. The scenic trail designation made it possible for the Federal government to begin the process of acquiring land in a corridor around the trail thereby bringing permanent protection to the original AT route.
While the Tuscarora was never used as a new trail for the AT, it's still a beautiful extended hiking route, leaving the AT to cut west across the Shenandoah Valley into the Shenandoah Mountains, then heading north into Pennsylvania where it reconnects with the Appalachian Trail. Until the mid-1990's, the south half of the trail from Shenandoah National Park to Hancock, Maryland was called "The Big Blue Trail" and was maintained by PATC. The north half was called "The Tuscarora" maintained by the Keystone Trails Association. In the early 90's, due to lack of attention, the Tuscarora section was rapidly disappearing back into the mountains. Thanks to the efforts of two District Trails Managers, PATC resurrected the trail and took over responsibility. At the urging of Elizabeth Johnston, PATC's then-Pennsylvania Chapter President, PATC then voted to rename the entire route "The Tuscarora". It now stands as a premiere hiking route with a singular name.
Not as developed (there are only a few shelters along the route), not as public, not as long, and not as well-known at the Appalachian Trail, the Tuscarora offers something perhaps the AT doesn't - a better sense of wilderness and solitude. The Trail's connection point to the AT at its north and south terminus provides a hiking opportunity known as the "Tusca-lachian Loop". PATC is currently considering a patch to award to those who complete this enormous hiking circuit.
The Tuscarora Trail: A Guide to the North Half in MD and PA|
The Tuscarora Trail: A Guide to the South Half in WV and VA|
Map F. Great North Mountain - North Half (Virginia/West Virginia)
Map G. Massanutten Mountain - North Half (Signal Knob to New Market Gap)
Map J. Tuscarora Trail - Appalachian Trail, Pennsylvania to Pennsylvania Route 641|
Map K. Tuscarora Trail - Pennsylvania Route 641 to Hancock, Maryland|
Map L. Tuscarora Trail - Hancock, Maryland, to Capon Springs, West Virginia, and Cacapon State Park|