Foot Prints

Thurston Griggs Trail to Cowall Shelter – 11.58 H

First, allow me to give all credit to the Mountain Club of Maryland (MCOMD) for providing the opportunity to participate in any and all of the hikes that I do in Maryland. For hiking and membership information, please feel free to browse their website at

This hike, lead by Jim Koury on Saturday, November 26, 2011 was held on a beautiful Indian summer day. This hike, classified as “Hard” proved to be a great way to lose those extra pounds that were gained during the Thanksgiving holiday. It was also the first day of hunting season, so many hikers donned on their bright orange gear so that the group would not be confused with any deer running around in the woods.

The Thurston Griggs Trail is a feeder trail to the Appalachian Trail near Smithsburg, Maryland. This hike was in particular a special event, as Thurston Griggs was one of the Mountain Clubs most illustrious members who recently passed away at the age of 95. The Mountain Club was proud to honor Dr. Thurston Griggs that day in the best way possible – hiking ! His autobiography can be found here:

Pierce Griggs

HIKE DESCRIPTION:  This is an 11.58 mile out and back hike in Frederick County, Smithsburg, Maryland. The Thurston Griggs Trail (TGT) is a rugged .9 mile trail that crisscrosses a stream and ascends 625 feet until it meets the Appalachian Trail. From there, the hike heads north to the Cowall Shelter, for a lunch stop. The hike has many extremely rocky sections of trail, six stream crossings, and a total ascent of 1500+ feet.

Take the Thurston Griggs Trail from the parking area, heading immediately across a stream and continue on. You’ll shortly get to a dirt road, cross the road and continue on the trail (trail sign indicating AT) that follows the stream upwards. The TGT will arrive at the Appalachian trail at Pogo Camp Ground. Turn left to head north towards Cowall Shelter. Around mile marker 5.25 you’ll cross a paved road to continue northward on the AT. You’ll see that there is a parking lot to the right that also provides access to this trail.

Hiking up the Thurston Griggs Trail

Pogo Campground

DIRECTIONS TO HIKE SITE: Take I-70 W to Exit 35 (MD-66)/Mapleville Road.) Proceed about 1.3 miles on MD-66 towards Smithsburg. Turn right at Mount Aetna Road for 1.3 miles. Turn right on Crystal Falls Drive for .8 miles. Turn left on White Oak Road for .3 miles to parking lot at the end of the road on the left.

COOKIES FOR THE HIKE: Chocolate Chip cookies with milk and white chocolate chips, coconut, ground hazelnut and walnuts.

COMMENTARY: I’ve been hiking with MCOMD since January, 1999. This is an absolutely amazing group of people, it is so rare to find a group of people that are so congenial and truly are a pleasure to spend time with. The Mountain Club of Maryland offers several hikes a week that vary in length and difficulty. There are three main groups within MCOMD; Leisure, Tweeners, and the “Big Dogs.” There is also an even more advanced group that hikes with Karen Kleindist which do absolutely amazing, long and fast hikes.

I hike with the “Big Dogs” even though I was just a puppy for so very long. It has been humbling each and every time that I go out with this group. Many of these hikers are retirees, 15 to 25 years my senior, and they just leave me in the dust ! This group likes to hike as often as possible on the Appalachian Trail. Additional hikes throughout Maryland offer incredible scenery and average in length of 9-11 miles. Initially, anything over 8 miles was just too intimidating for me. Blisters and foot pain was a big issue that took me over a year to overcome, but more of that in another post.

It was such a great pleasure for me on this hike that, after three years of hiking, I was able to blow up both the Thurston Griggs Trail, and the trail heading south from the Cowall Shelter without having to stop to catch my breath!

Both of these hills on this hike are significant, long and steady climbs with either steps or streams to traverse. Along the ridge of the AT, there are three spots of very rocky terrain that one is literally rock scrambling. Each step requires full attention so that you don’t face plant onto a rock.

Trail Map

2 replies »

  1. Thanks for the info! I recently hiked the AT from Rt. 40 to Wolfsville Rd passing the Thurston Griggs trail. Came home and started looking online for some hiking resources on this trail!

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