I would say this trail is somewhere between Intermediate and Advanced. You will also share this trail with hikers, ATV's, and 4-wheel drives.
State Line Trail (AKA Tuscarora Trail, AKA County Line Trail)
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.
From Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Store write up of trail guides and maps
From I-81 in VA take Rt. 55 west past Star Tannery. At the top of the mountain and just before the WV state line there will be a road/trail on the left named Tuscarora Trail. You will see some limited parking area next to the high way or if you have a 4wd you can drive up the trail a couple hundred yards for more pull off areas.
Summary: Rode a 22 mile loop on 5/5/13 with my riding buddy. We left one car near the entrance to Forest Road 93 and the other near the Tuscarora Trail/Hwy 55 intersection. This can be done with just one car but we wanted to avoid the long hill climb on Hwy 55 as we knew this ride was going to be tough enough anyway without adding a dreary road climb to it.
Start: ride southwest on the Tuscarora trail (blue blazes). Note: This section of the Tuscarora trail is also called the State Line and County Line trail. The first few miles are jeep trail that can be accessed with a 4WD during hunting season when the Forest Service unlocks the gate. Not too long into the ride you will encounter the first of many steep hills. Many of these can be climbed on your bike but you'll burn a match to do so. Since we had a big all day ride ahead of us we opted to push our bikes on the steepest climbs. Gradually the trail narrowed, the vegetation closed in, and the rocks got bigger. We pushed our bikes more than we liked but we were rewarded with some nice long rideable rocky sections that brought big smiles to our faces. We completed the 9 mile Tuscarora trail section and then took a connecting forest road to the Old Mail trail (faded pink blazes) then to an old logging road then to the yellow blaze trail to the main forest road and completed the loop. We're glad we rode this section of Tuscarora trail but given the overall trail condition we'll plan future trail rides on some of the other nearby trails instead. Don't let this discourage you from doing this section of the Tusky trail though. It's something every back country should do at least once. This trail section has a lot of potential.
- This is a challenging all day loop ride. Do not underestimate it. We had planned a longer 30 mile ride up the PATC Sugar Knob cabin but opted to cut out that section. We're glad we did.
- On this loop ride you will experience steep hills, dead fall, sticker vines, muddy stream crossings, fast forest road, hike a bike rocks, cool streams, and great views.
- There are plenty of car camping spots along the nearby access forest roads. It would be worth it to camp out and spend the weekend riding.
- Bring a folding bow saw and do some trail maintenance as you ride. Leave it a little more rideable for the next rider.
- Use the PATC Map F. Great North Mountain-North Half (VA/WV) to plan your ride
- Plan a nice break at the PATC shelter about 4 miles into the ride. Be sure to sign the log book.
- Pictures are available on the Google Earth web site. Tag is "Vance's Cove".
- This is back country riding similar to Elizabeth Furnace. If you can do two laps at Fountainhead or ride the Frederick Watershed regularly you are fit enough to ride here. Be prepared. You will have to navigate. Carry a headlight, water purifier, a first aid kit, 2000 calories more than you think you'll need, and enough survival gear to allow you to spend a night on the trail. Have a rescue/extraction plan in case you break down or get hurt. There are several car access points; however, you can still have to walk 5 or more miles. Riding solo here is a mistake.
- ATT cell reception is so-so. There are places where you can get 3 bars and long stretches where you will have nothing. I have an iPhone app that sends my location to friends and family members every 10 minutes when I have a signal.
- The Stans No Tubes sealant did its job and saved me from having to patch at least two flats.
- Water is not readily available on 9 mile Tuscarora but there are two places to find it if you do a good map recon. Stream water on the lower trails and forest roads is available.
- Except for a few people in cars on the forest roads we did not see anyone except a horseback rider doing trail maintence all day. I have encountered MTB riders on previous hikes in the area though.
- GPS track logs and route planning available upon request.
- Ticks and overgrown trail vegetation can be a problem. We pulled quite a few large ticks off us before they dug in. Grass and weeds made picking lines through the rock harder. Recommend doing this ride in early Spring before the tree leaves come out or in the winter on a warm day or stick to several of the other adjacent trails.
- Be sure to be respectful to the horseback riders and share the trail. The Old Dominion Endurance Rider club maintains sections of trail in the Paddy's Cove valley. They have a very nice information kiosk in the area. I just wish the horses didn't tear up the trail so badly. There were some sections where we got the rolling resistance of a freshly plowed field.
- Expect to feel pretty beat up the next day. Your core and upper body will get a good workout. I've done the Shenandoah 100 and my riding partner is training for his 2nd Ironman. Even so, this ride left us really depleted the next day.
Distance: 22 miles
Total elapsed time: 7:30
Moving time: 5:00
Stopped time: 2:30
Average speed 2.9 mph
Average moving speed 4.5 mph
Recommended Route: See trail summary
Other recommended trails in the same area: There are quite a few but you'll need to the PATC map to plan your loop.
Review Date June 10, 2002
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: Hopper Dale
, from Stephens City, VA, USA
Summary: Trail was a blast, lots of hardwoods with a few very nice views. Some very easy sections, with a sprinkling of technical stuff. Not sure I would recommend this trail for a beginner, but it would be possible assuming they took their time. The further you go the more technial the trail becomes. I think this would be a great trail for the Intermediat(sp?) to refine their skills.
Recommended Route: Only did about 1.5 miles of trail, short on time.