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AT Rt. 944 to Duncannon
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View from Hawk Rock

The Appalachian Trail
follows ridges of mountains east of the Alleghenies to the Susquehanna River in a long section of Trail notorious for its foot-bruising, boot-destroying rocks. The Trail north of the Susquehanna is characterized by long, flat, rocky ridges broken by fairly strenuous climbs in and out of gaps. About ten miles south of the Susquehanna River, the Trail crosses the Great Valley of the Appalachians to the Blue Ridge. This southern portion of the Trail through Pennsylvania has many sections that are gentle, and grades are easy, making it one of the easiest sections of the Trail. Pennsylvania can be oppressively hot in summer, and water may be scarce. The Trail crosses many roads, and some shelters are near roads, where scattered crime problems make extra safety awareness a good idea. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a field office along the Trail in Boiling Springs.

This section of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania features the views from Hawk Rock and takes northbound hikers into Duncannon, PA then over the Susquehanna River on the Clarks Ferry Bridge. There are two shelters along this stretch of trail. 

The Darlington Shelter was built in 2006 to replace an older shelter. The shelter sleeps eight with tent sites available nearby as well as a composting privy. The Cove Mountain Shelter was built in 2000 utilizing the lumber salvaged from an old barn with some of the timber over 100 years old. This is the only timber frame shelter along the AT. The shelter sleeps eight with a privy nearby.

This stretch of the Appalachian begins at the pedestrian underpass of busy PA 944 (northbound). This recently built tunnel takes hikers under the busy highway above. The trail heads toward Blue Mountain.  At 1.0 miles the trail crosses an old road and now the trail ascends a bit steeper. 

At 1.4 miles a rock outcrop just off the trail leads to a nice view of the Cumberland Valley.  At 1.7 miles reach the top of this climb and a ridge top jeep road.  At this point are the junctions of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail to the west and the orange blazed Darlington Trail to the east.

The Tuscarora Trail was originally built as a new route for the Appalachian Trail due to the fast development of the Cumberland Valley. It first departs the Appalachian Trail at the top of Blue Mountain in Deans Gap. It travels along ridge tops, southwesterly toward Maryland. There it connects to the Big Blue Trail before joining the Appalachian Trail again in Shenandoah National Park. The trail is over 250 miles in length, with 110 miles in Pennsylvania and creates an interesting long backpacking loop with the AT.

The 18 mile Darlington Trail is known more for it's convenience and location to the Harrisburg area rather than it's views, although there are some fine winter views along the trail.  The trail travels northeast for 7.4 miles along the ridge of Blue Mountain and then picks up again on the eastern side of the Susquehanna River, where it ends near Manada Gap.

Back on the AT, the trail now descends and at 2.0 miles a blue blazed side trail leads 500 feet to the Darlington Shelter.  At 2.8 miles the trail begins to ascend Little Mountain.  At 3.1 miles the trail begins to follow along an old telephone cable clearing.  At 3.2 miles the trail crests Little Mountain.

Blazed wooden post marks the way along the Appalachian Trail

At 3.0 miles the trail turns right off the old cable clearing.  At 3.4 miles the trail leaves a ravine, turns right and crosses an open field. At 3.8 miles cross Millers Gap Road.  At 4.1 miles cross PA 850 and follow the blazed posts into the field. The trail crosses a wet area on a nice bridge before entering into the woods.

At 5.5 miles and begin the real climb up Cove Mountain.  At 6.2 miles the trail crosses a pipeline clearing with nice views. An unmarked trail on the west descends the mountain to a State Game Lands parking area.  At 8.4 miles a blue blazed trail heads steeply down the mountain to a service road for the Duncannon Water Company.

At 9.3 miles a blue blazed trail on the right leads 500 feet to the Cove Mountain Shelter.  At 10.5 miles reach Hawk Rock. There are spectacular views of Duncannon, rivers and the farmland to the north.  At 11.3 miles cross a rock slide. The trail descends to a paved road and at 11.4 miles turns left to follow the road.  At 11.6 miles cross Sherman Creek on the road bridge.

Continue on the paved road passing several businesses as you enter Duncannon, a popular trail town for thru hikers. Reach PA 274 and turn right going under US 11/15. The trail enters the center of town on Market Street. Turn left onto Cumberland Street, then right onto High Street. Turn right on PA 849, cross under a railroad overpass and then cross the bridge over the Juanita River.

Reach the west end of the Clarks Ferry Bridge. Cross the bridge over the Susquehanna River along the pedestrian walkway. At 14.0 miles reach the eastern end of the bridge and the end of this section of the Appalachian Trail. 

Source: ATC, www.cnyhiking.com

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