Pole Steeple Circuit

Description: The PATC hiking guide ďCircuit Hikes of WV, VA, MD and PA describes a short circuit hike in this area. Iíve added a little road walking and some little used trails to make this a nice 7.5 mile trek of moderate difficulty. With just a little more road walking you can hookup with the Buck Ridge trail and make it a 8.1 mile trek. Main focal points are the halfway point of the AT, Pole Steeple and Mountain Creek. Flora varies from swamp type flowers such as Marsh Marigolds sheltered by Hemlocks to more mountainous species such as Mountain Laurel and Dogwood under a canopy of Hardwoods.

Hike starts at the bathrooms near Fuller Lake.

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Printable/Downloadable Map

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Trail Notes: Trail Change - The Mountain Club of Maryland has rerouted the Pole Steeple Trail. Follow these instructions! From the parking lot follow the trail past the rest rooms and Fuller Lake (East). The trail becomes a gravel bike road (Railroad Bed Rd). In about 0.75 miles from the parking lot turn right onto the white-blazed Appalachian trail.


In 0.6 miles or so from the turn off come to the post marking the exact halfway point of the AT (This has now been relocated to reflect recent relocations of the trail.). Now you can tell your friends you walked to the halfway point of the AT!!!


In another 0.72 miles come to the intersection of blue-blazed Pole Steeple and Old Forge Trails on the left. Old logs block the Old Forge Tr. Take the far left trail to go to Pole Steeple.


In 0.40 miles the trail splits. Take the right fork and climb up to the top of Pole Steeple for a view of Laurel Forge Pond and the entire valley.


You have two options here. You can either shimmy down the crack between the two outcrops (See photo) or return to the main trail and turn right to regain Pole Steeple Trail. Follow the trail down to Railroad Bed Rd in about 0.58 miles.


Turn left on the road. Pass a spring flowing through PVC pipe on your left and the pond on your right (currently drained Ė 12/07). 

Turn right and cross a wood bridge in about 0.32 miles. Turn right again onto gravel Ice House Rd. In about 0.40 miles turn left onto a driveway which leads to a YMCA camp. As you enter the main camp stay to the right on the road until you reach Pine Grove Rd.


Cross Pine Grove Rd.


To do the 7.5 mile loop: Walk up Leeper Farm Rd. for 0.38 miles. Look for a trail on your left behind an earthen bearm. This is unsigned Daugherty Trail. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Turn left here.


In about 0.6 miles cross Iron Run and in another 0.2 miles follow a gravel road around a clump of trees and pick up the trail on the other side. In 0.1 miles come to yet another gravel road. Turn left here and follow it to Pine Grove Rd (0.1 miles).


Cross Pine Grove Rd. and follow a forest road to a fork. Take the left fork.  In 0.16 miles come to the junction with red blazed  Kopenhaver Trail. (The park map says itís yellow. Must be an old map!) Bear sharp left at the split and follow it down to Mountain Creek. In route youíll cross through a swamp on some old bridges. The trail loops around through Hemlocks and Pines and returns to the picnic area via a bridge over Tomís Run. Walk through the picnic area to get back to the parking lot.


To complete the 8.1 mile loop: Continue up Leeper Farm Rd, by-passing the Daugherty Tr. Descend slightly and in 0.47 miles turn left onto signed and orange blazed Buck Ridge Tr. This starts as a footpath but in 0.23 miles the trail merges into a nice, grassy jeep road that comes in from the right. In 0.49 miles pass an obvious but unmarked trail on the left. (This is a shortcut should you desire to shorten your hike.) Continue straight on Buck Ridge trail and in 0.51 miles arrive at its terminus on the Daugherty Tr. You can see Rt233 to the right. Make a hard left onto the Daugherty Tr and walk through an old Explorers Club Camp. In 0.35 miles from the last trail junction arrive at a 4X intersection of jeep roads. To the left is the shortcut mentioned earlier. Turn right, descending to Pine Grove Rd and follow the rest of the trail notes for the 7.5 mile trek.


Critique this outing! ________________________________________






Name: Danny H                                                                                                       Hike: Pole Steeple Circuit
Date: 9/15/2012                                                                                                    Rating: 3.5

Critique: This was a very interesting and unique trail as it is mostly up-hill. We hiked the Pole Steeple Trail from Laurel Forge Pond (off Railroad Bed Road) straight up to a rocky cliff face which over looks the pond and damn area along with Leaper Farm Road which you can see in the distance and then back down the other side across the Appalachian Trail to a dirt road we later found to be named Piney Ridge Road and had followed it a ways before we turned around and hiked the Appalachian Trail west-ward until it ended at the Railroad Bed Road hike/bike trail and followed it back to the lake.

The hike it's self is not very pleasant even in the autumn due to it's steep nature and the zig-zag pattern by which you must go up the mountain side and back down again. My hiking buddy and I reached the rocky cliff and were both stunned by the view and out of breath for several moments. The Appalachian Trail is at least well marked but there could be a warning about Piney Ridge Road because you don't really see it until you are actually stepping off the trail and directly onto the road and it would be nice if there were a sign that stated the trail ended here and not to walk the road. When we came out we found ourselves following it to the west for some time (thinking it was the Appalachian Trail) until our trail GPS updated and informed us we weren't on a trail anymore. Once we got back on the
Appalachian Trail we found it was poorly maintained in spots but once you get closer to the rail-trail you see it more cleaned up. The bike/hike trail (Rail bed Road) is very nice and pleasant to walk back on after having climbed up and down several hills on the trail.

Overall I would say if your looking for a good 3 to 5 hour hike, the path we took is a great way to spend a warm autumn day. One final notice; since I tend to hike all seasons if you plan on doing this trail here are some tips as always -

Spring & Autumn - The ground is soft and susceptible to slick spots as most up-hill trails tend to be. Go on a warmer day as the wind is very strong at the top of the cliff face.

Summer & Winter - Dress appropriately as always and be prepared to look for the markers for the Appalachian Trail in snowy or drizzly weather; not suggested for foggy or humid days however.



Name: Hard Corey                                                                                                  Hike: Pole Steeple Circuit
Date: 06-24-2012                                                                                                   Rating: 3

Critique: I enjoyed three parts of this tour... the AT, Pole Steeple, & Buck Ridge Trail. There was a little too much 'road' walking for my liking. I would recommend this hike to the casual weekend hiker who wants to step up their miles. The difficulty is moderate at best.



Name: shuntphl                                                                                                        Hike: Pole Steeple
Date: 6/21/2008                                                                                                     Rating: 4

Critique: Thanks for a very enjoyable day hike to around Pole Steeple! The first part to Pole Steeple was fairly strenuous due to the summer heat. I had some difficulties finding the black-blazed trail (blue?) up the mountain to the outlook. The view from Pole Steeple is magnificent. After a short snack, I was back on my feet, but where to go now? I looked at my GPS and thought to myself that this can't be right, because the way down on the other side of Pole Steeple went almost vertically down for about 300ft. After some debating, I made my way down (not easy with a 10lbs. pack) and was greeted by a fair amount of people who came up the short and easy 1m trail from Laurel Lake.

The remaining part of the loop was through a fairly populated area with log cabins and the YMCA camp until I hit the orange-blazed Buck Ridge Trail. The final red-blazed Koperhaven Trail is fairly level, but adventurous. I haven't crossed a creek over a log in a while and it took me about 5 minutes to find the courage to make a successful attempt. Again, fairly challenging with a day pack, but very, very enjoyable.

I went through a good 90 oz of water on this summer day hike and proper hydration for this trip is mandatory. There is a fair amount of lakes, ponds and creeks to refill for those who don't want to carry a lot of water.

The directions were right on the spot. Thanks for a very enjoyable hike!


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