Trip Report: Green Ridge State Forest + C&O Canal

With the usual winter ADK trips off the table this year, many of us were looking for a novel loop closer to home. Brian suggested Michael’s Green Ridge State Forest trip that had not been repeated since it was first hiked by DCUL in 2013. Karan, Evan, & I were game. So were lots of other DCULers so Andrew set up a second group going the opposite direction.

Our group arrived at the trailhead ready to hike at 10:30am after Andrew’s group had already set off. After some confusion getting out of the parking lot, we made it to the C&O canal. From here, the trail was easy to follow. We did our climb for the day on the Paw Paw tunnel reroute before reconnecting to the C&O canal. The wide flat path of the C&O lends itself to walking in groups so the miles passed quickly as we chatted with each other.

We took a lunch break at a campsite along the way that was a little off the trail. Dan was behind us and Kyle had gotten a later start so we marked the turnoff with trekking poles. We ate lunch as leisurely as the cold would allow. After a few more hours of flat walking, we made it to the Devil’s Alley campsite around 3:30pm to find Kyle already there. In his haste to catch up with us, he had blown right by our lunch spot.

The campsite was directly next to the Potomac and exposed to the wind. The hammockers, seeking good trees, ended up more protected in the canal. Surprisingly, dry wood was plentiful and we burned a lot of it to combat the chill of the wind. It precipitated lightly on and off overnight but it was mostly dry in the morning when we set out in semi-darkness.

After a short walk on the C&O canal, we turned off onto a trail in Green Ridge state park. The trail started with a short period of intense side hilling. As we climbed, we caught a view of sunrise colors in the clouds. The morning disabused us of the idea that this was going to be a flat trail. There were even a few gnarly descents.

Gradually, we started crossing paths with the other DCUL group. Most of the time, we passed each other on fairly inconvenient, narrow stretches of trail but still stopped to chat. We ate lunch #1 pretty early on. Then the stream crossings started in earnest. Karan counted something like 24 crossings between there and our campsite for the evening. Luckily, the water level was low enough that we could rock hop, although that didn’t mean that everyone’s feet stayed dry.

We reconvened once more at the shelter the other group stayed at the previous night before pushing on. We did get a nice view from one of the roads we crossed. The Log Roll Trail that followed has us traversing a narrow leaf-covered trail flanked by quite a steep hill. It was almost vertigo inducing, especially after noticing an old rusting car at the bottom of the hill (the second we had seen that day!).  

We rolled into camp not long before dark. That night we agreed that the day had been more tiring than we were expecting. Of course, we were not too tired to make another big fire and stay up chatting into the night. 

We were up early again on Monday morning and on the trail before it was light out. Due to the many stream crossings, the trail was tricky to navigate in the dark but we managed to make it back to the C&O canal. A few flat miles and we were back at the cars!

After hiking for so many years in the area, it was great to experience a new backpacking loop so close to home. I don’t think we’ll wait another 7-8 years before posting it again!

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