Directions: From Route I-70, Hagerstown, Maryland. . .
1. Use Exits 29A or 29B on I-70 and head SOUTH on MD State Route 65 (also known as Sharpsburg Pike),
2. Proceed about 12 miles SOUTH on Rt. 65,
3. Look for Antietam National Military Park Visitors Center sign on the left,
4. Proceed up the Visitors Center access road, about 1/8 mile, and park in the lot,
5. Go into the Visitors Center and get maps of the trails and instructions for connecting the north and south trail sections.
Trail Information: As of this writing (Fall 2008), the north and south trail systems have been connected making this an interesting set of trails meandering through about 11 miles of the Park. The new connector trails have not yet been published on a map, so it's important to talk to the Visitor Center staff to make sure you can find your way. It's not at all difficult, but not yet documented. Of course, you can always run the separate trails but that lacks the elegance, satisfaction, and experience of a continuous trail. You can begin running the trails right at the Visitors Center. The trails weave through the forests, meadows, and farm lanes, but about 15% of the system is on the Park roads. The road sections are quite safe but it is still important to watch for traffic. These trails take you through gently rolling hills and you'll find the south side of the Park's hills especially challenging. There is no safe water or any other services, so take everything you'll need along with you. Several "bail-out" opportunities allow you to cut the run short if required.
Miscellaneous Information: Beyond the exercise, this run rewards you with an encounter with history, wildlife, Cumberland Valley geology, and a general outdoor experience not available to the standard car "drive around" visit to Antietam. Old abandoned farmsteads, fragrant cedar forests, quiet out-of-the-way Antietam Creek streamsides, and the sites of heavy military action are a highlight of this run. Most of the time you're not within sight or sound of the roads. The most convenient place for drinks or snacks (and a full-immersion experience of Western Maryland culture) is the Battle View Drive-In just north of Sharpsburg and about one mile south of the Visitors Center on Rt. 65. Of course, if you're interested in Civil War history you might spend some hours visiting the Park's military displays and contemplating the battle that comes down to us as the worst day in U.S. history.
Michael S. Arant