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Smithsburg, Maryland

Abandoned Hang-gliding Launch Pad

A labor of love built by local hang-gliding enthusiasts, this ideal launch spot was outlawed by the authorities and has since been largely abandoned. 

The ability to fly has been a longtime and dream for mankind. Legends, songs, and folk tales, have idealized the ability to fly for millennia.

Hang-gliding is about as close in flight technology to Icarus as one gets. There are stories of hang-gliding type flights dating back to the Chinese, and while the materials have progressed, hang gliding is flight in its simplest form: controlled falling.

Simply build a lightweight fixed wing, find a high spot, and jump off. For a short time, you’ll soar through the air like a bird, drifting inevitably but beautifully back to earth. One issue that makes this practice less practical than it otherwise would be? Finding a place to jump off.

In Smithsburg, Maryland, the local hang gliding enthusiasts had a solution. In Pen-Mar Park, on top of an cliff face with a straight drop off to the ground far below, hang-gliding enthusiasts constructed a launch platform. It allowed adventurous - and experienced - thrill seekers to soar thousands of feet in the air with relative safety. Those who did so would glide over beautiful vistas of Maryland countryside spreading out below them for miles.

The platform proved not safe enough for local officials, however, who have outlawed hang-gliding from the location and will only allow it when a permit is granted for an organized event. Since that time, the platform has become less well-known, but still a popular hangout for its scenic vistas and graffiti art.

It still remains a great place to marvel at the fantastic vista laid out before you, or where an otherwise rational person can willingly stand on a 1-foot wide piece of metal grid before literally casting their fate to the wind.

The overlook, called High Rock, is located on Mount Quirauk (key-rock) which overlooks Waynesboro, PA and the Cumberland Valley.   Behind the overlook is a former communication outpost for the nearby abandoned base, Fort Ritchie, MD.  This is usually guarded by Maryland State Police.

Know Before You Go

Take Pen Mar High Rock Rd until it ends. The launch pad is on the right.