Backbone Mountain is the highest mountain in the state of Maryland. Most people who climb it are state highpointers. That notwithstanding, it is a nice easy hike with a fairly decent view at the top. Once you reach the trailhead as described in the "Getting There" section, follow the logging road for about 20 minutes, always noting that you follow the the orange blazes on trees. A few hundred yards into the hike, you will see a red sign pointing to the left-this is NOT the correct left-hand turn. After around 3/4 of a mile on the logging road, a footpath junctions to the left of the logging road. Follow this well-cairned path a short distance where it temporarily divides, the right path being grassy, and the left path being rocky. The two paths converge back together very shortly and shortly thereafter, you find yourself at the summit of Maryland's highest mountain. There is a sign commemorating this highpoint. Some of the trees to the east have been cut so that you have a decent view to the east. There is also a picnic table where you can rest after this not-so-strenuous 1 mile, 700 vertical foot climb. A bigs thanks to mvanhorne for 10-16-2011 update to trail/signage conditions.
From I-68, get off at exit 14, take US 219 South. Once you pass the junction with US 50 at Redhouse, MD, continue 4.3 miles to the village of Silver Lake, West Virginia(yes, you're in West Virginia; not Maryland anymore). In Silver Lake, WV, State Route 24 junctions to the west. From the junction, continue following US 219 South for 1.1 miles. On the left side of the road you will see some trees with orange blazes. Also, the back of one of the highway signs is marked "MD HP" There is a green sign with white lettering on 219 and there are parking areas on both sides of the road. The cable across the logging road had been cut, but I do not recommend driving up this logging road because it is rough and probably not legal.
The summit and the area closeby is on private property owned by a coal company. Be sure to stay on the trail, do not litter or camp, and respect the landowner's rights so that we can continue to enjoy access to this mountain.
When To Climb
This mountain can be climbed any time of the year. If there is much snow in the winter, snowshoes might be handy.
The land on the West Virginia side is national forest, but the summit and its immediate surrounding area are owned by a coal company which allows access but not camping.
For nice camping areas, I would recommend checking out Blackwater Falls State Park,about 10 miles south into the state of West Virginia. There are many campsites, and many hiking trails. There are a total of 15 waterfalls in the park.
Check the weather at Elkins, WV or Cumberland, MD to get an idea of what conditions will be like. Because you will be at a higher elevation on the mountain, it will be colder and windier than at either of these cities.
If you're going to go all the way out here to climb this mountain then you should stop and see the self proclaimed smallest church in the lower 48. Seats 12. It is right along 219 in Silver Lake, WV.
While I was here this weekend, I noticed no "MD HP" on any signs at/near the parking area off Highway 219. However, there is a small white sign stating "Maryland Highpoint" located high in a tree directly above the parking area.
Was just up there today (10/16/2011) as #2 of 3 for the day (PA and WV also). There is a green sign with white lettering on 219 and there are parking areas on both sides of the road. The cable across the logging road had been cut, but still dont recommend driving up this logging road. A few hundred yards into the hike, you will see a red sign pointing to the left...this is NOT the left hand turn mentioned in the main description. About 0.5 miles in, there is a right hand turn in the road with orange spraypaint on a rock "HP" with an arrow showing the way. Where the left hand diversion is that is mentioned in the main post, there is a relatively good sized cairn there and from there to the summit there are numerous cairns along the way. Where the trail splits, going to the left also takes you to a WV/MD state line marker. Either the lefthand trail or the righthand trail takes you to a logging road with some very new signage pointing to the summit. At the summit there is a very conveniently placed shelf to set a camera for a timed photo in front of the sign. Seems to be an overall big improvement from earlier conditions.
Someone spray painted red HP letters on numerous trees on the path to the high point. It's now very easy to follow the trail and it's on a logging road almost the entire way. There is also a mailbox with a sign in notebook at the high point along with a metal park bench. The picture taking stand and picnic table are still there.
There are new green and white signs along US 219 that say MD High Point. The trail has orange spray painted "HP" markings along the way. The elevation gain is 712 feet in 1.1 mile, a steady 12% grade up a rocky trail. There is alternate access from the south and east that's suitable for mountain bikes(park in the Fairfax Stone park in WV) and its a 5.7 mile ride up a logging road to the summit. This trail general follows the MD/WV state line.