The Queen City of Maryland
Snug between the Potomac River and the rising Appalachian Plateau, Cumberland has long been a gateway for westward expansion. It marked the beginning of Delaware chief Nemacolin’s Path, an ancient corridor through the rugged mountains, the eventual Braddock Road, a pre-Revolutionary path to move soldiers and goods to Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh), and its 19th century successor, the National Road. The railroads eventually gathered at Cumberland, and today, both Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and freight trains sound their horns before heading west.
The C&O Canal and Towpath terminate with a granite marker across a small section of restored canal from Canal Place, home to the preserved Western Maryland Railway Station and the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s Cumberland Visitor Center. Stop in for great exhibits, advice, and photos. Mile Zero of the Great Allegheny Passage is located under the arch.
Cumberland’s vibrant brick pedestrian mall along Baltimore Street boasts restaurants, art galleries, and gardens. Several hotels and B&B’s make for excellent accommodations, and a nearby bike shop, outfitter, and several brew pubs add to the mix. The Emmanuel Episcopal Church, with its Tiffany stained-glass windows, sits on the site of the former Fort Cumberland and anchors the residential Washington Street Historic District. The Allegany Museum occupies the beautifully-renovated former post office and courthouse, and is open March through December.
Along the Great Allegheny Passage, you can peer into the opening to the Cumberland Bone Cave, The Western Maryland Railway Bridge over U.S. Route 40 is a truss bridge constructed around 1910 and consists of two spans, each 150 feet in length. Helmstetter’s Curve is a widely-sweeping arc well-known among railfans throughout the eastern United States. The 914-foot Brush Tunnel, shared by the Great Allegheny Passage and Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, is about five miles west of Cumberland. Dans Mountain, part of Dans Mountain State Park, is the highest point in Allegany County, and its peak (driveable by car) is a popular lookout point. Rocky Gap State Park features the bright blue water of 243-acre Lake Habeeb, supplied by Rocky Gap Run, which winds through an mile-long gorge edged by sharp cliffs, steep overlooks and a dense hemlock forest crowded with rhododendron and mountain laurel.
Local Events and Activities
Take a ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which parallels the Great Allegheny Passage through the Cumberland Narrows, a scenic gorge formed by Wills Creek, and beneath Lover’s Leap, a craggy overlook nearly 1,000 feet above. Regular excursions take travelers up to Frostburg via historic passenger cars, perfect for a day trip and ride back.
Parking and Trail Access
There’s a fee-based day-use lot off West Harrison Street, right at Canal Place. Overnight travelers can park at the Howard Street Parking Area, located near Canal Place, below Interstate 68.