Built by the federal government between 1811 and 1852, the National Road was the first significant overland roadway in the United States, eventually (with extensions) covering some 620 miles between the Potomac River and Mississippi River. It carried thousands of westbound settlers, and its earliest-completed section connected Cumberland and Wheeling, W.Va., roughly paralleling the future route of competing railroads and today’s Great Allegheny Passage. Its alignment in Maryland and Pennsylvania has been tweaked, straightened, paved, and improved as U.S. 40, yet along that corridor and its alternates, travelers can see original stone mile markers, restored tollhouses, and preserved stone bridges. A historic section of the National Road passes below the GAP just north of Cumberland, winds through Frostburg’s business district, crosses the Casselman River south of Meyersdale, spans Youghiogheny River Lake south of Confluence, and eventually intersects the Sheepskin Trail in nearby Uniontown.
The Allegany Museum in Cumberland maintains a rich exhibit on the National Road, and the Maryland and Pennsylvania sections of this historic byway are worth exploring by car as side trips.