The paved 28-mile Western Maryland Rail Trail whisks bicyclists, walkers, rollerbladers, and strollers from near Fort Frederick State Park to Little Orleans. It closely parallels the C&O Canal Towpath, and, from time to time, offers splendid views of preserved canal structures, including the Licking Creek Aqueduct. The ruins of the Round Top Cement Mill, built in the 1830’s, loom large near Hancock. Along its length, travelers can find access points to the towpath which allow users to create looping routes that include both paved and hard packed earth sections. The western end of the trail borders the Woodmont Natural Resources Management Area and Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Areas.
Rail Trail History
The Western Maryland Rail Trail follows the former route of the Western Maryland Railway, and its first section was opened in 1998 by the State of Maryland. Subsequent extensions include the 2019 addition of a bypass around the abandoned Indigo Tunnel using newly-constructed ramps and a section of the C&O Canal Towpath.
Open dawn to dusk, year-round. Centrally located, Hancock sports the most popular trailhead and has a dedicated parking lot right in the town’s business district. Parking lots are also available at Fort Frederick State Park, within the Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area, and at Little Orleans.