The Laurel Highlands is one of the most scenic and diverse destinations in Pennsylvania. Its unique typography and natural resources of mountains and rivers, offers a wide range of active outdoor experiences for visitors year round. Thousands of acres of state and federal park land throughout the region are open for hiking, biking, water recreation and wildlife viewing. Incredible vistas open over white water and quiet pools as the parks are crisscrossed with hundreds of streams and tributaries. Thanks to photographer paul g. wiegman for providing the wonderful photos that accompany this itinerary.
One of the region’s significant National Park Service sites is the Flight 93 National Memorial which is now open year round to the public. A short distance away is another iconic site commemorating the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site, celebrating the successful rescue of none trapped miners, an event that captured the attention of the world a decade ago.
Discover the many ways you can enjoy family fun, outdoor activities, parks , attractions, shopping, dining and cozy accommodations in the Laurel Highlands by visiting www.laurelhighlands.org.
Those interested in active outdoor adventures should not miss the following experiences while in the Laurel Highlands:
The Laurel Highlands actually provides the setting for two outstanding examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture: Fallingwater in Bear Run Nature Preserve and the nearby Kentuck Knob. Fallingwater, Wright’s most widely acclaimed work, dramatically cantilevered over the waterfalls, is considered to be the best all-time work of American architecture and is his most sublime integration of man and nature. The house on Kentuck Knob exhibits the extraordinary warmth, serenity and functionality of a home Wright designed for family living, Enhanced by a breathtaking vista, its wooded landscape is the setting for the notable collection of artifacts and post- World War II sculptures of owner, British Lord
Peter Palumbo. These famous architectural icons are open to the public throughout most of the year but reservations are essential.
Bear Run Nature Preserve
Bear Run Nature Reserve‘s 5,851 acres makes it the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s largest property. With more than 20 miles of well-marked trails, the reserve is managed to protect, conserve, and restore land and water for the diversity of the region’s native plants, animals, and their ecosystems. Streams and watersheds, forests, and common as well as rare native species are the focus of management.
The Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage is a world-class rail-trail stretching from near Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD. Historic tunnels, bridges and viaducts carry cyclists and hikers on a nearly level scenic trip over and through the Allegheny Mountains. The trail follows the Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers for much of the way. In Cumberland, it connects with the C&O Canal Towpath providing a continuous non-motorized route to Washington, D.C.
This 3,070-acre tract of second and third growth forest in southeastern Westmoreland County is part of Forbes State Forest. Although the entire area is closed to all vehicles, it is open to hiking, cross-country skiing, and in the appropriate seasons, to access on foot by hunters and fishermen.
For specific hikes along the Laurel Highlands, check out our other step-by-step itineraries: Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail: Ohiopyle to Route 653, Route 653 to Route 31, Route 31 to Route 30, Route 30 to Route 271, and Route 271 to Seward.
This is a fine little urban jaunt along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., following the C&O Canal from mile 3.1 to mile 0.5. There are terrific views of the Potomac River and the Rosslyn, Va., skyline. And the canal in Georgetown was once its Main Street, where buildings were oriented to take advantage of the waterway.
Coming into Georgetown from the west, you see how the canal once connected the countryside to the city. Above Georgetown, today’s canal traffic consists of canoes and kayaks. While out for a walk, you might be passed by a mule towing a boatful of tourists out of Georgetown. Plan to have lunch in Georgetown after an easy walk of about 5 miles roundtrip—which you can cut short to suit your desires.
Trailhead parking: There is parking at Fletcher’s Boathouse and at parking meters in Georgetown. If you’re coming into the city by car, from I-495 Beltway, take the exit for Clara Barton Parkway west toward Carderock. Take the first right exit at Carderock Recreation Area and Naval Surface Warfare Center. Turn left at top of the ramp and cross over Clara Barton Parkway. Turn left again and reenter Clara Barton Parkway eastbound. Continue east under the Beltway to the end of the parkway at Canal Road. Continue on Canal Road to Fletcher’s.
Options: You can walk in the reverse direction by starting in Georgetown, reachable by public transportaiom.
Start. Abner Cloud House, Fletcher’s Boathouse. Fletcher’s Boathouse has been operating since the 1850s. There is a canoe and boat rental, refreshment stand and bait shop, picnic area and a lot of friendly old-fashioned charm. It was operated by the Fletcher family for generations, and since 2004 has been managed by a park concessionaire. Fletcher’s is still the place where many city kids get their first fishing experience.
Across the towpath from Fletcher’s is the Abner Cloud House. It is the oldest structure on the canal, built in the early 1800s and predating the C&O project by more than two decades. Cloud’s house was a residence and storeroom for the grains and he shipped to Georgetown.
The paved trail running parallel to the canal and visible from time to time is the Capital Crescent Trail, built on the former bed of a B&O line.
0.9, Incline Plane site. This ranks among the canal’s more peculiar stories. During the go-go years of the canal, there were huge traffic jams clogging the final four locks and the terminus at Rock Creek. Traffic was especially bad when canal boats docked at Georgetown docks. The incline plane was built to get Potomac-bound boats around Georgetown without having to crawl through traffic—the same problem facing motorists today. The incline was a giant wooden ramp. At canal level, a 112-foot caisson was filled with water, allowing the boat to enter. Then, using a system of pulleys, the canal boat floated in the caisson like a toy boat in a giant bathtub. It was then lowered to the river. Despite numerous problems and accidents, the plane sped up traffic and remained in use until it was destroyed by flood in 1889.
2.1, Key Bridge, Alexandria Aqueduct. Passing under the Key Bridge, there is a pocket park and exhibit on the Alexandria Aqueduct—another curious C&O story. Not to be left out of the massive public works project that was the C&O, Virginia built an aqueduct over the river. This connected to another canal on the Virginia side that carried canal boats to the port at Alexandria. To country folks visiting the city in the canal era, seeing boats sledding down the incline plane or floating high above the Potomac was the 19th century version of a George Jetson universe.
2.2, the 34th Street footbridge.
2.6, C&O Canal Visitor Center.
C&O Canal National Historical Park
C&O Canal Trust
Cultural Tourism D.C.
The historic port town of Alexandria is one of the Potomac Heritage Trail’s most vibrant, happening places. There are shops, watering holes, and all variety of eateries. Alexandria also has the distinction of being an archaeological treasure. It’s one of the most studied towns in America. There’s an Alexandria Archaeology Museum in theTorpedo Factory Art Center, as well as several self-guided walking tours along The Alexandria Archaeology Trail.
Through this short walk or bike ride along the Canal Trail, you’ll discover what Alexandria was like when the city was first settled. It’s only a 20-minute walk, and by parking at the marina, you don’t have to look for parking downtown! Or you can public transportation into Alexandria to take the walk beginning on the downstream end.
The waterfront here has undergone continual change since the city was founded. The natural shoreline has been remade and remade again to suit the city’s economic needs and interests.
Along the Canal Trail there are remnant woodland bogs where beaver live within hearing distance of a busy airport. There are also stretches of shoreline bluff perched 25 feet above the water’s edge. More so than any place in the upper tidal reaches of the Potomac River, you can see the contours of the river and shore the way the first settlers did.
The trailhead is the Washington Sailing Marina, an area known as Dangerfield Island. It’s not so much an island as a narrow stretch of dry land between the marshes west of the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac River. Here John Alexander, a Scottish merchant, purchased a 700 acre tract that is today the City of Alexandria.
From the marina trailhead, travel downriver along the Canal Trail. As you begin to circle the harbor you find yourself on a bluff overlooking the water. This is the Potomac of long ago, a river on which high sheer bluffs lined long stretches like the walls of a gorge. This contrasts with the waterfront you encounter just a mile downstream, where the land falls gradually to the water’s edge. The shoreline there once resembled these bluffs, but was engineered to meet the needs of merchants.
The area near this bay was the location of Belleview Plantation. Over the years Belleview had many incarnations, as a mill site, a dairy farm, and as a 19th century flower farm complete with greenhouses.
As you leave the bluffs, get a first view of the Potomac shoreline as it has been remade over time to better accommodate shipping and commerce. What better place to discover this essential connection between river and economy than Tide Lock Park at the south end of the Canal Trail. You can see a reconstructed replica of one of the four locks of the Alexandria Canal at the river’s shoreline at the base of Montgomery Street.
For information on what to see and do in Alexandria, see http://alexandriava.gov.
You can visit these sites in any order, but in summer mornings are the best time to see Fort Washington; you can explore the grounds before the sun gets too high.
Fort Washington. Fort Washington was part of the original defenses of the Capital, first completed in 1809. After being destroyed and rebuilt, it was improved over the years and remained in use through World War One. From the massive doorways at the entrance, to the gunnery posts, to the bastions and garrisons, it’s just a cool place to explore and hang out. Fort Washington Park has a wide variety of activities. There is a 3-mile trail that follows the perimeter of the park boundary, offering the opportunity for wildlife viewing. Birdwatchers enjoy the quite solitude of the park to find that one special bird. If fishing is for you, the park is located right along the Potomac River where there are many different types of fish waiting for you.
One Sunday a month from April to October the park has Civil War artillery demonstrations.
Oxon Cove Park/Oxon Hill Farm. The park has been home for many generations of human habitation during the past 10,000 years–beginning with the Native American peoples who hunted for wild game and gathered plants up until the 17th century. You can explore on your own and see farm equipment, historic structures, our Visitor Center, and barnyard. Explore Oxon Cove Park’s 512 acres by strolling along the lower fields, walking the nature path or riding the bike path along Oxon Cove. It’s a pleasing spot for a picnic, too. There are picnic areas, no reservations required. Food is not sold in the park, so pack a lunch.
Oxon Cove is listed second in this itinerary for those who are ready for a picnic lunch after exploring Fort Washington. It is next door to Oxon Hill Manor, so if you’re not ready for lunch, visit the manor first.
Visitor information for all three sites is available on the porch of the bookstore.
Oxon Hill Manor, a few miles up river from Fort Washington. The mansion as we see it today was built in in 1928, but the former home was built for home to the nephews of George Washington, and the nephew of John Hanson, the first president elected by the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. In the 49-room mansion, check out the graceful spiraling staircase and ballroom especially. Wonder the English gardens and enjoy stunning river views. Tours are available by appointment. The manor is managed by Prince George’s County Department of Parks & Recreation.
To reach Fort Washington From I-95/495 take exit 3, Indian Head Higway South/MD 210. Travel about 4 miles to Fort Washington Road, turn right. The park is located at the end of the road.
From Waldorf, MD: MD228 to Indian Head Highway/MD210 North. Turn left onto Old Fort Road. Continue to end of road, at the stop sign turn left onto Fort Washington Road, continue to park.
Through this a one- or two-day journey through Potomac Heritage, you experience the breadth of the American ideal of freedom through voices and images. You’ll also relax on a short walk to a stunning (and still secret) overlook of the Shenandoah River, and pause to ponder it all on a visit a winery or two. Frederick Douglass is best known as a formerly enslaved man who became the orator-in-chief for emancipation. W.E.B. DuBois is remembered as the political organizer who set in motion the creation of the NAACP. Often forgotten today is that both were champions for the Civil Rights and equality of all people—including Irish immigrants who built the C&O Canal and American women battling for the right to vote.
This tour begins in Washington, D.C., then heads west to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., followed by the Civil Rights Walking Tour in the Potomac town of Leesburg, Va.
Stop 1, Cedar Hill, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, 1411 W Street SE, Washington, D.C. Douglass was born on a plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland around 1818. He escaped to New York in 1838 disguised as a sailor, then traveled speaking about his experiences in slavery. Soon, he was one of the most famous orators in America. For nearly 60 years, he championed the cause of equal treatment under the law.
Cedar Hill today is furnished largely the way Douglass left when he died in 1895. See gifts from U.S. Presidents, paintings and photographs, and his incredible library. You can take a self-guided tour, but make time for a guided tour—you’ll never forget it. And the view of Washington from the Hill rivals the view from anywhere. The house is kid-friendly (Douglass’s grandchildren were daily visitors), but on sunny days, today’s kids love to play outside on the Hill—allowing two adults to “tag team” visits indoors.
Stop 2, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. About an hour up the Potomac via Interstate 270, then south/west on U.S. 340. After crossing the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, turn left into the Harpers Ferry NHP visitor center at the top of the hill.
Harpers Ferry brings to life America’s industrial history beginning in the early 19th century, slavery and the Civil War, and the founding of the modern Civil Rights movement.
There are six major exhibits interpreting African American history. The John Brown museum includes artifacts, storyboards and video presentations charting the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement. Also in Harpers Ferry’s lower town are Black Voices and the Storer College Niagara Movement exhibits. Black Voices is an interactive audio-visual exhibit depicting the stories of enslaved people.
The Storer College Niagara Exhibit reveals the story of the school founded for freed African Americans shortly after the Civil War. The college hosted the 1906 meeting of the Niagara Movement, founded by W.E.B. Du Bois. It was the group’s second meeting, and its first meeting on American soil. The meeting is considered the beginning of the modern Civil Rights era. Its members launched the NAACP a few years later. There are more Niagara.
Stop 3, Murphy Farm. In 1906, the Niagara delegates walked from Storer College to John Brown’s Fort, which had been dismantled and moved to the farm by the Murphy family. From the park visitor center, it’s an easy 30-minute round trip to the site. Near the site is an overlook with incredible views of the Shenandoah River.
Leaving the park visitor center, backtrack on Route 340 to the bottom of the hill. Just before the bridge over the Potomac, turn right onto Harpers Ferry Road (Route 671). In 5 miles enter the Hillsboro, Va., area. There is a vineyard on 671, and two more on Route 9, where you will turn right to continue the trip.
Continuing on Route 9, go east on Route 7 to Leesburg.
Stop 4, Leesburg’s African American Heritage Tour. Stretch your legs before dinner walking the streets of this historic town while experiencing Civil Rights history on an architectural walking tour. Pick up a brochure at the visitor center, 16 Loudoun Street, or request one by phone or email by visiting their website.
One popular adventure along The Great Allegheny Passage segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a ride through the Big Savage Tunnel onto the Eastern Continental Divide. The Big Savage Tunnel is closed from November through April, but in warm weather it’s an easy, pleasing bicycle ride for people of all biking abilities. Begin your trip in Cumberland where the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail meets the C & O Canal Towpath.
Coal, minerals and timber extracted from these mountains made their way into Cumberland on narrow-gauge railroads. The region’s abundant natural resources and its location on the river made Cumberland one of America’s early industrial centers. The wares made there were shipped east along the railroad and the C&O Canal.
From Cumberland, trail follows the old Western Maryland Railroad on a spectacular passage above Jennings Run, trending northwest up to Big Savage Mountain, where the views rival any in the East.
Trailhead parking is at the railroad depot in Frostburg, Md. You can find breakfast and snacks near the depot at The Trailside Inn or climb the hill to trail friendly Frostburg with many eateries, small locally owned shops and historic buildings. As frequent trail users say, “It’s worth the climb!” A comprehensive map and business directories, as well as itineraries for many one day and multiple day trips can be found in the Allegheny Trail Alliance’s TrailBook, the travel guide to the Great Allegheny Passage (www.gaptrail.org) Once you’re on the trail, you won’t need a map or compass to find your way but there is so much to do and see, you may want to plan ahead.
It is 6.8 miles to Big Savage Tunnel, named for surveyor Thomas Savage who, along with the rest of his party, was stranded here in the winter of 1736. According to the legend, he offered himself up as food to save the rest of the party from starving. A rescue team showed up, saving Savage’s life. His companions were so grateful that they named the Savage River for him. Fortunately for the traveler of today, food is easier to get now!
In summer, you can take a 2.5-mile hike up and over the tunnel.
If you’re on bike and want to continue on, it’s only another 1.2 miles to the Eastern Continental Divide, elevation, 2,375 feet. The Keystone Viaduct, a magnificent, curving 910-foot structure, is about 5 miles from the tunnel. From there it’s another mile to Meyersdale, Pa., where there are eateries and a B&B only blocks from the trailhead railroad depot.
In 1861 President Lincoln ordered construction of a ring of fortifications to protect the Union Capital during the Civil War. The result was 86 forts and 93 batteries connected by 32 miles of military roads. Today a network of 20 preserved sites forms a linear ring of parkland and trails in Washington, D.C. For a brochure describing the Civil War Defenses of Washington, see http://www.nps.gov/cwdw/planyourvisit/brochures.htm.
This 5.6-mile stroll down tree-line sidewalks and wooded paths visits three of these sites and includes a walk through Glover-Archbold Park, a favorite natural area of Capital City residents. There’s no need to pack a lunch because the midpoint of the segment goes right through Tenley Circle. Both ends are accessible via public transportation. You can also walk just the north or south portions, using the Metro station at Tenley as an end point.
Start: Oregon Avenue at Fort DeRussey in Rock Creek Park.
End: Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park at Canal Road and Foundry Branch.
Parking: Oregon Ave., near Fort DeRussey (0.0), Fort Reno on Chesapeake Street. (2.0), Canal Road (5.6)
0.0 Fort DeRussey, at the Oregon Avenue entrance to Rock Creek Park. Fort DeRussy was built on a hill to provide crossfire on the approaches to Fort Stevens on the 7th Street Pike (now Georgia Avenue) and to control the countryside to west of today’s Rock Creek Park. It supported Fort Stevens in the only battle fought in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, July 11-12, 1864. The parapet’s earthworks still display the openings where guns were mounted. The moat around the parapet is evident, and rifle trenches outside the parapet can be seen. From here, go south on the Western Ridge Trail.
0.1 Military Road.
0.4 Grant Road. Turn right
0.6 Broad Branch Road. Turn right.
1.2 36th Street. Turn left
1.5 Cross Connecticut Avenue.
1.6 Turn right on Ellicott Street.
1.7 Reno Road. Turn left, then immediately right on Fort Drive.
1.8 Cross Nebraska Avenue.
1.9 Fort Reno. Named for Major General Jesse Lee Reno, who died from wounds received at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862, it was built during the winter of 1861 shortly after the Union Army’s defeat at the First Battle of Manassas. Situated at the highest point in Washington, Fort Reno eventually became the largest and most heavily-armed fort circling the city. Its commanding views of the surrounding countryside made it an important link in the defense of Washington.
2.0 Chesapeake Street, at south end of park. Go south on 40th Street away from park.
2.3 Cross Tenley Circle; stay on 40th Street.
2.4 Veasy Street. Turn right, then left at the end of the street.
2.5 Van Ness Street. Turn left.
2.6 Turn right on foot trail into Glover-Archbold Park. A three-mile trail runs the length of the park, which stretches from the Potomac River nearly to Tenley Circle. With seven stream crossings along the way, the defining feature of the route is Foundry Branch.
3.3 Cross Massachusetts Avenue.
3.7 Cross Cathedral Avenue.
3.9 Cross New Mexico Avenue.
4.1 Reach footpath to Battery Kemble and Palisades Park. For a side trip to Battery Kemble, turn right here, then turn right at the trail fork. Cross 44th Street at Edmonds Street; then stay on the trail. Cross Foxhall Road. Cross 49th Street into Palisades Park. People who grow up in Washington, D.C., know Battery Kemble Park as one the best sledding hills in the city.
4.4 Trail junction. Continue straight.
4.8 Trail junction. The path leads left (east) into Whitehaven Park.
5.1 Cross Reservoir Road.
5.6 Tunnel under Mac Arthur Boulevard. Reach C&O Canal Towpath at Canal Road and Foundry Branch.
C&O Canal, www.nps.gov/choh/
DC Heritage Tourism Coalition, www.culturaltourismdc.org
Fort Dupont Recreation Center, www.nps.gov/fodu
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, www.cr.nps.gov/museum/collections/keaq.html
NPS National Capital-East, (202) 690-5185. www.nps.gov/nace
NPS National Capital-Central, (202) 426-6841, www.nps.gov/nacc
U.S. National Arboretum, www.usna.usda.gov
Rock Creek Park, www.nps.gov/rocr
Washington Parks and People, www.washingtonparks.net
Visiting Fort Belvoir or Mount Vernon? There’s more to see. The Woodlawn Plantation historic district, near the junction of Mount Vernon Highway and Route 1, includes an historic house on a hill. From the porch on the east side of the house, when the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves, the tallest trees on the horizon are on the grounds of Mount Vernon. Winter is lovely, but anytime is perfect time for a visit!
Such is not a coincidence: George Washington gave the plantation, once part of his Mount Vernon Estate, to his nephew and Martha Washington’s granddaughter as a wedding present. The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides tours of the house, as well as the Pope-Leighey house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
To the south of the plantation house, the Woodlawn Quaker Meetinghouse serves as a reminder of a successful mid-nineteenth century experiment in agriculture without the use of enslaved laborers.
Situated on Dogue Creek, George Washington’s Distillery and Grist Mill is the closest site to Mount Vernon in the district and open for tours seasonally. And while it’s possible for experienced walkers and bicyclists to travel from Mount Vernon to the Grist Mill and to cross Route 1 to reach the Plantation house, one needs to exercise caution, especially at the narrow, two-lane highway bridge over Dogue Creek.
The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a corridor of history and outdoor adventure. The Trail network follows the river through its tidal reaches to the fall line, with an interlude along the escarpment of Washington, D.C., then up the C&O Canal to Cumberland, Md. From there it goes over and through the mountains along the Great Allegheny Passage and the Laurel Highlands Trail.
This scenic bike ride includes an eight-mile ride on the C&O Canal segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail in the Great Valley near Sheperdstown, WV, and through Sharpsburg, MD. Experience the natural beauty of the Potomac River beneath cave-dotted bluffs, and pause for a break to examine the incredible stonework of a canal lock. Then, take a road connection to Antietam National Battlefield, the Civil War site commemorating the bloodiest single day in American history. After circling the interior of the Battlefield, pass through the village of Sharpsburg for lunch and treats, with a return to the canal along Maryland Route 34. (Miller’s Sawmill Road is an option, but one misses a site marking General Robert E. Lee’s headquarters.)
- A casual ride along the river beneath the canopy with a long, open views of South Mountain and the Blue Ridge
- The Battle of Antietam was one of two major battles fought north of the Potomac River. The Battlefield observation tower offers expansive views of the valley and ridgelines, and a rare chance to see the entire landscape of battle of a Civil War site. You can also find out more and take a pit stop at the Antietam Visitors Center.
- Sharpsburg has a popular ice cream shop on Potomac Street, a bakery and a tavern named in honor of a C&O Canal boat captain, as well as bed and breakfasts.
- One can ride this route starting either in Shepherdstown or Sharpsburg without driving a car to the trail head.
Total Distance: 16.4 miles.
Trailhead Directions: Parking beneath the Rumsey Bridge (Route 34) over the Potomac; Snyders Landing and Taylors Landing; and Antietam Battlefield.
Finding the Trailhead: From Shepherdstown, WV, cross the Potomac River on the Rumsey Bridge, Route 34. On a bicycle, turn right at the Maryland side of the bridge and follow the bike/pedestrian ramp or, via automobile, turn right at the top of the hill and descend into one of two parking areas. (Reach the second parking area by turning left at the bottom of the hill on River Road, which parallels the canal, and continue less than a half mile to a parking and pedestrian bridge.) On the Maryland side of the river, you can visit Ferry Hill Place, a historic visitors center, before you begin your ride.
Turn left on Mondell Road and ascend steep hill.
Route 65. Cross road and enter battlefield; go straight and ascend.
Turn right on Smoketown Road.
Turn left toward Mumma House.
Turn left toward Bloody Land.
Observation Tower. Turn right to follow the road, then descend a steep hill. This lane leads to Route 34.
Cross Route 34 and climb park road.
Turn right and follow road as it climbs. At the top of the hill are splendid views and a long stone wall. The stone wall is makes for a sunny rest stop overlooking the battlefield.
Turn right on Harpers Ferry Road, leaving the park. Continue into the village of Sharpsburg.
Turn left on Route 34.
Turn left just before the bridge onto Canal Road and descend the trailhead parking lot.
Brunswick, Maryland is just a short drive from Washington D.C., approximately 45 miles. The town’s roots are rich in history with the establishment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In the 1890′s Brunswick became the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s major freight yard for the east-west line. Population of the town multiplied tenfold in 1896 and thrived because of the railroad. You can still take the MARC train from Washington, D.C. to Brunswick today.
When visiting Brunswick, you can stop by the Brunswick Railroad Museum to learn more about the B & O line and the way of life of the railroaders. The Brunswick Museum has exhibits about the life of railroaders from 1890 to 1940. A railroad exhibit with a model of the B&O rail line from Washington to Harper’s Ferry is open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
In 2005, Brunswick earned Maryland Mainstreet status. Brunswick Mainstreet sponsors many events and activities in the historic district. Brunswick also celebrates “History Days” each April, the “Great Brunswick River Race” in July, “Railroad Days” in October, and a “Victorian Christmas” on Thanksgiving weekend. In October the town hosts Railroad Days which takes place with music, festivities and train rides. Every year the annual Great Brunswick River Race offers adventure to those who want to create their own boat and race down the Potomac River. These events feature the roles of the Potomac, the canal, and the railroad in Brunswick’s development. Visit the Brunswick Mainstreet website to learn more.
Brunswick offers other fun activities including camping, biking on the C & O Canal, or just participating in some of our local events.
Check out our events calendar for other fun activities, we hope to see you soon in Brunswick.
Lock 38, a C&O Canal commercial hub in the 19th century, beckons you to cross the river and enter the oldest town in West Virginia. Founded in 1762, Shepherdstown remains a unique experience in the 21st century. The river contains the ruins of rail bridges, car bridges and a ferry. The old riverfront area, a historical commercial hub that was the aperture to the river and the towns across the river, is today a boat ramp for kayakers, canoeists, and fishermen. This was the area where James Rumsey experimented with a boat that would go upstream with a steam engine. The Rumsey Monument Park is a testament to his invention and welcomes trail visitors for a quiet picnic and a world class scenic view of the river.
From Lock 38 proceed up Canal Rd. and turn left onto MD. 34 before crossing the James Rumsey bridge into Shepherdstown, WV. Ferry Hill Plantation is on your right, a 19th century plantation home currently owned by the National Park Service.
Cross the bridge into Shepherdstown and you’ll find a town full of quaint shops and comfortable cafes. Before you continue biking, catch an organic smoothie at Mellow Moods and pop into Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle. For runners and hikers, Two Rivers Treads has organic shoes for kids, men and women.
German Street hasn’t changed much in 250 years. Pick up a walking tour guide at the Visitors Center on the corner of German and Princess Street before proceeding down German Street to the River Road. One mile down the River Road is the famous river crossing Pack Horse Ford where Native American tribes forded the Patomack River and General Lee retreated after the battle of Antietam.
Make a right turn onto Trough Rd, a hilly country road that has seen armies and settlers for over 250 years. Trough Road crosses over Flowing Springs Rd (Rte 240) at mile 4.6 and becomes Gardners Lane. The beautiful Jefferson County country side with its scenic view turns into a narrow lane leading to Morgan Grove Park.
Turning right onto 480 at 7.3 miles takes you back into Shepherdstown to shop, eat a hearty meal or just stroll around an historic town and loop up to the Rumsey Monument for a scenic view of the Potomac River.
For more information on Shepherdstown and other towns along the canal, visit C&O Canal Towns.
This hilly tour is a 33-mile ride through Maryland beginning and ending in historic Boonsboro at Shafer Memorial Park. This tour is from a series of tours in Washington County, encompassing hundreds of miles of paved roads. This map is one of eight loops provided to help you plan an infinite variety of bicycle trips along the best of these roads.
The journey begins in the Town of Boonsboro, MD, then heads south for a climb up South Mountain, a spur of the Blue Ridge chain, to the War Correspondents’ Arch at Gathland State Park. This park was once the mountain home of George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist. Head back up the valley to the Town of Keedysville, where water is available in the park.
Then travel to Sharpsburg where you can stop at famous Nutter’s Ice Cream to savor good old fashioned ice cream. If you want to check your email before you leave, there is free WiFi available at Captain Benders, a bar on Main Street. Next travel to Antietam National Battlefield www.nps.gov/anti/index.htm , the site of the bloodiest day of the Civil War.
After leaving the battlefield, you will pass the University of Maryland Experimental Farm and the Washington County Agricultural Education Center and Rural Heritage Museum and end in Shafer Memorial Park.
For turn-by-turn directions and other itineraries throughout the region, please visit marylandmemories.org or go directly to the county’s bike map and brochure. Highlighted information on this map includes eight suggested loop tours, which are shown in color.
This challenging, remote bicycle trip is perfect for those who want to get lost for an afternoon. The 30-mile journey starts at Clear Spring Park and highlights Camp Harding and Fort Frederick Parks. This tour is from a series of tours in Washington County, encompassing hundreds of miles of paved roads. This map is one of eight loops provided to help you plan an infinite variety of bicycle trips along the best of these roads.
The tour begins in Clear Spring Park just outside of Clear Spring, MD. Next, travel to Camp Harding County Park. Due to its close proximity to Washington, DC, President Harding, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone used to camp and fish here in the 1920s. Trout fishing and canoeing are still popular activities in the park today. The route then uses a portion of the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail to reach Fort Frederick State Park, which boasts the only remaining stone French & Indian War fort in the country, and is restored to that era. It features historical re-enactments on certain weekends. You will then head back through farmlands to Clear Spring Park to complete your ride.
For turn-by-turn directions and other itineraries throughout the region, please visit marylandmemories.org or go directly to the county’s bike map and brochure. Highlighted information on this map includes eight suggested loop tours, which are shown in color.
Cycling this 38-mile, paved Northern Neck route will lead you to the historic towns of Colonial Beach and Leedstown, as well as the birthplace of President James Monroe. Be aware that this route is all on roadways, and only experienced cyclists who are comfortable with traffic should venture onto Route 3 at the end of the loop.
Starting from the King George/Westmoreland County line, cycle to Colonial Beach at the widest point on the Potomac River. This small community was founded in the 19th century as the fishing and bathing getaway for Washingtonians coming by steamboat. Still a waterfront resort, this golf cart community is home to numerous art galleries and hosts a yearlong “Second Friday” Art Walk. The community has built an outdoor performing arts stage, Town Hill, where evening concerts, outdoor family movie nights and weekend events are held.
Hop back on your bike and cycle to the birthplace of the 5th U.S. President James Monroe between Colonial Beach and Oak Grove. Stop in to the new visitor center there and learn about the Northern Neck’s native son who was Secretary of State during the War of 1812. Later as President, Monroe set the cornerstone for American foreign policy through his 1823 Monroe Doctrine.
Carefully cross Route 3 (King’s Highway) onto Route 638 (Leedstown Road), which wanders through the countryside to Leedstown on the Rappahannock River. In 1678 community founder Edward Bray built a brick church, a ferry and a wharf on this site. In 1742, the town was home to the Leedstown Resolutions, which protested the Stamp Act and foreshadowed the Declaration of Independence. While on Route 638, you can stop to visit the Ingleside Vineyards to rest your legs and enjoy a taste of Northern Neck wine.
From Leedstown, weave through Westmoreland County along Route 637 to Route 625/Horner’s Mill Road to Route 642/Baynesville Road and finally west on Route 3/King’s Highway to complete the loop. Be advised that Route 3 is for experienced, traffic-savvy cyclists as it is a 2-lane road with truck traffic
This loop is estimated to take approximately 3 hours, 20 minutes. To view a map of this loop and others in the Northern Neck, visit the Northern Neck Heritage Bike Route Network. For more information on attractions and accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, please visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
Discover two historic small towns along the C&O Canal Towpath in one weekend in West Virginia and Maryland right in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. The Battle of Antietam, the Potomac River, the old Canal, the ferries and bridges all combine to make a journey to the Two Rivers region memorable.
Lock 38 of the C&O Canal Towpath was the trading hub of both Shepherdstown and Sharpsburg. If you are biking up the trail you can see the stone pillars of both rail and carriage bridges that connected these two cities in the 19th century. On the Maryland side, you can get a great view of the historic Ferry Hill Plantation.
Sharpsburg, MD is approached from the C&O Canal Towpath at Snyders Landing, milepost 76.65. Take the Snyders Landing road the 1.5 miles to Sharpsburg and you will quickly discover that not much has changed since this rural town was incorporated. Four B&B’s are available for the overnight traveler, as a well as a few local restaurants. Don’t miss Nutter’s Ice Cream Shoppe and the nearby Pry House Field Hospital and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Visitors Center on MD 34 just east of town.
Just outside of Sharpsburg, on your way to the C&O Canal Towpath, check out Antietam Battlefield commemorating September 17, 1862, the single bloodiest day of the American Civil War. This site now boasts a brand new visitor center.
After Antietam, cross the James Rumsey Bridge and bridge note the monument to James Rumsey on your left. James Rumsey was a colleague of George Washington and the inventor of the first steam powered boat. Shepherdstown, founded in 1762 is the oldest incorporated town in West Virginia. Outdoor recreational enthusiasts will find Shepherdstown welcoming. German Street has shops to entice you from cycling and running supplies, to kayak rentals, fishing supplies plus delicious eats for hungry travelers.
This short Civil War loop explores a portion of Washington County between Antietam National Battlefield and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Beginning at the Battlefield Visitor Center, pedal past Dunker Church on the historic Hagerstown Pike. Cross Sharpsburg Pike onto Mondell Road toward the Potomac River. After crossing under the railroad tracks, make a right to access a point on the River where Confederate troops are believed to have crossed; return to Mondell Road and follow the route past other portions of the Battlefield and into Sharpsburg, a great place to stop on the return trip.
Head west (right) on Main Street/Route 45 toward the Potomac River, stopping first at the site of General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters. Research indicates that Lee’s retreat from Antietam followed the gentle swale to your southwest toward Pack Horse Ford on the Potomac. With the James Rumsey Bridge ahead of you, turn left onto Canal Road to access the C&O Canal Towpath. Leave the River corridor via Millers Sawmill Road but use caution, as this road is somewhat steep and narrow with limited sight lines. After the climb out of the river corridor, you return to Sharpsburg, where Nutter’s Ice Cream Parlor is a just reward. You can also grab a meal or stay overnight in Sharpsburg. A great place to stay is the historic Antietam Guest House. To return to the Visitor Center, follow Route 65.
If you want to explore more in the area, please visit http://www.marylandmemories.com, or to find out more about the C&O Canal, visit either the Brunswick or Williamsport Visitor Centers. For another Civil War site, check out General Lee’s headquarters north in Gettysburg.
The Middle Potomac River is one of the most beautiful stretches of navigable waterways in the Mid-Atlantic. (more…)
Kinsale is a historic village on the Yeocomico River, a tributary of the Potomac River. The idyllic community is flush on the water, an historic landing for steamships, and the perfect starting point for an easy, scenic 30-mile tour by bicycle.
The Kinsale Museum has visitor information and exhibits on the history of town; in addition to the history as a port, the area was the scene of a naval engagement during the War of 1812. In addition to the museum, you can also visit Port Kinsale Marina and Resort. From Kinsale, it’s a short ride to Sandy Point and a grand view of the Potomac. Retracing your path on Route 718, turn right onto Route 749 and then onto Route 663; here you begin a loop on Virginia “600” roads to explore a landscape defined by water. Just before your return to Kinsale, you come upon the Vault Field Vineyards to the south where you can stop and enjoy a glass of wine before finishing your ride.
This loop will take approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes. To view a map of this loop and others in the Northern Neck, visit the Northern Neck Heritage Bike Route Network. For more information on accommodations, events and attractions, including the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
Beginning and ending in the historic town of Heathsville, this 32-mile bicycling loop explores a landscape shaped by water, forestry and farming. Begin your tour at Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern, which includes the Tavern Restaurant (call for lunch and dinner hours), a blacksmith shop, and craft guilds. Leaving Heathsville, take Route 634/Spring Road near St. Stephen’s Anglican Church past Clark Mill Pond to Coan Wharf Landing, a former steamboat landing for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Doubling back on Route 634, take Route 629 in Northumberland County to Route 637. For a short side trip, take Route 604 to Bush Mill Stream State Natural Area Preserve and stop for short walk on the forested trails. Complete the loop on Route 779 back to Heathsville.
Founded in 1648, Heathsville is the county seat of Northumberland County, named for native son John Heath who represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. Near the Tavern, on Back Street, tour the historic jail and the Historical Society visitor center, and visit the several antique, thrift and gift shops.
The Heathsville loop will take approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes. Another site to visit in the area is Robert E. Lee’s childhood home, Stratford Hall. For more information on attractions and accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, please visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
This loop is the shortest of the Northern Neck loops at 16 miles, but it also one of the most historic. It passes by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthplace and family home, Stratford Hall, and passes through a former steamboat landing.
From Route 3/King’s Highway eastbound outside of Westmoreland State Park, take Route 214 to Stratford Hall Road. Time permitting, bike into Stratford Hall and take a tour of the Georgian Great House, birthplace of Robert E. Lee. Make sure you see the gristmill. There is a visitor center, a dining room for lunch fare, and gift shop.
Leaving the gate at Stratford Hall, turn left onto Stratford Hall Road/Route 609 along winding roads. Turn left on Route 622 to Currioman Landing, which is on Currioman Bay on Nomini Creek, allowing a pleasant waterfront vista. There is a gravel parking lot, fishing pier and boat ramp. No facilities, or fees.
Cycle back Route 622 to Panorama Road that goes into Montross, the county seat of Westmoreland. The Westmoreland County Museum is at 43 Court Square near the courthouse. The oldest museum in the Northern Neck was established to display Charles Willson Peale’s 1768 portrait of William Pitt, the British Parliamentarian behind the repeal of the Stamp Act. Montross has a coffee shop, restaurants, shopping, banks, and a pharmacy.
Ride near St. Stephen’s Anglican Church past Clark Mill Pond to Coan Wharf Landing, a former steamboat landing for the fleet of steamboats that plied the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Doubling back on Route 634, take Route 629 in Northumberland County to Route 637. To extend this ride, take Route 604 to Bush Mill Stream State Natural Area Preserve. Complete the loop on Route 779 back to Heathsville.
This loop is estimated to take 1.5 hours. To view a map of this loop and others in the Northern Neck, visit the Northern Neck Heritage Bike Route Network. For more information on attractions and accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, please visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
This trail allows paddlers to experience the sheltered beauty of the headwaters of the St. Mary’s River or the more open waters downriver at St. Mary’s City. (more…)
As featured on the Western Maryland Rail Trail site, this itinerary features Hancock, Maryland, which offers ample parking, dining and just about anything else recreational enthusiasts might need. (more…)