Potomac Heritage Trail – All You Need to Know

Potomac Heritage

Are you in the mood for an adventure? Are you looking for some beautiful and historic trails? If that is the case, then you might want to put the beautiful Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail on your list of trails to try.

This is a long and beautiful trail network that will give you an immersive experience of the history and culture of the Potomac River corridor. You will undoubtedly have an experience of a lifetime. If you are interested to learn more about this trail, make sure to read this article.

A Unique Trail

The Potomac Heritage Trail is a unique trail, and it is nothing like the other trails that you might have been on. It’s a gorgeous informal route, and the trail is excellently managed by the National Park Service.

Historic and Cultural Experience

It has been a popular place for hiking, bicycling, and boating. The Chesapeake area has to be one of the most scenic places you will see in America. Keep in mind that these are all the paths that have been explored by the legendary George Washington. Hence, this is as American as it gets. You get a true sense of America when you are off the boring highways and venture into the nature that it has to offer.

When you are here, make sure that you explore the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park, the Riverbend Park, Great Falls Park, and Scott’s Run Preserve. Many people also like to bicycle along the amazing route in Prince Georges Country.

All these places are filled with fascinating stories and historical accounts that you will enjoy learning about. Every place is steeped in history, and you will enjoy exploring the wonderful communities centered on the beauty of these places. If you thought the trail itself was the main attraction, you are mistaken. There are many great side trails and alternatives for you to choose from.

Ideal for Families

If you are wondering whether you should bring your family to the Potomac Heritage Trail, then you will be happy to know that it is an ideal place to be. The trail network is generous in giving you lots of opportunities for exploration, and you can also engage in plenty of fun outdoor activities between the Potomac River and the Allegheny Highlands.

The Potomac Heritage Trail is truly the best way to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern-day civilization. Here, you will not find any pollution. It’s a quiet and serene place that hasn’t been tampered with by human beings.

Potomac Heritage Trail

To Sum Up

The Potomac Heritage Trail is an ideal place, whether you are a solo hiker or if you want to have a good time with your family. It doesn’t offer the huge challenges that other trails usually offer. Hence, you can expect to have a relaxing time in nature. So, make sure you get your gear and your map and explore this trail!

Stratford Hall/Currioman Landing Loop

Landing Loop

Connecting with the Potomac River, this short 16-mile bicycling loop is a ride through area history and a glimpse into what childhood was like for General Robert E. Lee. For those who bring their fishing or paddling gear, there is water access at Currioman Landing.Begin at Westmoreland State Park where you can camp or stay at a cabin for the night. Outside of the Park, take Route 3/King’s Highway eastbound, and then take Route 214 to Stratford Hall Road. Bike into Stratford Hall and take a tour of the Georgian Great House, birthplace of Robert E. Lee. Make sure you see the grist mill. There is a visitor center, a dining room for lunch and dinner fare seasonally, and a gift shop. There are also guesthouses where you can spend the night on the grounds.

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 with no facilities or fees.

Cycle back Route 622 to Panorama Road which 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.

Explore the Port Tobacco Historic District

Tobacco Historic District

Can’t decide if you prefer a walk, a bicycle ride or an excursion on the water? An exploration around the Port Tobacco historic district provides opportunities for all three. Near La Plata in Charles County, Port Tobacco was once the second largest city and deep water port in Maryland, importing goods from Europe and exporting hogsheads of tobacco.

The Part of Plenty B & B—“Plenty” was the name of the original farm—is a base from which to explore. From the B&B, it’s ¾ of a mile to the former Port Tobacco Courthouse and a one-room school house and another 1.7 miles to Thomas Stone National Historic Site, named for a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Operated by the National Park Service, one can visit the restored house and stroll the 322 acres of Haberdeventure, a “dwelling place in the winds.”

To access the water or to find a meal, head south on Shirley Boulevard (off Port Tobacco Road)–the marina at the end of the road is a site on the Port Tobacco River Water Trail, which connects with Chapel Point State Park. Those visiting the Park by bicycle will be rewarded with a sweeping view of the Potomac Tobacco River, a short ride south from the historic Courthouse to Saint Ignatius Church, located within the Park.

Heathsville Bicycling Loop

Heathsville Bicycling

This 32-mile bicycle loop covers Heathsville and the Bush Mill Stream State Natural Area Preserve. Founded in 1648, Heathsville is the county seat of Northumberland County, named for John Heath a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. While in Heathsville, tour the historic jail, the Historical Society visitor center and peruse the several antique, thrift and gift shops.

Beginning and ending in the historic town of Heathsville, this 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 left onto Route 629/Coan Wharf Road to Coan Wharf Landing, a former steamboat landing for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Doubling back on Route 629, take a right onto Route 636, Newman’s Neck Road in Northumberland County to left onto Betts Bottom Road/Route 637 to right onto Sydnor’s Millpond, left onto Avalon Road and right onto Route 360. Take a left onto Route 604/Indian Valley Road to right onto Route 201 to right onto Route 604/Hazard Road to Bush Mill Stream State Natural Area Preserve.

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. At intersection of Routes 604 and Route 601/Dodlyt Road, take Dodlyt Road to complete the loop on Route 601 back to Heathsville.

Reedville/Vir-Mar Beach/Smith Point Loop

Beach/Smith Point Loop

Explore 28 miles of the easternmost portion of the Northern Neck, including the fishing village of Reedville, dozens of inlets and a beach. For an extended tour on the Chesapeake Bay, hop on a cruise to the Tangier Island.

This loop begins in Reedville, founded in 1874 by Elijah Reed who moved his menhaden fishing operation from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay; today the ambience reminiscent of a New England village is recognized as an historic district. From Reedville, on Routes 360/Northumberland Highway, take either Blackberry Road or Sunnybank Road to Route 352 to Sunnybank Road. Ride the free ferry across the Little Wicomico River to Ophelia (ferry operates Monday-Saturday). Take Route 644/Hacks Neck Road to Route 643 to Vir-Mar Beach public landing on the Potomac River. Double back on Route 643 on to Route 644 to Route 646/Folly Road at Gonyon. Cross Route 360, staying on Route 646, whose name changes to Brickyard Road, which winds back to Route 360 to Reedville

To reach Smith Point–the most eastern location within the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail network–and a private campground where you can take a cruise to Smith Island, take Route 802 off of Route 652 where you will see the Smith Point Light in the Potomac River. When returning, just outside of Reedville, take Fleeton Road/Route 657 to the end of the waterfront community of Fleeton.

Reedville includes several restaurants, bed and breakfasts and cottage rentals, an ice cream shop and the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum. Overnight stays in Reedville provide the time to take a cruise to Tangier Island, to Smith Island and to explore other bicycling loops on the Northern Neck. To reach Point Lookout on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, part of the Tidewater Potomac Bicycling Route, the Adventure Cycling Association suggests that you hire a private fishing boat to ferry you across: Captain Danny Crabbe of Crabbes Charter Fishing has been offering this service to cyclists for years, but you will need to make reservations.

Brief Jaunt Through Maryland History

Maryland History

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 Chesapeake and Ohio 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.