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Western Maryland Rail Trail


Biking and running the Western Maryland Rail TrailBeginning approximately one-half mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool, Maryland, the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) winds along the Potomac River through rolling farmland, woodlands, and rural towns to its terminus at the southern slope of Sideling Hill Ridge. In August of 1990, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquired 20.3 miles of the abandoned segment of the Western Maryland Railroad Line, and the three lots in the Town of Hancock from CSX Transportation, Inc. The rail corridor was purchased with state-wide DNR Program Open Space funding at a cost of $1,042,000.

The WMRT follows a path rich in history. The Potomac River valley has been an important transportation corridor for hundreds of years. From the Native Americans to the National Road to the C&O Canal, people have always traveled the path of the Potomac River. The Western Maryland Railway was no exception. In its heyday, the Western Maryland Railway was a lifeline to the tri-state area of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Through the construction of the WMRT on this abandoned railroad bed, numerous opportunities are now available to visit old ruins of days past. There are interpretive signs along the length of the trail at many of these locations.

The WMRT currently offers about 23 miles of flat, paved trail surface. The eastern terminus of the trail, known as Big Pool Station, is located ½ mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, Maryland. Many visitors begin their WMRT excursions here although some prefer to start at the western terminus located in Pearre, Maryland, near Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area. The WMRT parallels the C&O Canal for its entire length.

Common activities that people enjoy on the trail include hiking, biking, jogging and inline skating. The easy grade and paved surface make this path ideal for families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities (the trail is very wheelchair friendly) to enjoy a trek outside. The trail is suited to anyone seeking a pleasant, leisurely outdoor experience. Biking and walking are the most popular uses of the WMRT. Pets are permitted on the trail.

The Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT), an asphalt paved path that was reclaimed from the former Western Maryland Railroad and is maintained by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The WMRT is a 20+ mile trail that follows the bends and curves of both the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. The WMRT is perfect for hiking, biking, inline skating (roller blading) or, weather permitting, crosscountry skiing. And it's handicap accessible. From Hancock, Maryland, the trail travels 10 miles to the east to about 1/2 mile from Fort Frederick State Park, and another ten miles to the west to Polly's Pond (a small body of water where canal boats would winter). The trail is especially suited to families, novice cyclists (it's almost completely flat), and for anyone seeking a pleasant, leisurely ride.

The section from Fort Frederick opened in 1998, and the western route provided an additional ten miles in 2002. Crossovers to the C & O Canal will be found at mile markers 117 and 119 and at the Hancock Station parking area.

The trail is open year round and offers ample parking at the Hancock Station, just off Main Street in the historic town of Hancock.

Area Information contact:

Fort Frederick State Park
11100 Fort Frederick Road
Big Pool MD 21711
Phone: 301-842-2155


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Steve Carr
Land Trails Planner

Land Acquisition & Planning
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Avenue, E-4
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410-260-8478
FAX: 410-260-8404

Lisa Gutierrez
Director, Public Access, Water Trails & Recreation Planning

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Avenue, E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410-260-8778