Mountain Maryland Trails
From Cumberland to Frostburg along Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to the state line in Allegany County MD
The Mountain Maryland Trail begins at Canal Place in Cumberland, at the terminus of the C&O Canal Towpath. From here the trail climbs for 16 miles to Frostburg, sharing the right-of-way and the spectacular views of the active Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. The wildest, most remote part of the trail lies in western Maryland. Here you find rugged mountains, hardwood forest, high wooded ridges, and narrow stream valleys. The parallel ridges and valleys run from northeast to southwest, and over 55% of the land in the county is on slopes greater than 25%. Nevertheless, the grade on the right of way is less than 3%, though this grade goes on for a long time. Unsurprisingly, the trail winds 16 miles to cover the 9-mile straight-line distance from Cumberland northwest to Frosburg.
The construction of the railroad alternates sections in cuts with sections build on fill. The cut sections give a closeup view of the local geology, and the fill sections present wide views of the farms in the Jennings Run valley and the historic town of Mt. Savage.
As the trail approaches Frostburg it branches away from the active rail line at Switch #9. From here the trail remains relatively level as the scenic railroad starts its final climb into Frostburg. The official trailhead is on New Hope Rd, about a mile from Switch #9 and downhill via a spur trail from the Frostburg depot.
From Frostburg, the trail climbs for 5 miles to the MD/PA state line
The western terminus of the Scenic RR, on the other hand, is the Cumberland and Pennsylvania RR Depot, built in 1891. This, along with the shops and museum, make a natural destination. A trail switchbacks up the hill at a gentle grade to connect the trailhead to the depot. The scenic railroad will take your bike, and you can get a one-way ticket. Reserve this in advance with the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad at 800-872-4650.
Local history, attractions
When this section of trail is completed, it will provide unique glimpses into western Maryland's prehistoric and early industrial past. In Cumberland, the trail will connect with the C&O Canal Towpath at the Western Maryland RR station at Canal Place, which also serves as the eastern terminus of the Western Maryland Scenic RR. For now, the trail starts at Woodcock Hollow, about 10 miles northwest of Cumberland.
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers excursions to Cumberland. On some days of the week they operate a steam engine. The Thrasher Carriage Museum is across the street from the Frostburg depot.
The trail will feature two unique natural areas: the Narrows and the Bone Cave. The Cumberland Narrows is the mile-long gorge of Wills Ck, 1.5 miles northwest of Cumberland. The highway, the creek, a CSX railroad line, and the scenic railroad all squeeze through this spectacular slot between Haystack and Wills Mountains. The Cumberland Bone Cave is a limestone cave is recognized as one of the most significant deposits of Pleistocene animal remains in the eastern US. About 4 miles northwest of Cumberland, it was discovered during railroad construction in 1912. Excavation yielded fossils of 46 animal species, 28 of which are extinct. The railroad grade itself is notable for its Horseshoe Curve, the second-tightest open horseshoe curve in the east (after the more famous one at Altoona PA). The trail also passes the S&S Maple Camp, one of the largest maple sugar operations in the state.
Frostburg has started its own trail project, the Frostburg Trail, that begins at the Old Depot, runs through the old C&P tunnel, and down George's Creek for several miles.
Vicinity: Directions begin on I68 eastbound approaching Frostburg. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, take I79 south to US40, US40 east to I68, and I68 east to Cumberland.
Frostburg Depot trailhead: Take the Frostburg exit from I68 toward Frostburg. At US40 (W Main St) go straight onto Depot St. Go down the steep hill to the train depot. You can park here to meet the train or ride down the switchbacks to the New Hope Rd trailhead, or you can turn right on New Hope Rd after crossing the tracks and go downhill to the New Hope trailhead.
Frostburg New Hope Rd trailhead: Take the Frostburg exit from I68 toward Frostburg. At US40 (W Main St) go straight onto Depot St. Go down the steep hill to the train depot. Continue past the depot. Just after crossing the railroad track at the turntable, turn right down New Hope Rd. Just before going under the railroad bridge, turn right into the parking lot.
Cumberland trailhead: Take the main Cumberland exit from I68 and follow signs to the Western Maryland Train Station. Park in the lot. The trail leaves from the platform one story up. If you're using the alternate route and entering Cumberland on MD36, continue straight to the train station; don't follow AltUS40 over the overpass.
Rest rooms, water: In the depots at Cumberland and Frostburg and at New Hope trailhead.
Bike shop, rentals: In Cumberland and Frostburg.
Restaurant, groceries: In Cumberland and Frostburg.
Camping, simple lodging: In Cumberland and Frostburg.
Swimming, fishing: None.
Winter sports: No snowmobiles. Cross-country skiing is good.
Wheelchair access: The switchbacks from the depot to New Hope Rd are probably ADA compliant, but they're pretty long.
Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland
P.O. Box 28
Cumberland, MD 21501-0028
Maps, guides, other references
Mary Shaw and Roy Weil. Linking Up: Planning Your Traffic-Free Bike Trip between Pittsburgh PA and Washington DC. Shaw-Weil Associates, 2002.
USGS Topographic Maps: Cumberland MD-PA, Frostburg MD, Wittenburg, Meyersdale.
Text version from 2002 edition. Conditions will have changed; you are responsible for your own safety.
Insert rail with trail at Woodcock Hollow
Insert rail with trail at Woodcock Hollow