Allegheny Highlands Trail, Continental Divide Section
From state line through Big Savage Tunnel and along Flaugherty Run to Meyersdale in Somerset County

From Frostburg, the trail follows the route of the Western Maryland RR for 16 miles to Meyersdale. It climbs for 5 miles to the MD/PA state line, then levels off a bit as it approaches the major feature of this section of the trail, the Big Savage Tunnel. Emerging from the woods at Deal, the trail descends along Flaugherty Run to Meyersdale.

The trail is accessible at two locations in Frostburg: the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad depot and the official trail access on New Hope Rd. At the depot, the trail starts just across the tracks from the train station.  It stays beside the tracks for a hundred yards and leads to an observation deck that provides a preview of the excitement that's about to begin. Just past the observation deck, the trail begins a spectacular series of quick switchbacks that descend quickly to the main trail and the official access point off New Hope Rd.

Allegheny Highlands Trail, Continental Divide Section

Location                                                                                                                     Allegany County MD

Trailheads                                                              Frostburg Depot, New Hope Rd, Deal, Meyersdale

Length, Surface                                                                                        16 miles, packed crushed stone

Character       Uncrowded, wooded, mixed sun and shade, noticeable grades, big hill in Frostburg

Usage restrictions                                                                    No motorized vehicles; no snowmobiles

Amenities                                                                                                             Rest rooms, food, lodging

Driving time from Pittsburgh                                                                                      2 hours southeast

However, you get to the New Hope trailhead, the trail to the Continental Divide goes northwest from the trailhead for half a mile through woods and a cut to cross Mt Savage Rd. Soon after that, the trail bends north onto the side of Savage Mountain for 1.8 miles to the short Borden Tunnel. After the tunnel it's another 3 miles to Mason Dixon Park. Here a stone marker and an inlay across the trail mark the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, and where the Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland connects seamlessly with the Allegheny Highlands Trail of Pennsylvania. Several spectacular views open to the right. Concentrate on the views, because the hill to the left is a former strip mine. 

After the state line, the hillside to the west shifts to forest and the views to the east continue. The trail bends to the left and the signature feature of this trail comes into view.  The spectacular kilometer-long Big Savage Tunnel takes the trail under the mountain and saves 250 feet of climb. A few years ago this tunnel was partially collapsed and in dangerous condition; its reconstruction has taken years of dedicated effort by trail developers.  Now it is re-lined, well-surfaced, and even lighted.  It's worth a day trip from either Frostburg or Meyersdale just to visit the tunnel.  Note, though, the lights are turned off at night, and the tunnel is closed in the winter to protect it from weather damage.  If you're planning a trip in the cooler months, check to see whether the tunnel is open. If it's closed, there's really no good detour; the only alternatives are via MD546 and US40 or via PA160 to Barrelville; both involve hills and traffic, and we don't recommend either.

West of the tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. Paradoxically, the continental divide is actually in a cut, not on top of a ridge. It's about a mile west of the tunnel, just east of the culvert that crosses under Mackenzie Hollow Rd.   The original devide was in the middle of the cut, but trail construction moved it to the east end of the culvert under the road. Rain that falls on the tunnel side of this the road flows into Laurel Run, then to the Potomac and the Atlantic Ocean. Rain that falls on the west side Mackenzie Hollow road flows into Flaugherty Creek, ultimatly to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

At Mackenzie Hollow Rd the trail starts descending gradually toward Meyersdale. The remote surroundings of the eastern flank of Big Savage Mountain gives way to rural Pennsylvania.  The trail passes through several small villages and crosses Faugherty Creek several times.  Six miles from Mackenzie Hollow Rd the trail crosses high above the creek, the road, and the active railroad line on the Keystone Trestle. This curved bridge was constructed to preserve the graceful lines of the original railroad bridge, which was sacrificed a few years ago in order to straighten a nasty curve on the road below.

Soon after the Keystone Trestle, the trail emerges at Scratch Hill Rd. Trail developers have moved a historic iron Bollman bridge, originally manufactured for the railroad in 1871, from a few miles away to carry the trail across the road. Another quick run through the woods brings the trail to Meyersdale and the visitor center in the restored train station

Access points

Frostburg 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.

Meyersdale Vicinity: Directions begin at the Somerset exit of the PA Turnpike (I76).  To reach this point from Pittsburgh, take the PA Turnpike eastbound.

Meyersdale trailhead: From the Somerset Turnpike exit, go south on US219 about 20 miles to Meyersdale. Turn left on Main St and climb the hill. After 0.5 miles, just on the edge of town, the restored railroad station marks the trailhead. Park here.

Amenities

Rest rooms, water: In Frostburg depot, at New Hope trailhead, and at the Meyersdale station.

Bike shop, rentals: None.

Restaurant, groceries: In Frostburg and Meyersdale.       

Camping, simple lodging: In Frostburg and Meyersdale.

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.

Insert photo

 

Switchbacks connect the Frostburg access areas

Maps, guides, other references

Trail brochure

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.