Description - Beginning approximately a half-mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, Maryland, the Western Maryland Rail Trail winds along the Potomac River through rolling farmland, woodlands, and rural towns to its terminus at the southern slope of Tonoloway Ridge. In August of 1990, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquired the 20.3 mile abandoned segment of the Western Maryland Railroad Line, the three lots in the Town of Hancock from CSX Transportation, Inc. The rail corridor was purchased with statewide DNR Program Open Space funding at a cost of $1,042,000.
Copyright: Patty Elton - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
- Western Maryland Rail Trail is currently 10 miles long. Beginning a half-mile mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, the trail follows the former Western Maryland Railroad line to Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Hancock, Maryland. An additional 15 miles of trail west of Hancock is expected to be built within the next few years.
The Western Maryland Rail Trail protects cultural and natural resources by buffering the C&O Canal National Historic Park and the adjacent Potomac River.
Rich in history, the Western Maryland Line provided an avenue for early commerce. Eight rail markers provide a brief history. The first trail marker is located at Big Pool Junction.
1. The Big Pool Train Station was constructed in 1892 to make a connection with the B&O Railroad across the river at Cherry Run, West Virginia. The Western Maryland Railroad was in a boom stage of growth with the 18 miles of rail between Hagerstown and Big Pool being the busiest section on the railway. In the spring of 1904 the building of the Cumberland Extension began at Big Pool. The Western Maryland reached Hancock by December of that year and Cumberland by March two years later. Continue .3 miles to the stone archway.
2. The Ernstville Road Bridge was constructed in 1930 to carry motor vehicles on Ernstville Road safely over the Western Maryland Railway. The present concrete culvert overpass was constructed in 1997 as part of the development of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. 2.1 miles to Licking Creek Bridge.
3. Three Eras of Transportation: Facing west, Licking Creek Aqueduct is visible to the left. Constructed between 1836 and 1838, this is a single-arch aqueduct built of limestone. This 90-foot span is the longest of the C&O Canal's six single-arch aqueducts. The coming of the railroad industry put an end to the usefulness of canals. To the right is the Interstate 70 bridge over Licking Creek. The building of modern roads played a part in making the Western Maryland Line no longer necessary. Only .3 miles to the next stop.
4. Park Head Level Graveyard: Near this site is located a graveyard that dates to the early 1800's. There are numerous marked and unmarked graves. Plain field stones serve as common markers. 2.6 miles to marker #5.
5. Millstone and Moffet Station: A small community originally called Millstone Point, but later simplified to just Millstone, grew up along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in this area. During the Civil War several companies of the first Regiment Maryland Infantry were stationed at Millstone Point to protect the C&O Canal from Confederates. The Moffet Station was constructed nearby when the Cumberland Extension of the Western Maryland Railway came through this location. A mile to scenic Little Pool.
6. Little Pool, a pretty body of water, nearly one mile long, was part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The pool and adjacent wooded areas are excellent for birding. A wooden foot bridge near the eastern end of Little Pool connects the Western Maryland Rail Trail and the C&O Towpath. 3.8 miles to marker #7.
7. Railroad Siding and Coat Trestle: A railroad siding was constructed near here to allow engineers to unload their cargo at the coal trestle, simplifying the handling of this valuable resource. Only .2 miles of trail left.
8. The Hancock Station was a combination passenger and freight station that was constructed in 1904-1905. Passenger service was disconnected in the early 1950's.
Recreation - Common activities people enjoy on the trail include hiking, biking, jogging, and rollerblading. The easy grade and paved surface make this path ideal for families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities to enjoy a trek outside.
Climate - Maryland has four distinct seasons with spring and fall being particularly pleasant with low humidity and mild temperatures. The average January temperature ranges between 30 and 34 degrees F (-1 to 1 C) with July averages ranging between 74 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Typically, coastal temperatures are slightly warmer then the western Appalachian Plateau area. Travelers should be aware that winters can become miserably cold and summers can be hazy, hot and humid with afternoon thundershowers.
The Western Maryland Rail Trail is, of course, located in Western Maryland a half-mile west of Fort Frederick State Park.
To reach the eastern end of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, take Exit 12, MD State Route 56, from Interstate 70. Turn east and go to Big Pool. The trail parking lot is across the street from the Post Office.
To reach the western end of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, take exit 3 from Interstate 70 into Hancock. Travel west on MD State Route 144 for 1.4 miles. Turn left into Rail Trail parking lot.