Western Maryland is an outdoor lover’s paradise. No matter the season, there are great activities like hiking, skiing, and boating. The mix of state parks and forests with decommissioned railroad tracks also makes for excellent places to cycle, whether you’re looking for difficult mountain biking trails or leisurely rides along some of Maryland’s rivers. Here are seven fantastic places to bike in Western Maryland.
Deep Creek Lake is massive—3,900 acres (16 square kilometers) with 69 miles (111 kilometers) of shoreline—but the state park near the lake is pretty small. All the trails are open for hiking and biking and include easy, moderate, and difficult paths around the area. The most scenic hike takes you to a fire tower with incredible views of the lake. You can also check out the beach and swimming area, along with the Discovery Center’s exhibits on the nature and history of the region.
If you’re interested in a bike ride with less incline, check out the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The paved trail was created on top of a former Western Maryland Railroad line and goes from Big Pool, Maryland, to Sideling Hill Ridge. The 23 miles (37 kilometers) of trail will take you through farmland, forest, and small towns, but the section between Hancock and Pollypond might be the most scenic, with views of the Potomac River and rock outcroppings. The trail parallels the C&O Canal towpath.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal runs 184 miles (296 kilometers) from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. If you are closer to Washington, D.C. or Baltimore, Maryland, Brunswick or Harpers Ferry are ideal places to start a day ride. You can also pack gear and camp along the way if you want a multi-day trip. As you get closer to Cumberland, the trail becomes more scenic with beautiful views of the Potomac River, the historic Paw Paw Tunnel, and small towns where you can stop and grab a bite to eat.
The C&O Canal towpath ends in Cumberland, but you can keep your ride going on the Great Allegheny Passage. Also known as the GAP, the rail trail goes from Cumberland all the way to Pittsburgh, extending 150 miles (241.5 kilometers), and through the Eastern Continental Divide. Starting at the old Western Maryland Railroad in downtown Cumberland, you can make a great out-and-back trip for as far a distance as you care to bike. Or, if you’re looking for a longer adventure, you can also take the Amtrak train from Cumberland to Pittsburgh with your bike, and then pedal the GAP for a few days back to Cumberland, stopping at bed and breakfasts or campsites along the way.
The highlight of the Green Ridge State Forest might be the Paw Paw Tunnel. At over 3,000 feet (914 meters) long, the tunnel is one of the longest hiking/biking tunnels in the world. As the largest continuous managed forest in the state, there are also lots of mountain biking trails to explore. Some go along the ridgetop, and are fairly straight and flat in elevation, while others will give you switchbacks and a little bit of a harder ride.
West of Green Ridge State Forest is Rocky Gap State Park, which offers great trails around Lake Habeeb. All around are gorgeous views of the mountain lake, with cliffs that go into the water, a mile-long gorge, and a forest dense with hemlocks and rhododendrons. The 5.3-mile (8.5-kilometer) loop alongside the lake is a quick morning ride. The Rocky Trail and Evitt’s Mountain Trail will take you to higher elevations for views of the lake.
Located between Frostburg, Maryland, and Deep Creek Lake, the Savage River State Forest is the largest designated forest in the state. With over 54,000 acres (218.5 square kilometers) of protected land, the forest offers camping, hiking, biking, cross-country ski trails, white-water canoeing, and even a special trail system for off-road vehicles. For biking enthusiasts, two of the trail systems are open to mountain biking, with trails totaling about 20 miles (32 kilometers). The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and you may want to call beforehand to see if hunting season or adverse weather conditions have changed which trails are open to the public.