Beginning 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.
- Pets are allowed on the Western Maryland Rail Trail.
The Western Maryland Rail trail can be divided into three sections:
The first section, from Big Pool to Hancock, opened in 1998 and covers approximately 10 miles. This portion parallels many historical sites and scenic areas including Park Head Level Graveyard, Millstone Station, Moffet Station, Little Pool and Hancock Station. Many consider the town of Hancock as the halfway point of the WMRT. In Hancock, visitors will find shops, restaurants, and other convenient services.
The second section of the WMRT was open to the public on June 10, 2002 and extends from Hancock to Pollypond. Considered by many to be the most scenic stretch of the trail, this remote section passes through mountainous terrain and offers several breathtaking views of the Potomac River. The numerous rock outcroppings located along this section are ideal for geological exploration. Like the rest of the WMRT, this section passes by plenty of historical sites that once played a vital role in the region.
Phase three is a 2 ½ mile section that opened in 2004. The western terminus of the trail is located in this section at Pearre, Maryland. This final stretch of the trail passes several interesting historic sites that are of great interest to those who like to explore local history.
- To reach the eastern terminus of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, take exit 12, MD 56, from I-70. Go approximately ¼ mile east towards Fort Frederick State Park and the terminus is located on the right. The trail parking lot is across the street from the Post Office.
- To reach the halfway point in Hancock, take exit 3 from I-70 into Hancock. Travel west on MD 144 for 1.4 miles. Turn left into the Western Maryland Rail Trail parking lot.
- To reach the western terminus, take exit 77 from I-68, towards MD 144/Woodmont Rd. Turn left onto U.S. Scenic 40, Turn left onto Western Pike/US-40 Scenic/MD-144, then turn right onto Woodmont Rd. Go 6.3 miles on Woodmont Rd., then bear right onto Pearre Rd. Go about 1 mile and the Pearre Terminus parking lot will be on the left.
Western Maryland Rail Trail
c/o Fort Frederick State Park
11100 Fort Frederick Road
Big Pool MD 21711
Contact Western Maryland Rail Trail
Hours of Operation
8 a.m. to Sunset, April-October
10 a.m. to Sunset, November-March
Contact the Park Service
- Toll Free: 1-800-830-3974
- Reservations: 1-888-432-2267
- Park Watch: 1-800-825-7275
- Email Us