The Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) is 22.5 mile long rails to trail that runs from Pearre Station, Maryland on the west end to Fort Frederick on the eastern most end.

The trail is paved and being a rails to trail trail it is relatively flat. During our ride we saw cyclists, walkers and an in line skater. I imagine in the winter this would also be a good cross country ski trail. (Not sure if they clear it of snow.)

Canal access in Hancock from the Western Maryland Rail Trail

My wife and I chose to start in Hancock and ride to towards Pearre Station. We had learned from talking to friends that this was the more scenic portion of the trail. The portion heading east parallels 70 much more closely. You can see the trail from 70 in several sections. Yet this section also has more access to services so if you are a thru traveler this section may come as a welcomed relief, as may a paved trail. The Western Maryland Rail Trail should certainly be considered as a route option for those riding the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O Canal between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

Parking and Access

Access to the trail is very easy with parking just off of Interstate 70 in Hancock. We parked at the first WMRT lot that was signed off 70 in Hancock. We rode during a weekday and the lot looked to be used primarily as a Park and Ride lot. Access to the trail was easily found at the end of the lot. As we rode into Hancock there was more parking, free parking looked limited but there was a metered lot. This was about .4 miles from where we parked.

Heading in this direction Hancock is one of the last places to access services. The services are marked by signs on the trail which is super convenient. On the western end of Hancock is C & O

Services Signage

Bicycles in case you need anything. Others who have ridden the trail tell me services are more plentiful east of Hancock but the section we rode is much more scenic. We did pass a trail side B&B during our ride and some houses had coolers with bottled water if you needed to top off.

Hancock provides access to both the Western Maryland Rail Trail and the C & O Canal. It is also home to a visitor center for the Canal with a lot just prior to the one we parked in for the WMRT.

The Ride

The view just gets better.

This is a unique rail trail as it is very scenic with cuts through stone etc. following the old rail bed. Lots of energy was used in creating this trail when it is was being built. The trail is in pretty good shape with the usual ripples in the trail from roots breaking the pavement but it isn’t terrible. There are lots of historical markers and even a B&B along the way. Distances are marked with white posts in one mile increments.

 

We rode to Pearre on the western end of the trail and returned the same way. We had a little side trip down a road to a valley to view a waterfall we could hear from the trail. The trail end is a crossing over place to the canal at Lock 56. There aren’t many places to cross between the trails in this section but it is possible in some areas.

Western Maryland Rail Trail

Enjoying the scenery on the western Maryland Rail Trail

The WMRT runs “above” the Canal in this portion and it does so for the entire length. While we rode an out and back on the WMRT one ride option would be to ride the C & O Canal for part of your ride and then “loop” back on the WMRT. This would make your return ride a little easier on the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail versus the gravel surface of the C&  O Canal. Plus you would get two perspectives from your ride.

The trail is on the narrower side then some rails to trails but plenty wide to ride and pass other cyclists. We saw lots of wildlife along the way and had a great day of riding. While this Western Maryland Rail Trail would be fun to ride any time of year I imaging the fall foliage would be spectacular. We’ll certainly be back to check out the rest of the trail and enjoy the foliage.

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