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.
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