(Photo by Crede Calhoun of Vision Quest Photography)
Although many may associate the shorter days of winter with being indoors, Garrett County offers lots of outdoor and socially distanced activities for people of all ages and ability. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we need outdoor activity more than ever. Here are some of the ways you and your loved ones can get some fresh air, see or learn something new, and have fun!
Garrett County is home to several beautiful and very diverse state parks and forests scattered throughout the county. We often think of them for summertime fun, but winter offers its own charms. New Germany State Park, located in Grantsville, has become a very popular place to enjoy the cold weather. The park offers a variety of trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, something for all abilities. They have a “flat, open turnpike” for beginners, and winding hillside trails for more experienced skiers. The trails are groomed daily, snow dependent of course. No snow, no problem. These trails are great for hiking as well. New Germany state Park is open from 8 AM to sunset. For more information, call 301-895-5453.
Potomac-Garrett State Forest offers 19,000 acres of scenic forest and cross-country skiers and snowshoers of all abilities can enjoy this beautiful area. The office, located at 1431 Potomac Camp Road in Oakland, is open 7 AM to 5:30 PM Monday – Friday. A map of the forest is available online or call 301-334-2038 for more information.
One of the most accessible parks is Deep Creek Lake State Park which offers several trails with varying lengths and difficulties and are available for hiking, mountain biking and snowshoeing. The park also offers a trail for cross country skiing and snowmobiling although four inches of snow cover is required.
Maps are available online where you can also find a complete description of each of their trails, ranging in length from a quarter mile to 5.5 miles. While the Discovery Center and park office remain closed, trails are available daily from sunrise to sunset. Be sure to check out the Aviary while you are there as well (located off the main parking area).
Herrington Manor State Park, located between Deep Creek Lake and Oakland, MD is open from 10 AM to sunset during the winter months and offers 365 acres and 20 furnished log cabins that rent year round. While the 53 acre Herrington Lake is a popular summer spot, winter activities include cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. There are 10 miles of trails from beginner to intermediate as well as a 5.5 mile trail running between Herrington Manor and Swallow Falls State Park, a great way to enjoy both parks. Because of Covid, the Lakehouse will only be open for restrooms.
Savage River State Forest is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM and offers 55,185 acres and nine miles of trails where visitors can enjoy hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and more. Snowmobiling is also available throughout the forest but vehicles must be registered through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). There are 3 trails available for snowmobile riding and information can be obtained by calling forest headquarters.
They also have a public shooting range which is open year-round (call ahead for occasional closures). There is a kiosk outside the headquarters (located at 127 Headquarters Lane in Grantsville) with self-registration and general information. You can also call 301-895-5759.
Swallow Falls State Park is probably one of the most well-known parks in the area, with trails winding along the beautiful Youghiogheny River and Muddy Creek Falls, a 53-foot waterfall. The one and a quarter mile trail along this route is breathtaking any season of the year and is open year-round. There is also a 5 ½ mile trail that leads to Herrington Manor State Park and is also accessible for mountain biking.
Information on all state managed lands can be found at https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands. Here you can find more trail information including maps as well as trail reports (if applicable).
Because of Covid-19, the state parks are no longer handling snowshoe or cross country ski rentals but you can visit our friends at High Mountain Sports for all your winter equipment (and clothing) needs. Park management asks that all trail users abide by park proper safety and etiquette procedures as well as Covid-19 regulations. Weather can be very changable in Garrett County so please plan ahead and dress appropriately for conditions.
Another good resource for hiking, biking and winter activities is the Garrett Trails organization. Their website (garretttrails.org) features other area trail maps, snowmobile and OTR regulations and information. You’ll find everything from east walking paved trails and forest trails as well as information on the popular Fork Run Recreation Area and Senator Paul Sarbanes Trail. They also have more information on the state park and forest trails.
If you’d like a guided tour of some of the areas most scenic trails, All Earth Eco Tours offers several hiking and snowshoeing excursions during the winter. To book a group tour or for information, contact them at 301-746-4083 or visit www.allearthtours.com.
Of course, our area is known as the home of Maryland’s only downhill ski resort and Wisp is now open for the 2020-2021 ski season. With 33 slopes and a snow tubing park, there is a ton of winter fun to be had. The Wisp has instituted new policies and restrictions with regard to Covid-19. Please visit their website at wispresort.com to learn more or check out our Skier’s Notebook on Page page 60)
Now more than ever, socially distancing is an important part of our lives but that doesn’t mean being a shut-in during the colder months. Time in the outdoors is good for our physical and mental health. So go outside, dress safely, and enjoy the scenic abundance our area has to offer. Happy New Year!