The Deep Creek Lake area of Western Maryland is a largely undiscovered cornucopia of natural beauty nestled in the Allegheny Mountains. It’s a little sliver of that West Virginia high country that extends over the Maryland border in Garrett County, centered around the 3,000-acre Deep Creek Lake (the state’s largest) and Wisp ski resort. Although resort town USA has infiltrated, the area still has a pristine feel, surrounded by a 90,000-acre network of state park and forests ready for the taking. Just three hours from the nation’s capital, the area is quickly becoming the ultimate outdoor escape for urban adventurers.

TOP 5 ADVENTURES

<h4>1. Ski Wisp</h4>

With 120 inches of annual snowfall, Wisp is a high-quality Southern skier sanctuary with 32 slopes on 132 acres with some killer black diamonds like Over the Edge. (www.skiwisp.com).

The area’s vast terrain is also a favorite for cross country skiers. Backbone Mountain Cross Country Ski Farm has trails on a 525-acre organic farm (www.backbonefarm.com).

<h4>2. Fringe Fun</h4>

Before the snow falls Wisp offers some off-season fringe fun. Jump on a mountain board and take some speeding runs through the grassy slopes. Later mellow out with a round of disc golf on the resort’s 18-hole mountainside course. The resort also has a skate park, a new freeride park and runs the lifts for downhill MTB action.

<h4>3. Paddle the Yough</h4>

Whitewater paddlers get their fix on the Upper section of the Youghiogheny (pronounced Yock) River-a 10-mile class IV-V stretch from Sang Run Road to Friendsville that’s fast and technical with raging rapids like Triple Drop and Meat Cleaver. Precision Rafting (www.precisionrafting.com) also leads trips down the river.

For a slower paddling adventure, take a flat water stroll through the Savage River Reservoir. Check out All Earth Eco Tours (www.allearthecotours.com) for guided trips.

<h4>4. Singletrack to Swimming Holes</h4>

A 5.5-mile white-blazed trail deep in the woods of the Garret State Forest connects Herrington Manor and Swallow Falls State Parks. Take the steadily rolling singletrack ride then jump in the natural pools below Lower Swallow Falls and Muddy Creek Falls, the largest waterfall in Maryland at 54 feet. For a more strenuous fix ride the eight-mile loop of the Margroff Trail System near Accident, Md., in the Savage State Forest. Stop by High Mountain Sports and grab a trail map.

<h4>5. Hike to the Top</h4>

Finish the day with a short hike to the highest peak in Maryland-the 3,360-foot Backbone Mountain. Backbone is the Eastern Continental Divide-the east side of the mountain drains into the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Potomac River, while the west slopes west into the Gulf of Mexcio via the Yough and Mississippi Rivers.

LOCAL YOKELS

“There is an overall vision of Garrett County eventually being a capital of outdoor recreation on the east coast. It’s taken a while to build support for natural recreation tourism, but people are finally starting to realize it’s more sustainable than a plastic plant or a paper mill.”

<em>-Brian Trusty</em>

“Living here centers around your daily outdoor activity. Some people party, but it’s really about getting home early and getting outside early the next day.”

<em>-Derek Berger</em>

CREATURE COMFORTS

Lodging options in the area fortunately stay clear of chain hotels in favor of mountain retreat-style bungalows that can range from lakeside uber-expensive to wood-nestled affordable. Try a quaint log cabin at the Yellowstone Village offered by Long and Foster (800-336-7303).

If you want to sleep under the stars, all of the area state parks have sites. Meadow Mountain Campground at Deep Creek Lake State Park (www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/deepcreeklake) has 112 sites to pitch a tent.

For your morning Joe and a tasty bagel stop by Trader’s Coffee House (301-387-9246). Dinner favorites include the lakeside Pine Lodge Steakhouse (301-387-6500) and the relatively new Santa Fe Grille (301-387-2202).

ADVENTURE ED

Those looking to make a career out of an outdoor addiction should check out the Adventure Sports Institute at Garrett College. Here students can earn an adventure sports two-year associate degree in applied science. Take a scholastic approach to your favorite sport in courses like Introduction to Cross Country Mountain Biking. Students can then relate the sports to business, field guide, or therapeutic tracks (www.garrettcollege.edu).

ADVENTURE SPORTS CENTER

In the spring the Adventure Sports Center International will open a new whitewater park. With its wave-shaper technology, the 1,700-foot course can vary its obstacle and rapid classes in 20 minutes, unheard of at other parks. The center, which will also hold the Whitewater Hall of Fame, will also encompass the Fork Run Natural Area, which will hold 10 miles of biking and cross-country skiing trails, freeriding course, fixed ropes climbing, and a bouldering garden (www.adventuresportscenter.com).