By Crystal Schelle
As the days start to shorten and the leaves start to turn, Washington County has plenty of things to do for anyone who wants to keep active and breathe in that crisp autumn air.
Outdoor recreation opportunities can be found from Hancock to Boonsboro and everywhere in between — and for any athletic level. So here are just some examples in Washington County from West to East to break a sweat.
For bikers, runners, walkers or even inline skaters, the 28 miles of the Western Maryland Rail Trail is a perfect place for those who want to experience nature and get in a workout. The Rail Trail runs parallel to the C&O Canal, and runs between Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool and Little Orleans near Hancock. The Rail Trail is a paved, linear trail, which makes it a low-impact area for exercise, and is wheelchair accessible. Those who like to have their pooch along for the ride can do so along the trail.
For those looking for a moderate-level hike, try the Indian Springs Trail at the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area. The trail is 5.4 miles and can be completed in a little over two hours. The hiking trail engulfs you in nature and some lucky people might experience wildlife encounters. Dogs are allowed, but they need to be on a leash.
Home to the C&O National Historical Park Headquarters, Williamsport is a perfect spot to enter the C&O Canal Towpath. Washington County has 78 miles of the 184.5 miles long towpath, which gives visitors and locals a huge advantage. Hikers, walkers, runners, bikers and horseback riders enjoy the towpath for its mostly flat terrain. The C&O Canal itself provides opportunities for those who want to enjoy water sports in the Potomac River such as boating and kayaking, as well as fishing.
As Washington County’s seat, Hagerstown provides visitors and residents plenty of ways to keep active. Some of the most popular are the multiple walking/running trails in City Park. The City of Hagerstown has even put together a handy walking trail map that highlights some of the places to enjoy what has been recognized as one of the most beautiful parks in the U.S. The longest trail is the Heyser Walk which is 1.15 miles and circles the large lake in the park.
Veterans Park in Smithsburg is often the hub for town activities from craft shows to festivals to picnicking. But it also has a convenient walking loop for those who want to get some exercise without leaving town. The park has an easy trail that is a little over a mile.
Known for being the home to Antietam National Battlefield, the single most bloodiest day in the Civil War, Sharpsburg also is home to some great access points to the C&O Canal Towpath. Antietam National Battlefield allows bikers, walkers and runners to enjoy the rolling hills and somber landscape with several mapped-out loops around the park with the longest being the Snavely Ford Trail. The 1.8-mile loop is along Antietam Creek and is mostly flat except for a climb at the end.
An often overlooked gem for anyone wanting to experience the outdoors in an unusual area is the Mt. Briar Wetland Preserve. Bring your binoculars for birdwatching along this 1-mile hike on floating boardwalk throughout the preserve. What makes this so special is that the preserve is marshland. To protect the ecosystem, the entrance gates are open by appointment only for those who need to enter by vehicle. However, walk-in traffic is permitted.
Greenbrier State Park has a little bit of everything for those who want to spend time outdoors during the fall. The 42-acre park’s centerpiece is the lake where visitors can boat, kayak or fish at designated areas. In the summer, it’s open for swimming. The park boasts 11 miles of hiking trails for those looking for a moderate to strenuous workout around the lake. The Appalachian Trail also cuts through the park. In fact, Washington County provides more than 40 miles of nearly 2,200 miles that is from Maine to Georgia.
Come break a sweat with us this Autumn!