Maryland is located at the cross-roads of two nationally important long-distance trails, the C & O Canal towpath and the Appalachian Trail.
A substantial number of department land units, particularly in the Western Region, tie into one or other of these trails.
Preserving America’s colorful Canal era and transportation history, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park is 184.5 miles of adventure. Originally, the C&O Canal was a lifeline for communities and businesses along the Potomac River as coal, lumber, grain and other agricultural products floated down the canal to market.
The Appalachian Trail is a 2,175-mile long public footpath. Conceived in 1921 and completed in 1937, private citizens built the trail and thousands like you each year volunteer to maintain its footprint. From Maine’s Mount Katahdin and Georgia’s Springer Mountain, this footpath traverses scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild and culturally resonant lands through 14 of the eastern United States and passes through more than 60 federal, state, and local parks and forests.
The Appalachian Trail in Maryland follows a forty-mile route along the backbone of South Mountain, a north-south ridge that extends from Pennsylvania to the Potomac River. This section is great for three- or four-day trips, is easy by A.T. standards, and is a good place to find out if you're ready for more rugged parts of the Trail.
The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a network of locally-managed trails between the mouth of the Potomac River and the Allegheny Highlands. Through five geographic regions, the varied Trail segments are a means to explore the origins and continuing evolution of the Nation. As of early 2010, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail network includes approximately 830 miles of existing and planned trails and trail corridors managed by different agencies and organizations.
As the first national water trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail follows the historic routes of Smith’s travels based on his map and journals. It encompasses Smith’s two main voyages on the Chesapeake Bay in 1608 and also his excursions on the York, James, and other rivers between 1607 and 1609. The trail includes approximately 3,000 miles in parts of present-day Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.
Although initially proposed as a water trail, the plan also calls for people being able to travel a network of designated hiking, biking and auto trails or other land routes that would connect sites along the trail.
Legislation & Purpose
Although the trail is still developing, there are already existing water trails where you can follow portions of Smith’s historic route. And there are already many places where you can learn about the 17th-century Chesapeake and about the Native American peoples who inhabited these lands for thousands of years before the English arrived. These existing places are part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, a system of more than 160 water trails, parks, museums, wildlife refuges, and other sites that are partners in the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
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