Potomac State Forest: Home to Recreation & Wildlife

Potomac State Forest encompasses 11,535 acres. It is easy to lose your cares amid its hemlock and laurel.  It is situated between the towns of Oakland and Westernport and partially borders the headwaters of the Potomac River. This rugged mountain forest is known for abundant wildlife, excellent trout fishing, and miles of multi-use trails.

potomac state forest
Cascade Falls in Potomac State Forest

About Potomac State Forest

Made up of mountain forests, streams and valleys, Potomac State Forest’s diverse habitat supports an abundance of wildlife, including wild turkey, white-tailed deer, black bears, fox and songbirds. The tree species typically found are that of an eastern hardwood forest. Plantations of white pine, red pine and spruce were also planted between 1950 and 1970. A spring walk through the woods will reveal flowering plants such as saxifrage, rue and wood anemone, spring beauty, May apple, blue violet and other violet species. Summer brings milkweed, spiderwort, mint, butterfly weed and dogbane to the roadsides and meadows. Ironweed, aster and goldenrod varieties brighten the fields in the fall.

The forest drains into the Potomac River Basin. It also features the highest point in Maryland – Backbone Mountain, elevation 3,220 feet. Another high point in the forest is the rock outcropping near the intersection of Maryland Route 135 and Walnut Bottom Road. It offers a scenic view of Potomac State Forest, Savage River State Forest and Crabtree Creek.

Fishing

In addition to fishing, visitors can enjoy the miles of scenic trails that are open for hiking, mountain biking, ORV use, horseback riding and winter sports. Bring your camera when you visit this untamed environment and capture the breathtaking views no matter what the season.

Famous for its trout fishing, anglers can test their skills on a generally fast running Potomac. The premier fish of this section of the river is the rainbow trout. Early spring through fall stocking provides incredible fishing opportunities. Other designated areas, including Lostland Run and Laurel Run also offer excellent fishing spots.  Additional fish found in the Potomac and the creeks surrounding it include rock bass, sunfish and smallmouth bass.  Because of fast running water and the primitive environment, fisherman should be prepared to negotiate strong currents, large boulders and fallen trees in the water.

Hiking

Potomac State Forest is a natural area that presents certain hazards, such as poison ivy, rocky and slippery trails, venomous snakes and biting insects. Be sure to dress appropriately. All trails and roads are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Remember, you are responsible for having the necessary skills, knowledge and equipment for a safe and environmentally sensitive visit.  Some of the more popular trails include:

  • Lostland Run Trail 3.5 miles – moderate
    Take in the scenic beauty of Cascade Falls while visiting this trail, which takes approximately two hours each way. Enjoy the rhododendrons and towering hemlock trees along this trail. At the trail terminus, a short spur trail leaves a gravel parking lot to the Potomac Overlook where splendid views of the river and pristine mountains can be enjoyed.
  • Laurel Run Road 3 miles – easy
    Mountain bikers and off-road vehicle (ORV) users will enjoy this dirt road that runs southward from its intersection with Wallman Road to its terminus near the Potomac River. Views from the road offer a chance to see dense areas of mountain laurel. The laurel’s bloom during the spring months. This road is also open to motor vehicles.
  • Wallman Road 4 miles – easy
    This mountain bike and ORV road travels downhill from Laurel Run Road to a small parking lot near the Potomac River. The forest cover in this area is ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife, including wild turkey, white-tailed deer and black bears. Hikers and mountain bikers can make a circuit back to their starting point by using the 3.5 mile Loop Road.
  • North Hill Trail 2 miles – moderate (no blaze)
    This gravel road easily lends itself to mountain biking. Travel through the dense forest and enjoy the scenery year round – especially breathtaking views during the fall months.
  • CCC Fish Rearing Ponds Trail easy (no blaze)
    This is a short, easy hike through mixed hardwood forest. At the end, look closely and you will notice the subtle remains of several former, now dry, fish rearing ponds built by Civilian Conservation Corps members stationed at the “Potomac Camp” during the 1930s.

How to Get to Potomac State Forest

Directions: Follow Rt. 219 south to Oakland. Turn left onto Rt. 135 east. Travel to the intersection of MD Rt. 560. At the traffic light, turn right onto Rt. 560 south and travel 3 miles to Bethlehem Road. Turn left on Bethlehem Road and travel 2 miles to the intersection of Bethlehem Road and Eagle Rock Road. Turn right, staying on Bethlehem Road for 1.4 miles. Turn left on Combination Road and travel 1/2 mile. Turn left on Potomac Camp Road and travel 1/2 mile to the Forest Resource Center, which will be on the left.

For more information visit https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/publiclands/western_potomacgarrettforest.aspx or call (301) 334-2038.

Deep Creek Lake Spring Activities

Deep Creek Lake spring activities offer something for everyone. As we say good-bye to winter weather, it is a time to enjoy the outdoors, visit local businesses and explore the area. This quieter season is a favorite for locals and visitors alike.

I put together some of my favorite indoor and outdoor Deep Creek Lake spring activities. Be sure to check availability as opening dates may vary for some of the options listed.

Deep Creek Lake Spring Activities

Golf typically begins in April (weather dependent). The four Garrett County courses are Lodestone, Fantasy Valley, Thousand Acres and the Golf Club at Oakland.

-Our eight state parks offer miles of hiking trails. Water levels can be high during the spring months making it a great time to check out Swallow Falls State Park. If you are looking for family friendly experiences, I put together a list of 5 easy trails.

Deep Creek Lake Spring Activities

-Don’t let spring showers put a damper on your plans! Deep Creek Fun Zone offers great food, a full bar, laser tag and lots of arcade games. Deep Creek Axe Throwing Co. is also a great indoor option.

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Deep Creek Golf Courses

Deep Creek golf courses will start their season in just a few months! The are four courses to play in Garrett County. Each offers its own unique challenges.

deep creek golf

About Deep Creek Golf Courses

Lodestone Golf Course
This stunning course was designed by Hale Irwin, 3-time U.S. Open Champion. It is laid out to highlight the contours of the mountaintop terrain. Lodestone was ranked the #2 public course in the state of Maryland by GolfWeek Magazine. Players will appreciate the stunning lake as well as mountain vistas. The tentative opening date for 2020 is May 1.

Fantasy Valley Golf Course
This course is a long-time favorite that opened in 1980. There have been many changes and improvements since then. It surrounds the base of Wisp Resort. The tentative opening date is April 17, 2020.

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Deep Creek Lake Events

Deep Creek Lake events are picking up as we enter late spring and early summer! Almost every weekend offers something fun and most are family friendly happenings.

deep creek lake events

Garrett County Celtic Festival
June 1, 10AM-6PM, Friendsville Town Park
Celebrating all things Celtic, there are tons of fun activities throughout the day along with great food and beautiful music. Traditional Irish dancing, pipe & drum bands, a Celtic marketplace and history presentations are just a few of the highlights.

Family Day at Spruce Forest Artisan Village
June 8, 10AM-2PM, Spruce Forest Artisan Village
Village volunteers will offer crafts and activities, a display of Native American artifacts from the region shared by a local archaeologist, music and more. You can stroll through the historic buildings in the Village to learn of their background, and meet with the artisans in their studios.

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5 Favorite Deep Creek Lake Spring Activities

My 5 favorite Deep Creek Lake spring activities celebrate this quieter season. It is a time of year that has a slower, more leisurely pace. You feel like you have the Deep Creek Lake area all to yourself. It is easy to enjoy outdoor recreation with friends and family.

Deep Creek Lake Spring Activities

Deep Creek Lake Spring Activities

Here are some of the highlights of a few favorite things to do during the spring months.

Fishing

Deep Creek Lake spring fishing starts as soon as the ice melts on the lake. McHenry Cove is a popular spot where you will often see lots of fisherman lining the banks.

Deep Creek Lake State Park is also a great spot for fishing. You can go to the fishing pier or fish from the shoreline (excluding the beach area). You can get your fishing license at the Discover Center or you can buy one online as well. This is definitely my pick for fishing if you are taking your little ones. If they fishing loses their attention, there are several different playgrounds to enjoy. Plus, the Disovery Center has lots of great environmental exhibits.

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Deep Creek Spring Events Guide

Deep Creek spring events guide gives you the rundown on what’s happening at the lake. There is something for just about every age and interest this spring. Whether you are a resident or just visiting, you will find fun activities just about every weekend.

Deep Creek Spring Events

Deep Creek Spring Events

St. Patrick’s Day Party at the Honi-Honi
March 16, 8PM to Midnight
Wear your green and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Lady Invidia!

Annual St. Paddy’s Day Party at Mountain State Brewing Co.
March 17, 1-10PM
Enjoy corned beef and cabbage along with drink specials throughout the day. Team Bingo starts at 1, bagpipers play at 3 and Jason Shaw provides live music at 5.

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Deep Creek Axe Throwing Company

Deep Creek Axe Throwing Company is the area’s newest indoor activity. It is brought to you by the some folks that run DCL Adventures. Their options for recreation include: Deep Creek Ninja Factory, Splash Island and Monkey Business Adventure Park.

Deep Creek Axe Throwing Company

About Axe Throwing

Axe throwing is the latest craze! It is like playing darts….but with axes! Over the past few years, it gained popularity as recreation in Canada. And now, it has spread to the U.S. with axe throwing bars and businesses popping up everywhere. This quick, competitive form of entertainment has really taken off. In more urban areas you can even find axe throwing leagues. When done on a regular basis, it has fitness benefits as well.

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Winter Fest in Oakland, MD

Winter Fest takes place every President’s Day Weekend. Held in downtown Oakland, there are lots of fun activities for everyone. Most importantly, many activities are free! It is a great way to spend time with family and friends as you celebrate the winter season. Oakland is about 15 minutes from Deep Creek, so it is also an easy drive if you are just visiting for the weekend.

winter fest
Ice sculpture at Winter Fest.

Winter Fest Events

Winter Fest kicks off on Saturday, February 17, 2019. The first live ice carving starts at 9AM. Bill Sandusky, a master ice carver, shows off his work with live demos throughout the day. Also, there are pre-carved sculptures placed throughout the downtown area. You can stroll along the streets to check them out. Maps are available so that you can see them all. They are on display both Saturday and Sunday.

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Cranesville Swamp – A Local Hidden Gem

Lying just west of Swallow Falls on the Maryland-West Virginia border is a unique ecosystem that offers window into ice ages past.  Because of its location on the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains, the Cranesville Swamp is home to plant and animal species uncommon for the mid-Atlantic region. 

About the Cranesville Swamp

The swamp is different due to its “frost pocket effect.”  The elevation is lower in a frost pocket, causing cooler temperatures and making that patch of ground particularly susceptible to frost. The combination of moisture and cold air create a landscape more reminiscent of habitat found much further north in Canadian boreal forests.  Visitors to the park, managed by the The Nature Conservancy (TNC), are able to glimpse a natural anomaly created by this rare mix of altitude, temperature and precipitation. 

cranesville swamp

A Look at the Past

Over 15,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, glaciers froze much of North America and northern latitude species were pushed southward.  The area that became Cranesville settled in a mountain valley. The surrounding hills catch cold air pockets and precipitation, pushing them into the valley. The valley “frost pocket” is responsible for Cranesville’s designation as a sub-arctic swamp. The preserve one of the coolest and wettest spots in Maryland, creating an isolated refuge for species normally found much farther north.

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Swallow Falls State Park Quick Guide

Swallow Falls State Park is a true Garrett County treasure. It is one of the most photographed spots in the area. With unrivaled scenic beauty, it is a great spot to visit throughout all four seasons.

Swallow Falls State Park

About Swallow Falls State Park

In 1906, John and Robert Garrett donated over 1,900 acres of land to the state. It is now known as Garrett State Forest. Swallow Falls State Park and Herrington Manor State Park are both part of this donated land. In the 1930s, they were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Continue reading Swallow Falls State Park Quick Guide