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A Great Trail Town - Cumberland, MD

May 23, 2018

Trust me on this one... if you are planning a day or multi day bike ride, Cumberland is worth considering as a stop, base or layover.   The C&O Canal National Historic Park and Great Allegheny Passage converge in downtown, and access is easy with plentiful services and lots of things to do!

 

Cumberland is a great small town, (yes, I am a bit biased, as I have lived and/or worked here most of my considerable adult life) and yet it is still an undiscovered jewel that is fast becoming recognized as a bike destination for its “bike friendly culture. ” This is due in no small part, thanks to the foresight and dedication of groups like the Mountain Maryland Trails, Allegheny Trail Alliance, the National Park Service, and local business and community leaders.  

 

And, the Cumberland area is becoming known internationally as a biking destination as a result of being the terminus of the 184.5-mile C&O Canal National Historic Park which starts in Washington DC and the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) which runs from Cumberland to Pittsburgh!  A total of 330 plus miles of mostly level trail uninterrupted by vehicle traffic that takes you past some jaw-dropping scenery where wildlife abounds, and peace and solitude is omnipresent.

 

 

Accommodations -  Even though Cumberland is a small town with just over 20,000 residents, it has numerous hotels with several on or very near the Canal and GAP.  There is a Fairfield Inn and Suites located downtown at Canal Place (the terminus of the Canal and GAP) that even features a bike wash station!  2 blocks away is a Ramada Inn and within 15 minutes of Canal Place are a plethora of brand name hotels.  Rocky Gap Resort and Casino a resort located at Rocky Gap State Park features in addition to the casino, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and outdoor recreation including some great Mountain biking trails.

 

Bike touring /camping, while requiring a whole different skills set, is a great way to really be independent and self-sufficient while riding.  

For the camping cyclist, the YMCA of Cumberland is only a five-minute bike ride from Canal Place and offers reasonably priced camping on their property, which includes use of a cook grill and pavilion (when available), shower, and use of the Y’s facilities including steam room and indoor pool.  Canal hiker-bikers (free campsites exclusively for the use of hikers, bikers and canoeists are located about every 5 miles on the C&O Canal) features primitive camping and is available at the 180 mile marker, and again at the 175.4 mile marker (Cumberland is at the 180.4 mile marker of the Canal and at the 0 mile marker of the GAP).  A vehicle drive-in primitive campground (think port a pottys and well water) is available at the 173.3 mile marker of the C&O Canal at Spring Gap.   For those bikers who have support vehicles, or do not mind riding on the roads and ensuing hills, Rocky Gap Sate Park has very nice campground located just 8.5 miles East of downtown Cumberland.

 

Dining:  There are several very good restaurants within downtown Cumberland and several new ones set to open up in Spring 2018.   Some of my nearby favorites are the Crabby Pig  located at Canal Place (try their seafood and ribs,) and The Baltimore Street Grille (excellent crawfish etoufee, crab cakes and crab soup).  Just 10 minutes from Canal Place, east on Interstate 68 is Puccini, located in a home built in 1818 that even served as a hospital during the civil war.  Puccuni also features outside dining and weekend entertainment.  I recommend their wings, steak, and oven fired pizza. For a Free Puccini Drink Coupon.  Another favorite is Oscar’s Restaurant, a very affordable and family-friendly Italian-American style restaurant located just 2 miles from downtown. Try their steak subs or crab cakes!  10% dining discount coupon  

 

For more information about the Cumberland area and Allegany County Maryland  visit Allegany County Destination Guide

If I did not live in the Cumberland area, I would  definitely visit!  Two world class bike trails, great restaurants,  lively arts and entertainment scene, and draw dropping natural beauty!

 

History – For the history buff, there is much to see and do.  The history of the C&O Canal is fascinating; an idea first conceived by George Washington, (and yes, he even slept in Cumberland!) The C&O Canal National Historic Park is not only a great place to ride a bike, but an outstanding example of interpretive displays of flat water travel in the 1800’s, The Park features over 1,300 historic structures with many located near Cumberland!  The story of the canal and a good visualization of how the canal operated is on view at the Park Service Visitors Center located on the ground floor of the Western Maryland Station at Canal Place.  

 

Once cannot talk about Cumberland and its’ historical perspective without talking about railroading and the importance and impact it had and upon the Cumberland area. Across the street from Canal Place is the Allegany County Museum  which in addition to exhibits about railroading in the region, also features many historical artifacts and displays. 

 

 In addition to wonderful exhibits about railroading to be found at the Allegany County Museum, there is an actual historic railroad that runs along a section the Great Allegheny Passage on its way to the terminal and roundtable at Frostburg. 

 

                               Photo of Western Maryland Scenic railroad by Tyler Clayton

 

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s  steam locomotive is currently down for repairs, but visitors can ride in passenger and dining cars of a bygone area pulled behind an early historic diesel engine!  There is even an option to bring your bike on board (only $5 plus cost of passenger ticketto bypass the 15 mile 1300’ elevation climb on the Great Allegheny Passage and coast back downhill to Cumberland, or to ride west on the GAP to the Eastern Continental Divide.

 

Arts – The Cumberland area has a vibrant and thriving arts community that has seen many artists move to the area to enjoy the scenic beauty, relaxed pace of life, low cost of living and of course, the bike trails! Cumberland’s Arts and Entertainment district has become a regional arts destination.

 

Winery & Brew Pubs – Yeah, Cumberland’s got that.  Charis Winery located at Canal Place offers their own crafted wines and brandy, and 1810 brewery located east of Cumberland offers craft beers. A brew-pub is being planned for the newly remodeled Footer’s Dye Works building at Canal Place.

 

Bike shops – Cumberland is home to two well established bike shops, both located downtown.  Cumberland Trail Connection  is located at Canal Place and the owner and staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and they are open 7 days a week until 7pm during the warmer months.  I have bought several bikes there as well as used their repair services, and I have never been disappointed. 

 

Entertainment Hey, Cumberland only has a population of 20k in a county that only has

 

75K, but there is a plethora of events throughout most of the year.  Over Memorial Day weekend one can experience DelFest;  a four-day, medium sized, traditional bluegrass and progressive music festival held at the beautiful Allegany County Fairgrounds just 4 miles south of Cumberland. Delfest celebrates the rich legacy of McCoury Music while creating a forum for world-class musical collaborations and to showcase fresh new talent with a down-home feeling. In addition to traditional stage sets by these world-class artists, attendees can again expect to see one-of-a-kind collaborations, special guest sit-ins, various tributes to Del McCoury and his musical legacy.  The festival typically attracts crowds of 25 – 30,000.  Visitors to Cumberland area over Memorial Day are cautioned to make reservations well in advance.

 

During Labor Day you will find “hot rods” seemingly everywhere, thanks to the Western Maryland Street Rod Festival held at the Allegany County Fairgrounds.  Another event that attracts thousands to the area, and hotels and restaurants fill up fast.

 

Inexpensive.  The low cost of living along with hotels, restaurants and retail stores competing for visitor dollars make Cumberland a value visit.

 

Getting there - Cumberland and Canal Place are right off of Interstate 68, just 2 hours from DC, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore, and an hour from Hagerstown (MD) or Morgantown (WV).  While there is ample parking in Cumberland and a (sometimes) pay to park lot at Canal Place, a great place to park that is often overlooked and never full, is the Great Allegheny passage City lot that is just a 1/2 mile West of Canal Place on the GAP.

 

 For an area events calendar as well as money saving coupons check out Townplanner.com and enter "Cumberland" or 21502 in town search.

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