On the Trail: Exploring the Mountains of Maryland with Erik Miller
For most people out West, the idea of an off-road excursion has them picturing purpose-built 4x4s traversing open landscapes filled with red rocks, sandy washes or jagged mountain trails hundreds of miles from the city. But for East coast off-roaders, adventure can be found just outside of town. One such place is the Green Ridge State Forest located in the Appalachian Mountains of Maryland. This system of trails is just a short drive away from cities like Washington DC, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, and offers miles of backcountry trails that even a stock truck or SUV can easily navigate. Perfect for a day-trip with the family, the Green Ridge area offers many points of interest, including historical sites, picturesque overlooks and creek crossings.
Lead by local dirt gurus, Driving Line’s newest video series, On the Trail, takes us to some of the best off-road destinations in the country, with the purpose of providing both novice and seasoned adventure-seekers with everything they need to know before embarking on an adventure of their own. On our latest episode, two-time KOH King and championship-winning Ultra4 driver, Erik Miller, takes us on the ultimate outdoor getaway through some of his favorite local trails in the Green Ridge State Forest. “This trail system is as elementary as it goes for 4-wheeling. It’s mostly comprised of forest service roads, so any level of off-road expertise can enjoy Green Ridge. The nature here caters to families and couples looking for a getaway from the city, with lots of activities such as kayaking, camping and hiking. Anyone with a four wheel drive can come and enjoy it,” Erik said. Piloting a 2020 Jeep Gladiator on Nitto Tire Ridge Grapplers and a 2016 Jeep JK on Trail Grapplers, we set out for the mountains for a full day of fun.
Our day began at the Oak Barrel Cafe, just off Route 40 and the National Pike. This is a great place to grab a bite or a cup of coffee, and fuel up before setting out for the trail. Hitting the dirt, we headed up to our first stop at Town Hill Overlook, where you’ll find an old bed and breakfast, which was part of the old National Road and was one of the original hotels in the area with a gas station. This is also a great spot to catch the view of the forest and valley below.
From here, Erik lead us back down, crossing Route 40 once more towards the next dirt section of our trip on Piclic Rd. After a few more miles, we reached our next scenic stop, Point Lookout, which was a great place to stop and take in the view. Point Lookout is described as one of Maryland’s best-kept secrets, and was once used by the Union troops during the Civil War to keep an eye on the C&O Canal along the Potomac River and Railroad below for movement of the Confederate Army.
Heading down along Carroll Rd, we reached our lunch stop for the day at the Bond’s Landing area, which is another historical point of interest along the Potomac. Just over 60 miles into our journey, we reached Log Roll Overlook, which served as an important engineering site in the early days of the forest’s settlement. Erik explained how the hill was used to roll the cut timber down to Town Creek below, where it was floated to the sawmill, eliminating the need to transport the logs down manually. Very cool stuff!
Moving alone, we made our way towards the town of Flintstone, crossing Town Creek three times. These creek crossings make for great photo-ops and test your off-road driving skills. While the water is usually only hub-high throughout the year, you’ll want to keep in mind that these creeks get deeper with severe weather.
After hitting the pavement in Flintstone, we made our way to the the 1812 Brewery in Cumberland for a cold beverage. This was the last stop on our trip, and the perfect way to end a day full of sight-seeing and mountain adventure with the Jeeps.
Back On the Grid
Green Ridge is a great example of a trail system that’s accessible to most enthusiasts, while still close to many major cities. Rounding out our day, we asked Erik what attracts him to this area. “I personally love this area because it’s what first got me interest in four-wheeling. I used to camp out here when I was into mountain biking, so it was the first back country area I started exploring when I was young,” Erik explained. We highly recommend taking at least a day-trip to these trails if you’re in the area, and be sure to bring a good camera with you. Trust us, you’re going to need it!
Photos Courtesy of Aaron McKenzie
Be sure to watch this episode of Driving Line’s On the Trail on our YouTube channel, along with our other episodes featuring some of the most scenic trails across the US.