Walking the Western Maryland Rail Trail Extension

We may be volunteers on the C&O Canal NHP, but we’re also avid bike riders who love the Western Maryland Rail Trail.  Like most people, we are looking forward to seeing the work on the proposed extension from Pearre Station to Little Orleans get started.  The bat gate at the Indigo Tunnel is the opening act of this process, and it has been finished.  However, the completion of the trail itself will be a long, arduous process.

Rock Slide!

A great view of the rock 'face' above the proposed WMRT




Recently, we took a walk on the old railroad right-of-way from Sideling Hill Creek to the Indigo Tunnel, and the trail offers a beautiful view of the Potomac River–even moreso than the C&O Canal towpath.

Fortunately (and unfortunately), this future stretch of the WMRT is also a geologist’s dream.  The high cliffs above the trail are striking!  I can’t say that I know much about rocks, but the story here is obvious, to say the least.





I'm not so sure I would want to ride under this! Would you?


The green leaves of summer hide a lot from the hikers and bikers on the C&O; however, the barren trees of winter no longer block the numerous rock slides on and above the old railroad path.  I’m no engineer, but the rugged cliffs above the future WMRT have an ominous look to them.  With that said, it will be interesting to see how the rail trail progresses.  The WMRT has the potential to be one of the premier rails-to-trails paths on the east coast, but this won’t happen without a lot of work.


View of the towpath and river from the future WMRT

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Any news on when an extension west from Pearre to Little Orleans and then North Branch could be under construction. I haven’t followed the trail news in years after it sorta stopped being talked about before Indigo was announced to remain closed. FYI, Indigo Tunnel was completely relined the WM in 1972 before the abandoment.


  2. Posted by LevelWalker on January 16, 2013 at 1:14 am


    No, I haven’t heard anything lately. There was a machine near the Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct a little over a year ago that was being used for some sort of geological testing purposes. The section between the aqueduct and Indigo is pretty unstable (rockslides), and it would take lots of work to get it ready. The area between Indigo and Little Orleans is in good shape, and there is a gravel road that leads from Bill’s directly to one of the railroad trestles that I assume would be part of the extension.. If so, that would make for a couple of miles that would require a (seemingly) minimal amount of work. Also, this past May there was a really long explanation of the possible extension proposals. On our website, there is a link near the bottom of the right column. I have since heard that Stickpile Tunnel will probably be bypassed as well–if the WMRT is indeed extended.

    I never gave the Indigo bypass much thought, but because of the lay of the land, approximately 1.5 to 2 miles would (probably) be diverted to the C&O Canal. Your information regarding the Indigo Tunnel is greatly appreciated. I have come across your website on several of my surfing journeys. I have enjoyed checking out the Stickpile and Kessler Tunnels. Kessler is particularly hard to find for someone who isn’t well versed in the Western Maryland Railroad. Sites such as yours were invaluable. Thanks for the comment and information.


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