I envy the residents of Hancock, Maryland. They have one of the greatest loop rides in the United States right out their back door.But don’t fret; even if you don’t live in Hancock, you can still experience this wonderful bike trail with just a wee bit of advanced planning.
If you are approaching the Western Maryland Rail Trail via the C & O Canal Trail, like I did, the best access spot is milepost 138. But since the two trails run nearly parallel and often close together, it’s hard to miss.
However, If you are approaching the trail by vehicle, then I recommend starting in Hancock and doing the loop. You can access either the C & O trail or the Western Maryland Trail from Hancock. For the easiest navigation, I recommend starting on the WMRT and heading east. You will then be riding the loop in a clockwise direction. Use the map found below to orient yourself and to decide on your exact starting spot, however you may consider checking with the folks at C & O Bicycle for directions, parking suggestions, and (what the hey) maybe even a snack or two. (I love the idea of a General Store combined with a bike shop. Two of my greatest loves: bicycles and food.)
Once you have started out going east on the rail trail, you will soon reach mile marker 10. Once you have reached mile marker one, turn right and you will soon be on the C & O trail. Turn right again (Remember, this is a loop, so the only turns you make will be right turns.) and now you are on a dirt trail rather than a paved trail. Keep riding on the C & O Canal Towpath until you reach mile marker 138. Guess which direction you’ll turn?
Very good!!. Now you’re back on the smoothly paved Western Maryland Rail Trail. From here out, it’s smooth biking into Hancock.
Enjoy your bike ride. If it is late September to mid-October, you will also enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.
View Western Maryland Rail Trail in a larger map