Looking for the best spots to check out the Autumn colors of Garrett County – here are my picks for great overlooks (and they are great the rest of the year, too!)
Here are the points I mention in the video (links take you to my online map centered on that overlook), plus a few more I forgot!
- High Rock Firetower – A moderate uphill hike of around 2 miles, opening up on an 180 degree view to the northwest over Savage River State Forest. Video trail tour on YouTube A riveting podcast on the death of Alexander Stevens details a mysterious and controversial murder here.
- Monroe Run Overlook – Pull off along New Germany Road, not quite accessible for all ability levels, but most should be able to walk down to the overlook over Monroe Run with a nice stone wall.
- Meadow Mountain Trail – A short low-to-moderate hike to an observation deck. Largely overlooks the same area as the Monroe Run Overlook, but higher.
- Hoye’s Crest (MD Highpoint) – A difficult but short hike to Maryland’s highest point. A nice viewscape cut to the east and a picnic table to enjoy a lunch at the top.
- Deep Creek Lake State Park Trails – A moderate hike to the top of Meadow Mountain with an observation deck where a couple of clear cuts used to overlook the main body of Deep Creek Lake. The view has largely grown in, however, but you can still get a few glimpses from there.
- Hoop Pole Ridge – Heading north on US-219, you can pull off before Sand Flat Rd and have a nice view of southern Deep Creek Lake
- Friendsville Rd – Heading south on MD-42 (Friendsville Rd), great open view to your right over the Youghiogheny Rover valley and beyond
- Maryland Welcome Center – Heading east on I-68 from the WV border, get off at the MD Welcome Center for a nice overlook of the Youghiogheny River Lake and mountains
- The Cove Overlook – heading south of US-219 from I-68, there is a pull-off overlook and rest area with a view of “The Cove”, a pleasant valley of farms, fields and forested hills
- St John’s Rock – On top of a rocky ridge of Big Savage Mountain, this area provides a view to the east over mountains and the town of Frostburg
Two overlooks I forgot to mention in the video:
- Potomac River overlook at Lostland Run – A bit of long drive down a dirt road and short hike to a scenic view over the Potomac River up the valley. Video trail tour on Youtube
- Jennings Randolph Lake – Nice view over the lake, looking into the mountains of West Virginia Video trail tour on Youtube
Where else do YOU like to check out the amazing views of Garrett County?
Hurricane Ian’s (Sept 2022) recent devastation of Florida (and other states) got me working on updating my extreme weather map of Garrett County and the region. I had created a map in 2014 that showed the tracks of major storms and tornados in the eastern half of the US.
I was happy with how it came out – the main point I was trying to get across is that Garrett County is a good place to live since historically, hurricanes and tornados are unlikely to hit here. I also like the colors (someone commented they thought it looked like an Easter basket).
I’ve just updated the map and added wildfires (orange dots) and hailstorms (green tracks). Now, the hurricanes and storms are in blue (darker lines indicate more severe storms) and tornados in red (same theme as hurricanes)
A bit of a different projection (map orientation) and I changed the Easter basket colors, but this map is updated to 2021 data. Garrett County (and WV) are still great areas to avoid major storms, tornados, hail storms (I know, probably not life threatening, but good to avoid if you have a nice new car) and wildfires (which can be life threatening). Let’s zoom in a bit with Garrett County highlighted.
We’ve had a handful of tornados and just a couple of hurricanes pass through you can see at this scale. I’ve also included the terrain, in shaded gray, to highlight the Appalachians. They largely shield us from weather coming from both the East (hurricanes) and the West (tornados). You can start to see the wildfires and hailstorms in this scale of the map, too. Let’s get in nice and close for one more zoom in.
What’s evident here is the minimal number of wildfires in Garrett County while the surrounding area in the Alleghenies does have a fair amount. There are likely multiple reasons for this, ranging from weather, population density and forest management practices.
If you can chose where you live, there are lots of factors that go into that decision. Economics is probably top of the list – whether you can get a job or grow a business are big concerns. Weather is probably next – many people don’t like to ever see a single snowflake in the their lifetimes (I’m the opposite – I like to see many). And related to weather is climate and the prevalence and frequency of extreme weather events. Just to make a massive oversimplification, areas with “better” weather are more likely to experience extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornados (and forest fires which are kind of an inverse of extreme weather events). So let’s take Florida for example. It has pleasant winter weather and residents can expect to never deal with snow, but extreme weather like hurricanes area looming danger. In Garrett County, you may deal with more snow in the winter, but the statistical danger of a high kinetic energy storm is much lower.
If you made it this far, I’m sure you want to know why I headlined this post that GC has been “resistant to extreme weather since 300,000,000 BC”. I primarily credit our mountains for shielding us from weather, whether it’s coming from the east or west (is there a literary term for serial homonyms in a sentence? The first person to email me with this term at firstname.lastname@example.org with the answer gets a free map pack).
The Appalachian Mountains and our Alleghany Range are ancient – they are rounded and gentle now, but were sharp and “pointy” like the Rocky Mountains when they first formed, oh, about 300 million years ago.
The image above is from a super-cool visualizer or what the Earth could have looked like hundreds of millions of years ago. The mountains from the Carboniferous Era may have been rounded down a bit since then, but they still provide us with lots of protection from the weather (and dinosaurs!).
Just how long is the shoreline of Deep Creek Lake? Most sources say 64 miles, but I’ve seen “authoritative” values of 69 and 74 miles as well (two different signs at the State Park – within visual distance of each other – claim the 64 and 69 mile distances). So, I decided to do the logical thing and hike the shoreline to find out.
Everything you know is wrong. Black is white, up is down, that other political party you hate really is right, and the published length of the shoreline of Deep Creek Lake is drastically incorrect. From January 2021 to March 2022, I hiked the shoreline of Deep Creek Lake over 6 legs and tabulated the full distance of 72.2 miles which is entirely different from range published by the DNR of 65-69 miles. What else are they hiding from us? Where are all those extra miles of shoreline? Is there a secret enclave of the elite there? All will be revealed in this article.
In the 2021-2022 winter season, Brookfield Renewable, the operator of the dam, lowered the lake level to 2,455.5 ft for maintenance. There are a number of spots I wouldn’t have been able to really follow the shoreline if the water levels hadn’t been this low.
So, what have I found so far? One of the first things I have been struck by are the prevalence of bivalves (“mussels”) and mollusks (“snails”) along some of the stretches of the lake shore. I’ve never been aware that there were populations of them before, so I contacted Julie Bortz, the DNR biologist for the lake, to see if she could tell me anything about them.
The mollusks I found are Chinese or Japanese Mystery Snails and they are actually an invasive species, so the DNR is interested in keeping track of them. If you see any north of the North Glade area, be sure to let Julie know at email@example.com. Then be sure to pick up a few to get a fancy French appetizer for free! The bivalves were likely the Eastern Floater Mussel and they are unremarkable. But if you see any critters or plants you’re not sure about, definitely send Julie an email with a photo and she’ll check it out.
My second observation is that while there are about 15 obvious feeder streams to Deep Creek Lake, when you are walking the shoreline, especially in the southern end, especially after some rainfall, it’s clear that there are many more springs and seeps that also feed water (and sediment) into the lake. There were several muddy slogs through areas of shoreline where there was no visible running water, but there was obviously flow coming from the land. Seeing this perspective really makes the issue of sedimentation more obvious than driving around these coves in the boat.
After so many muddy areas, my wife who accompanied me on one of the legs of the trip, found a quicker way to cross Green Glade Run. I opted to go a bit further upstream where I could jump across some rocks.
For Leg 3 of my hike, I started from Turkey Neck and made it to the Glendale bridge for a total of 14.7 miles. It was late January and the lake was still frozen, which made this hike much easier than if I had to cross all of the tributaries on this stretch. One of the highlights of this portion was getting to the “headwaters” of the lake at the southernmost end. Deep Creek really wasn’t too deep at the point where it flows into the lake, so I guess it must have gotten its name further downstream. But this was a nice spot, and one that I would have probably never made it to if I had not been doing this hike.
View from the southernmost end of the lake
The rest of Leg 3 was relatively uneventful. The day started fairly clear and developed into a fairly heavy snowstorm. Luckily my end point at the Glendale bridge is less than a mile from home, so it was easy to wrap up the day.
For leg 4, from the Glendale Bridge to the northernmost point of the lake, I had a beautiful bluebird February day. The lake was still mainly frozen, and combined with the great weather, I logged 18.8 miles which is way more than I was planning. One of the highlights from this stretch was that I brought my drone along and got some cool footage of the frozen lake.
Aerial picture of the lake around stump point
For transiting the area around the dam, it was especially critical that the lake was still frozen since I wouldn’t have been able to walk that section on land. Most of the stretch of shoreline from the 219 Bridge to the dam was very quiet, but there was a lot of activity on the lake as I got closer to the Wisp and more of the houses that were rented.
I had the pleasure of participating in a round of Beer Curling being played by a group of college guys on the ice. I am looking forward to when it takes its rightful place in the Olympic pantheon.
Exhausted, but very satisfied with my progress, I ended this leg near the northernmost tip of the lake.
A few weeks after I finished Leg 4, the ice had melted and I realized I had better get out for the last stretch before the levels came back up. I got lucky with another day of great weather for Leg 5 of 11.1 miles. This last stretch was more about little unexpected discoveries. One of my coolest finds was a flag that had broken off the Deep Creek Lake robo-boat during the Boat Parade last year. I remember watching it sink into the water and figuring we’d never see it again, but the Lady of the Lake decided to give it back. Some other items of note were an interesting ice phenomenon, a retaining wall made of old gravestones and a tunnel leading to those extra miles of lakeshore.
This way to the secret Illuminati base
No, it wasn’t anything that exciting, just a culvert passing under 219 to Gravely Run, but another example of seeing new from a different point of view.
The weather for this leg was fairly warm and sunny all day, so I got it in my head that a jump in the lake at the end would be a fun way to wrap up the hike. So even though the sun was going down and it was cooling off quickly when I got back to where I originally started, I still braved the water for a celebratory plunge. My normally faithful companion Spencer decided that he wasn’t ready to follow me into the lake, though.
Even Man’s Best Friend has his limits
So, after logging 72.2 miles of hiking the shoreline, did I have any major epiphanies? Not really, it was more of a lot of little discoveries along the way. Overall, it was a fun personal challenge and a way to see the lake from a new perspective. So, even if you don’t have the time, ability or desire to hike the whole length, I’d recommend even just some little parts of the route that you can take on.
And just in case my tongue-in-cheek tone did not come through, I did not have any real intention of establishing an official measurement of the lakeshore. Not only were my methods inadequate for the job (my phone’s activity tracker app), there’s a whole long discussion on “what” the actually shoreline is and how do you really measure it. For the time being, how about we all agree that the length of the shoreline is “around 70 miles”?
There are links to lots more videos, photos, maps and other adventures around the area at my website, dimesy.com. What should I do next? I’m thinking a “boat-packing” trip, where I follow the lakeshore in a canoe and sleep on board overnights. I’ll be looking for places to stop for a beer along the way. . .
When you talk to someone who has a place at Deep Creek Lake, one of the first things you’ll likely here is “We’ve had a house here since . . . ” People are proud – and rightfully so – of how long they have had property at Deep Creek Lake.
In a virtual video tour, I look at how the lake “filled in” by classifying the homes by the year they were built. You’ll see the history of the lake, from the original enclaves of cabins built in the 1920’s and 30’s right after the lake formed, to today’s familiar developments and rental hotspots. If you don’t like videos, I’ve made a blog version here that hits the highlights of the video version.
I’ll look at the construction date of all the houses in the Deep Creek Lake Watershed. The data comes from the Maryland tax assessment database, so it may not be correct for every single structure, but on the aggregated scale we’re looking at, it should be good enough. I’ve grouped the construction dates into 2-decade intervals after the lake was “built”, e.g 1926-1945, 1946-1965 etc. If an owner tore down a house and built a new one, that resets the clock and the newer one if the year recorded. Before the dam was built, the data actually says there is a still-standing structure from 1855 in the watershed, so the pre-lake group goes all the way back to then.
All the data
This map shows all the parcel points from the MD database (where there “construction year” wasn’t blank). Since in the heavily populated areas, the dots overlie each other some of the trends get lost, but you can still see some interesting clusters. In the following maps, I’ll build up all the points by those 2-decade groups, and you’ll get to see the early days of the lake more clearly.
Before the (current) Lake
I’ve switched over to a 1901 topographical map of the area for this one, showing the still-standing structures in the purple dots from before Deep Creek Lake was formed. There are tons of cool details such as a dam and small lake where the Glendale Bridge is now, but I’ll try to stay on target here. If you’d like to check out this type of map, I conveniently have one you can order.
The Founders , 1925-1945
After the lake was formed, clusters of houses also started to form. Most of them were along the easier-to-access area along what is now Rt 219, but you start to see houses along Lake Shore Dr, Hazelhurst, Beckman’s & Harvey’s Peninsulae and my own little neighborhood off Toothpick Rd.
The green dots show the houses that came in during the post-war period of 1946-1965. Some new areas are starting to get developed like Penn Pt, Turkey Neck and the Yacht Club, Paradise Pt, and Marsh Hill Rd (at Wisp) while established areas above continue to fill in as well. Anecdotally, it seems that most of the homes in this time frame were summer-only vacation homes built by blue-collar (think steel mill workers) from the Pittsburgh area.
Yinzer paradise, 1966-1985
The Sky Valley development is immediately obvious in this era shown in yellow dots. There are a couple of other subdivision-type developments during this time frame, and some other wise empty areas like Stockslager, Sandy Beach and Shingle Camp start to get populated as well. Generally I’d say that this era was a continuance of the type of owners from the previous one. A lake home and construction costs are still affordable for an upper-middle class family, and the Pittsburgh area is still the most accessible.
Increased Access, 1986-2005
Two big things happened during this time period to drive all the new orange dots: I-68 fully opened, which greatly improved the access from the DC/Baltimore area, and a major sewer project was completed which allowed for many more units to be supported. A number of big subdivision-type developments are obvious – Blakeslee, the Pinnacle, Mountainside, etc, and pretty much all of the non-subdivision shoreline has been developed too with a couple of exceptions.
Continued but slowing growth 2005-2022
In the previous 17 years, there still has been substantial growth but mostly off the lakefront. Holy Cross and developments around golf courses (Waterfront Greens and Lodestone) happened during this period as well.
It’s a great place to live or visit with your pet (especially your dog!)
Oakland Town Dog Park
27 Oakland Rosedale Road, Oakland, MD 21550
McHenry Community Park (operated by the Deep Creek Lake Lions Club)
1249 Bumble Bee Rd Accident MD 21520
Pick up your dog waste!
County and Municipal areas
- 7 of the 8 incorporated municipalities have some form of walking path suitable for short walks (Accident, Friendsville, Grantsville, Kitzmiller, Loch Lynn, Mountain Lake Park and Oakland)
- County-owned recreational properties: Fork Run, McHenry Community Park and Casselman Soccer Fields
- Leashed, licensed and vaccinated dogs are not prohibited in any of these areas, to the best of my knowledge
- Use your best judgement and check before you go if possible
- Garrett County Animal Control Ordinance: https://www.garrettcounty.org/animal-shelter/animal-control-ordinance
- Big Run – camping
- Casselman River – not much for dogs
- Deep Creek Lake – camping, trails, swimming
- Herrington Manor – camping, trails, swimming
- New Germany – camping, trails, swimming
- Sang Run – trail
- Swallow Falls – trails, camping
- Wolf Den Run – camping, trails
Other State Land
- Savage River SF – Trails and camping throughout
- Potomac-Garrett SF – Trails and camping throughout
- Mt Nebo WMA trail
- Youghigheny NEA trail
State Park Pet Rules
- All pets must be licensed and have all required vaccinations, including a rabies vaccination.
- Pets must be leashed. Pets may be off-leash and under voice control while swimming in designated areas or hunting (with the appropriate permit).
- Pet owners must clean up after their pet. Waste disposal containers are available in most areas.
- Service animals are permitted in all pedestrian areas.
- Pets, with the exception of service animals, are not allowed in park buildings or playgrounds.
- Pet owners must obey all park signs that prohibit the entry of pets into specific areas.
- Excessive barking is not permitted in any park area, especially during campground “quiet hours” (10:00 p.m.- 7:00 a.m.).
Federal recreation areas
- Jennings Randolph Lake
- MD side: boat ramp, shoreline fishing access and trail
- WV side: swimming beach and campground
- •Youghiogheny River Lake
- Both MD and PA sides have campgrounds and boat launches
- •I have only been able to find rules related to pets in the camping areas (allowed on leash) but nothing about pets in the other areas – use your best judgement
- Deep Creek, Herrington Manor and New Germany Lakes (with the limitations per the table above
- Yough River and Jennings Randolph Lakes – not explicitly prohibited that I can find
- Yough, Potomac and Savage Rivers – there are some level sandy public access areas on these rivers, but I’d be reluctant to let my dog swim in them
- NO Swimming for dogs: Broadford Lake and probably Savage River Reservoir (humans are not allowed to swim there)
Good trails for dogs
- I like low traffic, wide straight (good visibility) trails when hiking with my dog:
- Mt Nebo
- Negro Mt
- Asa Durst
- Wallman and Laurel Run areas
- Also, trails that follow a stream or river can be nice
- Poplar Lick and Monroe Run trails
- Kendall trail
- Casselman Veterinary Services
- 377 Hemlock Dr, Grantsville, MD 21536
- Bredel Veterinary Clinic
- 1265 Bumble Bee Rd, Accident, MD 21520
- Countryside Animal Hospital
- 50 Weber Rd, Oakland, MD 21550
- Pineview Veterinary Hospital
- 85 Pineview Dr, Oakland, MD 21550
- The closest 24-hr emergency vet I am aware of is:
- Cheat Lake Animal Hospital