Leaf-peeping opportunities aplenty, wineries and breweries with a mountain-view backdrop and an ice cream trail for dessert enthusiasts: You’ll definitely be surprised by what the state’s tourism bureau dubs “the mountainside of Maryland.”
Surrounded by rugged mountains, Rocky Gap State Park encompasses more than 3,000 acres of public land, including overlooks, sheer cliffs, a rhododendron-dotted hemlock forest and the 243-acre Lake Habeeb, fed by Rocky Gap Run and renowned for having the bluest water in Maryland. Two hundred seventy-eight campsites include 30 equipped with 30-amp hookups, 15 mini cabins that sleep four to six people, an eight-person yurt and a family group site. On-site you’ll find bathhouses, an aviary, a nature center, playground trail access, a snack shack and a camp store. // 12900 Lake Shore Drive, Flintstone, Maryland; rates start at $21.50 per night
On the way to Rocky Gap, stop and spend some time in Frostburg, a small college town with big-time charm whose Main Street makes for an easy shopping jaunt. Grab a bright, crisp, Hario pour-over coffee from Clatter Cafe, then check the racks for the latest clothes and accessories at Madison Paige Boutique and add to your vinyl collection at Yellow K Record Store. Do a tasting at Toasted Goat Winery, Maryland’s only combination distillery, brewery and winery, then stay to linger over a hearty bowl of corn and crab chowder, a juicy burger or baked brie.
Once you’ve settled into your home for the next few days, explore the leaf peeping opportunities in Rocky Gap State Park, whose variety of trails are all fine for foliage spotting. The moderate 5.3-mile Lakeside Loop Trail encircles Lake Habeeb, crosses over four foot bridges and goes by the shoreline and through the woodlands. The short but scenic quarter-mile-long Canyon Overlook Trail offers an incredible view of the 1-mile-long gorge, and a 5-mile-long challenging Evitts Homesite Trail climbs 1,000 feet in 2.5 miles taking you through hemlock, mountain laurel and rhododendron and the easy-breezy paved Touch of Nature Trail is good for any skill or fitness level.
After all that exertion, you’ve more than earned an amazing dinner at Allegania, a farm-to-table BYOB spot with a menu influenced by Appalachia. (Think deviled eggs topped with fried morels, all things pickled and organic, free-range chicken pot pie.) End the evening with a nightcap at Corner Tavern Café, a hip, retro, morning-until-late-night spot with microbrews and killer cocktails like a Rosemary Sour with Corner Creek Bourbon, lemon, sugar, egg white and muddled rosemary.
Fuel up with a morning cup of joe at Basecamp Coffee Company, Cumberland’s own coffee roaster. Set out for a scenic drive on part of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), (gaptrail.org), a 150-mile nearly flat converted rail trail connecting Cumberland, Maryland with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During your ride, you’ll encounter Insta-worthy views and iconic structures. Look for mile marker 0 in Cumberland (where the GAP meets the C&O Canal Towpath National Park that leads to DC), a fossil-filled bone cave where the Smithsonian excavated the Mason-Dixon Line in the early 20th century.
Puccini Restaurant is housed in the Hinkle House, which dates back to 1819 and was used as a hospital during the Civil War’s Battle of Folck’s Mill. Today, it’s a perfect place to lunch on one of 13 wood-fired pizzas baked in the restaurant’s brick oven. Purists might prefer a margherita or veggie-lovers, while curious palates may be piqued by a pickle-topped pie. Allegany County occasionally runs a Tap and Pour Beverage Tour, but you can always explore and taste on your own as well. 1812 Brewery is the county’s first and only farm brewery with fun suds like Squatch Sour and Humdinger Hazy IPA, while Dig Deep Brewing Co., located next to the intersection of the GAP and C&O Canal Towpath, makes a fabulous trail stop for a pint of Cloudy with a Chance of Wheat Hefeweizen, live music and a plate from its rotating lineup of food trucks.
Dine in or order dinner to take back to your cabin from Seoul House, an authentic Korean restaurant in downtown Cumberland serving specialties including several kinds of bibimbap, bulgogi, Korean-style ramen and samgyetang, a whole chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, chestnut, jujube and vegetables.
Get up early to pick up a dozen fresh-from-the-oven doughnuts from M&M Bakery in downtown Cumberland, where the options range from glazed to custard-filled to cake to jelly, as well as other pastries like maple logs or elephant ears. Pack a picnic lunch, jump in the car and drive to Green Ridge State Forest, which at almost 49,000 acres is the state’s second-largest state forest. It has more than 50 miles of hiking trails ranging from 4 to 18 miles, some of which are suitable for day hikes. Purchase a map and guide at the Green Ridge Headquarters and choose your own adventure. Hikes vary in terrain and some have stream crossings or steep climbs, and visitors are encouraged to wear orange blaze during hunting season.
The National Road, a 620-mile highway built between 1811 and 1837, also referred to as Cumberland Road, was the United States’ first major highway built by the federal government and served as the main route for anyone headed west. If you haven’t already come across it during your travels, the obelisk built for the 200th anniversary that marks where it began makes for a great photo op—you can find it on Green Street at Riverside Park. Speaking of attractions to spot on the side of the road, make a few dairy pit stops on the Allegany County Ice Cream Trail. Its seven locations range from roadside stands to diners to ice cream parlors, all of them locally owned. If you care to consider a banana split or hot fudge your dinner for the drive home, there is no judgement here.
Eschewing the tent for a cabin? You’ll be glad you packed these niceties for gourmet meals-in:
• A French press or pour-over coffee maker, grinder and gourmet beans will make your mornings so much more enjoyable.
• Dunk crusty bread and pickles in ooey-gooey cheese, steak or seafood in hot oil, or strawberries and pineapple chunks in melted dark chocolate with an electric fondue pot.
• Your favorite wine opener and acrylic stemware will make wine time divine.
• A battery-powered blender is a must-have for morning smoothies and happy hour margaritas.
• An InstaPot can be a dinner savior when your afternoon excursion takes longer than you thought.