Road Trip: Deep Creek, Md.
Tired of concrete? Need a nature fix?
Make a beeline to the Deep Creek area of Maryland.
There’s a ton of fun to be had in this wondrous spit of land, where rolling hills of greenery kiss up against shimmering sky-blue lake water.
And there’s plenty here to bring out the wilderness adventurer in you, even when the weather’s cold.
Deep Creek Lake, Maryland’s largest freshwater lake at 3,900 acres and 65 miles of shoreline, offers boating, kayaking, fishing, wave-runners, water tubing, wake boarding and waterskiing.
Whether it’s hitting the greens or exploring a tangle of forest trails, the scenery of Garrett County will keep you going with a wide array of activities.
“We have a lot to offer here,” says Sarah Duck, director of tourism and marketing for the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. “There’s so much, you just can’t see it all in one visit.”
Sure, there’s plenty to do indoors — there’s scores of arcades and galleries for children, along with the Discovery Center at Deep Creek Lake State Park.
And, yes, there’s the Garrett County Historical Museum and the Garrett County Transportation Museum, both in Oakland, to satisfy your inner historian.
But make no mistake about it — outdoor fun is what Deep Creek has become known for.
From fly-fishing to go-cart racing to horseback-riding, Deep Creek has become synonymous for fresh-air getaways within a day-trip’s distance from Pittsburgh.
There are 10 major parks and recreational sites in the area, including New Germany State Park in Grantsville, Deep Creek Lake State Park in Swanton and Swallow Falls State Park in Oakland, where picturesque Muddy Creek Falls is located.
There’s even rock-climbing.
The number of visitors has risen steadily since the recession, exceeding hotel-occupancy records each year since 2010.
Roughly 1.2 million people visit the Deep Creek area each year, according to the Garrett County Department of Economic Development. Most of them — about four in five visitors, the agency says — has been to the area more than once.
For an area that hosts so many visitors, it doesn’t boast a lot of hotels.
But don’t let that discourage you.
Many of the Deep Creek area’s overnighters stay in bed-and-breakfasts and vacation rental homes.
Winter turns out to be a big season for Wisp Resort, with its 32 ski slopes and trails and Nordic Center for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. It also is a warm-weather destination for families, featuring two premier golf courses, mountain-biking trails, disc golf, even mountain-buggy and Segway tours.
There’s plenty for those jonesing to feel at one with nature.
To hear Crede Calhoun tell the story, slower is better.
Slower pace, that is.
Calhoun is the chief guide and program director for All Earth Eco Tours, a business in Friendsville that conducts tours on the reservoir near Deep Creek Lake.
A 2009 survey conducted by West Virginia University found that most visitors to the Deep Creek area are overwhelmed with the speed and pace of urban life. They’re drawn to the tranquility of the region, no matter the time of year, “to heal themselves.”
“A lot of the people we get … have never kayaked or seen a bald eagle. This creates experiences and memories they’ve never had before,” Calhoun says.
“People are in need of nature experiences for their own mental and physical health. And nature has a natural healing and teaching ability.
“Immersion into the natural world … provides humans with a healing something. We need it.”
Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-380-5682.
Garrett County Historical Society
For most communities, one history museum is plenty. Garrett County has three. The Garrett County Historical Society combines many facets of local history into three museums — the Garrett County Historical Museum, which features a variety of artifacts that plots the generations of the county’s comeupance and growth; the Grantsville Community Museum, which tells the compelling story of Grantsville and Western Maryland through donated photographs and artifacts; and the Garrett County Museum of Transportation.
Hours: Mondays-Saturdasy 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sundays.
Details: 301-334-3226 or www.garrettcountymuseums.com
Big Run State Park
If camping underneath the stars is more your speed, make a run for this park situated at the mouth of the Savage River Reservoir. Campers at Big Run have easy access to boating, hiking or hunting, while surrounded by the mountain ridges of Savage River State Forest. Big Run has 29 primitive campsites available year-round. Fishing is permitted throughout the year in this park, where walleye, large-mouth bass, crappie and yellow perch have been known to swim.
Swallow Falls State Park
Located about 10 miles north of Oakland, this park is home to some of western Maryland’s most breathtaking scenery that includes acres of tall, majestic hemlocks and the white waters of Muddy Creek Falls. The Youghiogheny River flows along the park’s borders, passing through shaded rocky gorges and creating rippling rapids. The park recently reopened, after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, with limited access to the falls. Not all areas of the park or the trails are accessible as storm-cleanup efforts continue.
Details: 301.334.9180 or www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/swallowfalls.html
Deep Creek Wine Cellars
People in Deep Creek have a highly refined palate, caused partly by the work of this winemaker.
Vineyard tours are popular here during the summer months. Daytime highs in July seldom are higher than 90 degrees, making the area great for picnicking and peaceful, outdoor fun. Deep Creek Wine Cellars’ vineyards are some of the highest in North America, at 2,100 feet above sea level.
The only ski resort in Maryland, Wisp sits on 132 acres of ski terrain and is a popular destination for skiers and nonskiers alike. Winter months here mean shooshing down snow-covered slopes, cross-country skiing and snow tubing. But things don’t shut down in warm-weather months. You can tee it up on the 18-hole Wisp Resort Golf Course or learn to angle on the local rivers with the Wisp Outdoors Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guides. And for those who love the great indoors no matter the time of year, there’s an indoor pool, hot tub, fitness center and spa.
Details: 301-387-4000 or www.wispresort.com
All Earth Eco Tours
Whether your taste runs to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter or kayaking and hiking in the spring, this family-activity crew has what you need for fun in Deep Creek. All Earth Eco Tours specializes in guides tours of Swallow Falls, Deep Creek Lake and surrounding areas.
It also includes hikes through Cranesville Swamp, a 300-acre wetland that is managed by the Nature Conservancy and is a popular destination for botanists, zoologists, ecologists and nature lovers.
Details: 301-746-4083 or www.deepcreeklakefamilyactivities.com