Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Maryland's Beauty Spots -- A Driving Tour to Green Ridge State Forest's Scenic Overlooks



Come on a journey to seven of Maryland's beauty spots, during a scenic drive that will take you through the country roads and byways of the Green Ridge State Forest, past forgotten family cemeteries and to some of the prettiest spots in western Maryland.



Plan on at least three hours for this 44-mile scenic drive through the back roads of Allegheny County, MD and the Green Ridge State Forest to six uniquely different overlooks. It took us closer to four hours, but we were savoring the view and driving carefully because we really didn't have a good vehicle for the roads. This would be an ideal daytrip to see the autumn foliage! (In fact, we're going back!)

The view from Town Hill B&B Overlook


We found this scenic drive when I started researching best scenic views in Maryland for another article. I realized I didn't have any decent photos of the scenic view from Sideling Hill -- and I wanted to include that because it's easy to find and the view is pretty amazing. Since we were in that neck of the woods, I figured we should probably check out the overlook at the headquarters of the Green Ridge State Forest, which I'd been meaning to do for years. On our way home, I was going to make another stop at Maryland's Washington Monument -- the last time we were there, fog rolled in and obliterated the view.



A little research later, and I uncovered this scenic drive through the Green Ridge State Forest, and suddenly, our plans changed (although we still stopped at Sideling Hill).

Note: I've changed my usual format slightly. Our GPS didn't work for all the overlooks, so I've included extensive directions (most of which come from the official forest driving tour directions). All directions are italicized and major turning points italicized and bolded so you can find them easily. At the end of the article, I include all the directions together, so that they can be easily copied and pasted onto a document and printed out.


1. Headquarters Overlook



Behind the headquarters and state forest visitors center, a wheelchair-accessible path leads to the first scenic overlook of your journey to some of Maryland's "beauty spots."  This overlook provides a panoramic view of the state forest -- and would be spectacular when the autumn foliage begins changing color!



The headquarters overlook is where you should start the scenic drive, and it's from this point that the driving directions begin. We followed the directions on the web site, but have a few corrections.

Getting there: 28700 Headquarters Drive NE, Flintstone MD

2. Town Hill B&B Overlook


Town Hill Bed & Breakfast still operates in the former Town Hill Motel.


The Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was once the Town Hill Hotel, one of several along the Old National Pike that catered to "pleasure travelers" once automobiles were invented. Town Hill Hotel offered a gas station, a restaurant, and of course, hotel rooms. Similar hotels were also located on the tops of Sideling Hill, Green Ridge, Polish Mountain, Martins Mountain, and Big Savage Mountains.



Once surrounded by apple orchards planted by the original owners of most of the land -- the Mertens -- tourists once referred to Town Hill Overlook as the "Beauty Spot" of Maryland. During the early 1900s, the Mertens family of Cumberland attempted to convert the forest into apple orchards and promoted it as “The Largest Apple Orchard in the Universe.”



The overlook, at an elevation of 1595 feet above sea level, gazes to the east toward Sideling Hill Mountain and the Sideling Hill Cut that carries I-68 into western Maryland.




Getting there: The easiest way to get there is to GPS Town Hill Bed and Breakfast, at 31101 National Pike NE, Little Orleans, MD. The parking lot for the overlook is across the street from the historic inn.


3. Point Lookout Overlook




Point Lookout Overlook dates back to the Civil War, when Union soldiers used the area as a lookout and signal post.



Although just 900 feet above sea level, Point Lookout was ideal for detecting Confederate movements toward the Maryland border. Looking east, is Maryland, with the Potomac River curling in the landscape below. On the far side of the river is West Virginia. The loop below was once known as "General Washington's Horseshoe Bend" Note that the C&O Canal is on the Maryland side of the river.


Getting there: (GPSable by name) From the parking lot of the Hill Top B&B, turn left onto the National Road/U.S. Rt 40. Near the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Mountain Road, which soon turns into a gravel road. Once on Mountain Road, you'll drive past another dirt road -- Tower Road -- that connects from the left and will continue on Mountain Road, crossing over the I-68 overpass. Immediately after the overpass, bear sharp left to continue on Mountain Road. 
Continue on Mountain Road for 1.8 miles, passing over Mud Lick (creek) where you'll come to a fork -- bear left to continue on Mountain Road. Nine-tenths of a mile later, and you'll again come to a fork, where you'll bear right to remain on Mountain Road. A half mile later at the bottom of the mountain, you'll come to a stop sign and a paved road -- Orleans Road. Turn right onto Orleans Road.  

Follow Orleans Road for 2.4 miles until you cross over a low water bridge over Fifteen Mile Creek. Immediately turn right onto Oldtown Orleans Road, which you'll follow for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Carroll Road. Two-tenths of a mile down Carroll Road is the lookout; there's ample parking on the right.



4. Brinkman-Rine Cemetery is along the way between Point Lookout Overlook and Banner's Overlook, but it's worth a stop. It's a peaceful, quiet and beautiful spot on the mountainside.



In addition to Brinkmans and Rines, you'll find McCabes, Robys, Twiggs and other family names; some of the graves date back to the 1860s. The most recent is Michael McCabe Senior, who outlived his entire family and died in 1974.



Brinkman-Rine Cemetery is one of the 30 or so documented family cemeteries that remain in Green Ridge State Forest, and descendents still visit the grave site. It is possible that the Rine Methodist Episcopal Church had been located nearby. The cemetery is an indication that a community once thrived in what is now the state forest.



Getting there: Head back the way you came on Carroll Road, then turn left onto Oldtown Orleans Road. Follow Oldtown Orleans Road 3 miles. It's easy to miss the cemetery sign in the brush on the right. Also, the road UP to the cemetery is too rough for a car or a cross-over SUV, but it's less than a five-minute walk.

5. Banner's Overlook




Congratulations. You are now almost at the exact geographic center of the Green Ridge State Forest. Sitting at 1650 feet above sea level on Town Hill, this is one of the highest elevations you'll reach on this driving tour. As with Point Lookout Overlook, you look east toward the Potomac River lazily flowing below. Note that you're looking at the West Virginia side of Sideling Mountain. Banner's Overlook is named after Banner Shipley, a forest warden who tragically died from a tree limb falling on him.



At Banner's Overlook, you're also looking over the Point Lookout Overlook, which is situated along one of the ridges below you.

Getting there: (GPS couldn't find this overlook) A third of a mile past the Brinkman-Rine Cemetery, turn right onto Mertens Avenue. Follow Mertens Avenue (also a dirt road, despite its name) one and two-tenths miles, when you'll see the parking lot on the left for Banner's Overlook.

6. Log Roll Overlook




Although not my favorite of the day's overlooks, this one offers a picnic table, where you can spread your picnic feast and enjoy a sup with an incredible view west from Green Ridge Mountain. Or bring a blanket, spreading it out on the slope and just relax while the birds chirp all around you. So about the name. Log Roll Overlook took its name from a practice from an earlier era of major forest clearning, when wood was transported to this site to be dumped over the edge down to Town Creek, below. The stream then transported the logs nine miles to a sawmill located near the C&O Canal.



You can see three states from Log Roll Overlook: Maryland, of course. But look to the near left, and there's West Virginia. Pennsylvania can be seen on the far right.

Getting there: (GPSable by name) From the Banner's Overlook parking area, turn left back onto Mertens Avenue and continue for just shy of 2 miles, when you'll turn left onto Green Ridge Road. Follow Green Ridge Road two and a third miles to Log Roll Overlook, on the right.


7. Zumbrun Overlook




From the Zumbrun Overlook, named for forest manager Francis "Champ" Zumbrun, you get a spectacular view from Polish Mountain, looking west over the Town Creek Basin to Warrior Mountain and Flintstone. This is one of my favorite overlooks.



Getting there: (GPSable by name) Turn back around onto Green Ridge Road, retracing your journey along the high ridge for 1.6 miles until you turn left onto Jacob's Road. Follow Jacob's Road for a while. At just over 3 miles, you'll cross a small, single-track bridge carrying you over Maple Run. Continue another 4 miles, until you turn left onto Mertens Avenue. Six-tenths of a mile later, turn right onto Troutman Road. Follow Troutman Road 1.5 miles, until the turn-off for the parking area for Zumbrun Overlook on your left.

Sideling Hill Cut Overlook

Not far away from Green Ridge State Forest and actually viewable from several of the overlooks on the driving tour, you'll find this impressive scenic view at a highway rest stop (elevation 1,280 feet above sea level) along I-68, situated on the eastern side of the Sideling Hill Road Cut and offering sweeping panoramic views eastward in Washington County, MD.



A little warning: Most of the roads on the driving tour are dirt/gravel. Although we did this drive just fine with our beat up old Toyota Prius -- a couple of the roads had spots that were a little hairy for a sedate Prius, although we fared better than an sizzling, overheated pick-up truck we passed (and provided our extra water to). When we go to West Virginia, we always take our slightly more rugged but equally beat up Toyota Rav4, which has a slightly higher clearance and all-wheel drive if we needed it in a pinch for the inevitable forest service roads I end up taking us on). We kinda wished we had taken the Rav4.



Know before you go:  Bring extra water -- and you'll probably also want to pack a picnic lunch and maybe a blanket to spread on the grass or to cover a picnic table with. You won't need your hiking boots, but you will want your camera, binoculars, a fully charged phone/gps unit, and snacks and drinks to enjoy along the way.

Directions for the entire scenic drive, so you can copy - paste into a document for easy reference:

  1. Start at forest headquarters and its overlook: 28700 Headquarters Drive NE, Flintstone MD
  2. Town Hill Overlook: the easiest way to get there is to GPS Town Hill Bed and Breakfast, at 31101 National Pike NE, Little Orleans, MD. The parking lot for the overlook is right across the street from the historic inn.
  3. Point Lookout Overlook (also GPSable by name): From the parking lot of the Hill Top B&B, turn left onto the National Road/U.S. Rt 40. Near the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Mountain Road, which soon turns into a gravel road. Once on Mountain Road, you'll drive past another dirt road -- Tower Road -- that connects from the left and will continue on Mountain Road, crossing over the I-68 overpass. Immediately after the overpass, bear sharp left to continue on Mountain Road. 
    Continue on Mountain Road for 1.8 miles, passing over Mud Lick (creek) where you'll come to a fork -- bear left to continue on Mountain Road. Nine-tenths of a mile later, and you'll again come to a fork, where you'll bear right to remain on Mountain Road. A half mile later at the bottom of the mountain, you'll come to a stop sign and a paved road -- Orleans Road. Turn right onto Orleans Road. 

    Follow Orleans Road for 2.4 miles until you cross over a low water bridge over Fifteen Mile Creek. Immediately turn right onto Oldtown Orleans Road, which you'll follow for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Carroll Road. Two-tenths of a mile down Carroll Road is the lookout; there's ample parking on the right.
  4. Brinkman-Rine Cemetery: Head back the way you came on Carroll Road, then turn left onto Oldtown Orleans Road. Follow Oldtown Orleans Road 3 miles. There will be a small sign on the right.
  5. Banner's Overlook (did not come up in WAZE): A third of a mile past the Brinkman-Rine Cemetery, turn right onto Mertens Avenue. Follow Mertens Avenue (also a dirt road, despite its name) one and two-tenths miles, when you'll see the parking lot on the left for Banner's Overlook.
  6. Log Roll Overlook (GPSable by name): From the Banner's Overlook parking area, turn left back onto Mertens Avenue and continue for just shy of 2 miles, when you'll turn left onto Green Ridge Road. Follow Green Ridge Road two and a third miles to Log Roll Overlook, on the right.
  7. Zumbrun Overlook (GPSable by name): turn back around onto Green Ridge Road, retracing your journey along the high ridge for 1.6 miles until you turn left onto Jacob's Road. Follow Jacob's Road for a while. At just over 3 miles, you'll cross a small, single-track bridge carrying you over Maple Run. Continue another 4 miles, until you turn left onto Mertens Avenue. Six-tenths of a mile later, turn right onto Troutman Road. Follow Troutman Road 1.5 miles, until the turn-off for the parking area for Zumbrun Overlook on your left.


Websites: Green Ridge State Forest -- https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/publiclands/western_greenridgeforest.aspx
The official driving tour -- https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Documents/GRSF-Driving-Tour.pdf







Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.





No comments:

Post a Comment