Want to escape from the congestion and tension of the metro scramble? Try the “Trail Mix” in Somerset County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A three-hour drive from the Washington, D.C., area takes you to a spot that promises “trails, streams, and breathtaking scenes.”
The concept is simple: Put all the opportunities for hiking, walking, golfing, biking, and paddling in one place. A dedicated website, good signage, cooperative outfitters, and a calendar of official and pick-up events make it easy to plan a getaway.
“We are the place to visit to unplug from tension and stress,” said Julie Widdowson, who promotes the county. “We do authentic, rural, and scenic really well.”
With a population of only 26,000 and no town larger than 3,000 people, Somerset County is the epitome of laid-back and local.
Flat terrain, little traffic, broad vistas — this is a bicycler’s dream.
Five marked biking trails, roughly following themes, lace through the county. There’s the Old Town Trail, which visits the once-bustling, now hardly-a-village Old Mount Vernon. The 413 Rail to Trail route follows the once-important rail line to Crisfield. And, who can resist a trail named the Crustacean Causeway?
Even off the official trails, most roads have dedicated bike lanes. And, when they don’t, the shoulders are wide enough and the traffic is light enough that it’s not a problem.
Consider pedaling Deal Island Road (Route 363), which runs from Princess Anne to the waterman’s village of Deal Island to enjoy some of the best landscapes on the Eastern Shore. The road through the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area is hard-packed gravel, but you’ll find some of the best birdwatching for waterfowl and shorebirds on the East Coast.
Water trails delight
In Somerset County, paddlers have 16 distinct water trails from which to choose.
The six trails at Janes Island State Park, near Crisfield, offer 30 miles of paddling. Specifically for beginners, one of the trails is very short and very sheltered. More adventurous paddlers can try the trails around Smith Island by loading their kayaks or canoes onto one of the daily ferries to the island and follow posted signage around Ewell, Tylerton, and Rhodes Point. The newest trail collection is Monie Bay, with three routes, two of which are particularly nice for novice paddlers.
Insider tip: The third route at Monie Bay is a 5- to 8-mile excursion for those with hardy stamina and strong shoulder muscles.
Walkers enjoy many of the same routes as bikers, parking their cars in town or along the road and strolling through the countryside.
Janes Island State Park’s White Tail Trail is a bit different from most. It goes through the loblolly pine and hardwood forest in the park, a different landscape from most of the area’s marshes and water views.
Another good stroll is through the Great Hope Golf Course, near Crisfield. It’s an “Audubon Course,” which means it meets standards for conservation and habitat for birds and wildlife in harmony with the golf course. The path is mowed, but not paved. Expect to spot woodpeckers, heron, foxes, and deer.
For all of the outdoor activities, remember that this is the Eastern Shore, where flying and crawling critters abound. Bug spray, sun block, and water are essentials. Always leave a note about where you are biking, paddling, or walking on the dashboard of your car or at your hotel or bed-and-breakfast. Be aware that cell service is spotty, at best, in many areas.
The Trail Mix website includes information for each activity, maps, and links, including one for the Trail Mix brochure.
Somerset Co. Tourism: visitsomerset.com