With five National Parks (including two National Scenic Trails and a National Battlefield), eight State Parks, and an abundance of quaint towns, Washington County may be one of the best places in Maryland to take a walk. If you aren’t sure which path to take first, start with this list of eight self-guided walking tours in Washington County. They’ll take you to more than 200 scenic and historic stops found only in Maryland.
Walking Tour of Historic Hagerstown
Hagerstown is Washington County’s largest city. Its location makes it a good starting point for county walking tours and Civil War tourism. The historic Hagerstown walking tour begins at the Public Square and features nearly 30 stops on Potomac Street and Washington Street. Highlights include the first county library in the United States, the majestic Maryland theatre, and historic Hagerstown churches.
Before leaving the city, you may want to do your taste buds a favor and stop by Schmankerl Stube for a Bavarian-themed lunch or dinner or Krumpe’s Do-nuts (open 7 pm-11 pm) for a late-night snack. Both are long-time favorites among locals and visitors.
Appalachian Trail Hike from Raven Rock to High Rock
You can begin this scenic 6.4 out-and-back walk at the trailhead on the north side of Raven Rock Road. Go north to High Rock, enjoy the overlook, and then return to the trailhead where you started.
This self-guided trail tour offers two beautiful views and a chance to see native plants and wildlife. But watch your step! The trail is rocky, and the overall elevation gain is close to 1,000 feet (most of the incline is near Raven Rock).
Walking Tour of Historic Funkstown
Funkstown is a tiny town surrounded by Antietam Creek on three sides. It is best known for the Civil War battle that took place there in 1863. The town hosts an annual Day in the Park reenactment of the Battle of Funkstown in July.
The self-guided walking tour of historic Funkstown takes you to nearly 30 sites, including original homes built in the late 1700s to house mill workers and other early town residents. Other interesting tour stops include the town park where annual festivals are held, a war memorial meant to honor all who have served, the site of an old amusement park, historic churches, and Civil War sites.
After your tour, you can relax at Blue Mountain Wine Crafters, a boutique Funkstown winery where you can buy local cheese and wine or train to ferment, stabilize, bottle, cork, and label your own wine.
Williamsport Canal Walking Tour
Williamsport is a classic canal town along the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal in Washington County. Taking the self-guided Williamsport canal walking tour is a fun way to learn about its history and see the features that remain along the canal.
Start at Cushwa Basin (the turning basin adjacent to the Williamsport Visitor Center at mile marker 99.8 on the canal), and you’ll see the Conococheague Aqueduct. Walk downstream on the C&O Canal Towpath about three-quarters of a mile to Lock 44. On the way, you’ll see an iron Bollman bridge, a railroad lift bridge, a gate mechanism for the boat-locking system, and a lockhouse.
Historic Boonsboro Walking Tour
Boonsboro is a rural town at the foot of South Mountain. It was founded by George and William Boone, cousins of Daniel Boone, and is known for its 225+ year history and its Heart of Gold cantaloupes.
You can learn about the town’s lengthy history, including its role in the Civil War, in a self-guided Boonsboro walking tour developed with the help of the Boonsboro Historical Society. This tour has nearly 40 different recommended stops. Highlights include the Inn BoonsBoro (owned by famous author Nora Roberts), Boonsboro Trolley Museum, National Road Museum, and Boone gravesite.
When you finish the walking tour, you may want to explore other stops within driving distance, including Crystal Grottoes (the only cave in Maryland open to the public) and Dahlgren Chapel (a historic English Gothic Revival style built in the 1880s).
Washington Monument State Park Uphill Hike
In 1827, the citizens of Boonsboro climbed South Mountain and built the first monument to honor President George Washington. The top of this rugged stone tower is a great spot to get panoramic views of the surrounding area. It is also a prime hawk-watching location in the fall.
The entrance to Washington Monument State Park and the uphill path that leads to the monument are technically in Frederick County, but the monument and the trail at the top of the ridge are in Washington County.
The 0.35-mile hike from the parking lot to the monument has a modest incline and includes wayside signs with facts about George Washington. If you want to keep walking afterward, you can stroll up or down the Appalachian Trail, which passes right in front of the monument.
Antietam National Battlefield Trails
Antietam National Battlefield is one of the best-preserved battlefields in the country. You can tour the rolling rural landscape and see a lot of the structures and monuments by walking on the ten designated Antietam hiking trails.
Most trails begin at the visitor’s center or one of the self-guided Antietam Battlefield Driving Tour stops. The hiking trails range from 0.25 to 1.8 miles and add up to about 15 miles if you walk them all.
Historic Keedysville Walking Tour
Keedysville is a small town between Boonsboro and Sharpsburg that traces its start back to 1768. The self-guided historic Keedysville walking tour takes you past homes, churches, and schoolhouses built in the 1800s. Other highlights include spots on the National Register of Historic Places, like the George Adam Geeting House (circa 1780), and sites used as Civil War hospitals and officer headquarters. This tour has more than 50 stops and is excellent for anyone who wants to see multiple examples of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architecture. It is also an excellent follow-up to touring the Antietam National Battlefield.
If you need a place to stay after walking all of those miles, you could try the Antietam Overlook Farm in Keedysville. This nineteenth-century-style country manor inn has large suites and views of the battlefield, mountains, and four states.
Lead Photo Credit: Megan Curry | Photo Caption: Bloody Lane, one of the trails at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.
About the Author
Anna Champagne is an outdoor writer, photographer, and traveler. She can often be found gardening and birdwatching in her backyard and exploring creeks, trails, marshes, and parks with her husband. Anna lives in Frederick County, Maryland. You can learn more about her on her website www.champagneoutdoors.com.