The “Road that Built the Nation” is a great vacation destination. Authorized in 1806 to become America’s first interstate highway, the Historic National Road took four decades to complete from Baltimore to Vandalia, Illinois.
The 170-mile Maryland portion of the National Road has become a hub of historical and recreational activity, offering hiking, biking, bird watching, sightseeing and mule-drawn barge rides. Most sites featured below are part of two official Maryland Byways.
1. Begin your journey in Baltimore’s INNER HARBOR entertainment area. The Baltimore National Pike, which linked into the National Road, ran from this vicinity past the country’s oldest railroad terminus, now occupied by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum.
2. A former mill town, ELLICOTT CITY features the first railroad station in the nation, as well as the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, built in 1780 and used as a way station along the old road. More info...
3. Once a stopover for travelers seeking food, supplies and lodging, NEW MARKET is now an antiques mecca with many Federal-period homes and also the Wild West-themed Adventure Park USA. More info...
4. FREDERICK features a nationally acclaimed historic district. Drift back in time with notable citizens like Francis Scott Key. Then enjoy galleries and boutiques in this, the first of three Maryland Arts & Entertainment (A&E) Districts on the route.
5. Veer south into BRUNSWICK to visit a railroad museum and canal visitor center where you can get information about 31 hiker-biker campsites spaced every few miles along the canal from Swain’s Lock (Mile 16.6) to Evitts Creek (Mile 180.1).
6. HAGERSTOWN, another A&E District, earned the nickname “Hub City” for its road, rail and water transportation links. Learn more at a Transportation Gallery inside the new Discovery Station.
7. The staff at the HANCOCK-based C&O Canal Museum and Visitors Center can point you toward country roads that lead to wayside markers, locks and other canal sites. Bring your fishing rod.
8. The third of our A&E Districts, CUMBERLAND is home to a canal visitor center. The impressive Paw Paw Tunnel, located nearby, took 14 years to cut through 3,118 feet of rock.
9. In LaVALE, at the only toll gate that still remains on Maryland’s portion of the National Road, a plaque lists the original fees required for wagons, animals and pedestrians to pass.
10. FROSTBURG, now a university town, grew up around a National Road tavern at the current site of St. Michael’s parish. Tour a train depot, a local history museum and a renovated, 19th-century warehouse occupied by the Thrasher Carriage Museum.