BALTIMORE (May 29) – Take a bike ride – for recreation, exercise or the thrill of competition – and discover Maryland's diverse landscape, says the Maryland Office of Tourism. Each of the state's five regions (Western, Capital, Central, Southern and Eastern Shore) offer signature experiences that reflect their physical, historical and cultural characteristics.
“Cyclists get an up-close perspective of the areas they travel through,” says Margot Amelia, executive director of the tourism office. “They're more apt to experience our natural treasures, while seeing places that perhaps they've only seen from inside a car – if at all.”
In June 2011, the state launched Cycle Maryland, a program that Gov. Martin O'Malley initiated to raise awareness of Maryland's biking resources and to advocate for biking as a recreational and fitness activity, and as an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.
Now, a year later, the League of American Bicyclists has ranked Maryland among its top 10 “Bicycle Friendly States” – number 8 in the nation and number 3 in the Northeast. The ranking considered such factors as: infrastructure and funding for bicycle facilities; education and programs that encourage cycling; and bicycle-friendly laws that promote safety.
“We recognize that Maryland's capacity for accommodating bicyclists enhances the quality of life for our residents, while making our destinations more inviting for visitors,” says Carol Silldorff, executive director of Bike Maryland, a nonprofit organization that advocates for improved bicycling conditions and the rights of bicyclists.
Below is a sampling of cycling events and trails across the five regions of Maryland. Additionally, a number of Maryland's counties have online bicycle maps, including Caroline, Carroll, Dorchester, Talbot, Washington and Worcester counties. Itineraries for bike routes between Civil War battlefields are also available. And, Cycle Maryland 's web site links to an interactive state bicycle map, biking trails and biking events.
Also known as Mountain Maryland, this scenic region has the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Historic National Road and C&O Canal Towpath. Bike routes also go through and around Antietam National Battlefield.
- Tour of Washington County Kick-Off Classic Criterium, June 15, Hagerstown – Presented by the Antietam Velo Club, this evening race – along a .8-mile course with four 90-degree turns and one uphill section – cuts through the Hagerstown Arts and Entertainment District. A bike parade at 5:30 p.m. precedes a series of divisional races. More races take place the next two days in Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport.
- Garrett County Gran Fondo, June 23 – Cyclists of all types – recreational to professional – can select one of five ride options in this mass-participation cycling event that starts and ends atop Wisp Mountain (above Deep Creek Lake) at Adventures Sports Center International. Five individual itineraries range from extreme to engaging: the 125-mile Diabolical Double Metric to the 25-mile Garrett's Greatest . Participation is limited to 1,200 cyclists and a sell-out is expected, so register early.
- Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath – As part of the C&O Canal National Historic Park, the towpath is a 184-mile corridor that runs along the Potomac River, starting in Washington, D.C., and extending to Cumberland. In Cumberland, it merges into the Maryland stretch of the Great Allegany Passage, a route that continues through Frostburg and westward to Pittsburgh.
- Western Maryland Rail Trail – This 23-mile route traces the C&O Canal and the former Western Maryland Railway line. Hancock is the mid-way point. Going east, the trail stops a half mile from Fort Frederick State Park, site of the restored star-shaped fort used in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
Civil War history is plentiful here. The region, which hugs the Potomac River, also has numerous parks. And, the Frederick Wine Trail is a concentration of wineries amid a rolling landscape.
- Ride the Riverside, June 9-10, National Harbor (Prince George's County) – Route options for this long-standing event (30 years) range from 30 miles to 150 miles, and travel through Prince George's and Charles counties along the Potomac River. Each cyclist agrees to raise $300 to benefit multiple sclerosis research. Family and friends of riders are invited to waterfront finish-line party.
- Capital Crescent Trail – This 11-mile pathway follows a former route of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., to Silver Spring in Montgomery County. Bikers pass over four historic bridges and through two tunnels along the Potomac River. It connects with the C&O Canal Towpath and the Rock Creek Trail.
- Gambrill State Park, outside of Frederick (Frederick County) – Located on the ridge of the Catoctin Mountains, the park has 15 miles of wooded trails that are open to mountain biking. Many offer scenic overlooks.
Horse country is just beyond Baltimore, and with it, plenty of trails and open countryside. The Chesapeake Bay shoreline, which winds down from Havre de Grace to Annapolis, also offers scenic bike routes.
- Tour dem Parks, Hon, June 10, Baltimore – Participants in this annual ride travel through Carroll, Clifton, Druid Hill, Herring Run and Patterson parks, depending on the tour they choose. Le Grande Tour includes all five parks plus other smaller parks along a 36-mile route. The Metric Century is a 64-mile route that combines urban and suburban riding.
- Baltimore and Annapolis Trail – This 13-mile rail-trail in Anne Arundel County has historical markers literally labeled from “A to Z” with site information and a “Planet Walk” – a NASA-hosted linear museum of planetary displays. The trail follows the path of the Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad. It merges into the BWI Trail, a 12.5-mile route that circles BWI Marshall Airport.
- Patapsco Valley State Park (Howard County) – Mountain-bike riders call this park “Moab East.” The park's 170 miles of trails – like its namesake in Utah – are known for rocky terrain and steep pathways. Extending 32 miles along the Patapsco River, the park draws more than a million outdoor enthusiasts each year.
- Torrey C. Brown Trail (formerly known as Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Trail) – Located in Baltimore County, the trail extends north 20 miles from Hunt Valley to the state line. It goes through Gunpowder Falls State Park, which has more than 100 miles of trails. The Brown Trail accommodates hikers and bikers, and even offers access for fishing.
Maryland's birthplace is a peninsula bounded by the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay with other waterways, such as the Patuxent River, winding through it. The Religious Freedom Byway affords bicyclists a route that includes colonial ports, fishing villages and historical landmarks.
- SMECO 75 Bike Ride, June 2, Hughesville (Charles County) – Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative celebrates its 75th anniversary with this bike event on National Trails Day. Riders select a 29-, 47- or 75-mile course through Southern Maryland along portions of Three Notch Trail.
- Leonardtown Crit, June 3 (St. Mary's County) – Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association's Criterium championship race is a .7-mile triangular, flat route that goes through downtown Leonardtown with two 90-degree turns. Downtown restaurants will be open along the route, allowing spectators to watch the race curbside.
- Indian Head Rail Trail – Charles County revived this abandoned rail corridor into a 13-mile bike trail that passes through Mattawoman Creek stream valley -- an area with forests, wetlands and wildlife.
- 'To the Point' – Starting in Historic St. Mary's City – home of Maryland's first settlement – this 30-mile route extends to the 1828 lighthouse at Point Lookout State Park, site of a Civil War museum and nature center. The park is also part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
The Shore's flat, expansive countryside and abundant waterways reveal a Chesapeake Bay lifestyle that's tied to agricultural and maritime pursuits. Bicyclists can travel through waterfront villages and wildlife refuges, and along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.
- Blackwater Duathlon, June 3, Cambridge (Dorchester County) – Selected as the USA Triathlon National Long Course Duathlon Championship event, the race consists of a 10K-run on either side of a 70K-bike course that goes through parts of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
- Pocomoke Sprint Triathlon, June 16, Pocomoke (Worcester County) – This race is the same weekend as the annual Pocomoke Cypress Festival. The triathlon is a .5-mile swim, 14.5-mile bike ride and 3.5-mile run. A concurrent triathlon for kids consists of a 100-yard swim, 2-mile bike ride and .5-mile run.
Bay to Bay Ride, June 24, Betterton (Kent County) – This annual Lions Club event offers five itineraries between 27 miles and 104 miles in length. The 27-mile route goes through historic Chestertown. Participants and friends gather at Betterton Beach for a swim in the Chesapeake Bay at the end of the day.
- Oxford-St. Michaels bike trail (Talbot County) – One of Talbot's six bike trails, this 29.6-mile route runs between Oxford, an historic boat-building town, and St. Michaels, a destination known for its restaurants, shopping and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The route – a favorite among cyclists – also includes a trip across the Tred Avon River on the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.
About Maryland tourism
The Maryland Office of Tourism is an agency of the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Recently reported visitor data shows that the state welcomed more than 32.2 million visitors in 2010. Those visitors spent nearly $13.1 billion on travel-related expenses – generating close to $1.9 billion in state and local taxes and providing 130,000 jobs to Maryland residents.