Exploring Maryland: Big Road Trips in a Small State
By Kimberly Graf. Published on November 19, 2018
Maryland might be small, but there is so much history and American culture here. Since colonial times, Maryland has been a popular location for people to live and work, as well as travel through! Home to Chesapeake Bay and startlingly close to the nation's capital, Maryland is a wonderland of old influences and new traditions. These two long road trips will give you a perfect measure of both.
Civil War Sites
Our trip starts in Hagerstown, Maryland. While this town has no direct connection to the Civil War, it has plenty of historic buildings and areas to get you started. It's near the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the perfect place to get snacks before you hit the road. We're heading to Antietam Battlefield first.
Travel down Highway 40 for a while, before hitting Interstate 70. You're going to want to take Exit 29 and start down the 65. For ten miles you'll pass many small communities with perfectly manicured lawns and huge, sprawling oak trees. This would be a wonderful trip to take in the fall.
After about ten miles you'll see the signs for Antietam National Battlefield. This was one of the biggest and most famous battles of the Civil War. Today, there are guided tours, historical buildings, museums, and a National Cemetery to explore on the grounds. It’s sure to take you a few hours to go through this attraction, especially if you take some of the historic trails.
Head back out onto 65 until you reach Sharpsburg and then make a turn onto Highway 34. Just about six minutes down this road is the Pry House Field Hospital Museum. Here you can take an insightful look back to the hospital tents of Antietam on the days surrounding the battle.
Our next stop is 40 minutes away in Frederick, Maryland. From Pry House, head back towards Highway 70 (take 34 to 40, until it reaches Mt Talbot road). This highway is also called the Dwight D Eisenhower Memorial Highway. The roadway is surrounded by fir trees and clear skies. Exit 54 is the one you're looking for. A few minutes' drive down Highway 355 takes you to Monocacy Battlefield Visitor's Center.
The Battle of Monocacy is known as "The Battle That Saved Washington", because Lew Wallace delayed the force that would have taken the capital here. There is a self-guided driving tour here as well as reenactments and high-traffic hiking trails through the battlefield area. From Monocacy, it's about an hour and a half to our next destination.
Hop back onto the Dwight Eisenhower Memorial Highway and go south towards the Samuel A Mudd House. You'll take this highway until it turns into Interstate 495. This route skims the outskirts of Washington DC, just over the border. The Dr. Samuel A Mudd House Museum is a relic of the time just after the Civil War.
Dr. Mudd was the country doctor that John Wilkes Booth came to after he was injured escaping the scene of the Lincoln Assassination. The doctor that lived here fixed the assassin's leg and let him rest in an upstairs bedroom for several hours before the criminal moved on.
When you are finished with one of the many tours of this Museum, we're heading South along Highway 5 and Highway 235 to Point Lookout State Park.
Point Lookout was the temporary home of roughly 52 thousand Confederate war prisoners during the War. Today, you can engage in tons of recreation here, as well as visit a gift shop and Civil War Museum. This stop concludes this history-based road trip. Any Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy this trip! The drive time is about 4 hours without stops, or 181 miles total.
Maryland boasts some of the coolest structures in New England: covered bridges. Not all of these bridges cover the roadway, and in fact most of them are only accessibly by hiking, biking, and horseback riding. However, these three can be driven through, on winding one-lane roads leading through the wilderness.
We'll start in Thurmont, Maryland. Four minutes outside the city is Roddy Road, where the Roddy Road Covered Bridge lies. Roddy Road is a relatively small covered bridge at only 40 feet long, but you will be able to hear and feel the wooden beams beneath you when you drive over it. This bridge has a clearance of 12 feet, 8 inches.
Our second covered bridge, Loy's Station, is just eight minutes down the road. This bridge still contains many of the original timbers, repurposed for the walls and roof. It's an amazing 90 feet long. You can just imagine what it might have felt like to ride through this on horseback when it was built. The clearance on the Loy's Station covered bridge is 12 feet, 6 inches.
The Utica Covered bridge completes this local triad. This is the longest bridge so far, at 100 feet long. It has a similar construction as the other bridges and is painted the same shade of firehouse red. Your vehicle has to be shorter than 9 feet, 6 inches to pass under this bridge safely. Our last bridge, Jericho, is an hour and a half away. It's a scenic drive that takes you through lanes of fir trees and skims just the top of Baltimore, Maryland. It's worth a stop if you're willing to take a detour before heading back up to see Jericho.
This bridge has an entirely different construction. This truss-based bridge is wider than the others and is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Civil War soldiers, to add flavor. This bridge is 88 feet long, and looks nothing like the first bridges you drove through. It’s darker, due to the lack of windows across the top of the outside walls. Make sure you turn your headlights on!
This shorter trip only showcases the few bridges you can drive through on a roadway. There are many, many more that you can only access without a car, such as the Foxcatcher Farms authentic bridge to the east. If that’s what you're into and you want more covered bridges, make sure to check it out! This trip spans 97 miles and has a drive time of almost two hours.
There is a wealth of history and industry in Maryland. This is just a taste of what is available to go and see in this small state. You can drive from one end of the state to the other in just three hours, so even day trippers will enjoy visiting the Old Line State.