Potomac State Forest (Image courtesy: Matt Tillett / Flickr)

Potomac State Forest

The Potomac State Forest, 11,535 acres situated between the towns of Oakland and Westernport and partially bordering the Potomac River, is reached from Maryland Routes 135 and 560.

Mountain forests, streams and valleys make up nearly 12,000 acres in Potomac State Forest. The forest drains into the Potomac River Basin, and features the highest point in any Maryland state forest – Backbone Mountain, elevation 3,220 feet. Another high point in the forest is the rock outcropping near the intersection of Maryland Route 135 and Walnut Bottom Road which overlooks a portion of Potomac State Forest, Savage River State Forest and Crabtree Creek.

The Potomac River has its headwaters in this rugged mountain forest where wildlife abounds and there is excellent trout fishing.

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Image Credit: Potomac State Forest (Image courtesy: Matt Tillett / Flickr)


Potomac State Forest outdoor recreation opportunities and amenities include cross country skiing, camping and shelters, fishing, hiking trails, hunting, picnicking, riding trails, and snowmobiling.  The forest also fosters the following activities:

Horseback Riding: Horseback riding is allowed on designated, developed and maintained trails and roads designed to accommodate recreational use. Horses are not allowed on the foot trail in the Lostland Run area. Horse camping is also available.

3-D Archery Range: The 3-D Archery Range offers fun and challenging shots at 30 life size 3-dimensional targets. Cost is $7.00 for adults $5.00 for ages 12-16 and free for children under 11. The range is open March 31 thru September 30, 2012, from sunrise to sunset. The range will be free for all who have a valid hunting license on September 22 in recognition of National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Primitive Camping Along Forest Roads: One Group Site and one Shelter Site per area, along with roadside sites. Group Sites (up to 20 persons) must be reserved in advance for $20 per night. Shelter Sites are $15 per night and all other sites are "first come, first served" for $10 per night. Self-registration at camping area. Call Forest Office for reservations.


During the War of 1812, British ships were a common sight on the Potomac River.

In July of 1814, the British began a three-pronged attack with the goal of taking Washington, DC.  The main thrust of the British fleet ascended the nearby Patuxent River and landed forces at Benedict that would eventually fight in the Battle of Bladensburg.  Other ships moved north to raid the upper Chesapeake Bay and confuse and divert American forces.

A third, smaller fleet entered the Potomac River, in part to make the Americans think they planned to invade Washington from the south.  They also wanted to capture Fort Washington and provide a water retreat route from the Nation’s Capital for British land forces.  When the American soldiers at Fort Washington saw the British squadron coming up the Potomac River in August 1814, they blew up and abandoned their garrison.

Three days earlier, they had watched helplessly as the British burned Washington.  But the British ships, led by Capt. James Gordon, passed by and continued to Alexandria. There, Gordon convinced residents to surrender and spent several days looting the city’s public stores and warehouses.  As the squadron sailed back down the Potomac, American troops fired at it from the White House Gun Battery on the grounds of present-day Fort Belvoir.  From September 2-5, fighting between the battery and the British ships escalated, until the American troops were forced to withdraw.


Last updated: December 10, 2020
Potomac Trail