Looking for something different to do this weekend? Look no further than the Gold Mine Trail in the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
Apparently, there are several gold mines in the Great Falls area. The largest of these is the Maryland Mine located at the intersection of Falls Road and MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac. During the Civil War, a Union private camping at Great Falls discovered gold-bearing quartz while tending to his chores. After the war he returned to Great Falls and began mining operations that triggered a mini-gold rush to the area. Although the Maryland Mine was active from 1867 until 1939, it yielded less than $200,000 of precious metal. The Falls Road Spur takes you to the ruins of the mine and mine diggings can be seen at several places on the trails.
We stumbled upon this trail one recent weekend. We were able to locate the mine within a few minutes of starting out. Although the mine and the adjacent water tower are behind a chain link fence (albeit one with holes big enough for you to walk through), it is just cool enough to spark the active imaginations children of all ages.
After exploring the mine area for a bit, we followed the trail system down to Berma Road, an old abandoned dirt road that runs above the Widewater portion of the canal. We then headed south on Berma Road toward Old Anglers Inn. Just before the Old Anglers parking area we picked up the singletrack trail again, the trailhead tucked behind a fenced area on the left of Berma Road.
Even on a beautiful weekend, these singletrack trails were relatively empty – used only by dog owners and trail runners. All in all, we meandered for approximately 5 miles – a beautiful way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon!
Getting there: The trailhead is located east of the canal between Old Anglers Inn and Great Falls on the Maryland side. It can be accessed from MacArthur Blvd just before Falls Road.