The 10 best hiking trails near Deep Creek Lake

Regardless of how much of a hiker you are, Deep Creek Lake is absolutely worth a visit on your next trip to Maryland. You can’t get too much fresh air, and there are few places better to see the great outdoors than the largest lake park in the entire state. But if you want to get the most out of your visit, you’ll definitely want to bring your hiking boots.

Hiking provides the best backdrop for the colorful changing leaves of sugar maple, red maple, and black gum trees. Here are our picks for Deep Creek Lake hiking trails you should give a try, as well as a few standouts from nearby parks.

a colorful stack of canoes on the bank of Deep Creek Lake

Deep Creek Lake State Park

1. Snakeroot Nature Trail

Length: .25 miles, loop
Difficulty: Easy

The shortest, quickest trail on this list, the Snakeroot Nature Trail is self guided, though those in search of expert guidance needn’t worry, as brochures on identifying trees and wildlife are easily available. This easy trail is great for a warm-up hike or short bike ride. It’s definitely worth checking out, but if you only have time for one quick warm-up hike, check out Beckman’s Trail (and specifically the Brant Mine Trail loop) instead. It’s only a little bit longer but has far more interesting sights to see on the way.

2. Beckman’s Trail

Length: 1.7 miles, loop
Difficulty: Moderate

Beckman’s Trail has the perfect balance of challenge and accessibility that makes it great for more experienced hikers or mountain bikers. The trail starts out nice and easy before hitting a moderate incline. When you finish climbing, you’ll be rewarded with a serene natural rock garden where you can catch your breath before heading towards the more technical parts of the trail.

But it’s not the beginning of Beckman’s Trail that makes it a great vehicle for bursting orange and crimson leaves—it’s the end. The trail links up with the Meadow Mountain Trail, the Indian Turnip Trail, and the Brant Mine Trail, which combines gorgeous foliage with history at the Brant Coal Mine and Homesite.

3. Meadow Mountain Trail

Length: 3.9 miles, loop
Difficulty: Moderate

Meadow Mountain is one of the more popular Deep Creek Lake hiking trails—and considering its relatively long length, that speaks volumes about the beauty you’ll find along the way. You can pick it up from the rockier Beckman’s Trail, or start from the entrance by the parking lot. The trail is fairly relaxing, with less scrambling on rocky surfaces than other hikes.

The trail is accessible year-round, but there are two times of the year in particular you should plan your visit. Autumn is an easy choice thanks to the colorful changing leaves, but abundant wildflower blooms make spring a nice time to stop by, too. You don’t have to go at it alone, either—as long as they’re leashed, your canine companions can explore the trail with you!

4. Indian Turnip Trail

Length: 4 miles, loop
Difficulty: Challenging

The most difficult trail at Deep Creek Lake, the Indian Turnip Trail has more than enough lovely sights and satisfying experiences to justify the challenge. You can start this hike back at the parking lot, or pick it up from Beckman’s Trail. Indian Turnip brings more tricky rocky terrain, along with a few steep inclines. However, it’s quite well paced, with downhill sections to balance out the uphill marches.

You’ve got plenty to admire as you walk, with intermittent rock gardens and mossy stones lining the trail, shaded by branches covered in colorful leaves. If you’re brave and qualified enough, you can take in the scenery in style on a mountain bike, but the rocky terrain and steep hills make biking not a great option for beginners.

View of the Potomac River from the top of a hill

View of the Potomac River

Potomac-Garrett State Forest

5. Lostland Run Trail

Length: 7.4 miles, loop
Difficulty: Moderate

Tucked away in the nearby Potomac-Garrett State Forest, Lostland Run is well worth the trip from Deep Creek Lake. This seven-mile hike takes around four hours, but what you’ll see along the way more than make up for the distance. Along with gorgeous foliage, the trail runs alongside the Lostland Run creek, providing the relaxing sound of rushing water as you get closer to the marquee views at the top. Whether you’re here for the breathtaking Cascade Falls or the river and mountain views atop the Potomac Overlook, it’s a hike you’ll look back on fondly.

time lapse photo of Muddy Creek Falls

Muddy Creek Falls

Swallow Falls State Park

6. Swallow Falls State Park Loop

Length: 1 mile, loop
Difficulty: Easy

The sole trail from Swallow Falls on this list is a nice, breezy romp. Your path follows the Youghiogheny River until you reach the majestic Muddy Creek Falls, before looping back through some woodlands. The path is lined with rocky outcroppings with rhododendron and mountain laurel blooms. With the sounds of the rushing river, it’s a powerful sensory experience. If you’d like to see even more waterfalls—and add a little length to the hike—you can take a side path to reach Tolliver Falls. The small but gorgeous falls (and short and simple trail) are a nice option if you want to avoid crowds.

New Germany State Park

7. New Germany Trail Loop

Length: 5.6 miles, loop
Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re looking for a more challenging waterside hike, the New Germany Trail Loop is perfect for your next trip to the Deep Creek Lake area. Nearly six miles in length and with some steep inclines, the path is definitely not for the faint of heart. But there are rich rewards for your efforts. The trail has a peaceful atmosphere, partially due to the sounds of rushing water from the creek, and partially from the shade of the foliage and trees densely lining the trail. Colorful leaves gently rustling above aren’t the only things to watch for, either—bird watchers love spotting local species and listening to their cries mix with the gentle babble of the creek.

8. Poplar Lick Trail

Length: 5 miles, out and back
Difficulty: Moderate

The Poplar Lick Trail starts in New Germany State Park and takes visitors all the way to the majestic Savage River before it’s time to head back. While a total round-trip length of 10 miles can be intimidating, the trail is mostly gentle and accommodating, save for a few steep inclines. The scenery is lovely too, with leaves bursting with color in autumn and wildflower blooms in the summertime. There are also several gorgeous creeks and streams, but be warned that not all of them have bridges for crossing—you might need to get your feet wet to see the hike through to the end!

the Savage River in Maryland on a sunny fall day

Savage River

Savage River State Forest

9. Monroe Run Trail

Length: 5 miles, out and back
Difficulty: Challenging

Both of the paths in Savage River State Forest are on the harder side, but the Monroe Run Trail is a little more accessible thanks to its relatively short length. There are multiple ways to approach Monroe Run, but we recommend starting at the New Germany Road opening. This lets the first leg of the hike culminate in the Savage River Reservoir, and lets you get most of the tricky inclines out of the way early. You don’t want to end such a fantastic hike with a difficult uphill slog!

10. Big Savage Mountain Trail

Length: 17 miles, out and back
Difficulty: Very challenging

The Big Savage Mountain Trail is, without a doubt, the hardest trail in the Deep Creek Lake area. It’s so difficult that the park asks visitors to call their office to let them know they’re trying the trail beforehand, in case they wind up needing help. If you’re not absolutely confident in your skills as a hiker, you should stick to the other trails on this list—you have plenty of ways to enjoy similar heavily forested paths under brilliant autumn canopies without the steep inclines and grueling length of the Big Savage Mountain Trail.

On the other hand, if you’re a veteran hiker in search of a challenge—and one-of-a-kind views—this trail on the crest of Big Savage Mountain is worth another look. The triumph of conquering the inclines by the reservoir and long paths is its own reward, and when you reach the stunning views of the Allegheny Plateau, you’re sure to bring back some incredible photos.

Honorable Mention

Wisp Resort Guided Hikes

Located a short distance northeast of the Fork Run area, Wisp Resort doesn’t offer the same breadth of opportunities for enjoying the changing foliage as many parks on this list. But that hardly means the eight miles of amazing trails it does offer aren’t worth a visit! The resort offers guided hikes in the summer and fall (with lunch or snacks included), while winter snows turn those same trails into thrilling ski and snowboarding slopes.

The fresh air, fall colors, and stirring natural beauty of Maryland are waiting for you—you simply have to get out there and explore for yourself. Whether you pick one of our recommendations or find a hidden gem of your own, you won’t regret your time on Deep Creek Lake’s fantastic hiking trails!

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Images courtesy of Famartin, Paul Waldo, and Joey.beall.