Proposed Off-Road Vehicle Trail System Expansion

Proposed Off-Road Vehicle Trail System Expansion


In 2013, after a lengthy review process, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed to expand its off-road vehicle (ORV) trail system. After an internal analysis, three new ORV Trails were being considered for possible expansion of the trail system: (1) one ORV Trail in Garrett County on the Savage River State Forest, in the general vicinity of St. John’s Rock-Red Dog Road, (2) two ORV Trails in Washington County, on DNR managed lands on Sideling Hill north and south.

Public Meeting

In accordance with Maryland COMAR, ORV Trail Designation Procedure and Criteria, The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a public meeting on September 4, 2013 at the New Germany State Park Lake House to discuss the management and designation of these new ORV trails. This meeting was a preliminary review to gather public input prior to final designation.

Results of Analysis

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that of the three off-road vehicle (ORV) trails proposed for State-owned lands in Western Maryland, St. John’s Rock in Garrett County on the Savage River State Forest was the single property selected for ORV use. DNR made the decision based on comments gathered during the public input period this summer/fall. Read more.


The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the management of approximately 450,000 acres of public land distributed throughout the State. These lands have traditionally been used for a wide array of recreational activities including hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, boating and nature appreciation. However, in recent times, the Department has seen an increasing demand for diversified activities such as geocache, mountain biking and off road vehicle (ORV) trails. Of particular interest is the request for designated ORV trails. In the mid-1980s a number of ORV trails were developed within the western region’s State Forests. Three trails were particularly popular with the general public and experienced an ever-increasing demand. Unfortunately, some of these trails were located in environmentally sensitive areas and had to be closed in 2011. The Green Ridge State Forest ORV trail, Chandler trail and Poplar Lick trail included approximately 36 miles of ORV trail and remain closed today. As a result, the Department undertook a comprehensive review of its various landholdings to assess the probability of developing other sustainable areas for ORV trail development.

Criteria for Assessing Suitability for ORV Trails

The three sites were identified as the result of a two-year process of systematically reviewing all DNR lands for suitable ORV locations. In addition, the Department participated with an ORV stakeholder workgroup in identifying potential private land locations for other ORV trails. The most highly ranked sites were then selected for closer review by an internal team of DNR resource managers.

A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) model was used to filter and select potentially suitable locations to host new ORV trails. Areas were rated based on soil suitability, avoidance of Maryland Historical Trust sites, human populations, conservation areas, and sensitive watersheds.

ORV Proposal Descriptions

The descriptions below describe the trail locations in general. Additional details for these trails will be determined during the design and construction process. Architectural and engineering firms will be solicited for the final design and construction of these trails.

St Johns Rock

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This proposed site was selected to be suitable for all types of ORVs (licensed 4WD, dirt bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles). Restrictions are being proposed to maintain the long-term sustainability of the trail. The trail would be open from early February through mid-April then again from mid-May to early September with periodic closures due to unsuitable weather and occasional forest harvest operations. Trails would be closed for recreational ORV use during weekdays and Saturdays throughout the Fall and Winter hunting seasons. Limited Sunday openings for ORV’s will be offered year-round and subject to trail conditions. L however licensed (street legal) 4WD vehicles will be able to access the trail during designated hunting seasons. A maximum of 20 permits/users per day will be allowed on the trail. Daily reservations will be made through on an online reservation system with DNR.

Trail Length: The St. Johns Rock site would consist of a minimum of fourteenseven miles of round-trip trail. Note that the majority of this mileage already exists as public-access road on this site. Prior to final design and construction, the Trail will be opened for 4 to 5 scheduled Trail Evaluation rides on Sundays in October and November 2013.

A camping loop will be located near the parking area.

Sideling Hill North

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This 450- acre property is located in western Washington County on the western and eastern slope of Sideling Hill Mountain. The property is bordered to the north by Interstate 68 and the “Sideling Hill Cut” offering a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Defining the western boundary is U.S. Route 40 and Stump Road, a small county-maintained road. Access to the property is obtained by a small dirt road located on the western side of the management area adjacent to U.S. Route 40.

An assessment of the property was conducted during the summer and fall of 2012 to determine suitability of the site. All existing trails and logging roads were evaluated for potential ORV use. Just prior to State acquisition in the early 90’s a large portion of the property was clear-cut and a network of logging roads were constructed to facilitate the removal of timber. All of these former roads are limited to the western slopes of Sideling Hill. Most of the site is gently sloping to steep sloping land, with an Oak-Hickory forest composing the entire site. A small power line traverses the middle of the property in an east to west direction. There are several small openings along the Sideling Hill ridge top, which are maintained by WHS personal as wildlife openings.

The Sideling Hill North site would add approximately sixteen miles of round-trip ORV trail to the DNR system.

Sideling Hill South

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The Sideling Hill South trail would add approximately eight miles to the trail system and consists of a similar network of roads on the south side of Route 40.

In the fall of 2012 an assessment of the Sideling Hill South was completed to determine the possible use for off road vehicles. This area is located on the eastern slope of Sideling Hill, east of Riser Road. The slope of this area varies from near zero to approximately 18 percent. The assessment area is generally rocky with poor soils. Oak-hickory forests dominate the area. Access to the property is made from Riser Road at the intersection of Route 40.

The proposed trail currently is old logging roads with some existing road and trail beds. This area features numerous intermittent streams and springs crossing the existing old logging roads and trail beds. These trails have not been maintained and as a result are overgrown with vegetation, woody shrubs and trees. This proposal includes existing trail connections with several loops. Other sections will require construction of new trail segments.

The recent assessment identified approximately sixteen miles of round-trip trail for use. This area is currently open for hunting, wildlife watching, hiking and other outdoor recreational activities.