Places We Protect

Sideling Hill Creek

Maryland / DC

A wide, shallow creek curves between two heavily forested banks. The trees show autumn colors of red and gold. The water ripples over small rocks in the center of the creek.
Sideling Hill Creek One of Maryland's healthiest stream systems. © Harold E. Malde

Explore one of Maryland's healthiest stream systems



COVID-19 Update (November 1, 2021)

TNC’s public preserves in Maryland remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Maryland Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.

Originating from the southwestern mountains of Pennsylvania, Sideling Hill Creek tumbles its way down the steep, forested, shale cliffs of western Maryland before it finally spills into the Potomac River. 

The Sideling Hill watershed is about 80% forest cover and is incredibly intact.  The area is sparsely populated, and this isolation has allowed Sideling Hill Creek to have supremely high water quality and healthy aquatic communities. 

What TNC Is Doing Here

Management includes annual trail spring cleaning, studying and monitoring the shale barren communities, removing non-native weeds on the shale barren, and monitoring the stream for sediment, pollutants and excess nutrient runoff. 

In 2019 TNC conducted a 55-acre controlled burn at the preserve, aimed at helping a variety of fire-adapted native tree and plant species, including Table Mountain pine (which needs fire to regenerate), pitch pine, oak trees, blueberries, huckleberries, and many native wildflowers. The chapter's fire team was joined by partners from Maryland DNR Forest Service, Maryland DNR Heritage, the US Forest Service and others. 

The burn also offered a unique opportunity to connect the local community to our fire work. TNC hosted a viewing station at the Oak Barrel Café—located directly opposite the burn unit—to give local residents and visitors a better look at this critically important conservation practice. 



Dogs are not allowed at this preserve.


704 acres

Explore our work in Maryland/DC

The preserve has several trails so visitors can explore the variety of species and natural communities that exist at Sideling Hill Creek.  

What to See: Plants

  • The world's healthiest population of the globally-rare aquatic wildflower, harperella.
  • Twelve rare, endemic (occurring only on the shale barrens and nowhere else) plants including the nationally-endangered evening primrose, shale ragwort, and Kate's mountain clover.

What to See: Animals

  • Olympian marble butterfly, green floater mussel, tiger beetle
  • Wild turkey, hawks, and bobcat.

Know Before You Go

Passive recreation such as walking, bird watching, and photography is welcomed.  To protect the health of our preserves for generations to come, and to ensure the safety of all visitors, the following activities are not allowed:

  • Picking flowers, mushrooms, etc.; removing rocks or other parts of the landscape
  • Smoking
  • Camping, fires or cookouts
  • Driving motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, except on designated access roads
  • Biking
  • Fishing, trapping, or hunting, except as otherwise posted
  • Bringing dogs onto the preserve
  • Horseback riding
  • Feeding wildlife
  • Releasing animals or introducing plants
  • Disposing of trash or other waste, including biodegradable materials

In addition, in order to minimize the impact visitors have on the preserve, we ask that you please:

  • Use trails
  • Avoid walking in wet, boggy areas
  • Inspect pant legs and shoes to remove seeds before entering and when leaving the preserve. Failure to do so could introduce unwanted weeds to new locations.
  • If you flush a ground nesting bird - stop and avoid walking near the nest area
  • Observe all posted signs
  • Please do not remove stakes, signs, flagging, tape or other objects - they might be part of a research project
  • Please do not trespass on private property adjacent to the preserve

Planning a visit to Sideling Hill Creek? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket!

During your audio tour, the Conservancy's Donnelle Keech takes hikers around the trail to see shale barrens, experience native forest types, and forge the stream - if you dare!

  • Step 1: Download the Sideline Hill Creek audio tour maps (Bryant Tract, stops 1-13 and Yonker Tract, stops 14-16). These maps will help identify which audio tracks to play based on your location on the trail, so make sure to take a copy with you on your trip.

  • Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests! 


Donnelle Keech is the Healthy Forests Program director, leading the chapter’s efforts in western Maryland, applying the scientific knowledge and tools needed to improve forest health on public and private lands, as well as working with local stakeholders to promote Maryland’s forests as part of a bright and prosperous future for the region. She lives and works in Cumberland, MD where she and her husband enjoy juggling two environmental careers and parenting two sons.


  1. Trail Head
  2. About Sideling Hill Creek
  3. Across the Street - Creek Side
  4. Sideling Hill Creek Watershed
  5. First of Many Hills
  6. The Bend
  7. Berries
  8. Mitnick Memorial Statue
  9. Box Turtle
  10. Ephemeral Stream
  11. Shale
  12. Lowland Footbridge over Oxbow
  13. End of Loop Trail
  14. Yonker Tract Conservation Easement
  15. Sideling Hill Creek Ford
  16. Feeling Adventurous - Crossing the Creek

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