Sideling Hill Creek

Why You Should Visit

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

Before You Go


Two hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., past the Sideling Hill Creek Interpretive Center.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Sideling Hill Creek is one of the most pristine streams in Maryland, which helps support the globally-rare harperella population.  In addition, the occurrence of the rare shale barren communities prioritizes this site as a focus for the Maryland/D.C. Chapter's efforts.

What the Conservancy Is Doing Here

  • 704 acres purchased or under easement by The Nature Conservancy since 1992
  • Annual trail spring cleaning in late April
  • Studying and monitoring the shale barren communities
  • Leasing hayfields to local farmers to demonstrate compatible agricultural practices
  • Preventing sedimentation of stream
  • Removing non-native weeds on the shale barren
  • Monitoring the stream for sediment, pollutants and excess nutrient runoff

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.

Download an Audio Tour

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!


Donnelle Keech is the Resilient 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.

Begin Your Journey
  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

(All files are .mp3 and should download automatically once clicked. If you have trouble downloading, right-click each file and then select "Save")  

  • From Washington's Capital Beltway (I-495), take I-270 North.  Take I-70 West:
  • From Baltimore (I-695), take I-70 West:
  • Follow I-70 West from Frederick to Hancock.  Take I-68 West towards Cumberland.  Exit I-68 at High Germany Road. 

There are two visitor areas within the Conservancy’s Sideling Hill Creek Preserve.

To reach the hiking trails at the Bryant Tract:

  • Turn right at the stop sign. Cross Sideling Hill Creek after just a couple hundred feet (bridge is inconspicuous). 
  • Immediately after crossing the creek, take a sharp right (back-angle) down dirt lane to edge of hay field.
  • Park within the fenced parking area. Please do not block access to dirt lane across the field.

To reach the Yonker Tract:

  • Turn left at the stop sign, and cross over the interstate.
  • Turn left at the next stop sign, and then take the next right onto Swain Road. 
  • Follow for approximately 2 miles, until it takes a bend and enters the woods. 
  • Turn left onto Swain Hollow Road.  Follow for approximately 2 miles to a four-way intersection, turn left. 
  • Parking lot is on the right; this road ends in a ford at Sideling Hill Creek.


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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