Did you know the U.S. government started building highways way back in 1811? The National Road, meant to encourage settlement in the West, is also a great route for an RV camping vacation. Filled with historic sites, scenic vistas and friendly RV campgrounds, this route’s custom-made for RV travelers who want to know more about American history.
Today’s post covers the Historic National Road’s farthest eastern leg, through Maryland and Pennsylvania. Let’s start our journey in Baltimore, where the Bank Road was completed in 1820 to connect the National Road with the port at Baltimore. Maryland RV camping fans already know that Baltimore is filled with places of interest to the whole family, but let’s focus on area attractions along this important trade route.
- New Market Maryland has been a trade center since the 1700s, and is now known as the antiques capital of the state. Stop by the New Market General Store, first opened in 1881 to serve westward travelers on the “National Pike” and plan time to enjoy the surrounding antiques district, too. From Baltimore, follow Rte-144 (Old National Pike) west to New Market.
- Frederick County, Maryland just west of New Market on US-40 (part of the Historic National Road) is home to dozens of historic sites and glorious Catoctin Mountain scenery. Slow down the pace and travel north twenty minutes on the Catoctin Mountain Highway to explore 18th and 19th century history at the Utica Mills Covered Bridge and Catoctin Furnace/Cunningham Falls State Park.
- Addison, the first National Road village in Pennsylvania, will delight history lovers with its early 19th century homes, shops and a nicely-preserved 1835 toll house. Follow US-40/Baltimore Pike west from Frederick, MD to reach historic Addison.
- Fort Necessity Battlefield is just one of nearly two dozen historic sites along the National Road in Pennsylvania. Scene of the first battle of the French and Indian War, the battlefield park offers RV travelers 900 acres of historic interest, including an interpretive center, a fort and tavern, and plenty of interesting trails to explore.
- Ohiopyle State Park beckons travelers ready to relax in the great outdoors. A twenty-thousand-acre Pennsylvania wonderland, this state park on the National Road is home to stunningly beautiful Youghiogheny River Gorge, a favorite with whitewater rafters. Plan time to explore the Ferncliff Peninsula, where the variety of wildlife and plant species will keep your cameras clicking.
- Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania’s longest cave, will delight the entire family with cave tours, “kavernputt” mini-golf and excellent views from atop Chestnut Ridge. You’ll find this popular attraction just south of the National Road near Uniontown. A bonus site near Uniontown-Hopwood, PA, where historic homes and taverns give a feel for how life would have been lived when the National Road first opened.
Our sample here doesn’t scratch the surface of the attractions to be found while RV camping along the Historic National Road in Maryland and Pennsylvania. With a little planning, your own RV trip along the road that opened the West will become part of your family’s treasured history.