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Garrett County, Maryland Home to Deep Creek Lake & Wisp Resort

Garrett County is Maryland’s western most county. It is the state’s second largest county but is the third least populous. According to the 2020 census, the population was 28,806. Located entirely within the highland zone of the Appalachian Mountains, the highest elevations include Hoye-Crest along Backbone Mountain, the highest point in the state of Maryland.

There are eight incorporated towns in Garrett County: Oakland (county seat), Mountain Lake Park, Loch Lynn, Deer Park, Kitzmiler, Friendsville, Accident, and Grantsville.

Tourism and recreation are key to the local economy. As a four season destination, the area sees in excess of 1.2 million visitors annually. Deep Creek Lake and Wisp Resort are the primary attractions along with the area’s more than 76,000 acres of publicly accessible lands. Conveniently located in the Mid-Atlantic region, an estimated 35 million people are within a 5 hour drive time of the Deep Creek area.

Garrett County Facts

  • Total area of 656 square miles
  • Bordered by Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Allegany County
  • Backbone Mountain is the highest point with an elevation of 3.360 Ft.
  • Typically, temperatures average 5-10 degrees cooler than in the rest of Maryland 
  • Average annual snowfall is about 102 inches
  • Home to Maryland’s largest inland body of water, Deep Creek Lake
  • Muddy Creek Falls is Maryland’s tallest, free-falling waterfall
  • Garrett County within a few hours from many metropolitan areas. Distances include: 
    • Baltimore-177 miles 
    • Washington, DC-161 miles 
    • Pittsburgh-96 miles 
    • Cleveland-255 miles 
    • Philadelphia-282 miles 
    • Richmond-224 miles 
    • New York-355 miles 

Garrett County History

 Garrett County’s first settlement was at the mouth of the Youghiogheny River in the area now known as Friendsville. During the 1800s, the National Pike brought many people through the northern part of the county as they continued west. Some of those travelers stayed, creating the town of Grantsville.

The area known as Garrett County was greatly opened up by the B & O Railroad. The towns of Oakland, Bloomington, and Swanton sprung up at this time. Officially formed in 1872, the county was the last of Maryland’s counties to be created. It was named after John Work Garrett, the president of the B&O Railroad at the time. 

Things to Do In Garrett County

State Parks

Residents and visitors alike value and utilize the area’s numerous state parks. They offer activities throughout the year, and each one has its own unique character.

  • Deep Creek Lake State Park: Made up of more than 1,818 acres. Offers camping, swimming, picnicking, a boat launch, swimming, fishing, hiking, playgrounds, and a nature center with programs led by naturalists. 898 State Park Road Swanton, MD 21561
  • Herrington Manor State Park: Located in Garrett State Forest. Offers a 53-acre lake, swimming, fishing, canoe and kayak rentals, snack bar (summer), and trails for hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing. 222 Herrington Lane Oakland, MD 21550
  • Swallow Falls State Park: 257 acre park known for some of the most beautiful scenery in Maryland. Offers fishing, hiking, and three scenic waterfalls (Muddy Creek, Swallow Falls, Tolliver Falls). 222 Herrington Lane Oakland, MD 21550
  • New Germany State Park: ​​Picturesque 455 acre forestland with a small lake. Offers swimming, non-motorized boating, picnicking, and trails for hiking and cross country skiing (rentals available). 349 Headquarters Lane Grantsville, MD 21536
  • Casselman River Bridge State Park: ​​4 acre park highlighted by the historic Casselman River Bridge. Offers picnicking and fishing. US Route 40 Grantsville, MD 21536
  • Big Run State Park: Located in Savage River State Forest at the northern end of the Savage River Reservoir. Offers canoeing, fishing, and miles of trails for cross country skiing and hiking. 349 Headquarters Lane Grantsville, MD 21536
  • Wolf Den Run State Park: Rugged terrain covering 2,000 acres. Offers hunting, ORV trails, hiking, and fishing. 890 North Hill Rd Kitzmiller, MD 21538
  • Sang Run State Park: Formerly a 77 acre farm. Offers historic sites, nature programs, hiking, fishing, picnicking, and access to the Youghiogheny River. 3735 Sang Run Road McHenry, MD 21541

In addition to the state parks, many towns also have public parks. 

Golf Courses

Garrett County is home to four golf courses, each open to the public:

  • Lodestone – McHenry, MD
  • Fantasy Valley – McHenry, MD
  • Oakland Golf Club – Oakland, MD
  • Thousand Acres Golf Club – Swanton, MD

Indoor Activities

There are many indoor things to do too. Bowling, shopping, a movie theater, arcades, public libraries, museums, live music venues, and ax throwing are just a few of the options. 

Festivals & Events

Festivals and events are also a big part of life in this area. The Autumn Glory Festival is held in October and draws thousands of visitors. Celebrating the vibrant fall colors, it is highlighted by parades, antique and craft shows, a band competition, the Maryland State Banjo and Fiddle Competition, and much more. The Garrett County Agriculture Fair is a summertime favorite. 

Where to Eat in Garrett County

Many restaurants are centered around the lake, but there are many eateries throughout the entire area.

  • Grantsville favorites include Cornucopia Cafe, Penn Alps, The Rooster’s Nest, Katie’s Ice Cream (summer), and Hey Pizza.
  • Accident is home to Nona’s Pizza, The Rolling Pin Bakery, and Firefly Farms Market.
  • In Friendsville, there is Friendsville Public House and Water Street Cafe.
  • Oakland has many offerings including El Canelo’s, Don Patron, Tomanetti’s, The Vagabond Taproom, Shrimp on the Barbie, Dottie’s Soda Fountain and Grill, Third Street Diner, Vintage Cafe, and Heidi’s Bakery and Cafe.

Art & Culture in Garrett County

Painting a vibrant sense of place, this list highlights the local creative spirit along with Garrett County’s heritage. 

Oakland Arts & Entertainment District 

Historic downtown Oakland is the cultural center of the county seat.. 

  • The Gallery Shop – This venue is a space for local visual artists to show and sell their artwork. 
  • Little Yough Summer Music Festival – As the name implies, these free summer concerts are held Friday evenings in July and August at the Mountain Fresh Pavilion. 
  • Oakland is home to three museums: Garrett County Historical Museum, Garrett County Museum of Transportation, and the Oakland B & O Railroad Museum. 
  • Smoke N Mirrors Photography 
  • Our Town Theater – Throughout the year, you can see theatrical experiences produced by community members. 

Grantsville Arts & Entertainment District  

Playing a key role in the nation’s westward expansion, Grantsville’s rich history dates to the late 1700s. 

  • Spruce Forest Artisan Village – Historic cottages house the studios of well-known potters, weavers, painters, sculptors, woodworkers, and more. The artisans are in residence throughout the summer each year, offering demonstrations, workshops, and their work for sale. The scenic surroundings along the Casselman River create a perfect setting. 
  • National Road Festival – Taking place each spring, the full event occurs along 300 miles of the Historic National Road (Route 40) in Pennsylvania and Maryland. It celebrates the first federal road commissioned within the United States which helped to establish settlements from the East to the West. Town-wide events include live music and yard sales. 
  • Casselman River Bridge State Park – Known as much for its man-made history as it is for its natural features, Casselman River Bridge State Park attracts everyone from anglers to history buffs.

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