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  • Writer's pictureLaura Scharle

Outdoor Adventures in the Pocomoke State Forest

This article was originally written by Laura Scharle (Creator of Delmarva Trails & Waterways) for the Chesapeake Conservancy's website, FindYourChesapeake.com. That site is no longer live and its content is supposed to be migrated to the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office website, but until that happens, you can read the full article here.


sign showing a mountian biking trail in the pocomoke state forest

There aren’t many spots on the Eastern shore where you can hike, paddle, camp in the backcountry, and go mountain biking all in the same day. But if your goal is to get off the beaten path for an adventurous day in the great outdoors, the Pocomoke State Forest has it all. 


If you’re not sure exactly where the Pocomoke State Forest is located, pull up Google Earth and you’ll notice large patches of green on the lower shore of Maryland. That’s the state forest. You’ll also notice a long, squiggly line of green which marks the Pocomoke River, a spectacular wildlife corridor that runs the entire length of Worcester County. 


Hiking


trail marker showing a trail intersection in the pocomoke state forest

Unbeknownst to even some locals, the Pocomoke State Forest has miles and miles of multi-use trails. Trails vary in length, from the simple, 0.6-mile Pusey Branch Trail, to the 12-mile Algonquin Cross Country Trail, which travels through both the Pocomoke State Forest and the Chesapeake Forest Lands. Terrain on the Eastern shore is fairly flat and sandy, so all hiking trails are rated as easy.


One of the more heavily-trafficked trails (and when I say that, I mean, you might see one other person!) is the Milburn Landing trail. This is a 3.3-mile loop that is well maintained and well marked with mileage signs, and also sprinkled with a few benches. A portion of the trail also coincides with the Algonquin trail. One of the reasons this trail gets a little more foot traffic is because it links up with Pocomoke River State Park’s Milburn Landing, so a quick detour from the trail will bring you to views of the river and public restrooms.


If you’re looking to log even more miles, you’ll definitely want to check out the orange trail (4-mile loop) or the green trail (3.6 mile loop). Both of these trails are great for wildlife sightings like black rat snakes, prothonotary warblers, eastern box turtles, and wild turkeys, and in the spring, wildflowers can sometimes be spotted along the sides of the trail.


Bringing children on a hike through the Pocomoke State Forest is also an adventure, but the shorter trails are typically your best bet. The yellow trail (1.8-mile loop) makes for a leisurely stroll through the woods, and it also shares a parking lot with Furnace Town Historic Site, which is a hidden gem of a living history museum. The Pusey Branch Trail is also a nice, short loop (0.6-miles) with lots of tree identification signs.


As you begin to explore different trails throughout the state forest, you may start to notice areas of different forest age - some sections with very young trees, and others with large, mature trees - all a result of different forestry techniques. Some areas have been maintained with controlled burns and others have trees that have clearly been planted in a pattern. To learn more about forest management in Maryland, check out the Maryland Forest Service.


While you’re hiking, keep in mind that these trails are multi-use trails. It’s not uncommon to see people on horseback or bikes too! Bikes should always yield to horses and hikers, and hikers should also yield to horses.


Paddling


a kayak launch along the shores of the pocomoke river within the pocomoke state forest

If you were to conduct an online search for paddling near the Pocomoke, you’d find tons of information about paddling Corker’s Creek, part of Pocomoke River State Park’s Shad Landing, and Nassawango Creek Preserve, park of a preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy. But the Pocomoke State Forest also has a beautiful place to launch called the Mattaponi soft launch. This spot offers great access to paddle the river, but it’s also a tranquil spot to have a picnic or just enjoy a moment of peace, miles away from civilization.


Camping


a fire ring, picnic table, and pile of firewood in an empty campsite within the pocomoke state forest

Just a stone’s throw from the Mattaponi soft launch area you’ll find 3 backcountry campsites and a group campsite around the Mattaponi ponds. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table, but that’s about it for amenities. You will not find restrooms or running water so practicing Leave No Trace ethics is a must. While the group site is pretty close to the parking area, the remaining backcountry campsites will require campers to hike at least a half mile. Reservations for the Mattaponi ponds campsites can be made by calling Pocomoke River State Park.


Although the soft launch on the Pocomoke River is not far, there is easy access to launch in one of the ponds. Paddling in the pond would be a great alternative if it’s a windy day on the river.


Mountain Biking


a bike on a boardwalk going over a creek in the pocomoke state forest

The terms “eastern shore” and “mountain biking” don’t seem to go together, seeing as the shore has mostly flat terrain, but the Pocomoke State Forest boasts over 8 excellent miles of beginner, single-track mountain biking trails. To access these trails, there are several parking areas right along Route 113, but they can be hard to find as they’re not well marked. The easiest place to park is at the trailhead along Blades Road, as there’s hardly any traffic and the parking area is well marked. 


These trails also permit hikers and horses, so if you’re not keen on mountain biking, you can still enjoy a great trail system.


Parking and entry is free in all areas of the state forest. Camping is the only activity that requires a fee and a reservation. Leashed pets are also welcome on all trails. It’s important to note that hunting is permitted during designated seasons throughout the state forest. It’s advisable to avoid visiting the state forest during deer seasons, specifically firearm and muzzleloader seasons which typically occur during select weeks in the fall and winter. Learn more about hunting seasons here.


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