Sideling Hill Visitor's Center
The Sideling Hill VIsitor's center is located 33 miles west of Hagerstown, and 6 miles west of Hancock on Interstate 68. It is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., except for major holidays. Restrooms are available 24 hours a day.
School or group tours of the center to explain the basic geology of the area can be made by calling 301-842-2155. While there is no cost for the tour, there is a small reservation fee.
There is a small building with drinks and snacks in vending machines
The main building also has brochures of various Maryland tourist attractions.
There is also a lot of interpretive material on the geology of the mountain.
The top picture shows the walkway up to the mountainside from the visitor's center.
If you come east on this road, there's no crossover for cars to come into the visitor's center, which is on the westbound side. So the eastbound cars park and walk on the walkway across the highway. This picture shows the walkway from the car park on the westbound side. A walk over the pedestrian bridge offers good photo opportunities from the middle of the bridge, as well as from the opposite side, south of the road. From this bridge you come in on the second level of the visitor's center or you can just go up on the walkway along the face of the cut.
This is a recreation of the various layers of rock and sediment in the hill with explanations of what each one means. You can see where the layers have been folded down onto each other.
A noticeable feature when you look at the exposure is the ever-present water flowing from the sides of the hill. Two water-bearing zones, called aquifers, were intercepted by the excavation of the mountain. As the aquifers leak, the evaporating water causes iron oxide, or rust, to be deposited along the sides of the rocks. During the winter months, a beautiful ice cascade can be seen as the flowing water freezes.
If weather permits, take a walk outside up the fenced walkway, to view the cut up close. Several geologic wayside stations help you interpret what you see.
Looking down on the parking lot from the second story of the visitor's center. There are those pay per view binoculars there.
Sideling Hill Visitor Center is on Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area's (WMA) 3,000-acres of mixed oak-hickory forest that straddles Sideling Hill Creek. This is a prime location for wildlife, especially in the spring when the wildflowers of the forest floor and the mountain laurel bloom.
Looking east from the visitor's center you see lines of mountains. These are the mountains that the folks are looking at through the binoculars.
The four story exibit center features interpretive displays, an orientation program, and tourism information. It is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources State Forest and Park Service, in cooperation with the Maryland Geological Survey, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Office of Tourism Development.
These models in the visitor's center and outside the window show the various mountains as you see them. The outside model is exactly like what you see farther on, and the inside model has the labels of the various mountains and hills.
Sideling Hill has been a formidable obstacle to travel since the earliest days when settlers were moving west. Travelers formerly crossed the mountain about two miles to the south on U.S. 40. A new route to the west was needed to meet interstate standards and construction of the road cut began in 1983. Excavation of ten million tons of rock were later used as fill to construct the inclined road grades leading up to the cut from the east and west.
This is a really fun game to do with the history of the area. The top line has dates, the second line has modes of transportation, the third line has road types and the fourth line has tools. You punch one button from each row, and if you get it right, a red lights go on on the model behind the question board which show the route that would have been taken in that time frame.
The dates are 1440, 1776, 1840, 1860, 1920,1935, and 1990
Some of them are really easy. .
1400 the vehicle is the mocassin, the road is a trail, and the tool is stone axe.
The other vehicles after moccasin in order from left to right are Model T, barge, 1935 auto, modern car, locomotive and horse and wagon.
The roads in left to right order are dirt road, interstate highway, railroad, trail, cordoroy road, canal and old road
The tools in left to right order are sledge hammer (for the railroad) steel axe, lock, earth mover, explosives, stone axe and shovels.