American Chestnut Land Trust offers miles of trail options
Trail in Calvert now features 22 miles
Tucked away in central Calvert County is a network of 22 miles of trails that display some of the best of what nature has to offer. From a series of beaver dams to a trail that takes hikers across a creek with a raft and pulley system, there’s a trail within the American Chestnut Land Trust for all outdoorsy types.
“We’ve got the trail to match the amount of time you have and your availability,” said Greg Bowen, ACLT’s executive director. “There’s a lot of flexibility because we go a lot of different places.”
Many of the miles of trails located near Prince Frederick and Port Republic are in the Parkers Creek watershed, which means there are plenty of water-related features. One such trail runs about 6 miles from the center of the Calvert peninsula, the county seat of Prince Frederick, to the Chesapeake Bay — hence its name, PF2BAY. It’s a challenging route that includes five footbridges and connects to several of ACLT’s other trails. The round trip is 12.2 miles and is estimated to take more than six hours.
The rewards of the hike begin fairly quickly. After departing from the trailhead in a church parking lot and descending a ridge, hikers will see a tributary of Parkers Creek at the first footbridge.
The best time to take the PF2BAY trail is in the fall or winter when there aren’t many leaves on the trees. This will provide the best views of the bay. For those who wish to hike to the bay but don’t want to dedicate an entire day to the excursion, there are three shorter hikes of 7.7 miles, 6.6 miles and 4.5 miles, as detailed in the free trail guides available at each trailhead.
For beginning hikers or families with younger children, ACLT community relations coordinator Pam Shilling recommends the turkey trail, a 1-mile round- trip hike that departs from ACLT’s north side trailhead on Double Oak Road and affords a view of the creek and bay.
For kids who don’t mind one steep hill, there’s also a 1.1-mile round-trip hike to a three-tiered beaver dam, also departing from the north side trailhead. There’s a bridge near the lowest dam and if hikers sit quietly for a while, they can watch the beavers.
“It’s so cool … and completely in your view is a swamp,” Shilling said.
The newest addition to ACLT’s trails is a raft-andpulley system over Parkers Creek. The trail to get there is windy and hilly, Bowen said, but is filled with history. It’s one of the few historic roads in Calvert County the public has access to, and the trail connects the land trust’s two trail systems for the first time ever. Bowen said he can just picture a Model-T Ford following the winding path.
In the 1930s, a storm destroyed the only bridge across Parkers Creek. For years, ACLT sought an earth-friendly way to connect the two shores in addition to connecting its multiple trail systems. It’s a 3-mile round trip to the raft or a 10-mile round trip from ACLT’s headquarters on Double Oak Road in Prince Frederick to the south trail system in Port Republic and back. The 10-mile round trip includes several stream crossings and contains the most difficult portion of trail within ACLT. Experience is highly recommended for the trek down to the southern trailhead.
Accessing the raft via the Parkers Creek Road trail in Prince Frederick rather than the South Side trailhead is also a recommended attraction for families, but Shilling said the younger kids may have a harder time getting there and back and might need some help.
“I’ve hiked for many many years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Tim Dow, an ACLT volunteer, said of the raft across Parkers Creek.
ACLT’s most popular trail is the Parkers Creek loop, which is 3 miles. The raft can be used as a detour on the loop, hikers get to walk along the creek for a long distance and there’s no retracing of steps, since the trail is one of a few loops offered by ACLT. This trail is where ACLT’s annual Earth Day 5K is held.
Another off-the-beatenpath historical site is the Hance-Chesley Cemetery, which is off the swamp trail accessed from the South Side trailhead. This cemetery has headstones dating back to 1812 and can only be accessed by hiking. The cemetery was restored by Calvert Garden Club and ACLT volunteers.
For those who aren’t the hiking type, ACLT still offers myriad activities, including several canoe trips each year. The three-hour trips take visitors up and down Parkers Creek. They can see some of the trails from the water and a variety of wildlife. There’s a portion of land that is only accessed through canoe trips with ACLT, said volunteer and canoe trip guide Connie Willoughby. The next trip is scheduled for Oct. 28.
At the North Side trailhead, there’s a natural play area for children, complete with a canoe sandbox, balance boards and a music area.
There’s also the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture practices at ACLT’s Double Oak Farm, where the North Side trailhead is located. It’s best to call to schedule a tour with a volunteer to experience this side of the land trust. ACLT sustainably farms food and donates 80 percent of it to local food pantries.
There’s a demonstration garden where visitors can learn about Hugelkultur, a drought-resistant practice of making mounds of organic material and planting on top of it, in addition to other practices. ACLT also just started a “food forest,” where different levels of trees are planted ascending upward like building stories, which created a fungal soil environment. This means the land never has to be turned, and it’s a great environment for growing fruit. On one level, berries can be planted, and up from there, pawpaws, pears and nut trees can thrive. It’s a low-maintenance form of farming.
“In the next 20 years, we think we’ll see something fabulous,” Bowen said.
A 2.2-mile stretch of ACLT trail uses a raft and pulley system to allow hikers to cross Parkers Creek.
Autumn Phillips, ACLT’s land manager, walks down a trail toward the new raft crossing over Parkers Creek.