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I love autumn…the colors, the cooler temperatures, the faint smell of smoke in the air from those lucky neighbors with fireplaces. I would happily forgo all other seasons for sweater-and-boots weather year round. So, each year when the leaves begin to change, I get an itch to spend some time in the woods. This year, we headed out to Deep Creek Lake in the mountains of western Maryland.
Deep Creek Lake
About 2.5 hours southeast of Beaver County, Deep Creek is a man-made lake spanning approximately 3,900 acres and 69 miles of shoreline.
The area surrounding the lake is comprised of a few small towns and has something for every vacationer….those on a budget and those looking to splurge; the curl up by the fireplace with a book set and the rock climbing, hiking, skiing set; couples looking for a romantic getaway and families looking for kid friendly activities. You get the idea – you can’t go wrong no matter what you’re looking for.
Finding the Perfect Place to Stay
I fall pretty solidly in the curl up with a book set, and the real estate in Deep Creek offers the perfect escape for this. My husband and I, along with another couple, booked our cabin rental through VRBO.com, a site with over 1 million listings worldwide.
Finding the perfect place can be a daunting task in and of itself, simply because of the number of rentals available. Planning a family reunion and money is no object? Lake-front chalets with indoor swimming pools and sleeping for 22 are available for $1,500+ a night. And they are beautiful – we spent some time just driving around admiring some of the homes there.
We, however, were looking for a slightly more modest experience. Our lovely three-bedroom cabin was set back in a little wooded community in the town of Swanton, MD. A huge selling point for this listing (and plenty others on the site)? Pet friendly! The dogs needed a vacation, too, right?! The three TVs with cable, wall of DVDs, Xbox, Wi-Fi, pool table, wood-burning stove, fire pit, and outdoor hot tub weren’t too shabby either – all for around $425 per couple for three nights.
Shopping in Deep Creek
So, now that the perfect place to stay has been found, what to do?
When I’m not simply being cozy on vacation, I like to shop. Souvenir shops filled with sweatshirts and tchotchkes? Sign me up. Bear Creek Traders in McHenry is a must see. They have a huge selection of clothing and well-made crafts…Woolrich flannels and socks, ceramics, candles, along with Deep Creek merchandise, are just a few of the things this store has to offer.
My favorite Deep Creek shopping experience, though, is the town of Oakland. About a 20 minute drive from our cabin, Oakland is an adorable little town, filled with coffee shops, antique stores and a fantastic farmer’s market on Saturdays. You do not want to miss the antiques at Cabin Fever Antiques, Englanders or Red House School Antiques. We agreed as a group that we’d have to take a truck the next time we visited.
Don’t forget to stop at the farmer’s market for fresh baked cookies and the best pumpkin bread ever made.
Getting Outdoors in Deep Creek
Deep Creek Lake State Park has an abundance of activities available: boating, swimming, fishing, hunting (in designated areas), mountain biking, and snowmobiling. The Meadow Mountain area of the park offers a number of hiking trails ranging from moderate to difficult, as well as 112 campsites available by reservation. Be sure to plan a stop at the park’s Discovery Center to check out exhibits on western Maryland’s flora and fauna, wildlife, cultural and historical heritage.
Swallow Falls State Park has some breathtaking scenery you won’t want to miss. The Youghiogheny River runs along the park’s border, and a 1 ¼ mile hiking trail will lead you to Muddy Creek Falls – a 53-foot waterfall worth the walk. This park has campsites as well, 65 sites available by reservation.
…and the Big Resort!
While the lake is the predominant attraction for much of the year, Deep Creek is also home to Wisp Resort. During the warmer months, Wisp offers two golf courses: Lodestone and Fantasy Valley. If you’re not a golfer, you can keep busy with the mountain coaster, Segway tours, scenic chairlift rides, climbing and rappelling, or mountain biking.
Prefer to plan your adventures for the winter months? You’re in luck. The Deep Creek area often sees over 100 inches of snow a year, and with 34 slopes over 172 acres, the Wisp Ski Resort has something for all skiers, from novice to expert.
No vacation is stress free, no matter how hard we try. Our car broke down as we were getting gas on the way out of town. Once we repacked the other car, we hit the road and arrived significantly later than originally planned. Our new puppy, Henry, promptly did his business in our cabin, then escaped out the door into black bear territory. Twice. But Saturday morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee and stepped out onto the second floor balcony. Surrounded by bright red trees and total silence, I watched the first snowfall of the season. Perfection.