The Underground Railroad Experience Trail is a step back in time. Credit: Photo Courtesy of Montgomery Parks

In the 1850s, an enslaved person trying to escape to freedom in the North along the Underground Railroad might have taken cover in the woods, crossed through streams and hidden in cornfields near Sandy Spring, all in the hopes that a loose secret network of locals would help them on their journey. You can glimpse what that trek might have been like on Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park’s Underground Railroad Experience Trail, which marks its 25th anniversary this year. The path begins near the Woodlawn Manor House and historic stone barn, which serves as a museum with exhibitions about the Quaker community and enslaved and free African Americans who lived in the Sandy Spring area in the 18th and 19th centuries. The trail extends about 2 miles through the woods, which, with a little imagination, still look much like they did in the years just before the Civil War. While there’s no evidence that Woodlawn Manor’s owners or its buildings were involved in the Underground Railroad, it’s a powerful experience nonetheless. Pick up a map for a self-guided tour of the trail (available outside the visitors center), or go online to make reservations for a guided hike, offered April through November. Along the way, learn about ways nature might have been used by those fleeing slavery to evade capture. 

Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park trails and grounds are open year-round. The Woodlawn Museum and visitors center are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, April through November. Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (55 and older) and children (6-17), and free for children 5 and under. Guided hikes, recommended for ages 7 and up, are $8 per person and include museum admission. 16501 Norwood Road, Sandy Spring.

This story appears in the March/April issue of Bethesda Magazine.

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