Located just 18 miles south of our nation’s capital, the Indian Head Rail Trail offers a unique natural outdoor experience, seemingly far removed from urban development and its associated chaotic pace. The trail is the result of the generous gift of an abandoned railroad corridor through the Department of the Interior’s Federal Lands to Parks Program. The line was built in 1918 to transport supplies for the Navy’s Indian Head Powder Factory, founded 28 years earlier as the Navy’s first established presence in southern Maryland.
The 13-mile, paved Indian Head Rail Trail traverses roughly halfway across Charles County, connecting the small towns of Indian Head and White Plains. Cyclists, hikers and nature enthusiasts can experience the surroundings of mature forests, natural wetlands and occasional farmland as they pass through the Mattawoman Creek stream valley and some of southern Maryland’s most scenic and undeveloped natural areas.
Notable wildlife sightings include wild turkey, deer, heron, bald eagle, egret and a variety of waterfowl. Leaving Indian Head, approximately 2 miles out visitors will encounter a spectacular view of the backwaters of Mattawoman Creek as it winds on its course towards the Potomac River. As with any trail that shares such close proximity with a waterway, you’ll pass over numerous bridges. Just be sure you don’t pass the many interpretative signs along the way; take the time to learn more of the region’s history. Or simply kick back on the trailside benches and soak in the scenery. No matter your pace, the Indian Head Rail Trail is bound to delight.
Parking and Trail Access
There is no parking at the Mattingly Avenue trailhead in Indian Head, but there is ample parking across State Route 210 at either the Village Green Town Park or Charlie Wright Park (101 Doctor Mitchell Lane). To access this parking lot, take Indian Head Highway/SR 210 south from Fort Washington, Maryland, turn right onto Lackey Drive and then left onto Doctor Mitchell Lane.
Parking is also available off Bensville Road/SR 229 south of Bensville, on Turkey Hill Road north of Marshall Corner Road and at the southeastern terminus off Theodore Green Boulevard in White Plains.