Backbone Mountain


Backbone Mountain is part of the Allegheny Range and lies within the Appalachian Plateau. It is about 44 miles long-- 31 miles in Garrett County in Western Maryland, and 13 miles in West Virginia, split among Grant, Tucker and Preston counties. The Eastern Continental Divide runs along its crest-- the eastern slope draining into the Potomac River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the western slope draining into the Youghiogheny River, then into the Mississippi River and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. Hoye Crest, on the south end of Backbone Mountain, is the highest point in Maryland at an elevation of 3,360 feet. The mountain has three known caves, one of which is Crabtree Cave, the largest cave in Maryland. The entrance is at the north end of the mountain just west of the Savage River Dam. The entrance to Old Salamander Cave, a small cave, is one-fourth of a mile east of Crabtree Cave. Sand Cave is southwest of Kelso Gap on the east side of the mountain.

Over four thousand years ago Indians hunted in the area. By the mid-eighteenth century there were permanent trails crossing the mountains, most following the buffalo traces. One trail, later named Glades Path, crossed over Backbone Mountain at Castle Hill and intersected with two other trails on the western side. The Great Warrior Path (later known as McCullough's Pack Horse Path-- the oldest trail in Garrett County) crossed the mountain north of Allegheny Heights. The Northwestern Trail crossed Backbone Mountain at Table Rock.

Although Indians did not permanently settle in the area or on the mountain, they camped there during the summers. The earliest Indians are called the Mound Builders. Other tribes were the Delawares (Lenapes), Shawnees, Iroquois, Senecas and the Mingoes. Mason Camp was near the Great Warrior Trail on the southwest end of Backbone Mountain and there were Indian camps along Cherry Creek near the foot of the mountain. Arrowheads, flint chips and a bone instrument have been found near the entrance of Sand Cave.