Geology Field Trip

Hancock, Maryland Field Trip
Sideling Hill

Sideling Hill Exhibit Center

The Sideling Hill Exhibit Center is located on Interstate 68, six miles west of Hancock, in Western Maryland. Parking lots are located on both sides of the highway. A 210-foot long pedestrian bridge that was named after State Senator Victor Cushwa, connects the center with the parking lot on the eastbound side, and offers a unique perspective on this spectacular site.

Visitors to the Exhibit Center will have the opportunity to stop and enjoy an extended view of the spectacular cut, and to learn more about the entire Western Maryland region, itís geology and itís history.

The four-story center features interpretive exhibits, storyboards, and other displays. Helpful staff is on hand to answer questions, or visitors can take self-guided tours through the center. There is a movie in the auditorium for the public, and it is also available as a learning classroom for the students. For further information on this feature, call 301-842-2155.

In addition, Maryland travel information and brochures for other Western Maryland destinations are available at the center. The facility is equipped with rest rooms that are open 24 hours and are fully accessible to persons with impaired mobility. The center is open 8:30 to 5:00 from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and 9:00 to 5:00 from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Take Rt. 522 North from Winchester, through Berkley Springs to Hancock. After crossing the river, bear left Ė west toward Cumberland onto I-68 west and divided. Almost immediately you should see the road cut ahead. Travel about 6 miles. You will get off to the right at the parking area where there is a small museum and display area. You can walk out and view the cut. Spectacular! You can drive on west until you reach a crossover to return to Hancock. Happy Trails! Estimated time for the trip is 4-5 hours.

You can travel Ĺ mile west to High Germany Swain Road Exit 72, to get back on I-70 East. This would take you back to 522 or to Exit 82-A for Hancock, where there are several good restaurants.

Sideling Hill is one of the best rock exposures in the Northeastern United States. The cut reveals a 350 million year old section of rock which was folded by a massive compression of the earthís crust some 245 million years ago, leading to the cutís distinctive ďUĒ shaped fold which is called a syncline. The section is composed of tan, gray-green to dark green shale, sandstone and siltstone, and is topped by ridge-forming resistant sandstone. Thin layers of coal are intermixed with the shale and siltstone. Marine fossils found in sections of shale indicate that the area was beneath a shallow sea at one time, and plant fossils in other shale beds indicate a swamp environment at a later time.

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