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Pedaling the Great Allegany Passage with Tracks and Yaks

Posted on 12/22/2023

778 words

 |  4 min. read

Unique Rail Bike Business Leads Guided Tours Along The Western Maryland Railway

Tracks And Yaks Aerial
An aerial view of a railbike riding the tracks in Allegany County.

Established in 2021 by Adam Forshee and his wife, Julie, Tracks and Yaks is an outdoor adventure company combining rail biking and kayaking into guided tours along the Western Maryland Railway. Forshee initially conceived a plan to offer kayak rentals. However, upon noticing the proximity of train tracks to numerous rivers, he was inspired to explore the concept of rail biking—a popular activity in Asia and Europe but still relatively new in the U.S.

Rail bikes are custom-built, pedal-powered vehicles that glide smoothly along railroad tracks. Designed to accommodate groups of varying sizes, these bikes offer both tandem and quad options. The experience is crafted to be easygoing, allowing guests to soak in the natural surroundings and the rich history of the railroad.

“I had been searching for a place to do this, and Allegany County was the first to welcome us,” says Forshee. “We operate in Frostburg and opened a second location earlier this year on the Eastern Shore in Berlin, Maryland.”

Tracks And Yaks Departing Frostburg
A group of railbikers departing the Frostburg Depot.

Offering six different family-friendly excursions during Frostburg's regular season, these journeys range from one and a half to five hours, catering to diverse interests and schedules.

Since its inception, Tracks and Yaks has seen remarkable growth. Forshee and his team contribute significantly to this niche industry, not only through their tours but also by manufacturing and distributing rail bikes in Allegany County. Due to the soaring popularity of this unique activity, Tracks and Yaks has expanded its team to approximately 20 employees, including seasonal staff, to meet the increasing demand. In 2023, they welcomed around 14,000 guests, up from 10,000 in their first year. Starting initially with eight or nine bikes per trip, they have now expanded to 22-24 bikes, and this number is expected to grow as demand increases and operational logistics become more efficient.

While we get locals, visitors still make up most of our customer base

Forshee reflects, "We initially thought this was a one-time activity for most people. We thought we’d have to constantly be advertising because we believed that this was something you’d only do once. But what we’ve found that is really rewarding is the local customers that come multiple times a year and bring other people who are visiting. We really appreciate them.”

Tracks and Yaks has become a significant contributor to Allegany County's tourism, with most of their customers coming from the Pittsburgh and D.C. areas. These visitors often extend their stay, supporting other local businesses.

Tracks And Yaks Railbikers
A group of railbikers enjoying a trip in Allegany County.

“While we get locals, visitors still make up most of our customer base,” says Forshee. “We get about 60 percent from the Pittsburgh area and then another 25-30 percent from the D.C. area. Those visitors make it a day trip to visit us or, more often, a whole weekend out of it, and they support other local businesses when they stay.” 

Looking ahead, Tracks and Yaks continues to maintain its pace of operations and development. They've extended their operating season, now running from April through December, thanks to favorable weather patterns.

Tracks And Yaks Kayakers
A group of kayakers listen to a Tracks and Yaks guide on the bank of a river.

“When we started, we followed the model of some of those first operators were using, which was from Mother’s Day to Halloween, but many of those were in the mountains north of here,” explains Forshee. “So, our first year, we closed on Halloween, but then it was 65 degrees, beautiful and sunny in November, with the phones ringing off the hook. We decided to look at historical weather patterns over the last few years and found that statistically speaking, we could run for longer.”

During the holiday season, weekend rides called the “Sleigh Bell Express” are offered. 

“It’s a seven-mile ride, pretty much all downhill, from Frostburg to Woodcock Hollow Road,” describes Forshee. “And then, when we get to the bottom, we’ll have some hot cocoa and cookies before shuttling back up to Frostburg.”

Tracks And Yaks Young Kayaker
A young kayaker enjoys floating the river with Tracks and Yaks.

Forshee is also planning a new 'Bike and Brunch' excursion, a joint venture with The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. This proposed trip would allow participants to enjoy a train ride from Cumberland, complete with a brunch meal, followed by a return journey on a rail bike.

Additionally, Forshee is focused on enhancing the kayaking aspect of Tracks and Yaks. Since introducing kayak and tubing rentals along the North Branch of the Potomac last June, the aim is to develop this business segment further. 

There’s a lot of potential and opportunity in Allegany County

He hopes that others consider Allegany County for their future businesses.

“There’s a lot of potential and opportunity in Allegany County,” says Forshee. “We have tourism as well as manufacturing and other industries, a good employment base, and great officials to work with and give you that first step forward and advocate for you.”

To learn more about businesses in Allegany County, click here to read our blog

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