Maryland has an incredible bounty of diverse, beautiful parks that range from the Appalachian Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore marshlands and the Atlantic Ocean. Most of parks are easily accessible from towns and cities, providing plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, from hiking and biking to boating and fishing. Many parks include lakes or rivers with swimming beaches, campgrounds and kids’ playgrounds.
© Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
Assateague Island, is a 37-mile long barrier island located off the eastern coast of the Delmarva Peninsula shared between Maryland and Virginia, is 48,000 acres of unique, wonderfully preserved coastal wilderness. A short drive from major metropolitan centers, the island is a popular destination for a quiet weekend of relaxation or exploring an environment mostly left untouched by humans. Assateague is world-known for its wild ponies that roam the wide stretches of beach, and the island is also world of wide bays, lush marshes, secluded coves, and spectacular beaches. It’s a great destination if you feel the need for a bit of solitude surrounded by magnificent nature, or if you want to go kayaking, hiking, crabbing, clamming, swimming or just wading in the shallows.
Assateague Island, Maryland
2.Calvert Cliffs State Park
Calvert Cliffs State Park is a day-use public recreation area in Lusby, Calvert County, Maryland. The park was developed to protect 24 miles of cliffs on the eastern side of the Calvert Peninsula on Chesapeake Bay, extending from Chesapeake Beach to Drum Point. The cliffs were formed almost 20 million years ago when most of Maryland was covered by a shallow sea. Eventually, the sea receded and exposed the cliffs, which slowly began to erode. The park is a popular place for people who enjoy spending their day on the sandy beach, hunting for unique fossils, playing in the recycled tire playground, exploring a freshwater and tidal marshland, fishing, and hiking.
10540 H G Trueman Rd, Lusby, MD 20657, Phone: 443-975-4360
3.Catoctin Mountain Park
© Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
Catoctin Mountain Park is located in north-central Maryland in the forested Catoctin Mountain Ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains System. The eight-square-mile park has 25 miles of hiking trails that run along sparkling streams, taking you near to the remnants of old farms, an abandoned moonshine still, a sawmill, and through lush forest, allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views of the Monocacy Valley. In the winter, the park is popular for cross-country skiing and in the summer for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and orienteering. Park rangers organize a range of activities out of the Owens Creek Campground Amphitheater.
14707 Park Central Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788, Phone: 301-663-9388
4.Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park
© Country Gate Prod./stock.adobe.com
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is located near Hagerstown, in the District of Columbia and was established in 1961 to preserve the remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal along with its original structures. The 184.5-mile long canal and the original towpath trail stretch along the Potomac River between Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland. The canal operated from 1831 until 1924 and was used to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains. The fascinating 19th-century feat of engineering that was locally known as “The Grand Old Ditch” has today a trail that follows the old towpath. The whole area has become a popular center of outdoor activity, especially for hiking, biking, bird watching, and mule-drawn barge rides.
1850 Dual Hwy, Suite 100, Hagerstown, MD 21740-6620
5.Elk Neck State Park
Elk Neck State Park, a popular public recreation area located near the town of North East between Chesapeake Bay and the Elk River, is close to the tip of Elk Neck Peninsula. The park has 2,188 acres of sandy beaches, lush marshlands, and densely forested bluffs on the peninsula formed by the Elk River, North East River, and Chesapeake Bay. Hiking trails that wind through the park are surrounded by rich plant and animal life. The most popular is the trail that leads to the fascinating historic Turkey Point Lighthouse. The trail offers spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay and the Elk River. The park has 27 camping units and has small cabins that can be rented in the summer. There are also camping shelters throughout the park. There are several spots along the river that are suitable for swimming. Fishing and kayaking are also popular.
4395 Turkey Point Rd, North East, MD 21901, Phone: 410-287-5333
6.Fort Foote Park
© NPS Photo
Fort Foote was an American Civil War-era fort constructed in 1863 on top of Rozier's Bluff overlooking the Potomac River. It was built to add to the ring of fortifications around Washington, D.C. by guarding the Potomac River approach to the city. The fort was used from 1863 to 1878 when it was was abandoned, though it was used briefly during the First and Second World Wars. Today a popular outdoor recreation area, Fort Foote Park still has two of the guns that protected Washington, together with the remains of the fort's earthworks. It is considered the region’s best preserved Civil War fort. The National Park Service has cleared paths around the fort ruins so visitors can explore the area and get the sense of the not-so-distant history of their nation’s capital.
13551 Fort Washington Road, Fort Washington, MD 20744, Phone: 301-763-4600
7.Fort Frederick State Park
Fort Frederick State Park was created to protect Fort Frederick, a unique stone fort built in 1756 to defend Maryland’s frontier during the French and Indian War. The 585-acre park includes the fort’s fully restored stone wall and two barracks. The fort, barracks, Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, and Visitor Center all contain a range of historic exhibits from the fort and the period of history it represents. The fort barracks are open to the visitors seven days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. On weekends in the spring and fall staff and volunteers dress in period clothing and demonstrate daily life in the area in the 18th century. The park borders the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. Ohio Canal passes through the park. The park has a boat launch, campsites, a playground, a large pavilion, and a picnic area. Fishing, canoeing, and hiking are popular activities in the park.
11100 Fort Frederick Rd, Big Pool, MD 21711
8.Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Fort McHenry is a historical coastal pentagonal fort located in the Locust Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. The fort is located at the entrance to the Baltimore harbor and was built on the site of an older fort. The fort earned its place in history for its role in successfully defending Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy during the War of 1812. The heroic defense of the fort by only 1,000 American soldiers inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star Spangled Banner.” Fort McHenry is open to the public and offers a range of programs and special events that celebrate the park's history.
2400 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230
9.Fort Washington Park
© Country Gate Prod/stock.adobe.com
Fort Washington is located near the town of Fort Washington, Maryland and was for a long time the only fort protecting Washington D.C. The original fort was completed in 1809 and overlooked the Potomac River. During the War of 1812 during an advance by the British, the fort was destroyed by its own garrison. The current fort was built in 1824 from stone, with a straight cannon shot down the Potomac River. The fort was completely remodeled in the 1840s and in the 1890s and was turned over in 1946 to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Fort Washington Park has expansive grounds with hiking and biking trails and a scenic area for picnicking and fishing. There is a small museum, and occasionally park rangers organize historic re-enactments.
13551 Fort Washington Rd, Fort Washington, MD 20744
10.Gambrill State Park
Gambrill State Park is a popular public recreation area near the town of Frederick, Maryland on Catoctin Mountain. The lovely mountain park is known for its spectacular views of the surrounding area from several stone overlooks that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park road crosses Catoctin Mountain and reaches the trailhead, the campground, and the High Knob part of the park. The park has two distinct areas: the Rock Run area with a picnic area, a campground, and a small pond and the High Knob area, which also has a picnic area, three picnic shelters, three stone overlooks, and a stone lodge called the Tea Room. The overlooks provide magnificent views of the Frederick and Middletown valleys.
riding.8602 Gambrill Park Road, Frederick MD 21702, Phone: 301-271-7574
11.Gathland State Park
Gathland State Park is a historic preserve and recreation area near Burkittsville, Maryland in the foothills of South Mountain. The park was once the estate of war correspondent George Alfred Townsend who wrote in the 1800s during the American Civil War. The original structures that still remain from the estate are the War Correspondents Memorial Arch located next to the Appalachian Trail, the Main Hall, and the Lodge. Park visitors can get on the Appalachian Trail and hike all the way to Maine or Georgia, or just stay on it for a few miles. The Gathland Pavilion is a covered picnic shelter and can accommodate up to 100 people.
900 Arnoldtown Rd, Jefferson, MD 21755, Phone: 301-791-4767
12.Gunpowder Falls State Park
Gunpowder Falls State Park is a 18,000-acre public recreation area established in 1959 to protect the Gunpowder River and the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls. The park mostly consists of the valleys of the Gunpowder River and Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, but it also includes lush tidal marshes and rugged interior slopes. The park has over 120 miles of trails, making it a very popular destination for biking, hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing in the winter. It also has facilities for tubing, canoeing, picnicking, kayaking, fishing, crabbing, and hunting. Gunpowder Falls State Park is one of the largest state parks in Maryland.
7200 Graces Quarters Rd, Middle River, MD 21220
13.Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
© Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is located in and around the historic town of Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. While the town of Harpers Ferry is in West Virginia, the park is shared by the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Brown, Meriwether Lewis, "Stonewall" Jackson, and Frederick Douglass are just some of the important historic figures who played a role in the history of this place as well as the nation. Harpers Ferry witnessed the arrival of the first American railroad, the attack on slavery by John Brown, the surrender of Federal troops in the Civil War, and the integration and education of former slaves in one of the local schools.
171 Shoreline Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
14.Hart-Miller Island State Park
Hart-Miller Island is a 1,100-acre island on the Chesapeake Bay where Middle River joins the ocean. The island is accessible only by a small boat. There is safe mooring on the western shore of the island as well as a 3,000-foot beautiful sandy beach, scenic hiking trails, an observation platform, and picnicking facilities. Hawk Cove and Pleasure Island are also part of the park, with additional opportunities for fun, outdoor recreation, and camping. Pleasure Island was the site of the New Bay Shore amusement park from the late 1940s until the storm destroyed it in the mid-1960s. The park included Hart, Miller, and Pleasure islands. After the state purchased it in the late 1970s, a new dike joined Hart and Miller islands, creating Hart-Miller Island in 1983.
Heart-Miller Island, Maryland
15.Janes Island State Park
Janes Island State Park includes over 2,900 acres of saltmarsh, more than 30 miles of water trails, and miles of magnificent isolated pristine beaches. The park is located on Chesapeake Bay near Crisfield, on Maryland’s eastern shore. The park also includes a mainland portion that has a campground, rental cabins, conference center, pavilions, picnic areas, and a boat ramp and marina. The island is wild and looks untouched by humans, making it a haven for fish, birds, crabs, and other inhabitants of saltmarshes. Visitors can spend time exploring the wildlife of the bay, enjoying the vast ocean views and magnificent sunsets, or go fishing, crabbing, boating, or paddling. There are also four campsites.
26280 Alfred J Lawson Dr, Crisfield, MD 21817, Phone: 410-968-1565
16.Martinak State Park
Martinak State Park is located along Watts Creek and the Choptank River just south of Denton in Caroline County, Maryland. The park was named by George Martinak who deeded the land for the park in 1961, including pine and hardwood forests, marsh, and rolling fields. The park opened in 1964 and features campsites, roads, a park office, boating access, facilities for fishing, campsites, cabins, a nature center, and numerous hiking trails. The diverse environment of the park provides support for a wide variety of plant and animals. Anglers enjoy the opportunity to catch perch, bass, sunfish, and catfish.
137 Deep Shore Rd, Denton, MD 21629, Phone: 410-820-1668
17.Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm
© Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm
Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Cove Farm is a national historic district located at Oxon Hill in Prince George's County, Maryland and is part of National Capital Parks-East. It includes a living farm museum operated by the National Park Service, where visitors can get a hands-on experience of farm life in the past. The park area was a plantation home during the War of 1812, then a hospital farm, before becoming a park. The park provides a valuable resource for wildlife observing, environmental studies, fishing, and other activities. There are fourteen buildings and two structures that are part of the district’s history as a plantation in the historic district, an agricultural complex and a farm museum.
6411 Oxon Hill Rd, Oxon Hill, MD 20745
18.Patapsco Valley State Park
© Country Gate Prod/stock.adobe.com
Patapsco Valley State Park is a 16,043-acre public recreation area located along the Patapsco River, 31 miles from the city of Baltimore, Maryland. The park has eight developed recreational areas. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and mountain bike riding. There are pavilions for picnicking for small or large groups. The park has more than 200 miles of trails, 70 miles of which are well maintained. The trails, single or multiple use, are accessible from many parts of Patapsco Park. The park is Maryland's first state park and is managed and run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21043
© Farknot Architect/stock.adobe.com
Piscataway Park, located about 20 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., can be found in and around the town of Accokeek, Maryland, just across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate. The park was established to protect Marshall Hall, the National Colonial Farm, and the Accokeek Creek Site. Piscataway Park is named after Piscataway, a Native American tribe. The park’s diverse ecosystems include wetland, meadows, and woodland that provide home to bald eagles, osprey, beavers, and other wildlife. The park has a public fishing pier, two boardwalks over tidal fresh water wetlands, nature trails, lush meadows, and woodlands. The park also includes the National Colonial Farm.
3400 Bryan Point Rd, Accokeek, MD 20607, Phone: 301-283-2113
20.Rocks State Park
Rocks State Park is a 855-acre park that consists of rocky forest land in rural northern Harford County near the town of Pylesville. The stars of the park are two geological formations called King and Queen Seat, 190-foot high rock outcrops overlooking Deer Creek, as well as Kilgore Falls. Rocks were one of the first Maryland state parks established to protect a unique natural feature. The main part of the park has three picnic areas and more than three miles of hiking trails. From here, you can also access Deer Creek, which is perfect for wading, fishing, and tubing. The park has two non-contiguous parts: Falling Branch, which is home to Kilgore Falls, and Hidden Valley, both just a short drive from the main part of the park.
3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Rd, Jarrettsville, MD 21084, Phone: 410-557-7994
21.Rocky Gap State Park
Rocky Gap State Park is a 3,000-acre public recreation area about seven miles from Cumberland in Allegany County, Maryland between Evitts Mountain and Martins Mountain. The park includes Evitts Mountain, Lake Habeeb, and the privately owned Rocky Gap Casino Resort. Beautiful 243-acre Lake Habeeb provides plenty of recreational opportunities. The lake outflows into Rocky Gap Run and meanders through a mile-long gorge, which winds through the lush Hemlock and Rhododendron forest. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming (there are three swimming beaches), hiking and mountain biking. The park has more than ten miles of multi-use trails and offers a range of programs such as Healthy Parks, Healthy People, and the Scales & Tales program.
12900 Lake Shore Dr, Flintstone, MD 21530
22.South Mountain State Park
South Mountain State Park is a 7,368-acre public recreation area that includes the South Mountain ridge from the Pennsylvania line to the Potomac River through Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland. Most of the park can be accessed only by foot, creating the feeling of being a million miles away from civilization. The 40-mile long section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Maryland crosses the park, offering access to beautiful scenic overlooks such as Black Rock, High Rock, White Rock, and Waverton Cliffs. The park also includes part of the Historic South Mountain Battlefield. Camping is allowed in shelters and backpackers’ campgrounds off the Appalachian Trail.
21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713, Phone: 301-791-4767
23.Susquehanna State Park
© Andrew Kazmierski/stock.adobe.com
Susquehanna State Park is a 2,753-acre public recreation area located near the city of Havre de Grace, Maryland on the forested and rocky banks of the lower Susquehanna River. The park is famous for some of the most popular hiking and biking trails in Maryland. The river offers superb fishing for pike, perch, and bass. The park's Rock Run Historical Area includes the 1804 Carter-Archer Mansion called the Rock Run Grist Mill, once the home of John Archer, the mill owner. Also in the park are remnants of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, the wonderfully restored Jersey Toll House, and the privately owned Steppingstone Museum.
4188 Wilkinson Rd, Havre De Grace, MD 21078
24.Tuckahoe State Park
Tuckahoe State Park is a 3,929-acre public recreation area located along upper reaches of Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline and Queen Anne's counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The park includes a 60-acre lake great for fishing and boating and 20 miles of trails popular for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park also has campgrounds, cabins, and a recycled-tire kids’ playground. Also part of the park is 500-acre Adkins Arboretum, a garden, and a preserve with more than 600 native plant species, which offers horticulture, ecology, and natural history classes. Tuckahoe Creek is surrounded by wooded marshlands that provide home to a large number species of wildlife.
13070 Crouse Mill Rd, Queen Anne, MD 21657, Phone: 410-820-1668
24 Best Maryland State & National Parks
- Assateague Island, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Calvert Cliffs State Park, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Catoctin Mountain Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park, Photo: Country Gate Prod./stock.adobe.com
- Elk Neck State Park, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Foote Park, Photo: NPS Photo
- Fort Frederick State Park, Photo: Gudellaphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Photo: lspi138/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Washington Park, Photo: Country Gate Prod/stock.adobe.com
- Gambrill State Park, Photo: Ewan/stock.adobe.com
- Gathland State Park, Photo: Daniel/stock.adobe.com
- Gunpowder Falls State Park, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Hart-Miller Island State Park, Photo: Aungsumol/stock.adobe.com
- Janes Island State Park, Photo: logdog7/stock.adobe.com
- Martinak State Park, Photo: DSGNSR/stock.adobe.com
- Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm, Photo: Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm
- Patapsco Valley State Park, Photo: Country Gate Prod/stock.adobe.com
- Piscataway Park, Photo: Farknot Architect/stock.adobe.com
- Rocks State Park, Photo: Robert/stock.adobe.com
- Rocky Gap State Park, Photo: Gribanov/stock.adobe.com
- South Mountain State Park, Photo: fotofabrika/stock.adobe.com
- Susquehanna State Park, Photo: Andrew Kazmierski/stock.adobe.com
- Tuckahoe State Park, Photo: kichigin19/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: David/stock.adobe.com