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The 10 Best State Parks in Maryland


Maryland State Parks are among the most beautiful in the country. Each state park takes pride in offering tourists the best view of the state and its history. Lush, bright and deep greens welcome each visitor during the spring and summer season, while brilliant fall foliage greets visitors in the autumn. When winter rolls around, you'll find plenty of parks which offer a plethora of winter activities from cross-country skiing to skating. All you need do is visit Maryland's state park directory to get started. Also, keep in mind that you should call ahead before visiting, as rules/regulations may have changed due to COVID.

10. Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert Cliffs is an amateur fossil hunters dream. When you leave the parking lot, take a nice long 2 mile walk to the beach. It's at this beach where people find all sorts of fossils, from shells to sharks teeth. The trails are kept up and nicely marked to make for easy hiking. Still, there are damp spots on the trail, so make sure to wear a good pair of hiking boots. The beach is lovely, but not very big, and it's a good idea to call ahead of time to see if it's open if you want to do some fossil hunting. Top rated hiking trails are the Calvert Cliffs Red Trail and the Orange Loop Trail.

9. Tuckahoe State Park

A full-service park, Tuckahoe State Park is the perfect destination for families looking to have some old-fashioned, camping fun. The camp sites are known to be large and very clean. Restrooms are available as well. Kids will enjoy the tidy playgrounds, the aviary and bike paths. Yes, they do indeed have trails for bikes, so bring them if you've got them. If you're really into mountain biking, they may we suggest taking "Pee Wee's Trail" for a good stretch of the leg. Remember before you head out, wear proper clothing and please pack your backpack with snacks and plenty of water. Other activities include paddling and horseback riding.

8. Patapsco Valley State Park

For those of you looking for a park in Maryland that is made for hikers, this is it. First of all, know that there are plenty of parking spots available, even during the peak season. Some people enjoy entering through the Avalon entrance. Made for families this park is kid, dog and stroller friendly so bring your folding chairs and picnic baskets. If you don't plan on spending the evening at one of their many 5-star campgrounds, then pile into the car to snag a meal at one of the many restaurants that lie nearby, such as Tigi's Ethiopian Restaurant, or C and B Italian Deli.

7. Catoctin Mountain Park

When you arrive to Catoctin, you'll be confronted with around 25 miles of exquisite trails to explore and enjoy. Also known as a mountain park, you'll find that Catoctin is a favorite with those who enjoy mountainous terrain. Catoctin is well aware of this, so supplies its Visitors Center with plenty of maps for visitors and their families. Favorite trails are the Spicebush Trail, Wolf Rock Trail, Waterfall Trail and the Blue Blazes Whiskey Trail. Finally, if you've a mind to, consider renting one of their lovely cabins for the night.

6. Savage River State Forest

At 52,812 acres, Savage River offers visitors plenty of land to explore. With such a large expanse of acreage, it's definitely a good idea for tourists to stop at the Visitor's Center to pick up a few maps. Camping is one of the draws of this park. Just remember it's important to register for the site first, this includes those of you into backpack camping. Not to be confused with the Savage River National Park of Australia, Savage River State Park in Maryland does not offer full-service camping, so there are no electric hookups. Instead it offers "Primitive Camping" for those who wish to experience the true outdoors, without hookups to the outside world.

5. Swallow Falls State Park

Made by nature for those who love and adore mountain ranges Swallow Falls State Park comes complete with unbeatable scenery. This scenery includes a cascading waterfall and the Youghiogheny River Rapids for the more adventurous. Remember to wear non-slippery shoes, as the area around the falls can get pretty slick when wet. The Swallow Falls Canyon Trail is the most favored trail in the park for hikers.

4. Rocky Gap State Park

Don't feel like totally roughing it? Then head off to the Rocky Gap State Park and grab a room at their Rocky Gap Resort. Here, you can lounge around on the beach, take a nice, cool dip in the lake and enjoy a tasty, picnic lunch. For tourists that are searching to view some orange during the fall weather, will be happy to know that Rocky Gap is famous for the extensive panoramic views of crisp, colorful and bright fall leaves. One more benefit to staying at this park: The Rocky Gap Casino. Part of the resort, it offers some fun adult entertainment for parents looking to enjoy a night out.

3. Fort Frederick State Park

Located in Big Pool Maryland, Fort Frederick State Park is an integral part of Maryland's history. Fort Frederick is an actual 250 plus year old fort which was in operation during the French and Indian War. A history buffs dream, this park's activities revolve around keeping the past alive. Here, you'll find military re-enactments and other "living history" events. Just some quick advice, due to COVID, call ahead to make sure that the Fort is open to visitors, etc. However, when all is open and running smoothly, you'll find everything from the re-enactments to Visitors Center activities to be impressive.

2. Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park is known for one special place: Turkey Point Lighthouse. Once you park your vehicle, you'll be set on a 1.5 mile trail to lighthouse. The trail is somewhat easy, no steep inclines, and there are benches waiting for you at the lighthouse so you can take a load off. Note that during peak season, it's a good idea to get there early, as Elk Neck can get somewhat crowded. Also, the park has no guard rails on the cliffs, so please watch out for elderly adults, kids, or pets. Besides the Turkey Point Lighthouse Trail, hikers can also enjoy the Beaver Marsh Trail, and Elk Neck State Forest Trails

1. Seneca Creek State Park

Seneca Creek State Park is a delightful place to spend a day or week. Activities for families abound here, which include boat, canoe and kayak rentals, trail hiking and loads of winter activities. Speaking of winter, many folks return to Seneca State Park during the holiday season, as they enjoy how the park is decorated for the holidays. When the day's activities are over, you and yours can plan on spending some time at one of the many attractions located around the park, such as the Theater at the Arts Barn, Maryland SoccerPlex and Kentlands Mansion.

Final Thoughts

We've only scratched the surface when it came down to tabulating the top 10 Maryland State Parks. As with all things, selecting something such as this is always a subjective activity. What appeals most to one person, can actually cause another to revolt. As such, we've tried to create a list that contained full service parks as well as those that offered a primitive camping experience. However, no matter what type of park you visit or where, please remember to dress accordingly, bring plenty of snacks, a compass, and a dry set of clothes in case you get caught in the rain on a trail. Please don't think that you'll just be on a trail for a few hours, that there's no risk there. For more information, please visit the American Hiking Society website.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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