Beartown State Park, near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, www.beartownstatepark.com, free. Natural rock formations plummet and soar among stretches of boardwalk provided for visitor. Minimal work has been done to keep your experience as natural as possible.
Blackwater Falls State Park, near Davis, W. Va., (304) 259.5216, www.blackwaterfalls.com Picturesque falls drop five stories and wind through an eight-mile gorge among hemlock and red spruce trees. These trees have graciously provided their needles, which in turn, turn the water dark brown with tannic acid.
Big Run State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. You don't want modern amenities when you camp. You eschew cabins with stoves, campsites that allow generators, and would never buy your supplies at Target. It's time you took those Scout awards and put them to use on the 'unimproved' rustic sites 16 miles from a real road.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-6872, www.bombayhook.gov, $2-$4. 16,000 acres of salt marsh, freshwater pools, and timbered swamps reserved for the birds. The land was reserved in the late '30s to connect Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.
Cabin John Regional Park 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Rockville, (301) 469-7835, (301) 743-7613, www.mcmncppc.org/parks/facilit.., $5. This 528-acre park in Montgomery County features places to play tennis and softball, an indoor ice skating rink, and a miniature replica of a 1863 steam locomotive. Rides are $1.50.
Calvert Cliffs State Park 9500 H. G. Truman Parkway, Lusby, (301) 743-7613, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.., $5 per car. If your kids think fossils need to be dug by a khaki-clad team in Arizona, take a two-mile hike to the open beach and search for old detritus.
Casselman River Bridge State Park, New Germany State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Citizens and bridge aficionados criticized the Casselman River Bridge on its structure upon its completion in the early 1800s, expecting that the bridge would soon crumble. Jokes on them. The 80-foot span, the world's longest single-arch bridge during the National Road's era, survived and now stands as a primo fly fishing spot.
Carroll Park Bike and Skate Facility, 800 Bayard St., (410) 245-0613, $5. Because if you don't practice your extreme skillz from park's open (dawn) to close (dusk) you'll never be the next Bucky Lasek.
Catoctin State Park, 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, (301) 663-9388, $2-$3. In March the park opens for weekend-long maple syrup demonstrations, but come spring the park really comes alive with hiking, camping, swimming, and basking in the summer sun.
Cunningham Falls State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. History buffs will like the Catoctin Iron Furnace, used by settlers to make coal and a big part of Frederick's Civil War ghost lore. Eco buffs will rejoice that it's not been used since the '50s. If your friends aren't into that stuff, they can sun themselves on the rocks, go for a hike, or take a dip in the falls.
Dan's Mountain State Park, 12500 Pleasant Valley Road, Flinstone, (301) 722-1480, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Named for one of Allegheny's first settlers, this park has picnicking, an Olympic-sized pool, and hiking trails. The 16-mile mountain is for Daniel Cresap. Dude fell out of a tree and was dragged to safety by a Delaware American Indian.
Druid Hill Park, 2600 Madison Ave., (410) 396-0616. The city's first planned park includes city overlooks, a pool, a zoo, and a body of water. And if you need it, it's just-off 83. This year we're finally hitting the Frisbee golf course.
Fort Frederick State Park, 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, (301) 842-2155, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Older than the Constitution (dating back to the French and Indian War, in fact), the park sports a 23-mile trail neighboring the Western Maryland Rail Line, re-enactments, and tons of photo-ops.
Gambrill State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Gambrill is hailed for its scenic overlooks and economic conservation, but it's the perfect time of year for the park's abundance of dogwood and laurel blossoms.
Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Hiking, fishing, yadda yadda, and a ton of trees: red, white, and scarlet oaks, black cherry, red maple, white pine, hemlock, and hickory. Plus cranberry bogs! Squish, pop, squish.
Gathland State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Hike and picnic, but make sure you explore the park for the astounding architecture. Gathland was home to Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend, who designed and constructed the unique--and kind of weird--structures on the grounds, including the castle-like entrance.
Green Ridge State Forest, 28700 Headquarters Drive, Flinstone, (301) 478-3124, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Camping, fishing, backpacking, and hiking in the state's second largest 46,000-acre hickory oak forest which touts the least amount of annual rainfall in the state.
Greenbrier State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.., $3-$4. Canoe, hike, camp, fish, paddle, boat, or dig your feet into pebble-sand around the lake. Closer than the beach, just crowded enough with a popsicle stand, and definitely closer than Ocean City.
Gunpowder State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. . Just in case you didn't know, you can fish, camp, hike, and commune just off York Road and through Hereford. Cool, right'
Gwynns Falls Trail, Leakin Park, (410) 396-0440, www.gwynnsfallstrail.org The privately owned and volunteer/community-supported trail that connects 30-plus neighborhoods has been extended to drop you in the harbor in front of the National Aquarium.
Herrington Manor State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 334-9180, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. It's way out there in Garrett County, but the 3.5-hour drive for the three mountain biking and three hiking trails and cabins for camping make for a great getaway.
Marshy Point Nature Center, 7130 Marshy Point Road, (410) 887-2817, www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agen.. Exhibit halls, picnic tables, and wetland you can explore intimately by canoe. (Hiking trails are in development.)
New Germany State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.., $2-$3. Fishing, camping, lake beaching, hiking, and boating in this currently renovating park and historic site of Swauger's Mill Dam. Late sleepers beware: Log cabins are under renovation and the sand blasting begins at 7:30 a.m.
Northwest Park Golf Driving Range, 2101 W. Rogers, (410) 664-2824, $5-$9. Practice your swing just steps away from I-83 so you can show up your friends for that early-morning tee-off.
Oregon Ridge Nature Center, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815, www.oregonridge.org, free. Though a hub of iron and marble industry in 1850s, this shares-a-name-with-a-hippie-state park offers year-round hikes under the full moon, canoe trips, and explorations through local wilderness providing the same ease as a getaway commune to the Pacific Northwest.
Patapsco Valley Trail Maintenance Days, June 7 and July 12, Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-500, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. We like the hiking and biking and exploring, but we're really into the idea of an activity that involves lounging while holding a can of beer. Enter tubing in Orange Grove.
Patterson Park, 27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, www.pattersonpark.com Walk your dog, go for a run, throw the ball, cool in the pool or shade of the pagoda, and when you're done, stroll home because you didn't need the highway to get here.
Potomac-Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. From the top of Backbone Mountain, the highest point in the state at 3,220 feet, you can see two other state parks, a real important creek, and probably your house.
Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, (410) 222-1777, www.aacounty.org/RecParks/Park.., $5 per vehicle. Sometimes Fido needs a beach experience to settle into the season, too. He can romp here with other dogs, one of the few pet-friendly parks in the state.
Robert E. Lee Park, entrances off of Lake and Bellona avenues, (410) 396-0808. It's too nice to hit an indoor gym. Take the daily run outside and soak some much needed Vitamin D instead.
Rocks State Park, 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, (410) 557-7994, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Rocks State once provided stability and support to area farms, allowing settlers to prosper; before the Pilgrims arrived it was a spiritual and ceremonious area for the Susquehanna tribes to worship. The breathtaking views are the same and offer challenges for daring hikers.
Savage River State Forest, 127 Headquarters Lane Grantsville, (301) 895-5759, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. It's not dangerous or scary like a teen summer camp movie, we promise.
Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, (301) 924-2127, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Six trails, a farm tract, a hunting area, and a one-room 19th century schoolhouse for a well-rounded, just out-of-the-district park.
Soldiers Delight Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Just over our line are 1,000-plus acres of barren land, teeming with rare and endangered foliage, wildlife, insects, and flowers. It's like a deciduous rainforest!
South Mountain State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. The battle for South Mountain helped keep the Confederates at bay. Other than how things ended we're not sure how we feel about that since all those people died, but we're stoked enough for the foot-path through the Appalachian Trail.
Swallow Falls State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 387-6938, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Neighboring Herrington Manor but offering different amenities, Swallow Falls has an astounding number of campsites, fishing, hiking and biking trails, and a rock-studded falls site that begs for wading and picnics.
Washington Monument State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Okay, here's the truth: our monument in Mount Vernon did come before the obelisk down in D.C., but this stately mound of rocks was indeed the very first monument to our wooden-toothed president.
Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River, 898 State Park Road, Swanton, (301) 387-5563, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. Whitewater boating and hiking in waterways that connect to the Mississippi, Appalachians, and the Rockies. You're a multi-tasker, aren't you'
Campfire Hikes, the Gwynns Falls Trail, check web site for summer dates, 4300 Windsor Mill Road, (410) 396-0440, www.gwynnsfallstrail.org, $5. Is there anything more American during the summer than roasting s'mores, telling stories 'round the fire, and swatting mosquitoes?
Bike Jam, May 24, Patterson Park, 27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, www.bikejam.org Day-long races and activities for the family with opportunities to win, win, win.
Guided Canoe Trip on Tuckahoe Creek, May 25, Tuckahoe State Park, 13070 Crouse Mill Road, Queen Anne, (410) 820-1668, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.., $4-$6. Serene, guided, and--gasp--historical tour by way of water around wooded marsh and 60-acre lake.
Twilight Canoe Escape, May 28-Aug. 20, Middle Branch Park, Hanover Street and Waterview Avenue, (410) 396-0440. Paddle to dusk. No guarantees the boat next to you isn't filled with frogs singing, 'Kiss the Girl.'
Saturday Afternoon Hikes, May 31-June 28, July 5-26, Aug. 2-30, Gwynns Falls Trail, Winans Meadow, 4500 Franklintown Road, (410) 396-0440, $1. Guided tour through the city's trail system focused on nature education.
Hiking Hemlock Gorge, Oregon Ridge Nature Center, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815, www.oregonridge.org Hike and explore a small forest, home to an abundance of ancient hemlocks.
Salt Marsh Boat Ride, June 3, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-6872, www.bombayhook.gov Hop on a small boat and feed shorebirds crab eggs.
Free Fishing Days, June 7-14, July 4, Maryland, June 6-8, Virginia, June 7-8, Delaware, June 1-7 DC, www.freefishingday.com Grab yer poles and a can o'beer for a lazy afternoon in the nearest fresh water resource when states rescind the fees for licenses. Remember: Leave your area cleaner than you found it.
Patapsco Valley Trail Maintenance Days, June 7 and July 12, Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, www.dnr.state.md.us/publicland.. If you want to bike, hike, hunt, and find caterpillars on the trail, you gotta help it stay clean, too.
Gwynns Falls Bike Trek, June 7-Aug. 16, Carrie Murray Nature Center, 1901 Ridgetop Road, (410) 396-0440, $7. Now that the trail covers the I-70 Park and Ride to the Inner Harbor and Middle Branch, you'll cover more land, go over and under railroad passes, and experience more flora and fauna.
Wednesday Lunch and Leisure Series, War Memorial Plaza, 100 N. Holiday St., (410) 396-7900, free. Food, fitness, live entertainment, and more in the heart of the city.
Reptiles of Baltimore County, June 14-15, Oregon Ridge Nature Center, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815, www.oregonridge.org Search for snakes, turtles, and other reptilian critters. Just take a deep breath before turning over that big log, okay?
Full Strawberry Moon Hike, June 20, Oregon Ridge Nature Center, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815, www.oregonridge.org This hike promises to explain why we're so in love with those big, round, juicy berries.
Pea Patch Island Bird and History Field Trip, June 21, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-6872, www.bombayhook.gov Spend six hours touring the area in search of rare birds and learn their interwoven histories with Delaware's estuaries.
White and Woody Fundraiser, June 21, Druid Hill Park, 2600 Madison Ave., (410) 396-0616. The city's 'annual splash bash,' celebrates the city-wide opening day for Baltimore pools and includes free admission. Yeah, it's usually $1.50 to get in but we are so there. We'll use the $1.50 for an after-swim Popsicle.
Morning Kanoe Kayak Escape, June 28-Aug. 9, Middle Branch Park, Hanover Street and Waterview Avenue, (410) 396-0440, $5. Paddle your way through the 'other' harbor without the noise or hassle of morning rush hour. As the morning breeze blows past, you're almost guaranteed to have a cooler day.
67th Annual Turtle Derby, Pulaski Monument, July 12, Eastern and Linwood Ave., (410) 396-6136, free. Box turtles, tortoises, and 'other' turtles slow-and-steady their way to your trophies and ribbons. If Slowsky doesn't make it, you still get a ribbon. We're all winners, here.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201