Parks/Hiking and Biking
We may live in a concrete jungle, but Baltimoreans are lucky to have such a wide range of options for outdoor adventuring so close to home. Below is a list of some of our favorite places to spend the day on the trail. Whether you're hiking or biking, remember to be considerate of others using the trails, keep your dogs on leash, and leave no trace.
Beartown State Park, near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, beartownstatepark.com. Don't be skeered, you really shouldn't run into a bear hiking through Beartown's unusual rock formations, but the massive boulders and overhanging cliffs should stir your imagination. Ice and snow can sometimes remain in the rocks' deep crevasses well into the summer and minimal work has been done to keep your experience as natural as possible.
Blackwater Falls State Park, near Davis, W. Va., (304) 259-5216, blackwaterfalls.com. Nearly 20 miles of hiking trails wind through this state park, named for the amber-colored five-story waterfall that feeds into an 8-mile long gorge, which twists among hemlock and spruce trees. The trees, by the way, are the reason the water is brown--their needles that fall into the water color it with tannic acid. If you feel wiped out, grab a bite to eat, take a dip in their pool, and settle into a cozy cabin for the night.
big Run State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/bigrun.html Everyone knows ghost stories are way scarier 16 miles from civilization so pitch a tent in the Savage River State Forest--sounds like the beginning of a great story doesn't it? During the day you can shake it off with hiking the six miles of trails, fishing, and canoeing.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-6872, bombayhook.gov. Five nature trails of varying lengths are available to hikers in the 16,000 acres of salt marsh, freshwater pools, and timbered swamps here, all of which are reserved for the migrating birds and other wildlife.
Cabin John Regional Park, 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Rockville, (301) 469-7835, (301) 743-7613, mcparkandplanning.org/Parks/facilities/regional_parks/cabinjohn/index.shtm Cabin John puts the recreation in parks and rec! Play equipment is available for baseball, tennis, soccer, volleyball, and even ice-skating. Whatever your sport may be, don't pass up a two-mile ride through the park aboard a replica of an 1863 C.P. Huntington steam locomotive.
Calvert Cliffs State Park, 9500 H. G. Truman Parkway, Lusby, (301) 743-7613, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/calvertcliffs.html Easy to moderate hiking available here, through wetlands, marshes, and woods, eventually opening to a beach on the bay. Visitors can't climb on the cliffs, but they are welcome to dig for fossils on the beach. bikers are relegated to the service roads.
Casselman River Bridge State Park, New Germany State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/casselman.html This park will make a history buff out of anyone. You say "big bridge," we say "the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the world during the era of the National Road in the early 1800s." Plus, well-behaved pets on leashes welcome in the park.
Carroll Park bike and Skate Facility, 800 Bayard St., (410) 245-0613, ci.baltimore.md.us/government/recnparks/youth_adult.php. It's sk8 or die at your own risk here, which is the highlight for big kids but for little ones it means lots of gear. Free outdoors concrete bowls = good times in a park near Pigtown.
Catoctin Mountain Park, 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, (301) 663-9388, nps.gov/cato. Yeah, this park offers 25 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, with lots of scenic overlooks and vistas, but what does it have that others don't? Blue Blazes Whiskey Still! Sundays in June, park rangers tell stories of raids, arson, and a love triangle at the Still. Mountain bikes allowed on park roads but prohibited from trails.
Cunningham Falls State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/cunninghamfalls.html This park is so awesome, seriously! It's got lifeguards on duty at Hunting Creek Lake and nine hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult, along with ample opportunities for boating, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking. Plus, a playground that rescued 3,000 tires from a landfill and a 78-foot waterfall. Mountain bikes prohibited on trails.
Dan's Mountain State Park, 12500 Pleasant Valley Road, Flintstone, (301) 722-1480, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/dansmountain.html Climb Dan's mountain but don't do what Dan did. He chased a bear up a tree, fell out, and lay unconscious until Nemacolin found him and dragged his ass to safety. Instead, enjoy a day of hiking and a dip in his swimming pool with, yep, a water slide. No pets allowed.
Druid Hill Park, 2600 Madison Ave., (410) 396-0616, ci.baltimore.md.us/government/recnparks/popups/parks/druid_hill_park.htm You don't have to drive an hour to enjoy a day of shady lawns, rolling hills, and picturesque water features. Did you know we have one of the oldest landscaped public parks in the United States right here in Baltimore? That's right, lets give it up for Druid Hill.
Fort Frederick State Park, 11100 Fort Frederick Road, big Pool, (301) 842-2155, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/FortFrederick.html Check out the site of Maryland's frontier defense during the French and Indian War. The fort's stone wall and barracks have been restored to their original 1758 appearance.
Gambrill State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/gambrill.html Views, views and more amazing views, this park known for its densely wooded hiking trails, has got 'em to boot. Three native stone overlooks grace the 1,600-foot summit named High Knob. Any direction you look out will offer an amazing look at Maryland's rich history. Go May through June to see the dogwoods blooming--we hear it's worth the drive.
Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/garrett.html Lots of hiking and biking opportunities in this Western Maryland state forest. First color that comes to mind when anyone thinks forest is green, right? Well, a visit to Garrett will most defiantly have you thinking red--as in red oak, scarlet oak, black cherry, red maple, and cranberry bogs. And dog lovers--no leashes required here, as long as your dog is under control at all times.
Garthland State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/garthland.html This park is home to as many as 20 architecturally unique structures, individual in purpose and design and the mountainside was once a peaceful retreat from the stressful life of the youngest correspondent of the civil war, George Alfred Townsend.
Green Ridge State Forest, 28700 Headquarters Drive, Flintstone, (301) 478-3124, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/greenridge.html This bad boy is the second largest of Maryland's state forests, clocking in at 46,000 acres of rich oak and hickory trees and has year-round camping with 100 designated primitive spots--some of which include a boat launch or horse area for fun outdoorsy modes of transportation. Both day hiking and backpacking are available here, and backpackers will find Adirondack-style shelters set up at 8-mile intervals along the trail.
Greenbrier State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/greenbrier.html Did you know it takes approximately five million footsteps to hike the Appalachian Trail that passes through this state park? Some really challenging terrain here for hikers and bikers alike. But hey, it's summer and time to relax, so enjoy an afternoon at Greenbrier's man-made beach and 42-acre freshwater lake stocked with trout, largemouth bass, and bluegill to nibble your toes. Dogs are allowed on the trails but not in the developed areas of the park.
Gunpowder State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/gunpowder.html It's an easy drive north from Baltimore City, and it's got over 100 miles of trails for hiking and biking, plus canoeing, fishing, picnicking, and playgrounds. Yeah, all that good stuff. But lets get to the all time greatest summer pastime . . . tubing! Drifting slowly down Gunpowder River in a sun-drenched black rubber tube with an ice-cold can of beer is where it's at. Losing your sunglasses never felt so good.
Gwynns Falls Trail, Leakin Park, (410) 396-0440, gwynnsfallstrail.org. Riding a bicycle in Baltimore City is no joke--you really gotta watch your ass. Good thing there is 15 miles of Gwynns Falls Trail traveling through an environmentally valuable urban greenway park that just happens to be considered the best place to bike according to this very newspaper. The trail is also a great place to spot over 140 different species of birds.
Herrington Manor State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 334-9180, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/herringtonmanor.html FDR was pretty cool: In 1933, he established the Civilian Conservation Corps which reforested thousands of acres of land, built park roads, erected dams and bridges, and fought forest fires. Herrington Park is a direct result of that hard work.
Marshy Point Nature Center, 7130 Marshy Point Road, (410) 887-2817, marshypoint.org. Impressive: Every single day of the week Marshy Point offers a fun-filled activity to support a sustainable lifestyle. Translate concern into action by joining them in live music, guided canoe rides, or a tree-hugging contest.
New Germany State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/newgermany.html Fishing, camping, swimming, hiking, and boating in this historic park within the bounds of the Savage Forest. Pets are not permitted in this park at all, so leave the pooches home. Mountain bikes are not permitted once there's snow on the trails--save the powder for the cross-country skiers.
Oregon Ridge State Park, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815, oregonridge.org. Sharing a name with one of the most beautiful states, Oregon Ridge is a super close getaway from city life. Nothing too strenuous or challenging here, but there are some hills, wooded trails, a nature center, and a beach. Sorry cyclists--no bikes allowed on the trails here, hikers only. The nature center is open Tuesday through Sunday with tons of educational events like an edible wildflowers walk and a gray tree frog night hike.
Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-500, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/patapscovalley.html If you prefer your long, exhausting, sweaty hike to end with a refreshing waterfall, then Patapsco is your jam. This is one of our favorite local places to hike or mountain bike. Multiple points of entry, varying degrees of difficulty on the trails. Enter at the Daniels Area near Ellicott City for some level service-road-along-a-river action, or head over to an unnamed, unmarked entry spot right across from the UMBC campus, where mountain bikers gather in droves on the weekends to cruise the miles of single-track trail. Pets permitted on trails but not in developed areas of this massive park.
Patterson Park, 27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, pattersonpark.com. Patterson Park is a superb example of large urban parks enhanced during the Victorian Era. It's truly a living museum to the city's rich heritage and character. Yeah so, the best part is, they have a public pool.
Patuxent River Scenic Trail at Queen Anne, 18405 Queen Anne Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 627-6074. Four miles of low-key hiking and biking here in Prince George's County, with scenic overlooks, interpretive exhibits, and rest areas.
Potomac-Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/potomac.html More than 12,000 gorgeous acres, partially bordering the Potomac River, for hikers to explore, with fantastic scenic vistas--there can only be one highest point in Maryland and Potomac-Garrett's got it. Stand 3,220 feet high, atop Backbone Mountain, and look out over the Potomac River. It'll take your breath away, or maybe that's the elevation.
Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, (410) 222-1777, friendsofquietwaterspark.org. Doubt these waters are all that quiet being that they love dogs at this park. Love dogs. Your furry friends are more than welcome to swim at the beach and boogie at the arts and music festival.
Robert E. Lee Park, entrances off of Lake and Bellona avenues, (410) 396-0808. Lots of smooth, packed trails rambling through woods and along the shores of Lake Roland in Baltimore County. If you're ever feeling like Baltimoreans aren't friendly, grab your pup and stroll through Robert E. Lee. Even if you don't have a doggy, everyone says hello and steps to the side if you wanna get your jog on.
Rocks State Park, 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, (410) 557-7994, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/rocks.html After a moderate-to-difficult hiking adventure, you can rest like royalty in the King and Queen Seats. You might have to wait your turn, however: Rocks has become quite the hot spot recently. It's no wonder--it's a fantastic place to rock climb, swim, and work on your calf muscles. Wear your quick-dry clothing when you visit--you'll likely be tempted to cool off at some point, particularly if it's a hot, muggy day.
Rosaryville State Park, 8714 Rosaryville Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 888-1410, dnr.state.us/publiclands/southern/rosaryville.html A great place for short, tough mountain bike rides. In eight miles of trail, you'll find lots of nicely maintained single-track, short, steep climbs, and scenic views.
Savage River State Forest, 127 Headquarters Lane Grantsville, (301) 895-5759, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/savageriver.html At 54,000 acres, this is the largest state park in the Maryland system. Tons of options for day hiking and backpacking here (mostly of the moderate and difficult variety) and there are campsites throughout the park where you can pitch a tent in the evenings--no campfires allowed though. Mountain bikes permitted on all but two trails in this park.
Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, (301) 924-2127, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/seneca.html 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. If you're feeling adventurous, and you have a lot of time on your hands, you can follow the 16-mile Seneca Creek Greenway trail, which travels the length of the creek. Hurry and catch the Schwartz peony gardens in full bloom then try your hand at catching some catfish, bluegill, tiger muskie, or crappies, har.
Soldiers Delight Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/soldiers.html Comprised of 1,900 acres of serpentine barren, this park is one of the few remaining fragments of a very unique ecosystem. Despite the name, such habitats are not barren at all. In fact, Soldiers Delight contains over 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plant species, as well as rare insects, rocks, and minerals. There are seven miles of relatively easy hiking trails here, but bikes are not permitted due to the fragile nature of the area.
South Mountain State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/southmountain.html Rocky, tough, challenging hikes on the trails in this park, which are part of the Appalachian Trail. This peaceful mountain range once served as a buffer zone between the Cherokee and the Catawba Indians. Perhaps the most spectacular feature in the park is a cascade of water dropping 80 feet over a cliff face of bare rock into a large tranquil pool of Jacob's Fork River. Ahhhhh.
Swallow Falls State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 387-6938, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/swallows.html Swallow Falls is home to some of Maryland's most spectacular scenery: the rippling rapids of the Youghiogheny River race through shaded rocky gorges and along the park's border and tall hemlocks offer shade for trailblazers following the winding trail to the 53-foot waterfall. All of it sounds like a great way to cool off on a super hot day.
Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River, 898 State Park Road, Swanton, (301) 387-5563, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/youghiogheny.html If you love adrenaline and have not already done so, it's probably on your bucket list to white-water raft. Now is the time, just do it! Strap on a helmet, throw on a life jacket, and hit Maryland's first Wild River. Just remember the cardinal rule: Respect the river, you are at it's mercy now.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201