13 Must-See State Parks in Maryland, from Beachfront to Forest Land

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Assateague Island National Seashore's Wild Horses
Wild Horses on Assateague Island National Seashore Photo credit: National Park Service

One of the original 13 colonies and briefly home to the nation’s capital, Maryland is a popular travel destination for those looking to uncover US history. But the East Coast state is also rich in natural beauty. In fact, Maryland is home to more than 50 state parks and several state forests.

Maryland’s state parks feature a range of landscapes, from sandy beaches to lush forests and offer endless recreational activities, including hiking, boating, mountain biking and horseback riding. Given the large selection of parks, it can be hard to pick the best vacation destination, so here’s our roundup of the 13 best state parks in Maryland to help you plan.

SheBuysTravel Tip: To learn more about any of the following parks, head to the website for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

1. Assateague State Park

Located on the northern side of Assateague Island along the Atlantic Coast, Assateague is the only oceanfront park in the state. The park boasts caves, marshes and two miles of beaches, where visitors can surf, swim, fish and kayak.

Assateague State Park teems with wildlife, and is a great place to see the wild horses that dwell on the island. These horses roam freely, so they could be anywhere, but they are typically found in the marshes or on the beach.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Save time and reserve your spot by booking your bike rental to explore Assateague State Park ahead of time!

2. Janes Island State Park

Located on the Eastern Shore, Janes Island State Park is a great place to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay. The park includes a small island—Janes Island—made up of salt marshes and beaches. The island is inhabited only by the local wildlife, including crabs, birds and fish, and is the perfect place to enjoy seemingly untouched nature.

Nature enthusiasts will love exploring the boardwalk trails and taking in the scenic views of the Chesapeake Bay. The park offers a variety of amenities such as picnic areas, restrooms, a dock area and a park store. Visitors can also take advantage of the campground to extend their stay.

3. Swallow Falls State Park

Miles of hiking trails, an old growth forest and free-falling waterfalls are just some of the highlights of Swallow Falls State Park. Located in Western Maryland, the park is best known for Muddy Creek Falls, which at 53-feet-tall is the tallest waterfall in Maryland.

In addition to hiking, biking and fishing, visitors can go kayaking and whitewater rafting in the Youghiogheny River or go cross country skiing in the winter.

4. Patapsco Valley State Park

West of Baltimore, Patapsco Valley State Park spans over 16,000 acres and is one of Maryland’s most popular state parks. Located along the Patapsco River, it is home to over 200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park also offers several water activities, such as fishing and canoeing. There are pavilions and picnic areas where visitors can eat and rest their feet.

This park also holds some historical significance. It is the state’s oldest state park and boast several historical sites, including the Thomas Viaduct, a railroad bridge that played a crucial role in helping the Union protect Washington D.C. during the Civil War.

5. Calvert Cliffs State Park

This southern Maryland park is home to a spectacular fossil bed, where more than 600 species of fossil plans and animals have been found. Take the family fossil hunting and see if you can find any fossil shark teeth.

Calvert Cliffs State Park is also characterized by picturesque cliffs lining the Chesapeake Bay shoreline. Visitors can explore the park’s 13 miles of hiking trails, or enjoy the park’s sandy beaches and marshland. There is also a recyled tire playground as well as picnic areas.

6. Gunpowder Falls State Park

Spanning over 18,000 acres of land, Gunpowder Falls State Park is one of Maryland’s largest state parks. It includes many diverse ecosystems, including tidal wetlands, marshes, steep slopes, rivers and streams. The park offers endless recreational activities including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, boating and even tubing.

Additionally, visitors can view historical structures and artifacts in the Jerusalem Mill Village. This village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once an 18th- and 19th-century Quaker settlement. Now, the Jerusalem Mill serves as the park’s visitor center.

7. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park

Learn about the legacy of Harriet Tubman and her role in the Underground Railroad at this Maryland state park. Located in Dorchester County, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park spans nearly 500 acres of land, including several historic sites that shaped Tubman’s life.

Start your visit at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, which includes a museum store, an information desk, a research library, a theater, a legacy garden and exhibits on the Underground Railroad. Plan to spend at least 45 minutes exploring the Visitor Center.

8. Sandy Point State Park

Only a ten-minute drive from downtown Annapolis, Sandy Point State Park is a recreation area perfect for those looking to relax on the beach. This 786-acre park is located along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and features stunning beaches and charming picnic areas.

The park also features a marina store, boat rentals, playgrounds, food and beverage concessions and bathrooms. Open since 1952, the park is open year-round.

9. Fort Frederick State Park

Learn about the history of early American settlers while exploring Fort Frederick State Park. Bordering the Potomac River in the Cumberland Valley of Maryland, the park sits on the historic site of a former colonial fort built in 1756 during the French and Indian War.

Visitors can explore the fort and its grounds, which feature two reconstructed barracks. There are historical exhibits in the visitor center, and the park hosts special events throughout the year, such as reenactments and educational programs.

The park also has a boat launch, a camps store and a playground. There are opportunities for hiking, canoeing, camping, and picnicking in the park.

10. Pocomoke River State Park

Located on the Eastern Shore, Pocomoke River State Park is best known for its cypress swamps, which line the Pocomoke River. The park is made up of two areas—Shad Landing on the south bank and Millburn Landing on the north bank—about a 25-minute drive apart.

Park visitors can enjoy a variety of wildlife or stroll along the park’s many trails. There is a visitor center, a boat launch, picnic areas and playgrounds. Those looking to stay overnight can book a night at the park’s mini cabins or at one of the campsites.

11. Seneca Creek State Park

Seneca Creek State Park is a 6,300-acre park located in Montgomery County. The park includes 90-acre Clopper Lake, which is not open for swimming but invites visitors to fish and go boating. Local hiking trails include the 12-mile Schaeffer Farm Trail and the 16.5-mile Seneca Creek Greenway Trail.

The park also appeals to history lovers, who can check out a restored 19th-century cabin. To keep kids busy, the park features a tire playground. Parents can relax in the picnic area, which has grills and tables.

12. Tuckahoe State Park

Tuckahoe State Park is a beautiful natural oasis located along Tuckahoe Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With its 60-acre lake, wooded marshlands, meandering creeks, and diverse wildlife, it’s the perfect place for outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, paddling and fishing.

There is a camp store, a boat house, a visitor center, biking and equestrian trails, a recycled tire playground and picnic areas. To stay overnight, reserve a spot at the family campground.

13. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Although technically a national park, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a must-see if you’re in the Baltimore area. This park commemorates the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the fort or learn more about its history at the visitor and education center. To dive into the fort’s history ahead of time, download the National Park Service app, which offers virtual tours, self-guided tour and a movie about the park.

 


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