Ten Top Parks in Maryland You Need to Visit

Ten Top Parks in Maryland
You Need to Visit

By Dylan Roche


You may have heard Maryland referred to as “America in miniature.” That’s because our state has a little bit of everything you would find across the country—mountains, oceans, forests, lakes, rivers, and much more. And what better way to explore all the state has to offer than by visiting some of her incredible parks?

If you’re looking for a reason to take an adventurous excursion this summer, here it is. As you check out these Ten Top Parks, you’ll undoubtedly have a greater appreciation of what makes Maryland special.



Assateague State Park

If you’re like most Marylanders, you probably associate Assateague State Park with one thing—horses. That’s because this scenic oceanfront park is home to a herd of wild horses that can often be spotted roaming the beaches and traversing the dunes. In addition to spotting these beautiful animals in their element, you can hike along the trails and around the marshes, sunbathe, or surf along the two miles of beach. Bring your camping gear, too, as Assateague State Park has more than 300 campsites and cabins where you can stay while you enjoy all the island has to offer. (Pictured above.)


Calvert Cliffs State Park

The hallmark of Calvert Cliffs State Park is its unique natural features: most prominently, the massive cliffs, which date back millions of years. As you take the time to explore the hiking trails and sandy beaches of this 1,000-acre park, you’ll likely find plenty of prehistoric fossils. (Perhaps you heard the story about the girl who found a five-inch megalodon tooth in the water beside Calvert Cliffs; it made national news in December 2022.) Even if you’re not fossil hunting, you’ll be impressed by the view of the bay. Or you can simply relax in the shade of the pavilion, which makes a great spot for picnicking.(Pictured below.)



Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park

Located adjacent to each other and spanning hundreds of acres, Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park offer the chance to explore miles of strenuous hiking trails where you can enjoy the view of breathtaking vistas and cascading waterfalls. Be sure to visit Cunningham Falls, the largest waterfall in Maryland, and the scenic overlook at Chimney Rock. The lake in the middle of Cunningham Falls State Park offers a sandy beach for relaxing and sunbathing, as well as the chance to swim, fish, and canoe. 


Ferry Point Park

This waterfront park along the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore County covers 40 acres of beautiful outdoors. Take advantage of the hiking and biking trails, or let the kids spend their energy on the playgrounds and basketball courts. If you’re a water person, you’ll love the park’s beach area and fishing pier, where you can go for a swim or launch your boat into the bay. 


Gathland State Park

Here’s a park for history enthusiasts. Gathland State Park in Western Maryland covers 500 acres and is known for its Civil War history. Be sure to visit the museum featuring Civil War artifacts and exhibits and stop to see the War Correspondents Memorial Arch, built to honor the journalists who covered the war. But even if you do go for the history, be sure to stay for the outdoors—the park has trails with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, where you can enjoy hiking, picnicking, and camping.


Hart-Miller Island State Park

What makes Hart-Miller State Park so interesting is its seclusion. It’s located on a manmade island in the Chesapeake Bay, created when shipping channels were dredged. You’ll need a private boat to reach the island, but once you get there, you can enjoy swimming, fishing, picnicking, and birdwatching. The sandy beaches and hiking trails offer panoramic views of the bay and the surrounding wetlands. While you’re there, be sure to explore the island’s historic lighthouse, which dates back to the mid-19th century.


Patapsco Valley State Park

Take your adventurous spirit to Patapsco Valley State Park, where you’ll find more than 200 miles of trails—ranging from easy to strenuous—weaving throughout the 16,000 acres of hilly, forested park along the Patapsco River. On hot days, you can cool off by taking a dip in the water, which you’ll find especially refreshing at the foot of the impressive Cascade Falls. While you’re exploring, be sure to check out some of the historic sites, including the 19th-century stone arch bridge known as the Thomas Viaduct. (Pictured above.)


Sandy Point State Park

Encompassing more than 1,000 acres along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Sandy Point State Park has a little bit of everything: a stretch of sandy beach, hiking trails through the woods, grassy areas for frisbee and ball throwing, playgrounds for the kids, and even picnic areas. It’s a great destination for all kinds of outdoor fun, whether you’re interested in swimming, hiking, or just relaxing and taking in the sight of the bay.



Swallow Falls State Park

Swallow Falls State Park is renowned for its waterfalls, particularly Muddy Creek Falls. As you hike your way along the extensive trails that thread through the 250 acres of the park’s mountainous terrain, you’ll discover old-growth forests, rocky gorges, and crystal-clear streams. The park’s recreational area and campground are especially breathtaking in autumn when the fall foliage changes colors. (Pictured above.)


Terrapin Nature Park

Located on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, this beautiful nature preserve encompasses about 270 acres, with a network of trails through the woodlands and boardwalks over the marshy wetlands. With more than 200 recorded species of birds in the area, Terrapin Nature Park offers great opportunities for birdwatching. While you’re there, you can also stop by the fishing pier that extends into the bay, whether you want to cast a line or just take in the view.



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