Beartown State Park. Near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, www.beartownstatepark.com. Known for its unusual rock formations rather than any actual bears, Beartown is over 100 acres and rich with trails and beautiful sites. Free to visit and open from April to October, Beartown, with its constantly shifting rock landscape, provides a welcome getaway from your hectic life.
Beaver Dam Swimming Club. 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 785-2323,beaverdamswimmingclub.com. For those days when it’s too hot not to swim but the beach just feels so done, there’s Beaver Dam Swimming Club. Known for its 40-foot deep quarry and infamous rope swing, Beaver Dam is there to provide all of the swinging, jumping, swimming, and cannonballing you could want. With courts for volleyball and basketball, and grills for picnics and cookouts, Beaver Dam is ready to meet all your summer needs—there’re even two pools if you somehow (how?) manage to get tired of the quarry.
Blackwater Falls State Park. near Davis, W. Va., (304) 259-5216, blackwaterfalls.com. Though the water is more amber than black exactly—colored by tannic acid from fallen hemlock trees and red spruce needles—Blackwater Falls is one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia. Don’t miss out on the sites, the food, and the lodge, where you can stay overnight for a double dose of nature.
Big Run State Park. 10368 Savage River Road, Swanton, (301) 895-5453, dnr2.maryland.gov. If you’re not sure whether you want to sit in a boat for five hours holding a stick or wander around the wilderness doing your best to figure out a compass and a map, Big Run is the park for you. With fishing, hiking, boating, hunting, and camping, Big Run covers it all and anything else you might want to do out in the wild.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-9345,fws.gov/refuge. With five walking trails, a 12-mile wildlife drive, and over 16,000 acres of land, Bombay Hook is the place to be for observing wildlife. The park has a tidal salt marsh, cordgrass meadows, mud flats, tidal pools, rivers, creeks, and tidal streams; and above all that there are bald eagles after their eggs hatch in April.
Cabin John Regional Park. 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda, (301) 299-0024, montgomeryparks.org. If you just loved our extended winter from earlier this year and can’t wait to experience it again, Cabin John is the park for you. With a year-round enclosed ice rink, you can finally slap on your skates in the 90-degree heat and pretend it’s Christmas in July, like you’ve always wanted. Oh, and there’s a tai chi court and a miniature train, so really, what else do you need?
Cascade Lake. 2844 Snydersburg Road, Hampstead, (410) 374-9111, cascadelake.com. Surrounded by wooded hills, Cascade Lake is more than just a lake for swimming, it’s practically its own waterpark. With platforms to jump off of and waterslides to go down and a “Spray ’N’ Playground,” Cascade Lake caters to those who both love water and those who maybe just like it.
Casselman River Bridge State Park. 10240 National Pike, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.maryland.gov. Built in 1813 as the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the U.S., Casselman River Bridge stands as a relic of Maryland’s history and offers incredible views. The bridge is open to pedestrian traffic, and the rest of the park offers plenty of fishing and picnicking, just in case the view isn’t enough for you.
Carroll Park Skateboarding and Bike Facility. 800 Bayard St., (410) 396-7019, bcrp.baltimorecity.gov. If you’re tired of that regular-park, baseball/green-grass/playground nonsense, hit up Carroll Park Skateboarding and Bike Facility for a little more adventure. You have to use your pads and helmet if you want to ride the ramps, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Catoctin Mountain Park. 14707 Park Central Road, Thurmont, (301) 663-9388, nps.gov/cato. Catoctin Mountain is the place for you if you’re at all into camping. With tent camping, cabin camping, and Adirondack shelters available, Catoctin can help you find somewhere to sleep outside (or outside-ish), whatever your comfort level with nature. There’s also plenty of fishing, hiking, orienteering, and rock-climbing. There are also horse trails, but we’re pretty sure those are BYOH (Bring Your Own Horse).
Cunningham Falls State Park. 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, dnr2.maryland.gov. There’s the William Houck Area with a lake, a waterfall, and camping, and then the Manor Area with the Catoctin Iron Furnace, so whether you’re looking for a genuine outdoor experience or just a touch of history, Cunningham Falls has you covered. There’s also plenty of space for activities like swimming, hiking, fishing, and canoeing.
Dan’s Mountain State Park. 17410 Recreation Area Road, Lonaconing, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us. First of all, we can’t think of a park that sounds any cooler than one called “Dan’s Mountain.” And it seems like the park lives up to its name too. There’s an Olympic-sized swimming pool, first of all, but also group pavilions, a playground, a pond, and the nearby Dan’s Rock Overlook, which also sounds so cool. We bet this guy Dan was just the best.
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park. 683 Droop Park Road, Hillsboro, W.Va., (304) 653-4254,droopmountainbattlefield.com. The site of one of West Virginia’s last Civil War battles, Droop Mountain Battlefield is a great place for history buffs. It’s a stop on the Official Civil War Discovery Trail, if you needed any more reason to go.
Druid Hill Park. 900 Druid Park Lake Drive, (410) 396-7900, bcrp.baltimorecity.gov. We have the Susquehannock Indians to thank for this historically beautiful and urban piece of land, as they ceded it to Lord Baltimore in 1652; it was later designed to model European parks. You can take a walk, run, bike-ride, or whatever you want around the lake, and maybe catch sight of some locals getting buff, using the park equipment to work out. Or you can head on over to the zoo and spy on polar bears.
Fort Frederick State Park. 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, (301) 842-2155, dnr2.maryland.gov. Take yourself back to the French and Indian War you may or may not remember from 5th-grade history class, and find yourself along Maryland’s frontier defense. After reveling in our state’s history, enjoy some scenic views of the Potomac and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Go boating, fishing, camping, and more—just watch out for the annual artillery firings and reenactments.
Gambrill State Park. 8602 Gambrill Park Road, Frederick, (301) 271-7574, dnr2.maryland.gov. Whether it’s a long hike you want or a place to relax in the Catocin Mountains with the family, Gambrill State Park is probably a good place to go. With 16 miles of trails and reservable campsites and cabins like the Tea Room, you may never want to return to civilization. And it hosts something called the “Youth Fishing Rodeo,” which sounds like a wild fishing hoedown in the mountains. It’s more of a tournament, but regardless, it sounds like an interesting camping site.
Garrett State Forest. 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, dnr.maryland.gov. The entire field of forestry conservation in Maryland was born in Garrett State Forest, whose 7,000 acres host tree types including red oak, white oak, black cherry, maple, and many more. If you’re into things like birding, hiking, camping, hunting, and biking, you can do that here. Let us know if you find that rare bird on your list.
Gathland State Park. 900 Arnoldstown Road, Jefferson, (301) 791-4767, dnr2.maryland.gov. George Alfred Townsend—a journalist who made a real living off writing—lived up in the mountains here during the Civil War. Not only are there scenic views here today, but there’s also a bunch of unique structures Townsend had built, including a lodge and a main hall. Plus, the Appalachian Trail passes through.
Green Ridge State Forest. 28700 Headquarters Drive, Flintstone, (301) 478-3124, dnr.maryland.gov. This forest has been utilized for tons of different strange purposes in the past, including making the “Largest Apple Orchard in the Universe,” holding German prisoners of war during WWII, and being a big part of industrial timber and mining businesses. Today, after wildfires and construction alike, Green Ridge now hosts nature buffs from all around to enjoy its camping, hiking, hunting, and conservation efforts.
Greenbrier State Park. 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr2.maryland.gov. Not only does this state park sit along the Appalachian Trail to host weary travelers and avid hikers alike, but it also has a sizeable manmade swimming area—perfect for those hoping for a tan. Sounds really nature-y, and oh so American.