Gunpowder Falls State Park. 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, dnr2.maryland.gov. This park was supposedly created to “protect” Gunpowder River and the Big and Little Gunpowder valleys, but doesn’t Amtrak run right over the river? We thought we saw it recently. Anyway, when you’re not passing by it on the train, Gunpowder is a great place for canoeing and kayaking, hiking, horseback-riding, and more.
Gwynns Falls Trail. Leakin Park and Gwynn Falls Park, 1901 Eagle Drive, (410)396-0440, gwynnsfallstrail.org. These trails sit right within the city, connecting over 30 neighborhoods in West and Southwest Baltimore. The trail is easily accessible, most of the trailheads having parking, and they let you do all that birding and hiking and biking and whatever, without “taking a hike” outside Baltimore.
Herrington Manor State Park. 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 334-9180, dnr2.maryland.gov. If you’re looking for a little bit more while travelling inside Garrett State Forest, you might happen upon cabins to stay in and activities to participate in around Herrington Manor State Park. If you time it right, you could be witness to maple syrup demonstrations and be a part of apple-butter-making classes. A nice snack for that hike, boat ride, or cabin stay, if we do say so ourselves.
Jones Falls Watershed. Various spots along the Falls, from Falls Road near Chestnut Avenue in Hampden to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. baltimorecountymd.gov. Great blue herons are a more common sight farther from cities, but sometimes they like to chill near these beautiful falls and nature trails. Keep them beautiful and go for a bike ride there while packing your trash into your backpack to throw away later. It’s not that hard, bro.
Marshy Point Nature Center. 7130 Marshy Point Road, Baltimore, (410) 887-2817, marshypoint.org. Wanna catch a glimpse of those diamondback terrapins UMD is so crazy about? Well, Marshy Point hosts over 50 different species of native wildlife, along with hiking trails, paddling lessons, and lots of kid-friendly activities and exhibits.
New Germany State Park. 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr2.maryland.gov. Hiding between the Big Savage Mountain and the Continental Divide, New Germany State Park has a premium on the “unplugged” movement, urging visitors to put away their cellphones and tablets while partaking in its outdoorsy trails, fishing, boating, picnicking, and more. Maybe bring along a Das Boot mug and some sauerkraut to celebrate the German factor and get the real-life conversation flowing.
Oregon Ridge Nature Center. 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815,oregonridgenaturecenter.org. If you ever had nagging questions about types of trees or naturalist concerns while taking a leisurely hike—preventing you from just enjoying the scenery—then Oregon Ridge Nature Center would love to have you for one of its many nature-y classes and seminars. They have monthly speakers, a naturalist blog, and festivals, including the Council Picnic on June 20, if the quiet of nature is just too loud for you.
Patapsco Valley State Park. 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, dnr2.maryland.gov. Patapsco Valley has some nationally renowned trails along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, but the park service is taking that nature thing really seriously. The Bloede Dam project is in motion to determine if the dam has negative ecological impacts on the river, and the park is asking citizens what they think should be done. Participate in your park less passively, and get on board.
Patterson Park. 27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, pattersonpark.com. Patterson Park was one of the places where Maryland troops defended Baltimore from a British attack, and now it’s a beautiful park host to some really unique events including wine tastings, archeological digs, piñata workshops, and more. And it’s a nice place for a picnic.
Patuxent River Scenic Trail at Queen Anne. 18405 Queen Anne Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 627-6074,visitprincegeorges.com. Hike along the river and check out the view, or maybe hop on horseback for a change. Maybe you’ll even get to see an osprey: The Patuxent River Park is the home to some osprey nests; the new chicks were born in May. If you don’t see one in real life, the website also has an osprey cam—for those of you that prefer the basement to the trail.
Potomac-Garrett State Forest. 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, dnr.maryland.gov. If you’re tired of regular hunting, try out some 3-D archery with life-size targets at Potomac-Garrett and pretend you’re in The Hunger Games or something. We hear there’s also some excellent trout-fishing at the headwaters of the Potomac within the park.
Quiet Waters Park. 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, (410) 222-1777, aacounty.org. If the dirt trails are too rough on your feet, Quiet Waters Park has 6 miles of paved trails. Plus, the Blue Heron Center hosts events like weddings, while the community garden allows for some plant-nurturing.
Robert E. Lee Park. 1000 Lakeside Drive, (410) 887-4156, baltimorecountymd.gov. Have you been searching for rare plant life in the serpentine narrows? No? Well Robert E. Lee Park, named after the Confederate general, has some for you anyway. Plus canoeing and kayaking, a place to walk your dog, and pavilions for your picnics and large family gatherings. And there’s a giant dam—weren’t we wondering how environmental that is? Oh well.
Rocks State Park. 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, (410) 557-7994, dnr2.maryland.gov. This was the first piece of land that the state of Maryland bought with the express purpose of creating a nature wonderland for you to frolic through in peace, away from urban noise. Once there, you’ll find the King and Queen Seats, a natural rock outcropping used as a gathering place for the Susquehannock Indians. Plus, you know, nature for hiking and hunting and all that jazz.
Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool. 6122 Sargent Road, Chillum, (301) 853-9115, pgparks.com. If you’re tired of all this nature stuff, and you heard about how bad tans and burns are for your health, this indoor splash park will be perfect. There’s a water-play area, lap lanes, and more to enjoy. It’s $5 for residents and $6 for non-residents, but we think you can get your money’s worth.
Rosaryville State Park. 7805 W. Marlton Ave., Upper Marlboro, (301) 856-9656, dnr2.maryland.gov. There’s a bunch of nature and trails for walkers, bikers, and horse-riders alike, all surrounding a big-ass house: Mount Airy Mansion. Choose between deer bow-hunting or ogling at a home you definitely can’t afford.
Savage River State Forest. 127 Headquarters Lane, (301) 895-5759, dnr.maryland.gov. Mountain-bikers to backpackers to horseback riders to casual strollers are welcomed warmly at this massive state forest, the biggest in the state-forest system. It’s got a whole lot of nature.
Seneca Creek State Park. 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, (301) 924-2127, dnr2.maryland.gov. You can find yourself along Seneca Creek until it gets to the Potomac, and support nature-y causes everywhere through the park’s involvement in the North Face’s Explore Your Parks program. Make sure you’re wearing that black fleece and Ugg boots too. Just kidding.
Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area. 5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, (410) 461-5005. If you’re feeling like Neville Longbottom and have a hankering for rare plants and herbs, then this is certainly the place for you. And if that doesn’t get you going, the kids will probably enjoy the scavenger hunts the area hosts from time to time.
South Mountain State Park. 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr2.maryland.gov. Most of the park is only accessible by foot, and then you’ll have 40 miles of trails to keep you occupied. Make sure to bring a map of the Applachian Trail, which winds along the South Mountain, and keep your eyes out for a good marshmallow-roasting stick.
Swallow Falls State Park. 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 387-6938, dnr2.maryland.gov. Check out the 53-foot waterfall! They also have a new program where they lend you camping gear free of charge; that’s a pretty sweet deal.
Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River. 898 State Park Road, Swanton, (301) 387-5563, dnr2.maryland.gov. We get it, you’ve had enough of tranquil and scenic stuff—you want some action. Take to the Youghiogheny for some white-water rafting and kayaking, with the chance to go down 280 feet of drop over 4 miles. Booyah, bro!
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