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.
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!