Beartown State Park, near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, beartownstatepark.com. We know West Virginia bills itself as "wild and wonderful," but that's no reason to scare people by suggesting there is a commune of bears in your state park. The park features more than 100 acres of trails, boulders, and cliffs for your hiking pleasure, with nary a bear in sight.
Beaver Dam Swimming Club, 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 785-2323, beaverdamswimmingclub.com. Pools just not cool enough for you? Too many stupid rules to prevent you from injuring yourself, am I right? Well, hop down the road for this swimming hole that aims to bring the fun back into jumping into really large puddles. Cliffs, rope swings, you name it. And when you're done, you can head over to the volleyball and basketball courts for some dry fun. Downside: All of the fun will be dry, as alcohol is strictly verboten.
Blackwater Falls State Park, near Davis, W. Va., (304) 259-5216, blackwaterfalls.com. So that thing about black water: They're not kidding. It's actually black, thanks to "tannic acid" from some local plant life. Anyways, they've got waterfalls, gorges, and anything else nature-related you might want. Entrance is free, and you can pay for lodging if you like.
Big Run State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us. Want to head to a park but haven't decided what to do yet? That's where Big Run fits in. You can go fishing, boating, swimming, and camping, among other things. So you can argue with your family the entire way there until you finally decide to just Turn This Car Around.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-6872, bombayhook.fws.gov. Oh boy. This sanctuary covers more than 16,000 acres of shoreline along the Delaware Bay and features an auto-tour, walking trails, observation towers, hunting opportunities, and nature and educational programs. Sounds great (and exhausting).
Cabin John Regional Park, 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Rockville, (301) 299-0024, montgomeryparks.org. Picnicking, camping, hiking, ice skating. Wait, what? Yeah, this park has a year-round ice rink too. And miniature train rides. So if you want some serious physical activity along with nature-surveying, this is the place.
Cascade Lake, Snydersburg Road, Hampstead, (410) 374-9111, cascadelake.com. Need to cool off but don't feel up to arduous physical activity like swimming? In addition to a 6-acre lake, Cascade offers everything from waterslides to a water "playground" with geysers and other highfalutin sprinklers.
Casselman River Bridge State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us. The Casselman River bridge, originally constructed in 1813, has been closed to pedestrian traffic lately due to some renovations to make sure it remains really old yet structurally sound. But officials say that work will be done by the end of May, so be sure to stop by for all your picnicking, fishing, and history-loving needs.
Carroll Park Skateboarding and Bike Facility, 800 Baynard St., (410) 245-0613, baltimorecity.gov. Tired of your favorite skate spots getting upgraded by those indignant property owners, preventing you from executing totally sweet grinding tricks? Stop by Carroll Park, where x-treme activities are not only allowed but encouraged. Admission is $2, or $15 for a year-long pass, and you have to wear a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. Tubular! Kids still say that, right?
Catoctin Mountain Park, 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, (301) 663-9388, nps.gov/cato. A park rich in history, from traces of Native Americans to the early mining industry and the work of New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps, but even richer in nature, with more than 5,000 acres of streams, geology, trails, and rock climbing.
Cunningham Falls State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, dnr.state.md.us. The park's namesake is a 78-foot waterfall. SEVENTY-EIGHT FEET. It also has a ton of hiking, fishing, swimming, and boating options. Just make sure to avoid that waterfall when you try the two latter options. And if you like some powerful coattails to ride, they had a G8 Summit here last year, which is kind of neat.
Dan's Mountain State Park, 17410 Recreation Area Road, Lonaconing, (301) 722-1480, dnr.state.md.us. Who knew all you had to do to get a mountain named after you was knock yourself unconscious and nearly be eaten by a bear? That's what happened to Daniel Cresap, an early Allegeny County settler who was saved from said bear by a Native American. So celebrate hunting incompetence with hiking, swimming, and camping in this 481-acre park and 16-mile-long mountain.
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, droopmountainbattlefield.com. Everyone knows about Gettysburg and most people know about Antietam. But over in West Virginia is another major Civil War battlefield, marking a series of battles over a railroad line, which, we understand, is how they transported stuff in the olden days. This park is part of the Civil War Discovery Trail, which links more than 300 sites in 16 states and is ripe for hiking.
Druid Hill Park, 2600 Madison Ave., (410) 396-0616, ci.baltimore.md.us. One of the oldest urban parks in the country, Druid Hill Park is both beautiful and convenient for city residents. Rumor has it there's a zoo nearby too?
Fort Frederick State Park, 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, (301) 842-2155, dnr.state.md.us. Originally constructed in 1758 as a stronghold during the French and Indian War, the fort was also used during the Revolutionary War to hold British prisoners. Although it was farmed a bunch after that, state preservationists have restored the site to its original 1758 appearance and host annual artillery firings and have boating, camping, fishing, and the like.
Gambrill State Park, 8602 Gambrill Park Road, Frederick, (301) 271-7574, dnr.state.md.us. Yep, another park in the Catoctin Mountains. This one has some sweet natural stone overlooks of the mountain range, along with the typical hiking, camping, and fishing. Fun fact: most of the park's buildings and amenities were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, where youngsters would get paid money to restore parks and other natural resources during the Great Depression.
Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, dnr.state.md.us. Billed as the "birthplace of forestry conservation in Maryland," the 1,900-acre park was donated to the state back in 1906 by the Garrett brothers. The forest as it stands today is 7,000 acres, full of all kinds of oak, pine, and hemlock (WATCH OUT!) trees, and the pristine forest is perfect for camping, hiking, and nature-gawking.
Gathland State Park, 900 Arnoldstown Road, Burkittsville, (301) 791-4767, dnr.state.md.us. Journalism must have been a lucrative profession at one time: Gathland State Park is home to the mountain house of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend, which implies that he also had a city or at least suburban home elsewhere! The main draw of the park is a giant stone monument dedicated to Civil War correspondents. Wait, old journalists got fucking monuments too? That's it, we'll live with the polio and the amputation as cure for all injuries; just get us back to a time when we writers could be rich.
Green Ridge State Forest, 28700 Headquarters Drive, Flintstone, (301) 478-3124, dnr.state.md.us. Wowsa. The largest contiguous piece of state-owned land, Green Ridge clocks in at 47,560 acres. Needless to say, with a park this big, there's tons to do. Camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, biking, etc., etc., etc. They even have a shooting range if you prefer your targets to be less cute and more papery.
Greenbrier State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr.state.md.us. Over the years, humans have shown various ways that we control nature. Pollution, aqueducts, man-made lakes. Well, Greenbrier State Park features a big man-made lake for swimming, boating, and the like. What's next, a weather-control device?
Gunpowder Falls State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, dnr.state.md.us. The state Department of Natural Resources says this park was created to protect Gunpowder Falls, but we wonder: What does gunpowder need to be protected from? Shouldn't we be protected from gunpowder? Anyways, this 18,000-acre park has 120 miles' worth of trails with various themes and points of interest. It's also got access to a marina and archery activities.
Gwynns Falls Trail, Leakin Park, (410) 396-0440, gwynnsfallstrail.org. Snaking throughout West and Southwest Baltimore, we guess it wouldn't be accurate to call the Gwynns Falls Trail an oasis. But it's all over the place, easily accessible, and beautiful, so head over on your day off for a stroll or a bike or whatever you like to do.
Herrington Manor State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 334-9180, dnr.state.md.us. A lot of these parks offer the typical nature fare of hiking, camping, and maybe some swimming or fishing. But Herrington Manor strives for more. If you show up at the right time, you'll be heading home with some apple butter. THAT YOU MADE YOURSELF (with some help). Traveling, touristing, and tasty treats, my friend.
Jones Falls, various spots along the Falls, from Falls Road near Chestnut Avenue in Hampden to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. Stop dumping in the Jones Falls. Just stop. Every piece of garbage threatens to detract from the awesome (as in inspiring awe) sight of a great blue heron hangin' out on its banks.
Marshy Point Nature Center, 7130 Marshy Point Road, (410) 887-2817, marshypoint.org. This nature preserve, when combined with adjoining county, state, and federal land, encompasses 3,000 acres of wetland and Chesapeake Bay coast and is a hotbed for local wildlife. Check the website for festivals and other events, like birdhouse workshops.
New Germany State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, dnr.state.md.us. New Germany has almost everything: camping, cabins, hiking, boating, fishing, and on and on. But we guess you'll have to bring your own sauerkraut. Bummer.
Oregon Ridge Nature Center, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, oregonridge.org. Oregon Ridge Nature Center isn't content to simply exist, allowing you to enjoy it at your leisure-it wants to pummel you with knowledge through various programs it hosts throughout the year, from Stone Age technology to music in the woods to folklore tied to full moons. Most events are free or really cheap, so go learn something.
Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, dnr.state.md.us. Patapsco Valley is an odd park. It's not contiguous, so if you live in or near Ellicott City, you could literally be walking from your yard into the park. Depending what part of the park you're in, you could do some hiking, fishing, canoeing, or even horseback riding.
Patterson Park, 27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, pattersonpark.com. One of the oldest parks in Baltimore, it was on Hampstead Hill in 1814 that 20,000 troops set up shop and literally scared the British away. It's also got tons to do nowadays, from swimming at the pool to playing at the playgrounds or just hanging out by the fountain.
Patuxent River Scenic Trail at Queen Anne, 18405 Queen Anne Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 627-6074, pgparks.com. Part of the larger Patuxent River Park, this 4-mile trail through woodlands offers options for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. There are various stops to rest or check out a scenic view of the river along the way.
Potomac-Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, dnr.state.md.us. In case archery just isn't real enough for you, Potomac-Garrett State Forest has a solution for you: 3-D archery. You don't put on silly plastic glasses or anything like that. The targets are three-dimensional and life-sized, like deer, turkeys, and bears. The park also offers opportunities for things like hiking and horseback riding, too, in case being able to shoot arrows at plastic prey somehow isn't enough for you.
Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, (410) 222-1777, friendsofquietwaterspark.org. In addition to the usual trails-paved, this time-for biking and jogging, Quiet Waters Park offers community gardens for the green thumb in everyone.
Robert E. Lee Park, entrances off of Lake and Bellona avenues, (410) 396-7931, baltimorecountymd.gov. This park, named after the Confederate general, boasts canoeing and kayaking, numerous trails, environmental programs, and pavilions to meet your every nature-oriented desire. And it's got a full one-acre off-leash dog park to let Fido actually enjoy himself with the other canines.
Rocks State Park, 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, (410) 557-7994, dnr.state.md.us. This park's 190-foot natural rock formation, known as the King and Queen seats, is a sight to behold. It was once a ceremonial gathering place for the Susquehannock Indians and now is the feather in the cap of a great park for rock climbing and other activities. So bust out that chalk and get bouldering.
Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool, 6122 Sargent Road, Chillum, (301) 853-9115, pgparks.com. Whoa, whoa, whoa. An INDOOR pool for splashing and waterslides and the like? That alone should spark your interest. But it also offers regular classes for water aerobics with all kinds of equipment (read: toys) from flotation belts to water dumbbells, and, of course, foam noodles. Definitely worth the $7 non-resident and $6 resident admission price.
Rosaryville State Park, 8714 Rosaryville Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 856-9596, dnr.state.md.us. Trek down to Upper Marlboro to indulge your inner Nuge with deer bow hunting. Or you can go all Doris Kearns Goodwin with presidential history and check out the Mount Airy Museum, a home owned by the Calverts and visited by George Washington.
Savage River State Forest, 127 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5759, dnr.state.md.us. There's not much room for us to be clever with this one. There's too many activities to be had along this 54,000-acre river: biking trails, boating, cross-country skiing, camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking, historic stuff, hunting, picnicking, snowmobiling, and white-water canoeing.
Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, (301) 924-2127, dnr.state.md.us. This park offers activities for people of varying skill levels. You can go boating, hiking, fishing, and whatnot. But if you dare, you can also trek along the 16.5-mile Greenway Trail that runs the entire length of the creek.
Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, 5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, (410) 461-5005, dnr.state.md.us. Soldiers Delight is a safe haven to more than 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plants and also hosts rare insects, rocks, and minerals. It has 7 miles of hiking trails, but bikes and horses are verboten due to the sensitive plants and insects and the like. A site for those interested not only in visiting nature, but preserving it.
South Mountain State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, dnr.state.md.us. Part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, South Mountain boasts 40 miles of park land and trails. And there's plenty of history behind it, with influences on the site ranging from General Edward Braddock and George Washington to William McKinley and Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan.
Swallow Falls State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 387-6938, dnr.state.md.us. Swallow Falls is for the hardcore adventurist. Waterfalls, rapids, swift currents, slippery rocks, and tough terrain are all in store for the canoer or hiker who wants to push him or herself to the limit. And it has some more leisurely hiking and picnicking activities for the newbies.
Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River, 898 State Park Road, Swanton, (301) 387-5563, dnr.state.md.us. This river is not for the faint of heart. It boasts white-water rafting that takes you down 280 feet of drop over 4 miles. Sounds scary-and fun, if you're able to handle it.
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