22 Best MD State Parks with Wildlife Viewing, Waterfalls, Hiking Trails & More

Muddy Creek falls in Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland

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If your idea of a perfect trip involves loads of outdoor fun, get ready to spice up your itinerary with a visit to some of the best state parks in Maryland!

Whether you’re a hiking fanatic, a family looking for a day of exploration, a camping enthusiast, or someone who can’t resist the call of wildlife, the Old Line State has your back with an exciting array of options.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best MD state parks, each with its own unique mix of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. 

Picture yourself wandering through lush forests, following the twists and turns of meandering rivers, or basking on the stunning Chesapeake Bay coastline or some sandy Atlantic Ocean beaches. 

Some of these destinations also feature accessible facilities like campgrounds, visitor centers, restaurants, picnic spots, and more.

For more statewide activities, check out these recommendations in our Maryland bucket list guide.

You might also like our guide to the best national parks on the East Coast for more outdoor adventures.

Best State Parks in Maryland

For ease of planning, we’ll list these state parks in Maryland beginning in the Eastern Shore Region, moving to the Central Region, and ending in the Western Region.

Assateague State Park

As Maryland’s only state park directly on the Atlantic Ocean, Assateague State Park is both unique and popular.

Just south of Ocean City, Maryland — not to be confused with the popular Ocean City in New Jersey — the park’s large campground offers a place to stay just outside of town.

The 2-mile-long beach is the park’s main natural feature.

Wildlife viewing is popular among visitors and is primarily done by car or boat on the Sinepuxent Bay side of the island.

If you’re looking for that famous state park in Maryland with wild horses, this destination is a must-visit.

There are plenty of wild Assateague horses roaming the beaches, but please follow park regulations and do not approach, touch, or feed them for your own safety and that of the horses.

In case you get hungry, the park’s restaurant, The Five Tides, offers traditional American cuisine and seafood less than 1,000 feet from some campsites.

Wild horses eating on Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland

Pocomoke River State Park

Far in Maryland’s southeastern corner is Pocomoke River State Park, a large park centered around fishing and paddling.

With 6.5 miles along the Pocomoke River, multiple boat ramps allow access to the gentle river.

Different amenities can be found within each of the three units – or areas – of the park.

With two areas south of the river and one north of the river, all are home to easy hiking trails totaling over 13 miles; two contain boat launches and one is the location of the campground.

Nearly nine of these miles of trail are open to bikers, and the park makes for a good destination for bikers just testing out dirt trails for the first time.

Janes Island State Park

The landscape in Southeast Maryland lends itself well to paddling, and Janes Island State Park is no exception.

Part of the park is located on the mainland, while a 3,000-acre island composes the rest of it.

Paddlers enjoy the canals made out of Daugherty Creek and multiple miles of isolated beaches on Tangier Sound are great places for them to land and spend some time.

Over 100 campsites and cabins provide lodging in the park, and a boat ramp and marina are available for larger watercraft.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park

Some people visiting Eastern Maryland may be interested in local history, especially considering the proximity to the boundary over which the Civil War was fought.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park provides a visitor center where guests can learn about the history of the network and how it affected the area around the park.

The byway of the same name is near the park and consists of 125 miles of road in Eastern Maryland, with several historical markers detailing the history of the Underground Railroad in the area.

The 17-acre park is also home to a set of gardens and walking paths around the visitor center.

Bohemia River State Park

Ten miles south of Elkton is Bohemia River State Park, one of Eastern Maryland’s most varied parks in terms of elevation.

Five miles of multi-use trails occupy the gently rolling hills of the park, mainly following the upper treeline where the woodland meets the grassland.

The park hosts activities like paddling and hiking with the park staff, who give deeper insight as to what you may see on the hike.

Visitors may also enjoy the various species that use Great Bohemia Creek as a water source, including deer and many species of birds.

Susquehanna State Park

The final 15 miles of the Susquehanna River flow through the state of Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay, and over four miles of the western banks are occupied by Susquehanna State Park.

In some places, the bluffs of the park rise 280 feet above the river, making for a beautiful river valley with some outstanding views.

Launching boats on the river here is a popular activity, especially with such quick access to the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition to that, Susquehanna State Park offers one of the best mountain biking trail systems in Eastern Maryland, with some moderately challenging routes through some of the narrow valleys of the park.

Rocks State Park

A small park, Rocks State Park lies just north of Bel Air a few miles from the Pennsylvania border.

Multiple picnic areas along ridges make up most of the area in this day-use-only park.

A few short hiking trails exist in the park, with the main highlight being the King and Queen Seat overlook, which sits high above Deer Creek and offers excellent views of the valley.

A small area north of Deer Creek is open for hunting seasonally, and the adjacent Stoneywood Nature Center educates visitors about the geographic history of the area.

Early autumn color at Kilgore Falls, at Rocks State Park, Maryland

Gunpowder Falls State Park

Looking for state parks near Baltimore?

Gunpowder Falls State Park is located just about a 30-minute drive outside of Baltimore.

Composed of eight different areas, the park has something for everyone, from a marina and boat launch on the water to various difficulties of kayaking on the Gunpowder River.

Rolling hills occupy seven of the areas, with flat trails being found near the marina.

Trails connect all the areas of the park, enabling long-distance hikers to have a fun time doing large loops.

Autumn color along the Gunpowder River in Gunpowder Falls State Park Maryland

Calvert Cliffs State Park

North of Lusby, Calvert Cliffs State Park is home to steep drop-offs into water that can’t be found anywhere else on the Chesapeake Bay.

The rolling hills of the park provide a more challenging hiking experience than most parks in the area.

If you’re looking for more Maryland state parks with beaches, Calvert Cliffs has one located between the cliffs and is a popular place for families.

There’s also an independent campground located just outside the park.

The northern half of the park is open to hunting deer, turkey, and upland game as well — be sure to check areas open to hunting or contact the park ahead of time to carefully plan your visit.

Beach and cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay at Calvert Cliffs State Park Maryland

St. Mary’s River State Park

Composed of two nearby sites, St. Mary’s River State Park is home to a 200-acre lake for paddling, fishing, and hiking.

Attached to Salem State Forest, the park has many acres of land that are open to hunting as well.

The second site of the park is almost entirely undeveloped and the land’s primary use is for hunting and game management.

A playground, boat launch, and picnic area complete the park.

The many trails through the woods make this state park a quiet outdoor experience.

St. Clements Island State Park

Only accessible by boat, St. Clements Island lies in the wide Potomac River just before it flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

The park is only 62 acres and has a frequent water taxi that takes visitors across.

A short trail encircles the island, but most people who visit are looking to take a tour of the lighthouse.

One of Maryland’s only lighthouses, the Blackistone Lighthouse offers tours on weekends or by appointment.

While the original lighthouse no longer stands, the original blueprints were used to create the replica that stands now, which was completed in 2008.

Chapman State Park

The Mount Aventine Mansion is the main attraction of Chapman State Park; it overlooks the Potomac River and is in the only non-forested area in the park.

A number of trails weave through the old-growth forests of the park, which are virtually unchanged from colonial times.

History buffs will enjoy learning more about the house and historic area.

Before 1800, the Chapman family occupied the house and had close ties with the founding fathers of the United States, including George Washington.

Given the time period, visitors should note that enslaved people built this home and built the wealth of the Chapman family.

It is particularly worth noting that George Chapman spent years meticulously documenting his thriving fishery business; these records are still used today to gauge the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

However, of little note to him or other family members were the lives of the enslaved people who helped build that thriving business; there are very few documents available today regarding the people the Chapman family enslaved.

You can learn more about the history of the home to better understand the overall story when you visit.

Patapsco Valley State Park

Looking for more state parks in Baltimore County?

Patapsco Valley State Park is one of Maryland’s most popular due to its proximity to Baltimore and its beautiful scenery.

The park is composed of six units.

Each unit showcases a different section of the scenic Patapsco River Valley, and over 70 miles of maintained trails exist across the units.

Additionally, 130 additional miles of unmaintained trails can also be found along the river and in the hills, giving Baltimore residents abundant places to hike.

Rapids, waterfalls, and bluffs all inhabit the park and make for stunning hikes through the valley.

A beautiful small stream surrounded with greenery in Patapsco State Valley Park in Baltimore, Maryland

Patuxent River State Park

Mostly undeveloped, Patuxent River State Park is a large park 23 miles west of Baltimore.

Hunting is the main activity in this park, with much of the park dedicated to it.

The developed area of the park is entirely at the south end, and a few short trails navigate in and out of the river valley.

In addition to these trails, the day-use-only park has many miles of hiker-established trails, which have been created by hunters, adventurers, and wildlife; visitors are welcome to venture onto these trails.

The park advises anyone using these trails to have sufficient navigational skills and/or a cell phone in case they cannot find where they came from.

Cunningham Falls State Park

In Maryland’s easternmost mountains, Cunningham Falls State Park shines as a nearby place for folks to enjoy a day trip from DC.

Hunting Creek Lake allows for fishing and paddling among the many low mountains that surround the park.

Many hikers enjoy summiting Bob’s Hill, the main peak in the state park.

The trail system also connects to Catoctin Mountain Park, which offers summits to a few more peaks.

Cunningham Falls is a waterfall located in the park; it is small and intermittent though, so check recent conditions before seeking it out.

If you’re looking for state parks near Frederick MD, this one is just around a 30-minute drive.

Cunningham Falls State Park Maryland

South Mountain State Park

The Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail runs through South Mountain State Park and is the main attraction of the park.

At 40 miles long, the park’s natural features center around the high ridge just east of Hagerstown.

At just a 20-minute drive away, this is one of the state parks near Hagerstown MD that visitors and residents of the area can conveniently access.

The highest elevation in the park is Quirauk Mountain at 2,150 feet above sea level; there are several scenic viewpoints, including Annapolis Rocks and Weverton Cliffs.

First-come first-served camping shelters and sites dot the area along the AT.

Aside from hiking, hunting takes place in two separate areas of the park for those with the license and knowledge; hikers should take note to ensure their safety.

Sunset view from Annapolis Rocks, along the Appalachian Trail on South Mountain, Maryland

Rocky Gap State Park

Between Maryland’s border with Pennsylvania and I-68 is Rocky Gap State Park, which contains a large lake, many miles of hiking trails, and 3,000 acres of public land.

Due to its proximity to the highway, it’s an excellent place to stop over on a road trip, either overnight or for a short break.

Elevations in the park reach over 2,200 feet above sea level and hikers can reach these heights by following the Evitts Mountain Trail.

There’s a casino resort that exists in the park on one side of the lake, while a campground is located on the other side.

A camp store, boat ramp, and swimming beach all exist near the campground to service the people camping there.

For those looking for state parks near Cumberland MD, this one is just 12 minutes away.

Dan’s Mountain State Park

Attached to Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Dan’s Mountain State Park encompasses 481 acres and consists of a developed area that services the large mountainous region.

A swimming pool and campground are the primary developments that exist within the park, and outside of it, there isn’t much to do besides hunt.

Deer, turkeys, raccoons, and black bears all call this area home, and people visiting this park and WMA may see some of these species.

Further down the mountain in the state park is a small fishing pond available for visitors.

Casselman River Bridge State Park

A historic bridge is the centerpiece of Casselman River Bridge State Park.

As one of the smallest state parks in the United States, the four-acre parcel of land is popular with fly fishermen.

A short trail leads through the woods to the river under the bridge from a different angle.

This state park offers a local experience for those exploring Garrett County.

Big Run State Park

Small and isolated, Big Run State Park is one of the western Maryland state parks that is home to a simple campground at the north end of the Savage River Reservoir.

Campers who want to get away from any crowded campgrounds may find that Big Run is the perfect spot for them.

The park has one short trail that leads northwest out of the park, called the Monroe Run Trail.

Hikers can then connect up with the Meadow Mountain Trail to reach the summit of a 2,900-foot mountain that overlooks the Savage River Valley.

Wolf Den Run State Park

Wolf Den Run State Park is centered around off-road vehicle recreation.

Three units comprise this little-known park, and a number of trails weave through the forests and fields near the West Virginia border.

Hikers are also welcome on the trails but are warned that trails may not be in great condition for hiking, and to watch for off-road vehicles.

However, hikers may enjoy the trails that connect to Potomac State Forest and Lostland Run, which contain rapidly flowing creeks and waterfalls.

This is also one of the few state parks near Deep Creek Lake, located just less than 30 minutes away.

Swallow Falls State Park

Looking for more state parks in Maryland with waterfalls?

Probably the most popular state park in Garrett County, Swallow Falls State Park is home to scenic views, hiking, camping, and fishing.

The rushing Youghiogheny River provides magnificent background noise for hikes along the river, and the many waterfalls in the park offer great photography opportunities.

For a more remote experience, Garrett State Forest is attached to the park, where hikers can enjoy the Rock Maze trail, among others.

Experienced paddlers may also enjoy the river here with its set of challenging rapids.

Muddy Creek falls in Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland

Final Thoughts

We hope you had fun exploring our list of the best state parks in Maryland.

Which one are you looking forward to the most visiting? Let us know in the comments, or let us know if you have recommendations of your own!

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