Did you know that Maryland boasts over 53 state parks, 25 natural resource management areas, 7 natural environment areas, 3 rail trails, and 2 state battlefields? Better yet, did you know that over 30 of these preserved areas offer camping? Camping in Maryland State Parks is an excellent way to enjoy all the beauty the Old Line State has to offer. From primitive campsites to cabin ‘glamping’ and everything in between, Maryland state parks have something for all nature lovers to enjoy. Many of the camping areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed offer unique opportunities not found in too many other locations, such as fossil hunting and snow shoeing! Learn more about five of these special parks below.
First up on the list is Point Lookout State Park, located where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay. This park found its way into our highlight reel due to its lovely beaches and picnic area right on the beach! Open from 7:00 am to sunset from May to September, and 8:00 am to sunset from October to April, the beach and picnic area are open for swimming, fishing, exercise, and picnicking. The picnic area offers grills, picnic tables, and a playground, with the nearby park store (open May to September) offering snacks, drinks, bait and more to ensure you have everything you need to enjoy the beach.
Point Lookout beach, Candy Thomson photo courtesy Maryland DNR
In addition to its beaches, this St. Mary’s county gem also offers campgrounds, boating and fishing, hunting, summer programs, nature walk trails, and lighthouse views. The lighthouse at Point Lookout State Park is actually thought to be the most haunted lighthouse in America. The lighthouse was critical during the civil war, and many believe the spirits of the soldiers who perished there are still there to this very day.
The next stop on our list brings us all the way out to Crisfield in scenic Somerset County. Janes Island State Park features campsites, cabins, water trails, fishing, crabbing, swimming, hunting, birding, boating, and weekend kayak rentals. The dock area features a boat ramp, boat slips for campers, and a canoe and kayak launch. Single and tandem kayaks are available for rent on a first some first served basis, and there are rental options for either a half day (up to three hours) or a full day. The kayak and canoe launch is also free to visitors wishing to bring their own small watercraft to use. Janes Island also has a 16-bed facility called the Daugherty Creek Conference Center available for rent for larger parties or events.
Janes Island kayakers, Lois Underwood photo courtesy Maryland DNR
Cunningham Falls State Park is located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains. It is home to the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland, which spills down from rocks eight stories high. The park’s Big Hunting Creek is known as a trout fishing hot spot. If you are looking for some of the most spectacular fall foliage photo ops in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Cunningham Falls is definitely one of our top picks!
Trout fisherman, Cunningham Falls State Park, Mark Spurrier photo courtesy Maryland DNR
The park is divided into two separate but unique areas, each with its own camping area. The William Houck Area, located three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77, has the lake area, falls, and camping area. The Manor Area off Route 15, three miles south of Thurmont, has the Scales and Tales Aviary, camping, and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace. Leisure opportunities include swimming, hiking, fishing, and canoeing. All told, the park has 43 electric campsites, 118 basic sites and 8 camper cabins.
Please note: This park is very popular! During the summer months the park closes once it fills to capacity. Please check before going to find up-to-date information about park closures.
Green Ridge State Forest, photo courtesy Maryland DNR
Our next featured park is Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County Maryland. One of the key features of this park is a scenic driving tour. The self-guided tour covers 44 miles of winding roads and overlooks and is recommended to take approximately three hours. This driving tour ensures that Green Ridge State Forest is accessible to all, including those who would prefer to enjoy the park from the comfort of their own vehicle. There is a printable guide to this driving tour featured on the Green Ridge State Forest page on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website. In addition to the driving tour, Green Ridge is also a very popular location for hunting, fishing, paddling, geocaching, and even has a shooting range!
The last stop on today’s tour is New Germany State Park in Garrett County. New Germany State Park is located between Big Savage Mountain and Meadow Mountain, resulting in fabulous hiking trails and a beautiful lake that can be used for paddling, fishing, and swimming. This park also boasts both primitive camp sites and cabins, shelters, picnic areas, a lake house and snack bar, a self-guided walking tour, and a native plant garden.
Campsite in New Germany State Park, Anthony Burrows, photo courtesy Maryland DNR
The unique feature that earned New Germany State Park a spot on this list is its opportunities for winter activities! There are groomed trails available for snowshoeing and skiing for all levels when weather conditions cooperate and there is even a warming hut at the lake house for patrons to warm up and enjoy each other’s company by the fire. Cross country skis and snowshoes are available for rent on a first come first served basis. Regardless of the season, New Germany State Park offers something for all nature lovers that come to visit.
Cross country skiing is very popular at New Germany State Park, Stephen Badger photo courtesy Maryland DNR
While we only featured five parks in this article, there are over 30 state parks and recreation areas that offer camping in Maryland. Camp sites for most of these parks can be reserved online for a very modest price at parkreservations.maryland.gov so gather up your favorite gear and go check them out for yourself!
New Germany State Park is located in Garrett County, Maryland nestled between Big Savage Mountain and the eastern Continental Divide. The park has diverse forests with ten miles of multi-use trails and a small lake that is popular for fishing, swimming, and paddling.
Janes Island State Park encompasses 2,900 acres of Chesapeake Bay marsh, beach, and highland. The park is dissected by many small waterways, with 30 miles of trails marked for canoes and kayaks.
Green Ridge State Forest is the second largest of Maryland's State Forests consisting of a 46,000-acre oak-hickory forest. It is located in eastern Allegany County, approximately eight miles east of Flintstone off I-68 at Exit 64.