We have visited most parks in Maryland, but these are the 20 Best Maryland State Parks for families. They all have so much for kids. Map with locations included!
Over the last few years, we have visited almost all of the 53 Maryland State Parks. I have to tell you, Maryland is a completely gorgeous state. It’s really hard to narrow down the list to just 20 State Parks. However, these 20 (give or take) Maryland State Parks are definitely our favorites. Check out this list and make plans for your next Maryland day trip!
Note: Scroll to the bottom for an embedded Google Map of all the locations!
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1. Swallow Falls State Park
Swallow Falls State Park is EPIC! Seriously, this is now my favorite Maryland State Park! There are 4 (!!!!) amazing waterfalls in a very kid friendly hike that is less than 2 miles long!
The Canyon Trail is the main trail. Once you walk through the main gate sign, you can veer right or veer left. Trust me… go to the right. Muddy Creek Falls is a quick walk to the left, but if you want to see all four waterfalls (you do), going right will not only take you to all of them (Tolliver Falls can be a little tricky to find), but for the most part you will be doing the hike all downhill instead of all uphill. Also, you start with the shortest and end with the biggest falls.
Tolliver Falls is really gorgeous. Saying it’s a small waterfall is kind of dismissive. It’s beautiful and pours into a pool of water that would be great for splashing around in the summer.
Best Tips for the Waterfall Hike
If you do the Canyon Trail counter-clockwise you will hit Tolliver Falls, then Lower Swallow Falls. Continue your hike along the river. There are spots you can walk up higher above the river, but we loved taking the river side trail. There are plenty of places to walk down to the river and see the falls, etc… from different angles.
Maybe the rain contributed to the impressiveness of the falls, but we loved Lower Swallow Falls as much as Upper Swallow Falls. The water was sooo powerful!
As you hike along the trail, the rock formations are just super impressive too.. as is the 300 year old Hemlock grove of trees. Super fun to explore!
Finally, the piece de resistance! Muddy Creek Falls does not disappoint. Wow. It’s so powerful. Check it out from below and up top!
There is a wheelchair accessible viewing platform at the top of Muddy Creek Falls! This is super cool! If this applies to you, you can drive much further into the park, and take the nice boardwalk trail (wheelchair friendly) to the viewing platform. I was really impressed with this.
But seriously.. go to this park! It’s an easy day trip from Carroll, Frederick, Washington counties.. from Central MD it’s about 3 hours away.
2. Patapsco Valley State Park
Patapsco State Park is an incredible jewel in the Maryland State Park system. This is a sprawling park with many different sections including:
Avalon/Orange Grove/Glen Artney area
Orange Grove Area
If you are only going to visit one area of the park, you MUST visit the Orange Grove area. Here are the major highlights:
The Swinging Bridge
Grist Mill Trail
River Road Trail
Cascade Falls– This hike is amazing! There is a small climb at first, but the reason why this hike is so awesome, is that within 10 minutes (yes, you read that right.. 10 minutes), you will be standing at the foot of Cascade Falls. Wow, this waterfall hike is all bang, hardly any buck.
You can hike to this super cool Camel’s Den Cave in the the Daniel’s Area. There are actually loads of fun hikes in all of the parts of Patapsco Valley State Park. Most areas have picnic facilities too. The Hollofield and Hilton Areas have excellent playgrounds as well!
3. Greenbrier State Park
Greenbrier State Park, located in Boonsboro, MD, is VERY popular. The beach fills to capacity pretty much every holiday and weekend during the summer months. If you are planning a weekend trip, arrive early. The park opens at 8AM, so maybe that is too early. However, when the park reaches capacity visitors are turned away, even if the rest of your party is already inside the park.
Interestingly, the beach is hardly ever crowded during the week. That was our experience. We parked close to the beach trail and were able to set up very close to the water. There were times when our daughter practically had the beach to herself. I imagine this would not be the case on the weekend.
This is a very safe swimming area. The lake has a sandy bottom and is relatively clear. There is some sea weed, but it isn’t a nuisance.
Other things to do at Greenbrier State Park
There are a few other recreation options at Greenbrier State Park. The park rents both paddle boats and row boats for $14/hour, $10/half-hour. There are also hiking trails that don’t look terribly hard for little legs, a playground, and a nature center that is geared towards the preschooler age.
Here is the thing about the Deep Creek Lake area— there isn’t a lot of public beach access. But one place that does have access for all… is the pristine Deep Creek Lake State Park! Clearly, the lake and beach areas are the main draw here. It’s really quite gorgeous and the sand is a great quality. There are also boat rentals, which could be fun if you wanted to get out on the water.
There are tons of amenities in the main area. At either end of the beach area there are restrooms/showers, two playgrounds (one on each end), a basketball court, and loads of picnic spots.
Deep Creek State Park Hiking Trails
You can go hiking too and there are great options for kid friendly trails. Beckman’s Trail is the most popular — an easy 2 mile hike that kids could do. There are also the super short Discovery Trail and Snakeroot Trail.
5. Gunpowder Falls State Park
Gunpowder Falls State Park is another sprawling park with soooo much to offer families. The different areas of Gunpowder Falls include:
Sweet Air Area
Central Area and Jerusalem Mill Historic Village
Hammerman Area (and the beach)
Hereford Area and Prettyboy Dam
Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail
Dundee Creek Marina
Sweet Air Area
I wanted to highlight this area because it is way less crowded than most popular state parks, but the trails are absolutely lovely for kids and families!
The Barley Pond Loop starts from the back left corner of the parking area and is a 1.7 mile loop trail. If that’s too long for little legs, just walk to the pond and back… probably less than a mile.
You can also cross the road from the parking area and access a number of short loops like Pine Loop, Boundary Trail, and Cody Jean.
Various parts of the Sweet Air Loop (3.1 mile round trip) go along the Little Gunpowder River, which is nice.. especially on hot summer days!
Jerusalem Mill Historic Village
Jerusalem Mill Village is a living history museum that is part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park system. There is so much here for kids and families. There are fields and meadows for kids to run in, there are tons of short trails families would love, and great places to play in the water of the Gunpowder River. Really, for hot summer days this place can’t be beat!
6. Cunningham Falls State Park
Cunningham Falls State Park is probably one of the most favorite State Parks in Maryland for families. Why? Well, it’s utterly gorgeous. It’s a fantastic spot for camping or just spending the day in nature.
The park is gorgeous year round and fall colors are sublime. The William Houck Lake is very popular. In the summer months the sandy beach at the lake is a very popular destination and visitors love boating and fishing as well.
A fantastic hike for small children is the hike to Cunningham Falls in the William Houck Area of Cunningham Falls State Park. From the parking lot at the trailhead (don’t park at the beach. Keep driving and the parking lot you want will be on your left), the hike to the waterfall is about 1 mile, so 2 miles round trip.
Calvert Cliffs State Park is famous for the massive cliffs that offer a dramatic backdrop to the Chesapeake Bay. These cliffs were apparently formed 10-20 million years ago when Maryland was under water. That is one of the reasons there are so many shark’s teeth and other fossils to be found in the area.
The most popular trail is the one that leads directly to the beach (the Red Trail). It is 1.8 miles there and back (plus a little I think from the parking lot to the trailhead… so probably a 4 mile hike overall). This trail is not hard, but it is long… so not recommended for little legs.
The hike itself is really fun. you get to walk past beaver dams, tons of boardwalk marsh areas that are home to countless lily pads, turtles, frogs, and birds.
This state park also has a huge tire playground kids would love!
8. Tuckahoe State Park
This great state park is so much fun for both day trips and weekend trips! There are multiple areas to explore. The Visitor Center has a great aviary, supplies for the disc golf course, and trailheads for over 20 miles of fun trails!
At Tuckahoe Lake you can rent kayaks and canoes, fish, and kids will absolutely love the recycled tire playground! In the Campfire Loop area there are nature trails and another great playground with a fantastic slide!
9. Jefferson Patterson State Park
Jefferson Patterson Park was so lovely. There is a nature playground/butterfly garden that has some super nice play features. Then there is a very nice, 3/4 mile round trip (and fully accessible) walking path loop that takes you to a Woodland Indian Village recreation, a lovely flower garden, past loads of wild raspberry bushes, on a boardwalk trail, and past an old fort recreation.
A little side trail at the end of this boardwalk takes you to a lovely lovely beach cove. It isn’t for swimming… but wow. You could dip your toes in here for sure! .
10. Rocks State Park
There are two main areas to Rocks State Park:
Kilgore Falls (made famous by the movie Tuck Everlasting)
King and Queen Seat
The hike is very short and super easy. Getting to the waterfall is doable for kids of all ages. I think it’s less than 1/2 mile from the parking lot.
Bring your water shoes!!! The best views of the falls are from the other side of the river but you have to actually walk across the river to get to it. That’s not a hard river crossing.. even for little kids, but make sure you have water shoes. Better yet, put your kids in swimsuits and let them splash around!
For older kids— great climbing and bouldering opportunities.. just make sure you stay with your kids because there are hazards like getting to close to the top of the falls.. and even if your kids can physically do it, having an adult brain present to avoid recklessness is a good idea.
King and Queen Seat
Rocks State Park and King and Queen seat is totally awesome… but you HAVE to take the hazard warnings VERY seriously. I didn’t know this but apparently park rangers have to rescue people who fall because they are not careful… every year. Not trying to scare you.. just being clear before I tell you more.
King and Queen Seat is absolutely not young kid friendly… but it absolutely is big kid friendly— as long as necessary precautions are taken. My daughter is almost 9.. and this is the first time I even considered taking her.. and we talked about being safe before we got here… and — I was either touching her or within arms length the entire time she was anywhere even remotely close to an edge… and we didn’t get too close…
So was it big kid friendly? Yes!!! Enthusiastic yes! It was an adventure for sure! Just climbing up on the boulders was really cool (you don’t have to get close to the edge to see everything).
You can either hike up the mountain using the white trail or drive to the top of the mountain and use the red trail. The red trail is about 1/4 mile easy walk to the cliffs.
Incidentally— The cliffs are named King and Queen Seat because in there are two seat like divets in one of the big boulders. We didn’t actually climb up there— safety— but it’s pretty cool to see them!
11. Elk Neck State Park
Elk Neck State Park in North East, MD is a treasure. The most iconic part of the park is the Turkey Point Lighthouse. The Turkey Point Lighthouse trail is a 1.9 mile loop trail (or you could do out and back directly from the lighthouse). If you do the loop trail, you will find numerous waterfront picnic and small beach areas. It is really such a lovely place to spend the day!
The other super kid friendly area is the North East Beach Area. The beach is a very popular day use area where you can swim, have a picnic, or launch a canoe or kayak. There is also a small playground.
12. Sandy Point State Park
Sandy Point State Park could not be more convenient. Located in Annapolis, families can enjoy a rather large sandy beach, that has lifeguard service daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is a bath house, public restrooms, a snack bar, and playgrounds.
13. Point Lookout State Park
Located and the tippy tip of Southern Maryland, Point Lookout stood vigil during the Civil War. Now you can spend a lovely day playing in the sand and cooling off in the water. Jellyfish are a problem here during the summer but I believe there are nets surrounding the official beachfront (the part with lifeguards).
Point Lookout has plenty of amenities- a camp store, public restrooms and showers. And you can pay a visit to the Point Lookout Lighthouse!
The beach area has grills, picnic tables and a playground.
14. Gambrill State Park
Gambrill State Park is just west of Frederick and is part of the Catoctin Mountains, though not part of the Catoctin Mountain Park. There are 16 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding in this park so you can definitely fill a day with family adventures here!
One of the best things to do at Gambrill State Park are the views. You don’t even need to hike to them.
The views are especially gorgeous at sunset and during peak fall foliage time.
15. Gathland State Park
Gathland State Park is a small park that is absolutely worth a side trip. The most notable feature of the park is the War Correspondants Memorial Arch, which is very cool to see. The history behind it is amazing though. This arch is part of the former estate of Civil War Era war correspondant George Townsend. A few buildings remain for visitors to check out!
The other reason to visit Gathland State Park is you can access the Appalachian Trail from here. If you want to hike to Weverton Cliffs, some people park one car there, and start the hike from Gathland State Park. That way it’s 6 miles one way and not as steep a climb!
Sounds like a great day trip idea for families who like history and a hike!
16. Assateague State Park
There is hardly anything more iconic and completely unforgettable to do in Maryland than go see the wild ponies at Assateague National Seashore and Assateague State Park, which is literally right next to the National Park.
Apart from trying to find the horses and just enjoying them, there are other fun things to do at Assateague as well. Of course, swimming and hanging out at the beach is a big one. You can actually camp on the beach… which is super cool.
17. New Germany State Park
New Germany State Park is literally called the hidden gem of the Maryland State Park system… and can’t you see why? This lake is totally gorgeous!
Unlike its neighbor Deep Creek though, there were barely any people here when we visited. There is a beach for swimming, canoes and kayaks to rent, fishing opportunities, picnic areas, and some easy trails around the lake.
18. Herrington Manor State Park
Herrington Manor State Park is so close to Swallow Falls State Park there is a 5 mile trail that connects them. The lake at this park is also pristine! You can swim at the beach or rent kayaks and canoes too. Take time to walk across the dam to the other side of the lake.. super peaceful and pretty!
Check out the amazing cabins you can rent too!
19. Rocky Gap State Park
Rocky Gap State Park is located in the Western Maryland town of Flintstone. The park is pretty big and it encompasses both mountain trails and the sizable Lake Habeeb. Camping at Rocky Gap State Park is very easy for families, even families with young children.
One of the biggest advantages to camping at Rocky Gap State Park, as opposed to just using their day use beach, is that you get access to a campground only beachfront. I am sure it can get crowded in the summer… but it won’t be as crowded as the day use public beach.
The entire private beach area is really very nice for families. You can rent kayaks and canoes, the beach front is quite large, and there are walking paths from the campground loops directly to this area. We really liked relaxing on these cute swings too!
One of the reasons Rocky Gap State Park is great for a camping adventure with your kids is because there are numerous short hikes/walks that even the smallest of legs can handle.
North Point State Park is an excellent park that is on the water and has great kid friendly hiking trail options. It is also rich in history and when the visitor center is open, they have exhibits on the park’s role in the War of 1812.
In the mid-forties, this park was the Bay Shore Amusement Park and the trolley from that park has been converted into a pavilion picnic area. There is also a nice fountain that is turned on seasonally.
The views here are great and you can walk out pretty far on the fishing piers. There is also a small beach that is a great place for sand and water play.
The other part of this park that is pretty great are the kid friendly trails that are both along the coast and in the marshland. The Wetlands hike is very short and very kid friendly, with some interpretive signs that ask questions about the wildlife in the area.
21. Seneca Creek State Park
Seneca Creek State Park is an absolutely stunning park your family will have a blast exploring. The centerpiece is the 90-acre Clopper Lake, which is lovely to explore by boat or by land.
There are numerous picnic areas to enjoy as well. Note: You can’t swim at Clopper Lake.
You can rent a boat and get out on the lake, or you can hike the 4 mile perimeter trail that takes you around the lake with some amazing views. Park at the Kingfisher Overlook for easy access to this trail.
Recycled Tire Playground
Seneca Creek State Park is home to one of three or four recycled tire playgrounds in Maryland. Honestly, the park is worth visiting for this playground alone. Kids will love climbing on the tire dragon or traversing some of the tire balance beams. The playground also has numerous tire swings, including a huge, multi-person tire swing.
At Christmas, Seneca Creek State Park shines once again with its Winter Lights Festival. This drive through lights festival is one of the best in the region, with 450 lights displays over a 3 1/2 mile drive. Definitely plan a visit during the holidays!
Don’t know how to find these Maryland State Parks? Click on the Google Map Below for all the locations!
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