Rocks State Park in Maryland: Kid Friendly Guide

The state of Maryland has some truly incredible state parks. Rocks State Park in rural Northern Harford County is one of our absolute favorites! There are multiple primary attractions and areas that the whole family would love. 

Rocks State Park is definitely among the great places in Maryland for day trips and outdoor exploring! Check out the Rocks State Park Kid Friendly Guide for our best tips if you are visiting with kids!

Kilgore Falls/Falling Branch Area

One of the best and most kid friendly hikes in Maryland is at the Falling Branch Area of Rocks State Park. The hike out to Kilgore Falls, which is Maryland’s second highest vertical drop waterfall, is really easy. And the natural beauty of the falls will instantly put a smile on your face!

The hike is very short and super easy. Getting to the waterfall is doable for kids of all ages. This trail isn’t stroller friendly, but it’s relatively flat. The entire trail is 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! Kilgore Falls cascades into a natural pool that becomes a popular swimming spot in the summer.

Many people dip into the pool or go creek stomping and splashing downriver. There are rock outcroppings and sunny spots on the side of the river where you can lay out your towels and chill.

Related: Kid Friendly Guide to Swallow Falls State Park

kilgore falls creek stomping

Note: You should be aware of the bacteria levels in the water before swimming. You can check the Maryland DNR website to make sure there aren’t warnings before you head out.

Climbing and Bouldering for Older Kids

For older kids and those wanting a little more adventure, Kilgore Falls has great climbing and bouldering opportunities too!

You can walk the trail to the top of the falls or climb boulders on the side of the falls to the top. Once you are at the top of the waterfall, you can actually get really close to the edge. 

Related: 8+ Gorgeous Maryland Waterfalls to Visit!

Note: Clearly this could get dangerous in a hurry. Every year the park ranger service has to respond to a medical emergency because people aren’t safe at the falls.

If you are visiting with your kids, just make sure they stay with you. It’s easy to underestimate how close to the edge of the waterfall you are. There are actually ledges near the top that are quite safe. And there are ledges that appear to be safe, but really aren’t. Just be careful.

The basic hike is great for kids of all ages. If your kid can walk, the trail is not long and the pay off is fantastic! However, the bouldering aspect is definitely for older kids.. and parents/caregivers should be very careful with their kids here.

Kilgore Falls Reservations and Logistics

Due to the popularity of this park, Maryland State Parks have specifically limited parking at this site. Honestly, I am really glad they did because otherwise, this part of the park could easily get ruined.

The small parking area at Falling Branch can fit 28 cars, for a maximum capacity of around 75 people. In years past visitors could park at an overflow lot. However, that option doesn’t exist anymore– mostly as an effort to protect the sensitive area of Kilgore Falls.

Reservations are required to visit the Rocks State Park – Kilgore Falls and Falling Branch Area on weekends and holidays from early May through Labor Day.

You can reserve a parking space online. However, even outside the mandatory reservation times, it’s a good idea to visit the Falling Branch Area during the week or arrive really early. 

According to the website there are no picnic facilities, grills, or restrooms in this area. That is true, with a caveat. Every time we have visited there is a port-a-potty in the parking lot.

You can still pack a picnic lunch, but this area of the park is not meant for large scale events or gatherings. And clearly, pack out whatever you pack in!

One of the great things about the Kilgore Falls and Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park is that it’s free! There isn’t an entry fee (probably because there are virtually no facilities). 

Picnic Areas: Rock Ridge, Wilson’s, and Hills Grove

The main section of the park is actually the Rock Ridge Picnic Areas near King and Queen Seat. This picnic area has plenty of parking, picnic tables, picnic pavilions, super nice restroom facilities, and a playground!

​This is a day use area and numerous times we have visited there are special events like weddings and birthday parties in the pavilions. If you don’t want to hike up the side of the mountain to access King and Queen Seat, you can drive up here and park. The walk is probably 1/4 mile from the parking lot. 

The Wilson’s Picnic Area and the Hills Grove area are both handicap accessible. Each picnic area has a pavilion with lights (except Wilsons), electric outlets, a large barbecue pit and picnic tables.

Related: Best Easy Hikes in Maryland for Kids

King and Queen Seat

The King and Queen Seat is easily one of the more iconic lookouts in Maryland. This high rock outcrop offers spectacular 190-foot views from above Deer Creek and is truly a unique destination. The incredible rock formations here will be fun for rock scramblers and adventurers!

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 was almost 9 the first time I even considered taking her. And even then, 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. We didn’t get too close to the edge.

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).

Hiking Options for King and Queen Seat

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. This is by far the easiest option. The trailhead is at the end of the Rock Ridge Picnic Area parking lot. 

There are two other trails if you want to get your heart pumping. You can park at the lot by the rapids and take the Purple Trail up to Kind and Queen Seat. Or, you can park by the Rocks State Park office and take the White Trail to the top. 

Related: Havre de Grace Perfect Day Trip Itinerary

The White Trail loop is about 2.5 miles round trip and you are basically hiking up to the top of the mountain. The Purple Trail Loop is longer because it starts at the Rapids Parking lot on Route 24 and connects to the White Trail Loop. The loop is 3.2 miles round trip.

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!

This section of the park in very popular with rock climbers. However, you should not attempt to go rock climbing here unless you are experienced or have an experienced guide. This area is actually quite dangerous.

Hidden Valley

The Hidden Valley section of Rocks State Park not as well known as the other sections of the park, but it’s still fantastic! There is a small parking area (8-10 cars max) along Deer Creek. The serene hiking trail is along the creek, with fantastic views of the water.

This is a fairly flat hike and at the end, if you veer left, there is a water access point. Just follow the trail and your kids can splash away!

There is also access to the water at the parking area. Like Kilgore Falls, you can pack your own picnic, but there are zero facilities here. This is another one of the natural areas that are free and basically open dawn to dusk.

Related: The Best Nature Centers in Maryland!

Eden Mill Nature Center

If the 3 main park areas of Rocks State Park form a triangle, smack dab in the middle of that triangle is Eden Mill Nature Center. While not exactly park of Rocks State Park, if you are visiting the park with kids, you MUST stop here!

The Eden Mill Nature Center and Historic Grist Mill Site has so much to offer families! They offer 117 acres of outdoor activities from short hikes and scenic trails to sensory hikes along the river.

You can visit the dam (or the waterfall as your kids will call it), and have a lovely picnic! The 3+ miles of loop hiking trails are geared towards kids and families.

For families, they offer easy canoe trips (where they provide everything), a preschool nature series, owl prowl (in the fall), a super fun nature storybook art program, and more!

Don’t forget to stop into the nature center itself. Kids can explore with many of the fun, hands on nature exhibits, interpretive programs, see some local animals, and everyone will enjoy taking a self guided tour of the old mill!

Related: 100 Days of Summer Fun in Maryland for Kids!

Make a Day Of It!

You could really spend most of a day between the various areas of Rocks State Park and Eden Mill Nature Center. However, there are tons of other kid friendly activities in the immediate area. Here are our top picks!

  • Have a scoop of ice cream or lunch at Jarrettsville Creamery. They have fantastic ice cream and the deli is great too!
  • The Jarrettsville Rec Complex has two great playgrounds your kids will love. They have swings, monkey bars, a rock wall, imaginative play features and more!
  • Ladew Topiary Gardens is definitely worth a visit! Check out our in-depth kid friendly guide here!
  • In September, Clear Meadows Farm has arguably the best sunflower fields in Maryland!


How much does it cost to go to Rocks State Park?

For the developed picnic areas, the fee is $3 per person Maryland resident, $5 per person out-of-state on weekends and summer holidays; $2 for ​Maryland vehicles, $4 for out-of-state vehicles on weekdays to enter the picnic areas. Falling Branch/Kilgore Falls and Hidden Valley do not have a fee.

How big is Rocks State Park?

There are multiple areas of Rocks State Park that comprise 855 acres.

Are dogs allowed at Kilgore Falls?

Dogs are allowed at Kilgore Falls and other areas of the park, but they must be leashed.

What county is Rocks State Park in?

Northern Harford County. Here are the map directions to the various areas:
Falling Branch/Kilgore Falls
Rock Ridge Picnic Area and King and Queen Seat
Hidden Valley area

How long is the Kilgore Falls hike?

The trail to Kilgore Falls is 1/2 mile long and relatively flat. It is not stroller/wheelchair/wagon friendly though.

Is Kilgore Falls safe to swim in?

The pool at the bottom of the falls and the river that flows from the falls are safe to swim in. However, make sure to check the website for updated information on bacteria levels. Note: there are no lifeguards at this watering hole.

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