The Best Maryland Lakes For Swimming
If you want to cool off in Maryland without the worry of salt water or jellyfish, check out these best Maryland lakes for swimming!
When it comes to cooling off in Maryland, there are tons of options. You can drive to Ocean City and the Eastern Shore. Or, you can visit one of about 25-30 Chesapeake Bay area beaches. Or maybe you can seek out a splash pad or water park. But swimming in a fresh water lake is one of the best ways to cool off! No chlorine, no salt, and no jellyfish. Fortunately, Maryland has some amazing lakes for swimming and most of them have public beaches!
1. Greenbrier State Park
Greenbrier State Park, located in Boonsboro, MD, is VERY popular. The beach inside the park reaches capacity pretty much every holiday and weekend during the summer months. If you are planning a weekend trip, arrive early. The reason why? It is literally the perfect place to take young kids swimming!
Interestingly, the beach is hardly ever crowded during the week. That was our experience. In the parking lot, park 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.
One of the things I loved about Greenbrier State Park beach is that it was such a great swimming experience for my 3-year old. There are sandy beaches that gentle roll into the water. There are lifeguards present and the first roped off section only went as deep as my 3-year old’s chest. It was easy to set clear boundaries about how far out she could go, and then ‘relax’ while she played in the water. Then, numerous times I waded out with her and we ventured into the second roped off section for a little more adventure. That section only went up to my chest. It was over her head, but not by much.
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. The lake has calm waters and is a good place to cool off with your kids.
Other beach amenities
Near the center of the beach area, there is a first aid station and a small concession stand that sells standard beach-y food like ice cream, french fries, hot dogs, etc… The restrooms, also located near the middle beach area, are relatively clean and include showers and changing areas. There are also very nice picnic areas with tall shade trees and plenty of room to spread out.
The park rents both paddle boats and row boats for $14/hour, $10/half-hour. Kids would love being out on the lake, which is stocked with fish (if you have a license). Additionally, there is an actual campground located here as well. Away from the beach, there are hiking trails that don’t look terribly hard for little legs, a playground, and a nature center that is geared towards the preschooler age.
2. 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 (also called Hunting Creek 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.
Lifeguards are on duty every day between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., the weekend before Memorial Day to Labor Day and the beach is technically only open for swimming Memorial Day through Labor Day as well.
The Scales and Tales program is great for environmental awareness. Visitors can get close to wild birds of prey (like eagles) and reptiles that can’t be returned to the wild.
A fantastic hike for small children is the hike to Cunningham Falls in the William Houck Area of Cunningham Falls State Park. If you are looking to do more than just swim, Cunningham Falls State Park is a great spot for a wide variety of fun activities!
3. Rocky Gap State Park
Camping Beach Area
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. This is really a great place for family friendly camping.
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!
Public Beach Area
However, if you aren’t camping you can still swim at Lake Habeeb in the public beach area, which has two public swimming beaches. This is a great area with a large bathhouse with restrooms, showers, and changing rooms. And you can eat at their snack bar, the Hawk’s Nest Cafe. This cafe overlooks the lake and offers hot and cold menu items throughout the summer season.
Other day use amenities include picnic tables, grills, a playground, and access to the trails along Lake Habeeb. Visitors can also rent canoes and kayaks. Pets are permitted at the lake and there is a pet-friendly swimming area. Wow, right?
4. Deep Creek Lake State Park
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. Deep Creek Lake is the largest lake in Maryland and it’s totally gorgeous!
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.
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. 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.
6. 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 (or you have a very short drive between the two parks). 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!
7. Jennings Randolph Lake
Sitting on the borer between Garrett County, Maryland, and Mineral County, West Virginia, Jennings Randolph Lake sits along 5.5 miles of gorgeous countryside on the North Branch of the Potomac River. Shaw Beach is a fantastic place to swim and since this is not a popular spot, there is a good chance the beach won’t be crowded. There is a 40-car parking lot, playground, picnic tables, and a 200-ft swimming beach area.
Water activities also include fishing and boating in this area and fishermen have mentioned catching walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout and panfish.
8. Beaver Dam Swimming Club
This private recreational swimming area in Cockeyville, MD has been offering swimming in their flooded marble quarry since the 1930’s! Currently they have two swimming pools, the quarry to swim in with a few cliffs you can jump from and the famous rope swing into the water.
There is a snack stand, grills, picnic tables, and a volleyball court.
Cost: M-F $20 adults and $16 kids. Weekends: $25 adults, $17 kids (age 2 and older)
What about Cascade Lake?
Cascade Lake in Hampstead, MD used to be a great private lake for swimming. However, a few years ago the dam broke and the lake part of the facility was filled in. So, basically the lake no longer exists.
Maryland Lakes that don’t have swimming but offer other recreational activities
Located in Ellicott City (Howard County), this lake has boating, fishing, a lovely walking path, picnic facilities, and multiple playgrounds.
Little Seneca Lake
Located at Black Hills Regional Park. Black Hills Regional Park has 2000 acres of amazing fun in nature to explore! The main part of the park is Little Seneca Lake, which is absolutely stunning. You can walk along the lake or rent canoes, kayaks, or rowboats and get out on the water.
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.
Make sure to visit in the fall when the reflection of the fall foliage on Clopper Lake is stunning.
There are quite a few reasons to visit Rock Creek Regional Park (not to be confused with Rock Creek Park in DC), but the natural beauty stands out.
Needwood Lake is completely spectacular and gorgeous year round (check out the fall foliage around the lake… it’s stunning!)
In the summer you can rent canoes, row boats, or paddle boats and get out onto the water.
There is a hiking trail that runs along the shore of the park and kids will love the playground, which is fairly big.
Tuckahoe State Park
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!
Loch Raven Reservoir
Loch Raven Reservoir is incredibly beautiful and offers quite a few easy hikes for kids. You can go for a short 1 hour hike, bring a picnic and hang out by the water, or even rent a kayak! Don’t forget to bring duck feed because there is also an excellent duck feeding beach that is great fun for kids!
Lake Elkhorn in Columbia is an urban oasis. Literally. This lake and walking path is in the middle of the Columbia planned community. The lake is gorgeous and very peaceful. There is a 1.9 mile paved loop around the lake that is great for walking, biking, scootering, and yes… strollers. If you park on the Broken Land Parkway side, there is a physical fitness challenge course you can do as you walk around the Lake. If you park on the Cradlerock Way side there is a lovely small playground, as well as some nice benches.
Lake Artemisia is a 38-acre man made lake that was created during the construction of the Washington Metro rail line.
The result is an oasis. The lake is really gorgeous and you are likely to see all kinds of birds if you visit.
There are two miles of trails that connect the lake to neighboring areas.
Lake Artemisia is also a great place to take your kids fishing. It has a handicapped accessible fishing pier.
Allen Pond Park
Allen Pond Park is a fantastic park in Bowie, MD. There are numerous picnic areas you can rent, two playgrounds with play features that would appeal to younger and older kids, and the pond itself. There is a lovely walking path around the pond and you can rent paddleboats or canoes to paddle around the pond.
Piney Run Park
A really great park in Sykesville, Piney Run Park features a 300-acre lake that is great for fishing and boating/kayaking. The lake is surrounded by 550 acres of fields, forest, and open spaces that contain over 5 miles of hiking trails, many of which are kid friendly. There are also tennis courts, playgrounds, climbing rock, picnic tables, and comfort stations.
Not just Maryland Lakes– Rivers that offer creek stomping or river swimming
Patapsco Valley State Park
Especially the Avalon/Orange Grove area. There are picnic pavilions you can rent, great kid friendly hikes, and the famous swinging bridge! This is a great river for tubing.
Gunpowder Falls State Park
Various areas. The Pot Rocks and Bel Air Road area are excellent for swimming, as is the river access at the Jerusalem Mill area of the park.
Rocks State Park
Kilgore Falls area. Also known as the Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park. Kilgore falls makes a dramatic backdrop for a really fun swimming hole.