Maryland has so much natural beauty that you’ll find picturesque hiking just about everywhere. The diverse landscape offers mountains, hills, forests, lakes, waterfalls, oceanfront views, and more. Add to that some great sites for history buffs, and you’ll find it hard to choose from all the options. To make it a little easier for you, here are our suggestions for some of the most picturesque hikes in Maryland.
1. Fort Foote Civil War Ruins Trail, Fort Foote Park
Civil War history buffs will absolutely love the Fort Foote Civil War Ruins Trail in Fort Foote Park. Constructed in 1863 on top of a bluff to provide additional fortification for Washington, D.C., Fort Foote had giant cannons to defend access to the capital by the Potomac River. Remains of the fort, cannons, and bunkers are still available for viewing on the 1.7-mile trail, which also provides gorgeous views of the National Harbor and the Potomac River. Lots of birds and flowers make it a picturesque place to hike for visitors of all ages and abilities. The fact that it’s a hidden jewel without the crowds makes it all the more enjoyable.
2. Sugarloaf Mountain
Wildlife lovers are in for a treat when hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain. The mountain is some 14 million years old with several well-marked circuit hikes of varying degrees of difficulty. The Mountain Loop Trail covers 2.5 miles and goes around the summit. You can add on the Northern Peaks Trail to take in 7 miles of gorgeous surroundings.
In addition to oak, poplar, birch, and hemlock trees, hikers will encounter 500 species of plants and wildflowers. Wildlife observers may see white-tailed deer, red foxes, flying squirrels, raccoons, and other animals. And bird-watchers may catch a glimpse of great horned owls, wild turkeys, hawks, and songbirds. The amazing summit views make Sugarloaf worth a visit.
3. Annapolis Rock Trail, Appalachian Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is an exciting prospect, especially when the path you’re on has two amazing overlooks with panoramic views.
The Annapolis Rock Trail offers great hiking and attracts plenty of rock climbers, too. To get there, you’ll need to take a slightly inclining walk in the woods until you see jagged cliffs with a view of Greenbrier Lake and Greenbrier State Park. If you continue hiking for another mile, you’ll see Black Rock Cliff, another outlook with spectacular views.
The trail is popular with day hikers, but there are also many campground sites in the area. You’ll see different greenery in different seasons and plenty of color in the fall. With such beautiful panoramas available, you’ll want to take some time to enjoy the unforgettable landscape.
4. Billy Goat Trail, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
The Billy Goat Trail is a favorite with locals for its amazing views of the Potomac River and fun rock-scrambling paths. There are three sections -- A, B, and C -- that all start and finish at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Depending upon your fitness level, you can take one or all of the trails. Section A is the most challenging and loaded with rock encounters, but it rewards hikers with sweeping views of the Potomac. If you’re new to hiking or have any physical limitations, you might want to choose one of the other sections. Section B has less rock scrambling, is woodsy, and provides a bit of shade if you’re hiking on a hot, sunny day. Section C is the easiest section, offering a nice wooded walk without any rock scrambles.
The beauty of the area is undeniable, so be prepared for company unless you get on the trail very early in the morning. Also, wear good boots, especially for the rocky bits.
5. Chimney Rock Trail, Catoctin Mountain Park
The Chimney Rock Trail starts with a bang -- a steep climb up to a mountain ridge. Once there, the hike along the ridge to Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock is pretty straightforward. When you reach the Wolf Rock outcropping, you can climb around on the rocks or relax and take in the beauty around you. Either way, you’ll be on quartz that 500 million years ago was actually a sea bottom before being compressed into rocks during the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. A gentle decline for about half a mile will lead you to Chimney Rock, another great place to relax and take in the views.
The loop trail is well marked and offers wonderful views of the mountains as well as forests and wildlife. If you’re attempting the trail in hot weather, you might want to go in the early morning when it’s a bit cooler and you can have this popular trail to yourself.
6. Weverton Cliffs Trail, Appalachian Trail
Weverton Cliffs is a year-round trail that features gorgeous views and a forest setting. The trail is all switchbacks, and there are plenty of rocks and roots, making it fun and challenging. Make sure to wear good hiking boots with ankle support, because you’ll want to get to the top where the views are simply spectacular. The hike up may not take more than half an hour, and while there are a lot of switchbacks, they are pretty long and gradual.
Weverton Cliffs is located along the Appalachian Trail, where you can take in the rolling mountains and water views. For a special treat, take lunch or a snack to enjoy at the top. Or go just before sunset and see the golden hour unfold in the breathtaking landscape around you. You’ll understand the meaning of picturesque as you bask in the beauty of this gorgeous place.
7. Wincopin Trails
For a relaxing and interesting hike, consider the Wincopin Trails, which offer something for everyone. This network of trails runs through a beautiful park with forests, rivers, streams, and other natural features. There’s also a bit of history to discover, like the remains of an old stone factory, a dam, a rock quarry, a bridge, and a Civil War gravesite. Nature lovers can enjoy some great birding, looking for local favorites such as the red-breasted nuthatch and many different warblers. And if you’re there in the spring, you might spy zebra swallowtail butterflies by one of the pawpaw stands. On a warm day, stop by the river and watch for trout or just dip your feet in to cool off and enjoy the scenery.
Some of the trails get a bit of traffic noise, but as you wander more deeply, particularly on the Green Trail, the sounds of nature will provide a fabulous soundscape for the amazing views.
8. Cascade Falls Trail, Patapsco Valley State Park
The Cascade Falls Trail offers an opportunity to pass through a variety of scenery. Of course, the waterfalls are a favorite feature, but there are also lots of river crossings, woods, streams, and a rock staircase. If you’re impatient to see the falls, don’t worry. The first one appears only about 1,000 feet from the start of the trail. But let that spur you on to further discovery. After the falls, you can cross a road and walk across a hanging bridge.
The trail has many offshoots and intersections throughout Patapsco Valley State Park. It can get confusing, so be sure to take a map, compass, or GPS with you to be sure you know where you’re heading. Have fun walking by the river and enjoy a swim before you zig-zag your way up the mountain. Don’t forget bug spray if you’re there during the warmer months. There is a $5 entry fee, but the fun of seeing the falls on a sunny day is well worth the price.
9. King And Queen Seat Trail, Rocks State Park
Maryland’s Rocks State Park is aptly named; it boasts numerous rock formations, including the King and Queen Seat. This unique group of natural rock outcroppings is impressive, reaching 100 feet tall. It’s believed that the area was a ceremonial gathering place for the Susquehannock people, and it offers a great view of Deer Creek some 200 feet below.
The King and Queen Seat Trail is about 3 miles and offers gorgeous scenery, chirping birds, prancing deer families, and incomparable views. The dramatic rock formations are unique. If you are a novice hiker, you’ll want to take care to get some training if you want to climb onto the King and Queen Seat itself. It does provide a phenomenal view, but you’ll need to know how to approach it without putting yourself in danger. There may be a small fee ranging from $3 to $5 to enter the park, depending on your state of residency and the day of the week.
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