As the air turns cool and crisp, enjoy Maryland’s autumn in all its splendor on these unforgettable foliage tours and Scenic Byways.
Hiking, Biking and City-Sighting around the C&O Canal
Perhaps the best way to see the trees is right up close. The C&O Canal National Historic Park offers numerous hiking options, such as the strenuous Billy Goat Trail for advanced hikers. The trail rewards hikers with vistas of the surging Potomac River flanked by forests bursting with color.
After the climb, enjoy a well-deserved lunch just a short distance from the trail. The Old Angler’s Inn offers large portions of creative fare in a charming outdoor setting, heated in the cooler months.
Later, ride a mule-drawn canal boat, which departs from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. Aboard the slow half-mile canal tour, guides describe life in the 1870s and how the canal system benefitted industry many years ago.
In nearby Silver Spring, the tree-lined crushed gravel path of the Capital Crescent Trail makes for a great short bike ride. For dinner, the city’s hub has great choices, from American artisanal cuisine at 8407 Kitchen Bar to traditional Latin American dishes at Samantha’s Restaurant.
When the day is done, the small but charming Etta Mae Inn at Takoma Park’s Grahill-Davis Historic Estate makes a great stopping point, or stay at one of the many hotels right in Silver Spring.
Water-Lover’s Paradise at Elk Neck State Park
Located on a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Elk River, the combination of sandy beaches, serene marshlands and dense, colorful forests at Elk Neck State Park provides a diverse visual feast for nature lovers.
From the Turkey Point parking lot off Route 272 South, it’s an easy one-mile walk to the historic Turkey Point Lighthouse. Located atop a 100-foot bluff at the southern tip of the Elk Neck Peninsula, the historic 1833 lighthouse lit the way for watermen for nearly 175 years. Climb 35 feet to its top for a spectacular view of the Bay waters and brilliant fall foliage. You may even spot a bald eagle soaring above the shoreline.
The miles-long view of the Chesapeake is certain to whet the appetite for water adventure. Just a short drive away is the town of Charlestown, where you can take in autumn’s colors from the water by renting a paddle boat, kayak, or pontoon.
Dry off and dine where the locals do, with cheese steaks or stuffed Reubens at the Market Street Café, fine seafood at The Wellwood, or late-season crabs from The Rivershack. When you’re ready to turn in, set up camp right in the middle of Mother Nature’s color show at one of Elk Neck State Park’s 250 campsites or 15 furnished cabins.
Foliage Watching by Motor
For fall foliage viewing from the comfort of the car, drive to Valley Overlook in the Hollofield area of Patapsco Valley State Park. From there it’s just a short jaunt to Ellicott City’s Main Street, lined with antique stores waiting to be mined for treasure.
After shopping, savor a casual meal and a pint of hand-crafted microbrew from Ellicott Mills Brewing Company or sample the fine cuisine of the award-winning, family-owned Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant.
A Beautiful Day in Harford and Baltimore Counties
Deep in the heart of Baltimore County’s horse country is Oregon Ridge Park. Its hiking trails, beach, and the great playground for the kids are even more spectacular amidst a tree-scape of yellow, orange and red. After the morning’s explorations, the newly renovated bluestone patio at the Oregon Grille is a gorgeous venue to soak in even more outdoor beauty while enjoying a delicious lunch.
The winding back-country roads on the way to Boordy Vineyards in Hydes are the perfect backdrop to your final destination: a wine tasting or live music event at this local vineyard. What a cozy way to end a beautiful day.
For more suggestions on where to go, when to go, and what to do, visit the Department of Natural Resources Fall Foliage and Festival Report.