Spend the Last Days of Summer Outdoors in Maryland

Catch the summer sun with outdoor activities galore—from water sports to cycling and hiking trails

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Connie Yingling,
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Leslie Troy,
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BALTIMORE (August 5, 2015) – As the freedom of summertime gives way to back-to-school shopping, the Maryland Office of Tourism is encouraging visitors and residents alike to head outdoors and enjoy carefree summer adventures before Labor Day. Whether by land or by water—with biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, rafting and more—Maryland offers opportunities throughout the state to make the most of the last days of summer.

“Maryland offers countless ways to have fun in a natural setting, including from the water, from the trails, on the beach or even on a horse,” said Liz Fitzsimmons, executive director, Maryland Office of Tourism. “Whether you’re looking to camp in the mountains, hike through cool forests, or kayak on water trails, you’ll find it here.”

The Maryland Office of Tourism pulled together the top 25 ways to enjoy the outdoors in Maryland. Activities range from a relaxing tubing trip down the Gunpowder River; crabbing on the Chesapeake Bay; watching a movie under the stars; or biking a variety of rails-to-trails.

Cyclists can find an in-depth list of biking trips to see Maryland from a more intimate perspective, while hikers can discover the top seven trails in the state.

The Maryland Office of Tourism is also encouraging visitors and residents to upload images of their favorite outdoor places and activities to Instagram and use the hashtag #MDinFocus. @VisitMaryland could share your image with followers and showcase Maryland’s beauty.

For the adventurer in you, here is a sampling of ideas for getting outside this month in Maryland:

Western Maryland

Join the fun at the Rocky Gap Adventure Race August 22. It’s a competition perfect for the sport level racer; achievable for the beginner, and challenging for the advanced level racer. Solos and teams of 2 or 3 will navigate to find checkpoints, all while mountain biking, trekking, and paddling.

Feeling wet and wild? On August 29, Hagerstown will host an 825-foot waterslide spanning from just above Prospect Street to University Plaza. The Downtown Summer Slide Festival will feature live music, a beer garden, kids’ activities, plus food and local vendors.

Every Saturday, get the whole family healthy with YBike.  A variety of guided group bike rides are offered along the C&O Canal Trail and the Great Alleghany Passage, two of the most scenic trails in the nation.

Visit the Green Ridge State Forest. With more than 46,000 acres it is chock full of opportunities for the adventurous.  Maryland's second largest state forest offers a variety of both challenging and scenic mountain biking trails; canoeing, kayaking, and angling; backpacking; camping; hunting; and off-road driving.

Walk, jog, or bike ride along the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The 22.5 mile trail follows the bends and curves of both the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. It begins about one mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park and follows the former Western Maryland Railroad line through scenic countryside and the town of Hancock. The easy grade and paved surface make this path ideal for families.

Hear the bird’s sing, see the eagles soar, and have fun on the Savage Rez All Earth Kayak Tour, a guided and breathtaking nature escape near Deep Creek Lake. If you’re a land-lover, take one of their Guided Hiking Tours and learn about local plants and animals, environment, and history.

Located atop South Mountain, most of Washington Monument State Park’s hiking trail is part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a hiking trail that extends from Georgia to Maine. Whether your goal is scenic beauty, bird and wildlife watching, exercise, or just wanting to get away from it all, the A.T. is spectacular. It also passes through Greenbrier State Park, where the freshwater lake and beach beckon you to enjoy swimming, canoeing, hiking, picnicking, fishing and hunting.

Join Garrett County's original whitewater outfitter, Precision Rafting, for guided whitewater rafting or kayaking trips on the Upper Youghiogheny, Savage, Potomac, and Cheat Rivers. Or, enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and fresh air on a relaxing float trip.

Discover the Wisp Mountain, Adventure Sports Center International which offers the world’s only mountaintop whitewater course for rafting and kayaking. The ICF Canoe Slalom Championships competed on the same rapids in 2014. Or stay dry and enjoy activities including rock climbing, hiking, biking and geocaching in Garrett County’s magnificent natural landscape.

Check out Deep Creek Lake, Maryland's largest inland body of water for a day full of fishing, canoeing, swimming and waterskiing.  Zip around a powerboat or for more low-key fun, try a pontoon boat, kayak, or paddleboard. Bring your own boat, or rent one nearby.

Capital Region

Join the 2015 Frederick Clustered Spires High Wheel Race August 15 in historic downtown Frederick, held in conjunction with the 6th Annual Tour de Frederick. Plan to bring your family and friends to celebrate this unique event and the history and love of bicycles. Popular in the 1880s, a high wheel bicycle has a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel.

Get your hike and bike on at one of the state parks located right outside Washington, D.C. Seneca Creek State Park offers something for everyone—hiking and biking trails, boat rentals, fishing, flatwater canoeing and kayaking, historic interest, hunting, picnicking, playgrounds, and riding trails. You can enjoy the catch-and-release trout stream, designated hunting areas, and unmarked hiking and equestrian trails at Patuxent River State Park. Head out on the Potomac River and view National Harbor from a whole new perspective, via canoe, kayak, pedal boat tours, or paddleboard.

Explore while navigating through the treetops on The Adventure Park’s exciting 13 zip-line trails.  Or, head to the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course’s amazing six zip-line courses (including the USA’s first skateboard zip line!), rope ladders, crossings and Tarzan swings.

Visit Carderock, part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, known for outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking and biking. Bounded by Potomac River on the south and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on the north, it packs more than 100 established climbs, most of which are easy to moderate, with a few harder ones for the more experienced climber.

The picturesque Catoctin Mountains offer a wide range of fresh-air recreation. Gambrills State Park has 16 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Cunningham Falls State Park offers hiking, as well as swimming, fishing and canoeing on its lake. Along the north border, Catoctin Mountain Park offers 25 miles of hiking trails, popular trout fishing streams, camping, horseback riding and more.

Cyclists can discover Frederick County's rich history and scenic landscapes on themed Frederick County Heritage Bicycle Tours. Take in downtown Frederick and Civil War sites on the Campaign Ride; see three of Maryland’s six authentic covered bridges on the Northern County Bridge Sampler; enjoy a mostly flat ride along the C&O Canal; or try the 50-mile Catoctin Mountain Challenge.

Nature lovers will swoon over the Jug Bay Natural Area, one of the most important freshwater tidal estuaries in the Chesapeake Bay region. Jug Bay offers more than eight miles of scenic woodland trails for hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders, as well as facilities for camping and picnics. You can also take a guided trip by park naturalists, or rent canoes or kayaks to explore the Patuxent Water Trail.

Discover the Piscataway National Park, located in Accokeek. The 200-acre park offers fresh water tidal wetlands, a variety of nature trails, meadows, and woodland areas to explore. It is a place of great natural beauty for family activities include picnicking, fishing, nature trail hiking, and kayaking. The Atlantic Kayak Company also offers fun adventures where guests can learn to kayak and explore scenic waterways along the Park’s Piscataway Creek, situated on three national trails: the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

Central Maryland

Don't miss the nation’s top pro series event, the Huk Bassmaster Elite Chesapeake Tournament, in Cecil County August 13-16. On the final two days, enjoy SummerFest, a free family festival with food, vendors, exhibitors, kids’ activities and live music.

Feeling a little hesitant to try paddle boarding, the new favorite water sport? Get your confidence up with Introduction to Stand Up Paddleboarding at Havre de Grace Marine Center on August 22. Come dressed in your water gear for a 90-minute class to help you feel comfortable on a board. Sign up here.

Enjoy Friday sunsets with Paddle Board Yoga on peaceful Otter Point Creek. Expect a core conditioning and body strength-training workout that is low impact and totally different from anything you’ve done before. No paddling experience necessary, but a basic knowledge of yoga is helpful.

On Sunday mornings at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, take a free waterfront Wellness Kayak Tour. Depart from West Shore Park and explore what opportunities and adventures are available around the Harbor.  Be sure to check out the other free Waterfront Wellness classes, including Parkour and Zumba, every Saturday and Sunday morning.

Bike in Carroll County, where 10 loop tours—consisting of more than 150 miles—offer varying degrees of difficulty. The tours provide the recreational cyclist a unique view of scenic back roads while highlighting scenic stops and historic attractions.

Prepare to get muddy while mountain biking in Patapsco Valley State Park. The rough, hilly terrain in the valley makes it perfect for experienced bikers, while more casual riders can wander the trails near the top to see beautiful scenery, complete with waterfalls, bridges and stream crossings.

Visit Gunpowder Falls State Park, that features more than 120 miles of scenic trails, protected State Wildlands, historic sites, fishing and canoeing/kayaking streams, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, a swimming beach, and a marina.

Discover Rocks State Park, with soaring natural rock outcrops that provide breathtaking views, as well as a challenge to the skilled climber. The park also offers opportunities for canoeing, tubing, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and bow hunting.

The Baltimore-Annapolis Trail connects Annapolis and Glen Burnie along the former B&A Short Line Railroad. The 13-mile, paved trail winds through parks, neighborhoods and natural wooded areas with plenty of snack and water stops along the way. It also connects to the 12.5 mile BWI Trail that encircles the airport.

The East Coast Greenway connects colonial cities and towns with beautiful rural landscapes from Maine to Key West, Florida. In Maryland, its off-road trails give adventurous bicyclists and hikers a route from Elkton to Baltimore, and Annapolis to Washington, D.C., a chance to enjoy the countryside while keeping urban amenities close at hand.

Baltimore City is home to almost 6,000 acres of parkland, three stream valleys, miles of bike and natural surface trails, over 25 miles of waterfront parks, over two dozen public boat launches, crabbing and fishing piers, and one of the largest urban wilderness areas on the east coast, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park and the beautiful Gwynns Falls Trail.  

Glide over to Terrapin Adventures in Savage for a wide variety of outdoor fun for all ages. Travel along a breathtaking zip line, try the Giant Swing and see what two Gs of force feel like, or master the crazy ropes course and see how fast you can climb the tower. You’re in for an aerial adventure you’ll never forget.

Southern Maryland

Kids and science lovers of all ages will enjoy hanging out at Calvert Cliffs State Park’s sandy beach looking for fossils of prehistoric species Including sharks, whales, rays, and seabirds that were the size of small airplanes. It’s especially fun after a storm, when fresh fossils wash ashore.

Walk or pedal along the Chesapeake Beach Rail Trail, which occupies a portion of the abandoned railroad corridor that once whisked vacationers from Washington, D.C., to the grand hotels, beaches and boardwalk of the resort town of Chesapeake Beach. Unusual for a rail-trail, it rests almost entirely on a wooden boardwalk just above serene Fishing Creek and the marshlands surrounding it.

Paddle or Pedal will help you enjoy stunning views of North Beach and Chesapeake Beach via kayak or canoe (some rigged for fishing), pedal boats, standup paddle boards, as well as bicycles rented hourly or daily. Sunset and sunrise tours, as well as lessons are also available. 

The best way for cyclists, hikers and nature enthusiasts to experience the mature forests, natural wetlands and history of Charles County is along the multi-state Potomac River Greenways project. Highlights include: Piscataway National ParkPurse State Park, General Smallwood State Park, and Ruth B. Swan County Park, all situated directly on the Potomac River; Chapel Point State Park and Friendship Landing in the tidal tributaries; two streams that flow into Mattawoman Creek, an estuary named “where one goes pleasantly” by Native Americans; and the 13-mile Indian Head Rail Trail through some of Southern Maryland’s most undeveloped natural areas.

Outdoor recreation abounds along the Potomac, Patuxent, and St. Mary’s rivers in St. Mary’s County. Swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, cycling, picnicking and camping are just a few of the activities to be enjoyed in a beautiful bay setting. Gain access to water and land trails at numerous public parks, including St. Mary’s River State Park, Point Lookout State Park and Greenwell State Park. St. Clements Island State Park (the site where Maryland’s first colonists landed), Piney Point Lighthouse, and Historic St. Mary’s City provide fascinating historic destination points to learn more about the rich Chesapeake history.

Eastern Shore

Ocean City’s beaches are perfect for swimming and sunning, fishing and paddling, jet skis and surfing. Two beaches are cordoned off daily for surfing and their locations rotate daily. For a list of the day's surfing locations, plus the OC surf report, you can call the OC Beach Patrol, or sign up for their surfing notifications. Coastal Highway is lined up and down with jet-ski, surfboard, and all types of paddling rental shops.

Northside Park is a treasure tucked away on the Bay in North Ocean City and a dream come true for outdoor lovers. Offering an outdoor fitness center, a running/biking track and kayak & paddleboard rentals, the options for activities are endless. 

Venture into Wicomico County by land on its many established hiking trails, cycle the back roads and byways, or spend a peaceful afternoon bird watching the many migratory and resident birds. Or, spend the day fishing or paddling the 1,000s of miles of Wicomico's waterways.

Visit Janes Island State Park, home to 30 miles of secluded water trails perfect for paddling, not to mention the pristine beaches and amazing sunsets. For overnight trips, visitors can stay at one of the campsites on the mainland or venture out to one of the back-country sites along the water trails. Crisfield Kayak & Canoe offers a variety of kayaks and canoes that can be delivered to local destinations.

Elk Neck State Park and Forest is located on a peninsula formed by the Chesapeake Bay on the west and the Elk River on the east. With more than 2,188 acres of varied landscapes including marshlands, heavily wooded areas, white clay cliffs, and beaches, the Park offers camping, swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking.

Assateague Island State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore are Maryland's most popular parks and are the only oceanfront ones. With pristine beaches and wild horses, the island a great family getaway destination. Collect shells or shellfish; swim, surf or camp out at the beach; take a stroll on one of the nature walks; or explore via bicycle, canoe, kayak or over-sand vehicle.

Paddle with Chester River Kayak Adventures and experience the gentle tidal waters of the Chester River, an area that offers some of the finest uncluttered paddling to be found in the Mid-Atlantic Region. It’s a naturalist’s paradise through protected creeks and coves, broad stretches of undeveloped tidal land with thick forests and cornfields reaching to the water's edge.

Dorchester County hosts the 2nd largest concentration of bald eagles on the east coast and the best place to see them is on the 1,700 miles of Dorchester’s shoreline, whether by bike or kayak. Blackwater Paddle and Pedal Adventures offers rentals and tours, including on the Choptank River and one through Blackwater Refuge, better known as the “Everglades of Maryland.”

Sail, fish, or paddle around Talbot County. However the water is just part of the charm. Nestled in the shores of the county are acres of preserved forests, wetlands, and wildlife, prime for hiking, exploring, bird watches, and nature walks. The County also offers countless miles of scenic bike trails through the small towns, watermen’s villages and over 600 miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline.

Tuckahoe State Park is a stream valley park protecting Tuckahoe Creek, the border between Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties. There are ample canoeing, kayaking, and freshwater fishing opportunities, as well as campsites, cabins, playgrounds, and picnicking pavilions. Both the American Discovery Trail, which passes through the park, and Adkins Arboretum located within the park provide excellent walking, cycling and horseback riding trails.

About Maryland Tourism
The Maryland Office of Tourism is an agency of the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Visitors to the state spent more than $15.4 billion on travel-related expenses in 2013. During 2013, the Maryland tourism industry also generated $2.1 billion in state and local taxes, and provided 138,682 jobs for Maryland residents.

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