C&O Canal

25 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors in Maryland

By Chris Landers
C&O Canal

Outdoor Adventures in Maryland

Maryland's varied terrain and climate mean there's a way for everyone to get outside and have some fun—whatever the season.

Go Camping in Maryland's Amazing State Parks
Girl enjoying the outdoors

From Maryland's coast to the mountains out west, Maryland's state parks are home to nearly 100,000 acres of adventure and truly countless opportunities to get into the outdoors. And there's no better way to truly experience all that awesome than to plan a camping trip to one of Maryland's camping accessible State Parks. Whether you plan to just relax by the fire or use your site as basecamp for kayaking, biking, hiking, history or whatever gets you going, just plan ahead. After your first trip, you'll understand why camping at Maryland's State Parks is so darned popular.

Ride the Rail Trails
Couple biking GAP

While the train is still a great way to get around, there aren’t that many around anymore. The railroad's loss can be your gain, as more and more of these abandoned railroad tracks have been paved over and turned into biking and hiking trails. The Western Maryland Rail Trail boasts 28 miles of flat, paved bike trail along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail connects Annapolis and Glen Burnie along the former B&A Short Line Railroad. The Indian Head Rail Trail
includes an elevated rail bed that passes through the Mattawoman Creek stream valley.  Cyclists, hikers and nature enthusiasts will enjoy its many attributes.  There are more than a dozen rail trails in the state, so you can see much of Maryland this way. More on biking in Maryland.

Golf hole at Links at Perry Cabin
Joann Dost

The railroad ties surrounding this island green define the legendary course designer Pete Dye.  The Links at Perry Cabin.

Whether you’re looking to punch your shots over a marsh or rip drives through a dense woodland, Maryland has a golf course for you. Much of the golf world’s attention has turned to Ocean City in recent years because so many strong courses are clustered there. With a surprisingly diverse array of options throughout the state, though, every golfer is sure to find a track to fit his or her game. 
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Set Sail with a Chesapeake Storyteller
Sailing aboard the Schooner Woodwind
Schooner Woodwind

There's no magic in the world quite like sailing the Chesapeake, and doing it with one of our dedicated Chesapeake Bay Storytellers takes this unforgettable experience to the next level. Imagine the sound of wind in the sails, light waves lapping at the hull, and the stories shared by a captain whose lived a life on the Chesapeake. Book a sailing charter with Chesapeake Bay Storytellers like Captain Jen on Annapolis's Schooner Woodwind (Pictured above), the yacht Shardana sailing out of Rock Hall, or any of our incredible Chesapeake Bay Storyteller sailing charters  to experience the beauty and the story of the bay as you'd never imagined.  


Enjoy the Beaches of Assateague Island
Family watching ponies on Assateague

Just a short ride from the bustle of Ocean City, Assateague Island, with its pristine beaches and wild horses, is a great family getaway. Camp out on the beach or take a stroll on one of the nature walks. Did we mention that the place is full of wild horses? Wild horses!
More on Maryland's beaches and waterfronts....

Fly Fish in the Savage River
Family fishing

Western Maryland has its own world-class trout fishing river: the Savage. Totaling almost 30 miles, it's divided into the Upper Savage River (populated mostly by wild brook and stocked rainbow trout) and the Lower Savage River tail-waters (filled with wild brown and brook trout). It's all accessible by road in the beautiful 57,000-acre Savage River Forest.
More about fishing in Maryland....

Nature Watching and Birding
Scarlet Tanager at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge

Scarlet Tanager.

With intermittent barrier islands, scenic cypress swamps and Eastern Shore bays, it's logical that Maryland is home to a diverse assortment of bird-watching sites and natural habitats. An astonishing array of birds pass through Maryland during their annual migrations.

Find your best vantage point

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding - SUP
Man on a stand-up paddleboard and a woman in a canoe.
National Harbor and Boating in DC

Stand-up Paddleboard, referred to as SUP, is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing watersports and is a new way to have fun on many of Maryland's waterways.

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Ferry to Smith Island
Smith Island

Famous for its layered cakes (the official dessert of Maryland), Smith Island is a short ferry ride away from Crisfield on the Eastern Shore, but a world away from the mainland in every other respect. This island-out-of-time is one of the last inhabited islands in the Chesapeake.

Visit The Ice Age (Cranesville Swamp)
Cranesville Swamp Preserve

15,000 years ago, when the glaciers of the Ice Age retreated, a little piece of boreal swamp formed in a mountain “frost pocket” in Western Maryland. Today, the Cranesville Swamp is home to 50 species of rare animals and plants, and a subarctic wetland that mimics those much further north in Canada. It will give you a glimpse of what North America looked like during the Ice Age.

Fossil Hunt at Calvert Cliffs State Park
This Chesapeake Bay beach is famous with fossil hunters looking for sharks teeth.

Dig for fossils including 23 million-year-old megalodon shark teeth at this remarkably beautiful park on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.

Kids (and science geeks of all ages) will love hanging out on the park’s beach looking for fossils (we’re talking shark's teeth rather than T. Rex bones, but still…). Go after a storm, when fresh fossils wash ashore. Take a tour with a Chesapeake Bay Storyteller guide to locate the best finds

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Crab on the Chesapeake Bay
Smith Island Waterman Morris Marsh on Crab Scrape Darlene

There's no need for a commercial crabbing outfit for a fun time crabbing with the kids. Check out the Chesapeake Bay's most famous resident up close with just a string, some bait (chicken necks are a local favorite) and a net. Catch the limit of two dozen Jimmies—male hard crabs—with no permit necessary, and gain a new appreciation for the origins of the steamed bushel you pick up on the way home. Try a charter crabbing tour with a Chesapeake Bay Storyteller to find the best spots to catch your limit while hearing stories about the Bay.

Tube Gunpowder River
Tubing at Gunpowder Falls in Monkton

Get in on this local annual tradition. Floating down the Gunpowder in the cold waters (they don't get much above 60 degrees even on the hottest days) released by the Prettyboy Dam is a great way to beat the heat of summer. Located just north of Baltimore, the Gunpowder meanders through light rapids and pools. Tube rentals are available nearby.

Paddle around Janes Island
Kayaking near Janes Island

Janes Island State Park is home to 30 miles of sheltered, secluded water trails perfect for canoeing, not to mention 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.

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Run in One of Maryland’s Many Marathons (and Other Races)
Seneca Creek Trail Marathon - Gaithersburg

There are more than a dozen marathons in Maryland in any given year, from the Seneca Creek Trail Marathon and 50K in Gaithersburg, to the XTERRA Big Elk Marathon in Elkton. Add in all the other ultra-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, relays and trail races, and the total is closer to 1,000. If you're looking for an excuse to get outside and get some exercise, it's tough to find a weekend that doesn’t have a running event somewhere in the state, so what are you waiting for?

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Go “Downy Ocean, Hon”
Open for Beach Experiences

Where do Marylanders go to beat the heat? Down the ocean, hon. Whether you’re in search of beachy t-shirts, the famous Thrashers French Fries or a Bull On The Beach beef sandwich, or you long to run across the hot sand and dive into the cool water, Ocean City and its surrounding area have been a part of childhood in Maryland for well over 100 years.

Cycle the East Coast Greenway
East Coast Greenway

Sort of an urban Appalachian Trail, the East Coast Greenway links cities and towns from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida. Here in Maryland, it's about a third off-road trails, open to non-motorized traffic of all kinds, giving adventurous bicyclists and hikers a route from Elkton to Baltimore to Annapolis to Washington.

Raft the Wild Youghiogheny
Running the Rapids of the Youghiogheny River

The Youghiogheny River (pronounced “Yok-uh-GAY-ne” or just “Yok” for short) cuts along the far western border of Maryland, running north towards Pennsylvania. Youghiogheny is an Algonquin word meaning “flows in a contrary direction,” and the most popular rapids are Class IV-V, which, if you are not a dedicated rafter, is an Algonquin phrase meaning “bring a guide.”

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Hang Ten in Ocean City
Ocean City Surfing - Terry Sterner
Worcester County Tourism

There's almost always surfing in Ocean City. Beaches are cordoned off every day for locals and tourists to try their luck at surfing. But the real action—the surfing locals swear is the best—requires a thick wet suit and an appalling lack of common sense. That's because the best waves come to town after most of the tourists have gone home, in the depths of winter, with an average water temperature in the thirties. People swear by it (but hard-core surfers have to be a little crazy, right?).

Follow the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Launching on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail at Piscataway Park in Accokeek.

Follow in the wake of Capt. John Smith, 400 years after he explored the Chesapeake Bay. The National Park Service's Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail traces his journeys through his notes and journals, as the explorer and his men traveled the area by small boat. Details and maps are available at the Park Service website.

Rock Climb in Maryland’s Mountains
Rock Climbing at Rocks State Park.

The thing about mountains is there's always something on the other side. If you want to see it for yourself, you'd better start climbing. Carderock has long been a popular site in the Capital Region for climbing and bouldering, while the aptly named Rocks State Park, further north in Harford County, is one of the best spots for traditional climbing.

Go Mountain Biking in Patapsco Valley State Park
Cascade Falls st Patapsco Valley State Park
instagram @hipphikergal

Patapsco Valley State Park, along the Patapsco River, is Maryland's oldest state parks, founded in 1907. The rough, hilly terrain lining the Patapsco River valley makes it perfect for experienced bikers. More casual riders will want to check out the trails on the hilltops and plateaus to see beautiful scenery and stream crossings.

Visit a Deserted Island
Hart-Miller Island State Park

Just outside Baltimore City, Hart-Miller Island and Pleasure Island are uninhabited beach getaways accessible only by boat. Camping is available on a first-come, first-serve basis near the mooring fields. It's a perfect way to relax after a day on the water. Find out more about touring the islands of Maryland.

Bike, Hike (or Golf, or Paddle) at Wisp Resort
The Wisp Resort Mountain Park at Deep Creek Lake offers 3 canopy tour challenge adventures, the mountain coaster, geocaching, disc golf and more.
WISP Resort

This Western Maryland ski resort offers 172 acres of skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. If snow sports aren’t your thing, that’s no problem. Golfers can while away the day on the Lodestone Golf Course, and you can bike through the mountains or paddle the surrounding rivers. Stay a while at the resort hotel so you have time to enjoy every outdoor activity on offer.

The Wisp Resort Mountain Park at Deep Creek Lake offers 3 canopy tour challenge adventures, the mountain coaster, geocaching, disc golf and more.

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