Janes Island is an ideal spot for watersports like kayaking.

Paddle a Maryland Water Trail

Janes Island is an ideal spot for watersports like kayaking.

Guide your paddle through the silvery waters of Maryland’s Water Trails for a unique adventure all your own. Choose from an extensive network of water trails that offers up everything from a half-day tranquil escape, perfect for those new to the sport, to an adventure-packed trip or an overnight paddling vacation for those with some paddling miles in their rearview.

Hundreds of miles of water trails present boundless opportunities to explore diverse and stunning landscapes. Each trail is distinctive. Each has an identified route that is mapped, includes public access sites, and shares fun facts about the historical and cultural sites on the trail.

Glide along a wondrously lively mountain stream, weaving through pinnacles and lush mountain greenery. Paddle peacefully through coastal salt marshes, observing waterfowl on the water or perching in tall grasses. Take in the unusual perspective of a city by the water's edge and discover exceptional gems, like a blazing sunset over an urban skyline. The opportunities are endless … the choice is yours.

Chesapeake Bay Water Trails: Nature and Heritage Abound
View of Smith Island from the water

There are so many ways to experience the wonder of the Chesapeake Bay while you're traveling the Great Chesapeake Bay Loop, but none get you closer to this magical estuary than Maryland’s amazing water trails. Wending their way through pristine marshlands, skirting historic shores, or even setting out over the broad expanse of the bay, Maryland’s water trails can be perfect for first-time paddlers on up to experienced sailors and even power boaters. Take the plunge into our list of Chesapeake Water Trails and find the perfect route for you.

Coastal Bays Water Trails: Saltwater, Wildlife and Waterfowl
Waterfowl in marsh

Assateague Island Marshes in Fall.

Heading to the beach? Try something new and different. Paddle a coastal bay and explore barrier islands from the other side -- via the inland coastal bays. These salt marsh and open saltwater habitats are teeming with waterfowl and wildlife. Wind your way through meandering channels that thread through emergent grasses. There are so many treasures to find. Go clamming or fishing along the way. Book a trip with a guide service for the best chance to discover the fish, invertebrates, gulls, ducks and more that live in these environs, and learn about the history of the area. Or enjoy a sunset paddle for a unique view of Maryland’s coast.

Coastal Plain Water Trails: Tidal Rivers - Smooth and Flowing
Sultana Education Foundation’s kayak trip
Chris Cerino

Sultana Education Foundation’s kayak trip on the Sassafras River

Explore the tidal rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll find flat-water paddling opportunities that provide access to natural habitats for birding and fishing, as well as access to towns, attractions, and heritage sites - what a perfect combination! The smooth, flowing waters at the head of these rivers provide great opportunities for novice paddlers on narrow channels, while the wide open water where the rivers meet the Bay offer challenges for more experienced paddlers. Coastal plain water trails deliver a signature Maryland experience. Combine your outing with a stop for fresh, Maryland seafood or a trip to a local craft brewery or winery, plentiful in this area. Pay attention to tidal fluctuations before heading out.

Mountain Maryland Water Trails: Thrilling Whitewater - Wild and Free
Potomac State Forest, Oakland

North Branch of the Potomac River.

For the hardy adventure-seeker who has skills to match the thrill, the mountains of Western Maryland have rushing whitewater waiting for you! Stretches of rapids intersperse with calm river segments that meander through pastoral farmland and wooded lots, paralleled by country roads and railroads. Beautiful scenery surrounds wild rivers that plunge through heavily forested canyons on their way toward peaceful and thriving cities and towns, but you may not get a chance to take it all in as you focus on the extreme challenges ahead of you. The best way to experience these wild and free rivers is with an experienced guide service.

Potomac River Water Trails: From the Mountains to the Bay
Kayaking on a river
Steph Clement Pogonowski

Beautiful day on the Potomac near Monocacy Aqueduct

The swift and mighty waters of the Potomac River await your exploration. The longest river in Maryland, the Potomac created a landscape and shaped a nation. Its corridor is rich in history and provided vital resources for people through the millenia. Today the river offers 300 miles of superb recreation and has the distinction of being a National Recreation Trail and American Heritage River.

The water trail begins at Jennings Randolph Lake near Westernport, and flows to the mouth of the Potomac where it merges with the Chesapeake Bay near Point Lookout. Try a single-day trip or plan for a multi-day adventure, stopping at campsites along the way. Check out a variety of paddle trip itineraries on the Paddle the Potomac website. The trail is broken into four different sections. Each individual segment of the trail has its own map. Check them out here…

Piedmont Water Trails: Explore Maryland’s Rolling Hills and Valleys
Appalachian Trail at Weverton Cliffs overlooking the Potomac River
Scott Cantner/Visit Hagerstown

Appalachian Trail at Weverton Cliffs overlooking the Potomac River.

If you’re looking to paddle some moving and lively water, but aren’t up for the big waves, Maryland’s Piedmont Water Trails may be right for you. These water trails wind among rolling hills and through valleys, offering the best trips for paddlers with some experience and an intermediate skill level. There are slow-moving river sections that are ready for newbies too. You’ll love the gorgeous scenery and verdant green landscapes along these water trails. Catch a glimpse of historic sites built on the riverbanks of these rural landscapes. Stop to check out Civil War history in quaint 19th-century towns flourishing with vibrant shops and restaurants, providing the best of both worlds.

Maryland Is
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