The Best National Parks to Visit Near Baltimore, Maryland

Assateague Island National Seashore is home to gorgeous wild horses
Assateague Island National Seashore is home to gorgeous wild horses | © Mary H. Swift / Alamy Stock Photo
Frank Lopez


The naturally rugged beauty of Maryland is not lost on the people who live in it. Its residents make great efforts to regularly exercise within their parks and along their coastline through kayaking, hiking, fishing, boulder climbing and much more.

The people of Maryland are active, and the area’s national and state parks are ready to accommodate all kinds of pastimes. However, they are fiercely protective about disturbing the balance of nature. The people are proud of the beauty that surrounds them, a concept that goes back thousands of years to when the Native Americans worshipped this land. There are many parks to discover if you travel in any direction out of Baltimore; here are some local favorites.

1. Assateague Island National Seashore


Assateague Island has over 37m (60km) of unspoiled white-sand beaches along the roaring Atlantic. While activities include fishing, hunting and spectacular birdwatching, as is expected along the East Coast, the main draw is its wild horses. In local folklore, these tough Assateague horses are supposedly survivors of a Spanish shipwreck. Whatever is true, more than 300 of these feral animals freely wander the beaches, pine forest and salt marshes. Admire them from a distance.

2. Catoctin Mountain Park

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Catoctin Mountain Park
© Zachary Frank / Alamy Stock Photo

The marked trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains will take you through forested land and past old farmhouses and lead you to outstanding views of the Monocacy Valley. This area is bear and snake territory, but that shouldn’t put you off. The park is very popular for strenuous activities in summer and winter, including cross-country skiing and rock climbing. Just bring good boots.

3. Fort Washington Park

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Overwhelmingly tranquil and romantic, Fort Washington Park should sit at odds with the military structures that litter its grounds and its past. Long gone are the times when this was a fort guarding the nation’s capital. Now you are more likely to hear buzzing bees than the sound of cannon fire (unless you are there on the weekend for a cannon display, of course). Either way, the views of the Potomac River from the fort are outstanding.

4. Patapsco Valley State Park

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Patapsco Valley State Park has 200mi (322km) of trails – Baltimore City Paper even named it the “Best Place to Hike” in 2007. The number one route has to be the Cascade Falls Loop Trail. It’s a fun and not too difficult trail, complete with beautiful water views on the way up and back down. The Blair Witch Project (1999) filmed here in the park, too, so get back before it gets dark.

5. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Park, School

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
© Zachary Frank / Alamy Stock Photo
Beyond its 22mi (35km) of hiking trails, Harpers Ferry is known as a “historical” park due to its past. Native American history here goes back 8,000 years, and it has since seen the first American railroad pass through it and was a fierce battleground in the Civil War. It was also a base for John Brown, the famous abolitionist. It’s a fascinating community set in wondrous nature.

6. Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm

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This park is a living farm museum where visitors can get the 1900s experience of watching cows being milked, chickens being fed and pigs giving birth. The park area was a plantation home during the War of 1812 and a hospital farm at another time. Crops now have been replanted and even some orchards restored. You will feel like you are on the set of a quaint movie.

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