Waterfalls, covered bridges, history and nature abound on trails all around Maryland. With the unique topography of the state, you can hike a mountain trail one day, a shore side trek the next. The best part? Many of these trails have something that is perfect for the whole family.
Patapsco State Park
This was our family’s first hiking adventure, a good one too. Entering the park at the Hilton area you’ll find a recycled tire playground that is a blast for kids in the 5-12 year old range. There are also several pavilions and picnic areas to rest those tired feet after you’ve trekked up the the falls.
Taking the Forest Glen Trail, you walk down a fairly steep incline that levels out at a creek. (note to self: you’ll have to walk back up this – oy vey!) Following that you’ll pass through a very cool tunnel and can connect to the Grist Mill Trail which takes you along the shores of the Patapsco River. Parts of this are paved, a nice break on the knees. We found a hoard of sea glass along the shores.
Up next is the Iron Bridge, with stunning views of the river that flows beneath, and just enough sway to make it a little unnerving. The day we visited, Park Rangers had set up in the parking lot with a wonderful display of the history of the area. Dude, women used to camp in heels… no joke!
From there we scaled a bit of a steep trail to a lovely little waterfall. There were lots of other families on the trails, dogs and a few horses too.
This was our first family hike and we got twisted and turned around (um, someone should have really learned to read maps better) so my account of the distance, had we followed the loops properly, maybe be a little off. It took us about 3 hours total.
Or as I call it, “The Covered Bridges of Harford County.” Which could be a misnomer as the trial dips into Baltimore County as well, but “Harford” sounds so much sexier. This lovely trail has all the romance of Eastwood meets Streep, and a history lesson too!
Were you to hike the whole of this state park, you’d end up totaling around 120 miles. Yeah, not us. We headed out from the Central Area, which borders the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls as they flow into the Days Cove.
As we wove our way deeper into the woods, there came a noise that sounded much like a fusillade. As it turns out, it was only the sound of cars as they traversed the covered bridge. It did lead my kids to wonder if that noise was what gave the falls their name – Gunpowder. Silly kids.
This trek is one that is more suited to those who don’t mind a scaling a few rocks, searching for hidden trails (they just aren’t marked that well) and braving some steep slopes. The pay off is a pedi a la Mother Nature, as you dip your tired toes into rushing, clear, cool water in the numerous areas that are perfect for a dip, or sunning yourself on a boulder.
Be sure to leave time for a picnic under the trees next to the parking area and the Smithy, where they host Blacksmith demos. Adjacent to the Smithy is a historic country store and across the street is a lovely little museum. All are a great way to turn your nature trek into a history lesson too. BONUS!
This Howard County gem is a great trail to start off with if you’ve got younger children, or are new to hiking. (or say, like… you’re not that great with maps and such.)
There are a few loops in this trail, some you may have to share with a few horses, all are shared with an abundance of avian pals.
The trail itself is marked very well, mostly hard packed dirt and – depending upon which loop you take – follows a lovely stream. There is even a hidden pond, near which we met some very friendly toads!
Rachel Carson herself was a writer, environmental activist, and local resident. The trail is imbued with her spirit, making a hike here peaceful and pleasurable.
Why did we take up hiking?
Aside from the obvious health benefits and the whole communing with nature stuff, we’ve found that forcing the kids to unplug – as contentious as that can be – brings about a remarkable transformation. The typical bickering, becomes giggling. Dad stepping on a snake (yes, that happened) can be funnier than a viral YouTube video. Singing Disney tunes can replace their playlists. But obviously you can’t take the Disney out of the kid – or as we call her, Aeriel’s Fresh Water Cousin.
Go see what nature can do for you!
Have a favorite hiking trail, in Maryland or your home state? I’d love to add it to our list! Tell me about it in the comment section.