Where can I commune with nature near Baltimore?
April 9, 2008 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Where can I commune with nature in Maryland? Tell me about the beautiful places I can go hiking within an easy drive of Baltimore, MD.
posted by killdevil to Science & Nature (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever been to Soldier's Delight? It used to be one of my absolutely favorite places to go, just off the beltway. I think it's a little more, er, compact than it seemed when I was in college due to some encroaching developments, but it is likely still a beautiful and unique spot to tramp around in.

Oregon Ridge is really good to, but can get crowded.
posted by missmobtown at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2008

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: well worth checking out of your local library. Most, if not all of these, will be within your range. It just got updated last year, too.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2008

Patapsco State Park, you can reach it going East on Route 40.

There's also another entrance out in Baltimore County, close to the Carrol County line, which I highly recommend (grew up around there). Get off 695 at Exit 18, the Liberty Road and take it out to Marriottsville Rd. Follow that for a good seven or eight miles through rural country, abandoned and still running rock quarries and the entrance will be on the left. Here's a Google Map showing the route.

The other highlight is that you're close to Liberty Dam. You reach it by following Liberty Rd out past Marriottsville Rd. It tends to be a bit more crowded with people jogging or walking their babies but nothing major. The view is great.

Solider's Delight is good for walking trails, while Gunpowder Falls is great for it's rock formations (known as Double Rock).

All of these are within 45 minutes of downtown Baltimore.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Robert E. Lee Memorial Park.
posted by brownpau at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2008

Prettyboy Reservoir is really beautiful. Up off 83, north of the city.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2008

Gambrill State Park.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2008

Cumberland Falls, near Thurmont MD.
And Great Falls, both the MD and VA sides are easily accessible and pretty.
posted by now i'm piste at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2008

There's a place near Towson..I forget where. But there is a beautiful bridge that my friends and I hung out at once a couple summers ago.
posted by jinatrix at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2008

Seconding Great Falls. They don't call it great for nothing.

If you're up for a 2? 3? hour drive, head west to Skyline Drive (I think it's in Virginia.)
posted by salvia at 3:19 PM on April 9, 2008

Assateague, at least until the weather turns really nice and it gets a bit crowded.
posted by dilettante at 4:03 PM on April 9, 2008

Not strenuous hiking, but Cylburn Arboretum has a number of trails in addition to all their gardens and labeled trees.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:06 PM on April 9, 2008

The reservoir immediately north of Cockeysville has some excellent hiking & streams.
posted by tachikaze at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2008

Great Falls is fantastic if you can drive out to the DC area and it's definitely worth it, but if you live north of the city and want a quick trip I'd recommend Gunpowder Falls or Rocks State Park (home to the waterfall from the movie Tuck Everlasting).
posted by elysenavidad at 5:15 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to work for the Maryland State Forest and Park Service and in general they really do have excellent facilities. As mentioned above, Soldiers Delight is very close to Baltimore and both neat looking and with rare plants and interesting natural history. To your west is is the federal Catoctin Mountain Park home of Camp David as well as nice hiking and views.

In addition to hiking on pretty trails, Maryland has amazing freshwater and salt marsh as well as the Bay itself. Check out the Chesapeake Bay branch of the National Estuarine Research Reserve. I spent a lot of time at their Jug Bay area when I lived in Annapolis. The had guided canoe tours of the marsh with naturalists who could talk about everything from the plants to the bugs to the birds.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:10 PM on April 9, 2008

The Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail is beautiful. Park at Gathland State Park and hike to Harpers Ferry.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:23 PM on April 9, 2008

Take 83 North to the Hereford Exit. Turn right off the exit and left at the light. Go about 3/4 of a mile, past the high school, past the Pioneer House bar (if it's still there, which I bet it is) and down the curvy road. Park on the left in the gravel lot right before the bridge. You're in Gunpowder Falls State Park. Cross the road, walk through the grassy "beach" area and find a trail. It goes all along the river for a long way and there are a multitude of other trails, usually unfrequented, unmaintained and pretty much awesome.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:55 PM on April 9, 2008

I'm from the midwest, so all of that area seems naturey and communal to me. Heck, I think the BW Parkway is a joyous experience.
posted by gjc at 7:27 PM on April 9, 2008

I assume that Druid Hill Park doesn't meet enough of your nature requirements, which is understandable, but I go there often for a mini-fix. It's the best park in the city.

The page listing trail runs at the Baltimore Running page has directions and descriptions of many places that are close and would serve for short hikes.

I also really like the section of the AT that runs from Weverton Cliffs, through Gathland, to Washington Monument park. The whole ridge is beautiful. It's 30 minutes north of Frederick. A bit further and you get to Harper's Ferry, which is always nice for a nature-y day trip.

All the sections of Patapsco Park that I've been in have been great. The McKeldin area just north of Baltimore, off Marriott Road, is varied and has a nice ~5 mile hiking loop.

Loch Raven reservoir has many trials. The roads there are partially closed off on weekends.

The NCR trail, which starts in Hunt Valley and runs north to PA, on a Rails to Trails conversion, is really very nice. The further up you go the nicer it is, and the more remote it feels. The trail itself is groomed gravel, and appropriate for any type of bike riding. The section from mile 11-mile 12.5 is particularly beautiful.

Then there's Catoctin out to the west, Susquehana to the North, etc etc.

If you have more specific questions, feel free to get in touch with me. I've been many of these places and can give you specific information.
posted by OmieWise at 4:28 AM on April 10, 2008

Elk Neck State Park has a couple of nice day hikes.
posted by saladin at 4:58 AM on April 10, 2008

Susquehanna State Park has several trails ranging from 1-3 miles in a variety of difficulties.

While you're in Harford County, try out the Ma & Pa Trail . (link takes you to the county's trail list).

Currently this is the Bel Air & Forest Park section each about 2 miles. The connecting Edgeley Grove section is under construction & will bring the trail length to 8 miles. This is probably too easy for 'hiking' but it's a good warm up walk.

Eden Mill is a more woodlands type of trail. Nice walk but can be muddy & has a couple of challenging hills. (As a bonus, they run some interesting nature programs if that's your thing)

The trails at Swan Harbor where a little rough the last time I was there (4 yrs ago).

And as mygothlaundry mentioned, Gunpowder Falls State Park is a great place to hike with several trails. I like the Jerusalem Village area trails and I've heard the Big Gunpowder Trail is a good hike but a 10 mile round trip is too much for me.
posted by jaimystery at 7:42 AM on April 10, 2008

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