state parks

10 Things You Didn't Know About Maryland's State Parks

Eva Niessner

10 Things You Didn't Know About Maryland's State Parks

No matter what season it is here in Maryland, there's a state park waiting for you -- and Maryland has some pretty fantastic hidden gems deep in its woods! How much do you actually know about these amazing places? Whether you're a veteran of Maryland's trails or new to exploring these state parks, we've got some fascinating facts for you.

  1. First State Park System: Maryland was the first state in the United States to establish a state park system. The first park, known as "Patapsco Valley State Park," was created in 1907. Now, there are 54 total in Maryland.
  2. Assateague Island: Maryland's Assateague Island State Park is home to a population of wild horses, known as Chincoteague Ponies, which roam freely on the island. These horses have become a popular attraction for visitors and have been rounded up for a swim to Virginia's Chincoteague Island for many years. Observe them from a distance -- they're beautiful, but they are still wild animals, so don't get too close. 
  3. Catoctin Mountain Park: Located in Thurmont, Maryland, Catoctin Mountain Park was once used as a presidential retreat. The park's Camp David complex has served as a secluded getaway for several U.S. Presidents, starting with FDR. He called the place Shangri-La, but Eisenhower renamed it in honor of his grandson David.
  4. Antietam National Battlefield: While not a state park, Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, is a historic site managed by the National Park Service. It commemorates the Battle of Antietam, which took place during the American Civil War and is considered the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history. In only a single day, 23,000 men were killed or wounded.
  5. Cunningham Falls State Park: This park, situated near Thurmont, is home to Maryland's largest cascading waterfall, Cunningham Falls. The falls are a popular spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts. They're also a great place to get a photo! 
  6. Seneca Creek State Park: Located near Gaithersburg, Maryland, Seneca Creek State Park is home to the 90-acre Clopper Lake. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, and picnicking, as well as explore the park's numerous trails.
  7. Swallow Falls State Park: Situated on the very edge of western Maryland, nearly in West Virginia, Swallow Falls State Park boasts Maryland's tallest free-falling waterfall, Muddy Creek Falls, which drops approximately 53 feet. 
  8. Sandy Point State Park: Positioned along the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland, Sandy Point State Park is a popular beach destination. The park offers swimming, fishing, picnicking, and stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
  9. Fort Frederick State Park: This historic park, located near Big Pool, Maryland, features a restored fort from the French and Indian War era. Visitors can explore the fort's walls, barracks, and other structures.
  10. Maryland Park Passport Program: Maryland's State Park Passport Program encourages visitors to explore the state's parks by providing incentives for visiting multiple parks. Participants can collect stamps at each park they visit and earn rewards based on the number of parks they explore. Owning a Park Passport also has another advantage -- it acts as a yearly pass for you and your friends to the parks. For a year after purchase, you and up to nine others can get into the parks for free, so it pays for itself if you're a regular visitor. 

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