Best Places to Camp in Maryland
Although comparatively, it’s quite a small state, Maryland offers the modern camper a diverse range of habitats and ecosystems to explore, from the rocky mountains of The Appalachians and the Appalachian Trail in Western Maryland to the numerous wetlands and marshes created by the many tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Despite being one of the smallest states in the US, it’s known by many as America in Miniature, due to its variety of climates and topographies.
If surrounding yourself with a stunning variety of scenes and experiences is what you’re after, Maryland might be your new dream camping location. If you want to engage your brain too, Washington DC is home to numerous National Parks packed with history. Why don’t you consider downloading one of these useful hiking apps too, so you can identify all the local flora and fauna, for check out the constellations once you reach your campsite and set up for the night? Read on to find out about the best places to camp in Maryland.
Assateague State Park is Maryland’s only oceanfront park. It is located on Assateague Island, a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Sinepuxent Bay on the west. This long thin island stretches down the coast of Maryland and offers some of the most remote and relaxing camping experiences around. Its two miles of ocean beaches offer swimming, beachcombing, sunbathing, surfing and fishing. You’ll never be stuck for activities to do in this stunning location. The bayside offers visitors the chance to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak.
There are also many opportunities for wildlife viewing. The marsh areas have a variety of wildlife, including deer, waterfowl and wild horses. You often wake up with these horses casually hanging out in front of your tent, giving you the feeling of being fully immersed in nature. But there are some rules for camping here, so make sure to research properly before you head off. Camping at Assateague Island National Seashore is permitted only on the Maryland side of Assateague. National Park Service provides bayside and oceanside campsite year-round, but we would recommend the bayside camping spots.
They are the most beautiful of the sites but watch out if you’re planning on going camping in the summer months. There can be lots of bugs and mosquitos, so remember to bring your repellent or a net to sleep under! They have recently built bathhouses for the Bayside sites with showers. The Ocean Loops are located across from the sand dunes and a quick walk to a beautiful beach: however, there are no hookups at any sites. There are pit toilets and cold showers in the Ocean Loops.
Assateague State Park is also located on the Maryland side of Assateague and provides over 300 campsites. But for a more adventurous, and more fun, trip, we would recommend heading to the primitive camping spots. These are available for campers who wish to backpack or paddle the islands. This is a fantastic option if you want a slightly more rugged experience of the island. If you’re heading off in an RV or motorhome, we would recommend looking at the State Park camping options, as some of these sites have electric hookups. This is an excellent location as you have loads of activities to keep you entertained like history exhibits, hikes, boardwalks, and bike trails to keep you and your group entertained.
Cunningham Falls State Park
Cunningham Falls State Park is located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains. It is divided into two separate but unique areas. Each will offer you a wonderful, unique, camping experience. The William Houck Area located three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77 has the lake area and is nearby the impressive falls. The Manor Area off Route is really accessible, just 15 three miles south of Thurmont, and has the Scales and Tales Aviary, camping and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace. The state park is the home of Cunningham Falls, the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland, a 43-acre man-made lake, and the remains of a historic iron furnace. There are so many things to see and do in this area, that you’ll never get bored.
Leisure opportunities abound in this State Park, including swimming, hiking, fishing, and canoeing. The park is quite hilly with lush old-growth forest and rocky outcroppings. The hiking opportunities will really take your breath away: not just because of the stunning scenery, but also because of the elevation change, making them a bit of a challenge! We would recommend heading here if you’re an experienced hiker, and would probably warn against taking your dog or young children. Campsites and camper cabins are available from April through October.
Elk Neck State Park is located in Cecil County on a peninsula, formed by the Chesapeake Bay on the west and the Elk River on the east. The park has 2,370 acres of land and includes 250 campsites, 4 youth group sites, and 15 cabins, for more of a glamping experience. There are enough options here to suit your camping holiday, no matter the purpose or the size of your group. Varied landscapes in this stunning State Park include marshlands, heavily wooded areas, white clay cliffs, and sandy shorelines.
Elk Neck State Park is divided into four areas. Turkey Point Lighthouse is located at the southern tip of the Elk Neck Peninsula. We would recommend heading to North East Beach Area and Picnic Shelters which is a popular day-use area located in the western portion of the park and features a swimming area, canoe and kayak launch, picnic shelters, picnic tables, and grills. Rogues Harbor Boat Launch Facility offers public boating access to the Elk River, and fishing piers, so you can sail off into the sunset, and go angling to your heart’s content. The Elk River Camping Area is located on the eastern portion of the peninsula and offers over 250 campsites, with many different sleeping arrangements also available. At many of these campsites, you can light a campfire, and relax after a long day hiking or exploring the near area.
If you’re considering Elk Neck State Park for your next camping holiday, we would recommend following the hike out to the Turkey Point Lighthouse. It’s quite an easy hike and offers great views of the upper Chesapeake Bay. The nearby town of Northeast is a fun and quaint: here you’ll be able to explore, and maybe enjoy reading your book in a coffee shop, and pick up all the groceries you need for camp.
The Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary in the U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia. The Bay is located in the Mid-Atlantic region and is mainly separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Delmarva Peninsula with its mouth located between Cape Henry and Cape Charles. This is a large bay, that opens up multiple opportunities for camping and activities in the great outdoors.
For example, if you’re coming in an RV, why not consider Chesapeake Bay RV Camp Resort? They offer canoe rentals, crabbing and fishing tackle hire. This RV and campsite are conveniently located a half-mile by boat from the Chesapeake Bay. Head here for amenities including a boat launch, a swimming pool, bathhouse, showers, a playground, and a camp store. This is especially a good option for avid fishers: the pier is perfect for crabbing and boat slips, and you can even moor your boat at their sea wall.
But if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten track, there are lots of amazing places to camp in the region, some right along the shores of the Chesapeake. The Maryland state park systems have multiple parks on the shores of the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Camping is a great way to enjoy the natural wonders of the Chesapeake Bay region, as you can wake up surrounded by this enchanting habitat. Kayaking is an increasingly popular activity in the Chesapeake Bay region: many campers travel with kayaks, but you’ll also find them available for rent at some of the campgrounds, and in private boating rental companies along the shore.
State Parks in the Chesapeake Bay Region
If you’re looking for direct shoreline access, and to be immersed in the beautiful wetlands of this region, then Belle Isle State Park might suit you down to a T. Belle Isle has seven miles of shoreline on the Northern Neck’s Rappahannock River and provides access to Mulberry and Deep creeks. The park lets visitors explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It has a campground, three picnic shelters, hiking, biking and bridle trails, and motorboat and car-top launches. You even get access to the playground, boardwalk and fishing pier, and educational programs, meaning you can keep all your family or group engaged, and learn something while you’re at it!
The Belle Isle State Park is a perfect option for you if you’re an avid wildlife enthusiast. The diverse habitats found in the park provide homes to many predatory birds, such as blue herons, osprey, hawks and bald eagles. White-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, moles, reptiles and amphibians are also common. There are eight distinct types of wetlands within the park. These diverse ecosystems make Belle Isle an excellent outdoor laboratory for environmental education. Download one of these useful hiking apps, so you can plan your journey, and identify all of the local flora and fauna around you!
Point Lookout State Park is a Maryland state park occupying Point Lookout, the southernmost tip of a peninsula formed by the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. During the Civil War Era, Point Lookout was first a hospital for wounded Union soldiers and then a Civil War prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. There’s a dark history here, which underlies the evocative landscapes. It’s the historical location of a camp that imprisoned as many as 52,264 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. To learn more about this fascinating period of time, visit the museum on site which recounts this vivid history.
When you arrive, make sure to head to the camp office or camp store to pick up your park map. Also, if you’re heading off in the summer, remember to prepare for bugs, and bring plenty of sprays, and a mosquito net for when you sleep. This is because the Point Lookout State Park is surrounded by water and marshland, you just can’t stop the bugs when the weather’s right. For a lovely day trip, head up to the very tip of the peninsula to find a lovely, picturesque swimming beach and picnic area. If you’re looking for somewhere to wet your whistle in the evening, Sunset Cove restaurant about 5 miles away has a beautiful water view. This park has a protected area where you can kayak without the powerboats cruising around. There are lots of campsites around the park, some with full hookups, some in the woods, some with electric only. Enjoy on your trip a short hiking trail, a boat launch, a swimming area, and boat rentals.
Tuckahoe State Park is a public recreation area located along Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Adkins Arboretum, a garden and preserve maintaining over 600 native plant species, occupies 500 acres of the park. This place is a botany enthusiast’s dream! Enjoy the peace and quiet of Tuckahoe Creek, a quiet country stream bordered for most of its length by wooded marshlands, which runs through the length of the park.
A 60-acre lake offers boating and fishing. The park has 20 miles of scenic hiking, biking and equestrian trails, flatwater canoeing, hunting, picnicking, as well as a recycled tire playground for children. There are also some hunting areas, for those of you who prefer to catch their dinner themselves.
The park offers a family camping area with 54 sites, 33 with electric hookups, and a central bathhouse with showers and toilet facilities. Each site is equipped with a camping pad, picnic table, and fire ring. Pets are allowed in these campgrounds but must remain on a leash at all times. The RV loop of this campground is heavily wooded, offering dense shade, which is good for getting some privacy and relaxation.
However, the internal roads and sites are wide and easy to navigate, and there is excellent spacing between sites. The roads are paved, and the sites are level packed gravel. There are lots of different options for climbing here, but in our view, the main selling factor is the amazing variety of plants. Come here for classes and lectures provided by the arboretum on horticulture, ecology and natural history.
Rocky Gap State Park is a public recreation area with resort features located on Interstate 68, 7 miles east of Cumberland in Allegany County, Maryland. The state park’s 3,000 acres include Lake Habeeb, Evitts Mountain, and the privately owned and operated Rocky Gap Casino Resort. In this park, you’ll be surrounded at all times by rugged, beautiful mountains. The 243-acre Lake Habeeb is known for having the “bluest water in the state.” The lake is fed by Rocky Gap Run, which winds its way through an impressive mile-long gorge, displaying sheer cliffs, overlooks and a hemlock forest dense with rhododendron and mountain laurel. It will make you feel almost like an extra in the sound of music. Overlooking the lake is Evitts Mountain, named for one of the first European settlers in Allegany County.
This impressive mile-long gorge is framed by sheer cliffs, overlooks, dense hemlock forests and is home to 278 campsites. In some campsites, you might even get a regular family of wild turkeys visiting your campsite and the neighboring sites throughout the park every morning and evening. If you’re heading to Rocky Gap State Park, you can’t leave without booking a trip on the Potomac Eagle RR in Romney, W Va. for Bald Eagle viewing (sit on the left side of the train). They have spotters on the train that alert you where to look for viewing and taking photos. It’s the best way to see a snapshot of the stunning landscape and some of the magnificent birds of prey.
With Baltimore to visit and Washington DC nearby, it’s easy to think that the biggest reason to visit Maryland is the amazing, and sometimes quite fraught, history of this state. However, as we have seen in the best places to camp in Maryland, it also is home to many very interesting and unique natural habitats and has some of the best camping around. Whether you’re going on a getaway to go tent camping in a State Forest, primitive camping along the many miles of coastline, on remote islands only reachable by canoe, or heading to a family campground or RV park, Maryland has something for everyone.
Bonus tip: To find out more about the different adventures you can get up to in Tuckahoe State Park, watch this useful video!