Maryland offers a variety of free camping adventure opportunities from waterfront campsites and hearty coastlines to the mountains in the north and west regions of the state.
You’ll find ancient villages, as well as dense forests perfect for hiking, with lakes scattered around the state. Beaches in Maryland are popular family destinations, with plenty of recreational activities to enjoy on the water. The state has so much to offer in a relatively small space.
Keep reading for the best places you can go free camping in Maryland, including activities to enjoy at each destination.
Free Camping in Central Maryland
1. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is a 184-mile-long linear park that stretches between Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland. It’s an excellent place to go free camping in Maryland, with its sun-drenched shoreline and plentiful boating and fishing opportunities.
You’ll discover historical, natural, and recreational treasures while camping at this historical park. All campsites in this park have a chemical toilet in addition to a picnic table, fire pit, and non-potable well water.
Hikers and bikers can explore parts of an old towpath for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal during their visit. Make sure to restrict your campfire to the grill or fire rings that are provided by the park.
Portable grills that are positioned off the ground are allowed as well. All coals from campfires must be extinguished and removed when you’re done camping.
Make sure to be aware of any closures, as well as any current weather conditions and forecasts, and safety tips before you head out for free camping in Maryland.
2. Swains Lock
Swains Lock was named after the Swain family, who operated the snack bar formerly located in the house on the property. This campsite offers free camping in Maryland with five campsites available on the canal side.
Swains Lock is right on the river, hence the name, and features multiple free boondocking sites with tables and fire rings for campers. Campers can fish from the river and collect their own natural firewood. This campsite also features a water fountain and portable toilets.
This is a popular area so it may be difficult to find parking during the busiest times.
3. Fifteen Mile Creek
Fifteen Mile Creek is a free camping site in Maryland, located in the town of Little Orleans that runs along the Maryland side of the Potomac River. This area includes an unpaved rustic camping area, without hookups, but includes spacious sites with grills and chemical toilets.
You can enjoy fishing for a variety of fish at the nearby canal and the creek while camping at this site, but remember that you can only stay for up to fourteen days.
4. Hollofield Campground
Hollofield Campground offers campers a little slice of wilderness right in the center of suburban Baltimore. This is a fantastic place to go free camping in Maryland, with 73 campsites total! Some of these sites feature electrical hookups, but many of them do not.
You will find a picnic table and a fire ring at each campsite. You may occasionally hear the buzz of traffic along Route 40, but the thicket of trees makes for a secluded feel, so you can enjoy the great outdoors of Hollofield Campground while free camping in Maryland.
There are also camp hosts onsite to assist you for the duration of your camping trip. These guides can provide information about the park’s attractions, assist with any emergencies you may have while on your trip, and explain the rules and regulations of the campground.
Free Camping in Eastern Maryland
5. Deal Island Wildlife Management Area
Deal Island Wildlife Management Area boasts an incredible 13,000 acres of marshlands and a 2,800-acre man-made pond.
Contained within the marshlands is an abundance of wigeon grass, horned pondweed, and other foods that attract waterfowl. You can look forward to observing water insects and crustaceans, as well as ducks, and geese while you’re camping in the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area.
This is a great area for free camping in Maryland, offering primitive camping, crabbing, and saltwater fishing. Trapping is also allowed, but you must have a yearly lease. There is a trail around the man-made pond, perfect for hikers and bikers to explore while free camping in Maryland.
Since mosquitos and other insects are attracted to the marshlands, it’s best to bring along an insect repellent to fend off the pests, in addition to minimizing exposed skin and wearing light-colored clothing.
6. Janes Island State Park
Janes Island State Park is located right outside Crisfield on the eastern shores of Maryland. This state park offers four different campgrounds for visitors to enjoy free camping in Maryland.
Janes Island, which is the mainland portion of the park, features over 2,900 acres of salt marsh. It also features over 30 miles of water trails, and miles upon miles of isolated pristine beaches for campers to enjoy.
While you’re free camping in Maryland at Janes Island State Park, enjoy the beauty and bounty of the Chesapeake Bay with expansive vistas and breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. This park is a haven for birds, fish, crabs, and other salt marsh dwellers, which you may catch sight of on your trip.
Camping at this state park allows you to get in touch with nature while exploring the abundant wildlife and marine life. Campers will encounter a peaceful and tranquil setting when setting up in Janes Island State Park.
Free Camping In Southern Maryland
7. E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area
E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area offers free camping in Maryland with a free primitive campsite that offers RV parking areas for campers. It’s not paved so beware of mud on rainy days.
This camping area is located near various marshes, which you are allowed to fish from if you have a fishing license. Species like trout, flounder, croaker, and bluefish are available to catch. Hunting is also allowed, as long as rules regarding open season and shooting hours are abided by.
You’ll find unmarked trails that are maintained and suitable for hunting, hiking, backpacking, and many other recreational activities. Mosquitos are pretty common here, considering the marshes will attract the pests, in addition to various other insects.
8. Jug Bay Natural Area
Jug Bay Natural Area offers free camping in Maryland at two primitive paddle-in-only campsites that you cannot hike into or drive into, located within the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River.
At this extremely primitive site, you’ll have 19 miles of trails to explore, as well as various wildlife and plant life to observe. You can expect to find a high diversity of plants, insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fish while you’re free camping in Maryland at the Jug Bay Natural Area.
Campers will encounter freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, measures, riparian forest areas, and so much more along the Patuxent River in this area.
Free Camping in Western Maryland
9. Green Ridge State Forest
Green Ridge State Forest features free camping in Maryland at over a hundred primitive campsites dispersed throughout the forest. The 49,000-acre state forest is the largest block of public land in Maryland, offering plenty of room to roam around while you’re on your camping trip.
You must register at the headquarters before you can camp within the grounds of this state forest. There is a very affordable fee of $10 to reserve a campsite, so this area may not be totally free, but it’s worth every penny!
Backcountry camping is also permitted within the forest, for a variety of free camping options in Maryland. Campfires are allowed unless the area is experiencing drought conditions, but make sure to leave no trace of your presence behind when you pack up and leave.
Remember that any firewood should be purchased from local vendors, or you may gather firewood on-site within the forest. Bringing your own firewood into the forest is not permitted.
10. Potomac-Garrett State Forest
Potomac-Garrett State Forest is located in Oakland and offers 36 locations for free camping in Maryland, scattered around five different campgrounds. These campgrounds include Piney Mountain, Snaggy Mountain, Wallman, Laurel Run, and Lost and Run.
Each area features primitive camping spots with a picnic table, lantern post, and fire ring. Campers will also find vault toilets have been installed to improve sanitary conditions for all.
Backpack camping is allowed throughout the forest in many dispersed areas. Campsites and trail shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with campers paying $20 per night. Campers must make reservations in advance and register at one of the four self-registration areas on the grounds. Keep in mind that camping is not allowed within 200 feet of any trail or stream.
Activities to Enjoy While Free Camping in Maryland
Maryland is often referred to as “America in Miniature,” and with so much going on in such a small state, we can see why!
This state offers a diverse range of adventures and activities to enjoy for natives and visitors alike. Campers can explore the Chesapeake Bay, which has a beautiful coastline with beaches, marshes, and forests. Visitors can sunbathe or lounge on the beach while camping nearby.
In the dense forests of Maryland, campers will find expansive lakes, pastoral hills, harsh mountains, as well as ancient villages, and large metropolitan areas like Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The state is also known for its pristine beaches, becoming a popular holiday destination for families to visit together.
There is something for everyone, with plenty of camping opportunities for mountaineers, hikers, backpackers, groups, and families looking to get away for some free camping in Maryland. Sugarloaf Mountain, for instance, is excellent for hikers, campers, and rock climbers alike to take in the far-reaching vistas of the surrounding vineyards and forests.
Guests have the opportunity to fish for blue crabs, oysters, clams, and rockfish, as well as explore waterfront camping sites on the eastern shores of the state.
Wrapping up Free Camping in Maryland
Whether you’re looking for camping opportunities on the beaches of Maryland, or if you prefer the marshy areas chock full of native wildlife, there are plenty of opportunities for free camping in Maryland.
For more fantastic and adventurous places to camp in the Free State, check out these 9 of the Best RV Parks in Maryland.
- About the Author
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Brittany Tedford is a post-apocalyptic fiction author, an aspiring English teacher, and a writer for Apple Pie Media.
She currently lives in a small town in Northern Mississippi with her two children Anna and Eli, and her two cats Salem and Leo.
With a bachelor’s in Creative Writing and English and a master’s in the same discipline, Brittany is passionate about learning how to live off the land for camping trips, which is why she loves writing for Beyond The Tent. From the best camping gear to camping survival tips and tricks, to finding the perfect campground, there is so much information to share with others!
Brittany can be reached at email@example.com