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12 Trails for the Best Hiking in Maryland

Hiking in Maryland is quite an adventure if you need a break from touring the many sights in Washington, DC. You’ve got mountains, waterfalls, rocky outcroppings, and more breathtaking scenery that warrants hiking through Maryland’s state and regional parks.

Beginner or expert hiker, there’s a trail that’s perfect for anybody who wants a closer look at Maryland’s natural landscapes.

Grab your best hiking footwear, and let’s go over the following list of the best Maryland hiking trails!

hiking in maryland

Easy Hiking in Maryland

1. Swallow Falls Canyon Trail

The Canyon Trail at Swallow Falls State Park is a beautiful hiking trail in Maryland because of its waterfalls. One of them is the state’s highest free-falling waterfall: Muddy Creek Falls. Before you get to it, you’ll first see early hemlocks and pines during the first several steps.

Besides Muddy Creek Falls, you’ll pass by three more waterfalls and walk under sandstone cliffs. Once you reach a shady landscape, you’re greeted by many rhododendrons and laurel growing on rock outcroppings.

It’s an easy ½-hour trail, but the path becomes slick (and more difficult) in winter and wet weather. Nonetheless, this year-round trail is popular for hikers trying to avoid crowds. This is because most of the guests usually come to the park to camp, fish, and swim.

Though Swallow Falls State Park is pet-friendly for three seasons, pets aren’t allowed on the Canyon Trail.

2. Turkey Point Lighthouse Trail

The 1½-mile Turkey Point Lighthouse Trail at Elk Neck State Park is a dog-friendly loop that’s open to hikers and bikers. While hiking to a historic 31½-foot-tall lighthouse, hikers can watch for birds of prey that frequent the area.

A good time to hike this Maryland trail would be on weekends during the spring or fall. When there isn’t a lot of foliage, a few spots along the trail offer views of the Chesapeake Bay. Another reason why weekends are the time to visit is that’s when the lighthouse is open to visitors and you’ll get to climb to the lighthouse’s lantern room.

From the lighthouse, hikers can enjoy beautiful views of Elk River and Chesapeake Bay at a higher altitude.

3. Black Hill Trail

Black Hill Regional Park’s Black Hill Trail is a mostly paved hiking trail in Maryland for hikers and horseback riders. At 4.6 miles, this well-maintained trail may take a little more than an hour for hikers to complete it.

A short section of the trail is unpaved and rocky. The Black Hill Trail goes between Little Seneca Lake and Little Seneca Creek and has a few slight inclines. Its wooded setting includes oak and hickory trees, which paint a colorful picture during the fall.

This trail is perfect for some peaceful hiking in Maryland. Like the Canyon Trail at Swallow Falls State Park, the Black Hill Trail doesn’t have crowds. And unlike our first trail, it’s dog-friendly, so let your furry friend tag along!

4. Beckman’s Trail

Beckman’s Trail is the most popular pet-friendly trail at Deep Creek Lake State Park. Hikers of all levels will enjoy this 2-mile-long trail since it crosses the park’s other trails. You could hike more trails matching your level, try a different level, or seek more natural attractions.

Start at the day-use flow parking lot and follow the Indian Turnip Trail. Keep going until you see signs for the Meadow Moutain Trail. Once you get on that trail, do the same as before; hike the path until Beckman Trail signs come up.

As you hike, you’ll pass through trees, slowly climb up to the top of Meadow Mountain, and see Deep Creek Lake. A detoured path will take you to an abandoned coal mine, where you can learn about the mine’s history.

Moderate Hiking in Maryland

Grist Mill Trail

5. McKeldin Switchback Trail

At the McKeldin Area of Patapsco Valley State Park is the 4-mile-long riverside Switchback Trail. Mountain bikers and equestrians are allowed to hike this year-round trail. Keep in mind, however, that the trail’s northern section only allows foot traffic.

The trail takes you around the McKeldin Area’s borders, all for about an hour and a half. You’ll see rocky outcroppings, small waterfalls, and the river’s rapids. In late fall and winter, hikers are treated to a scenic view at the Liberty Dam Overlook!

On a side note, you’ll hear occasional gunfire while walking this Maryland hiking trail. But don’t be alarmed; there’s a shooting range nearby. If you’re a hiker who likes a little target practice, check it out before or after your hike.

6. Cunningham Falls Nature Trail

The most popular Maryland hiking trail at Catoctin Mountain Park is the out-and-back Cunningham Falls Nature Trail. Keep your dogs on a leash, and they’ll make great hiking companions on this year-round 2.8-mile trail.

The trailhead is located at the visitor center’s parking lot. You’ll endure multiple uneven hills and rocky surfaces as you hike through the woods into Cunningham Falls State Park. Ultimately, the trail will take you to Cunningham Falls, Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall.

7. Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rock

The most well-known hiking segment of the nearly 2,200-mile cross-country Appalachian Trail is the Annapolis Rock route. Situated on the Appalachian Trail’s northbound stretch, this out-and-back segment is 5 miles long, shaded, and dog-friendly.

From the trailhead at South Mountain State Park, hikers travel next to Interstate 70 and walk under US 40. There are wooden steps built into the trail going up the South Mountain ridge. Before you get to the rock, there’s a campsite where the caretaker will greet and guide hikers.

At Annapolis Rock, sit on the many rocks and admire the views of Cumberland Valley and Greenbrier Lake. To see more views, keep hiking a mile northward to Black Rock Cliff before returning to the trailhead.

Though guests can hike this year-round segment on the Appalachian Trail any time, we recommend going in the early morning. A trail this popular has crowds during the day, especially on weekends when the weather is beautiful.

8. Great Allegheny Passage (Frostburg to Cumberland)

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland, the 150-mile-long Great Allegheny Passage is another cross-country hiking trail in Maryland. Hiking the old rail trail from Frostburg to Cumberland takes almost 5½ hours for hikers, bikers, campers, and backpackers.

You can hike with your dog off the leash if you find signs along the way that permit this. The views on this trail include the Bone Cave, the Brush Tunnel, waterfalls, gorges, river valleys, and farmlands.

If you start your hike from Cumberland to Frostburg and want more steps, venture further until you reach the Mason-Dixon Line!

Hiking in Maryland is enriching if you witness a piece or two of history as you hike. If you hike here on the weekend, you can watch a turn-of-the-century steam engine climbing a hill toward Frostburg.

Difficult Hiking in Maryland

Challenging Hiking Trails

9. Billy Goat Trail Section A

Section A is one of the Billy Goat Trail’s three routes at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Compared to sections B and C, section A is Billy Goat’s most popular and challenging Maryland hiking trail.

The one-way section involves near-vertical rock scrambling, with a challenging 50-foot climb on a cliff face. Proper footwear, water, and a first-aid kit are major necessities here. As you jump gaps and balance on rocks, take in the views of the Potomac River and Mather Gorge.

As a whole, the Billy Goat Trail is one of the busiest trails in the DC area. If you’d like to extend your hike, hike the other two sections after you’re done with A. They involve moderate and bearable scrambling and wooded hiking, easing your hiking workout.

10. Maryland Heights Trail

Scenic hiking in Maryland is guaranteed, and the Maryland Heights Trail provides one of the most scenic hikes in the state. The loop is 4.5–9.5 miles long depending on where you start and if you hike the Stone Fort Trail.

Before you hike this Maryland trail, start from either the visitor center or the Master Armorer’s House in Lower Town. Getting to the trailhead requires merging onto the Appalachian Trail, following the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath, and crossing footbridges. It’s a hike before the hike!

For 3–4 hours, you’ll pass by rock outcroppings and ruins from the Civil War while hiking up and down steep hills. The pinnacle of the trail is the Maryland Heights Overlook. That’s where you can see Harpers Valley, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and the two Virginias!

Please note that drinking water and restrooms aren’t available on the trail. You can only access them at the visitor center or in Lower Town.

11. 8-Mile Loop Trail

The 8-Mile Loop Trail, or the Catoctin Mountain Extended Loop Trail, is similar to the Billy Goat Trail. It combines Catoctin Mountain Park’s three loop trails, totaling about 8½ miles. If you go hiking in Maryland between March and November, visit this giant loop!

Your leashed dog is welcome here, but keep it away from Hog, Wolf, and Chimney Rocks along the way. The latter two rocks are definitely off-limits for your dog and require your full attention, as they may have rattlesnakes.

Throughout the trail, hikers will see various natural attractions. Examples include Cunningham Falls, the Blue Ridge Summit, Hog Rock, and Thurmont Vista. The rocky surfaces can be slippery, so pack some sturdy footwear and hike carefully.

12. Catoctin National Recreation Trail

The 26.6-mile Catoctin National Recreation Trail is another challenging hiking trail in Maryland that passes through more than one state park. Its two trailheads are about 12½ hours apart, making it an adventurous hike for backpackers and campers.

Catoctin Mountain Park is where the north trailhead is located, with the south trailhead located at Gambrill State Park. Wherever you want to start your hike is up to you. Sections of the trail even allow horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing!

The trail takes you along the Blue Ridge Mountains’ eastern ridge. You’ll pass by historic districts, along with Indian flintknapping sites and charcoal hearths from the Colonial Era. From rocky outcroppings, hikers will see many scenic vistas and the Monocacy River Valley.

Hike Your Way in Maryland!

Whether you like an easy, moderate, or difficult hike, hiking in Maryland guarantees a worthy sightseeing experience. Choose your desired hiking level, pack your best hiking boots, and receive a variety of natural, picture-worthy views!

Visit our Hiking Archives to learn more about the best hiking trails in the United States. To explore more natural landscapes via hiking trails near Maryland, check out our post, Hiking in New Jersey.