Best Destination Hikes Near Baltimore
Seven Purposeful Hikes In the Baltimore Area
Hiking is having a moment right now. As we creep into month five of finding socially distant activities, it’s likely that you’ve trekked your fair share of family-friendly trails with your kids. While I like hiking as much as the next gal, it can get a little boring hiking the same types of forests over and over again.
Luckily, Baltimore and the surrounding areas are home to many what I like to call “destination hikes”. That is, hikes that culminate in a great view or other cool feature. These types of hikes are great for kids because it keeps them motivated to keep going and it breaks you out of the rut of deciduous forest hiking. Read on for 7 of our favorite destination hikes in and around Baltimore!
Looking for even MORE interesting hikes for kids? Be sure to check out our list of great hikes for water play around Baltimore!)
Oregon Ridge - Forest of Hope
You’ve probably been to the nature center and playground at Oregon Ridge in Cockeysville, but have you ever taken advantage of the trails? If not, you’re missing out. One of our favorite hikes is a short trek that leads to an amazing grove of painted trees.
To visit, park in one of the lots near the nature center. From the nature center, take the bridge that leads over the old ore pit and turn right onto the red trail (Logger’s Trail). You’ll follow the trail for around half a mile before coming upon the Forest of Hope!
Kilgore Falls - Waterfall
Kilgore Falls (also known as Falling Branch) in Harford County is a great hike for little ones that need a shorter hiking option. Its reservation only parking lot also makes it a fabulous option for a socially distant day. With a hike that’s only about half a mile, it’s the perfect distance for even young hikers.
The terrain is fairly interesting, with some small bridges and rocks to scramble over along the way. The trail culminates in a great view of Kilgore Falls, the second highest waterfall in Maryland. To make a free parking reservation, visit this website.
(Looking to make a day of it? Check out our Kilgore Falls Curated Plan!)
B&A Trail - Playground
The B&A Trail is an awesome option for anyone looking for a trail that will accommodate strollers or bikes. The trail, which is 13 miles long in its entirety, is paved and offers hikers and bikers the opportunity to traverse many Baltimore area neighborhoods.
Our favorite spot to pick up the trail is in Severna Park. We recommend parking at the Severna Park Community Center and heading north (that will be to your right as you approach the trail). After a short distance, you’ll come upon a coffee shop, froyo joint and pizza parlor that offer outdoor seating along the trail. Just a bit beyond that, the playground at Severna Park Elementary is available (on your left) for playing during non-school hours!
Calvert Cliffs - Beach
If you’re really looking to break out of a hiking rut, Calvert Cliffs is the place to go. While Calvert Cliffs is a bit of a drive and the longest hike on the list, it culminates in the most spectacular destination: a cliff lined beach where kids and adults can hunt for fossils and shark teeth.
Located in southern Maryland, about 90 minutes from Baltimore, Calvert Cliffs offers a 1.8 mile hike (one way) to the beach. My kids are not long distance hikers, but the hike at Calvert Cliffs was a piece of cake thanks to an interesting terrain and mile markers that tracked our progress every tenth of a mile. The trail will lead you over bridges, through a marsh and past a large beaver dam. All of which will keep little ones motivated to keep going.
Once you arrive at the beach, you’ll want to plan on spending some time exploring and digging. Picnic tables are also available at the end of the trail. Pack a lunch and take advantage of the opportunity to rest your legs!
Sugarloaf Mountain - West View
Sugarloaf Mountain is located right off I-270 in Montgomery County and features multiple hikes that will break you out of your deciduous forest rut. Unlike most other hiking options, Sugarloaf is actually a privately held property that was preserved for the public by its owners, the Stronghold Family. The gorgeous views and fascinating rocky terrain make it a true gem in the area.
When you enter the property, you’ll drive up a winding mountain road. You’ll first come upon a parking area for the East View. The picturesque overlook is available only a short walk from the parking area and is certainly a great option for families that don’t want to commit to a long hike.
While the East View is pretty, we tend to drive right past until we arrive at the next parking area, the West View. From here, you can access an awesomely rocky trail that features man-made stone structures that were built on the estate over the years.
To access the trail, just pick any trail head that leads up the mountain (they all funnel to one place). After scrambling over rocks on the uphill hike, you’ll find a huge set of stone steps. Make your way up and then head to the left, over the giant rock formation at the top. After a short walk, you’ll find yourself in a clearing that will then lead you to the overlook.
The hike is not long, but the uphill nature and stairs do make it challenging. Kids that are stable on their feet will love scrambling over the rocks to make it to the top and will likely not complain about the workout that results. A baby carrier may make it possible to transport a smaller child, but be warned, it will be a grueling trek!
Great Falls Overlook Trail - Waterfalls
Another Montgomery County hike, Great Falls is one of the most beautiful portions of the C&O Canal and a major reason the canal was built in the first place. The hike from the Great Falls Tavern area of this national park to the Great Falls Overlook area is not long and is fairy flat, making it a great option for anyone that wants a less strenuous hike.
To access the trail, walk from the parking area towards the tavern/visitor’s center. Continue heading in this direction along the trail for about ¼ mile until you see the signs for the Great Falls Overlook Trail (the trail head will be on your right). From there, you’ll follow a series of bridges and trails that will take you along and over the Potomac River, offering magnificent views along the way. The hike will culminate in an overlook that will provide the most amazing view of the Great Falls!
Cunningham Falls - Waterfall
Located about an hour from Baltimore in northern Frederick County, Cunningham Falls is one of the more well-known (and popular) hikes in Maryland due to the fact that it’s the largest cascading waterfall in the state. The park is adjacent to Catoctin Mountain National Park and features multiple areas including a beach and nature center.
To see the falls, visitors will want to head to the William Houck Area. From there, you’ll have two trail options: the more strenuous Cliff Trail or the easier Lower Trail. The Lower Trail is about ½ mile and offers a slight uphill grade. It is navigable by little legs or an adult with a baby carrier. Be aware that Cunningham Falls State Park is one of the more popular parks in Maryland and can fill to capacity on weekends. Arrive early if you want to ensure entry!
Please send us your favorite Baltimore area hiking ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tag your highlights on Instagram @gethappyly! We love to hear from you!
For more inspiration, check out another recently featured activities, Plan a Picnic, make time for Family Bike Rides or bring out your inner camper and Find a Campsite near you! For a fun activity at home, check out our list of fun Chalk Games. Looking for something different? Enter the rapidly growing world of Stand Up Paddleboarding.
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