The Best National Parks in Maryland

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  1. Antietam National Battlefield

Located in Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Washington County. This historic site is where the Battle of Antietam took place; a twelve-hour long blood bath on the 17th of September, 1862 where over 23,000 soldiers either lost their lives, got severely injured, or got missing on that day. This event turned the typically quiet village of Sharpsburg into a horrific scene and burial ground. This battle put an end to Northern Virginia’s Confederate Army’s first invasion into the North and subsequently led to Abraham Lincoln issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The site today has a visitors center where guests can learn all about the history of the battlefield, a national cemetery, a field hospital museum, and the stone arch Burnside’s Bridge.

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail

This stunning trail is commonly known as the A.T, short for Appalachian Trail. Situated in the Eastern United States, this trail is a footpath that is over 2,000 miles long, cutting across the valleys of the scenic Appalachian Mountains. This national trail passes through 14 states in the United States including New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail officially opened in 1937 and has since welcomed visitors and tourists from all over the world. A favorite destination for thru-hikers, the A.T can be used for hikes ranging from easy to difficult levels. Other activities to enjoy include camping and tours.

  • Assateague Island National Seashore

This gorgeous island is a protected zone on a barrier island located on the edge of Maryland and Virginia’s coastal lands. The family-friendly island is home to beautiful wild horses which roam freely on the grounds, visitors will also find plants uniquely adapted to the island as well as other native animals. Assateague Island is known for its winds, stunning sandy beaches, coastal bays, dunes, pine forests, and salt marshes. Visitors to the island can enjoy a plethora of activities including hiking, horse riding, swimming, boat cruising, surfing, camping, and more. The Park is preserved and protected by National Park Service.

  • Baltimore-Washington Parkway
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The Baltimore–Washington Parkway, commonly known as the B–W Parkway is a United States highway in Maryland, which spans over 30 miles from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. This parkway was designed and established by the National Park Service, and the United States Bureau of Public Roads as an alternative scenic highway for Washington, D.C., as well as a defense project for the United States Military. The Parkway is said to have been conceptualized as far back as 1927 but was completed in 1954. The Parkway has long spiral curves, and a few interchanges, commercial commute, and advertisements are also prohibited on the Parkway, making it a great choice for travelers.

  • Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Spanning about 3,000 miles across the Chesapeake Bay, The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is a collection of four water routes in America including up the Susquehanna River, Chester River, Upper Nanticoke River, and Upper James River. The English Captain in the early 1600s, during his exploration of the bay, discovered this historic trail. While on his voyage, the captain documented American Indian communities who had made the location their habitat. This trail is one of the only two water trails which are designated National Historic Trails. Today, locations on The Captain’s map bear historic treasures and evidence of the life of the tribes in the area.

  • Catoctin Mountain Park

Tucked in Upper Maryland’s mountains lies Catoctin Mountain Park. The Park spans 25 miles of uniquely diverse and abundant natural resources, together with rich cultural history. Communities of Native Americans thrived here, quarrying the volcanic rock – rhyolite to produce lithic tools. Catoctin Mountain Park honors the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, as the Park to date is a reminder of the value of youth programs boosting America’s economy. Today, visitors can enjoy the magnificent sights in the park, and tours of the farms and industries including a charcoal and iron industry still present in the park. Other activities to enjoy include moderate to difficult level hiking.

  • Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park
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The Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park, often referred to as The C & O Canal was established in 1828 as a transportation canal used to move coal to Washington D.C. from western Maryland, the Canal served this purpose for close to a century. Today, large numbers of the original buildings can still be seen, reminiscent of the crucial role the Canal played for the transportation sector back in the day. Visitors today can see lock houses and aqueducts in the historic park. The National Park Service and The C & O Canal Trust non-profit partner together to preserve this National Historic Park.

  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Over 18 million people call the Chesapeake Bay Watershed home. This coastal water body covers over 64,000 miles across the whole District of Columbia, as well as six states in the U.S., including New York, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Chesapeake Bay Watershed has a land-to-water ratio of a whopping 14:1, making it the largest coastal water body in the entire world. Over 100,000 tributaries flow through Chesapeake Bay Watershed including five large rivers – The Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James rivers. Known to be a popular tourist attraction in Maryland and Virginia, visitors to the Bay can participate in activities such as swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, sailing, and more.

  • Civil War Defenses of Washington DC

Contained here are historic fortifications enforced during the American Civil War by the Union Army which were made to protect the capital city of Washington D.C. from Confederate State Army-led breaches. In the year 1866, however, the majority of the fortifications were either brought down or abandoned. Years passed until plans to resuscitate the historic site were considered. It was to be connected with a scenic automobile route, further honoring the site. Today, some of the remains of the place have expired, however, some of it is still there. Visitors can take hikes or bike on the historic site.

  1. Clara Barton National Historic Site
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Clara Barton, a historic figure and founder of the American Red Cross is commemorated with this National Historic Site. She is known as a pioneer in American history, an activist and humanitarian, as well as a nurse. In her house, Clara Barton arranged relief efforts with the Red Cross to support victims of war and natural disasters. She spent her last fifteen years in this house. The historic site was developed in the year 1974, immortalizing the hero. Eleven of the thirty-eight rooms here have been restored, including her bedroom, parlors, and the Red Cross offices. Visitors today can enjoy tours of the house and site.

  1. Fort Foote Park

Constructed in 1863 and operating till 1878, Fort Foote was made to fortify the ring of fortifications defending Washington D.C. The Fort was made in the era of the Civil War, from wood and earthwork. The Fort helped in defending the entry route through the Potomac River. Today, the surviving preserved remains on the site include two guns that overlook the Potomac River and some of the fort’s earthwork. The Park is preserved by the National Park Service of the National Capital Parks-East system.

  1. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

The defense of Fort McHenry in September of 1814 inspired the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Which is the American National Anthem. This National Monument and Historic Shrine commemorate the rich history the site holds. A thousand American soldiers stopped the British attempt to seize Baltimore. The soldiers fought valiantly to preserve America and scored a victory. That was the last ever recorded attack on the forte. It continued to serve as a military post for the next decade. In 1933, the site was administered by the National Park Service.

  1. Fort Washington Park

Overlooking the Potomac River and a magnificent view of the capital city – Washington D.C., Fort Washington Park is rich with history. It is one of very few American seacoast fortifications that has remained in its original build. the Forte guarded the water route leading up to Washington D.C. Today, the last surviving remains in the park is a military silent gun that is standing behind the masonry wall. The Forte became obsolete as technology advanced, eventually serving as a training facility for the military. The Park represents rich American military history and the service and dedication to protecting the nation.

  1. George Washington Memorial Parkway
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Commonly called the G.W. Parkway, this historic Memorial Parkway is made up of two sections and spans 25 miles running along the Potomac River’s south bank. This Park preserves the scenic nature along the parkway from Mount Vernon in Virginia all the way to McLean, Virginia. The George Washington Memorial Parkway represents the history of George Washington. Mount Vernon was the late President’s home. The Parkway today can be used to access twenty-two of the historic sites within the area. The historic parkway has origins dating back to 1932, it was built to honor the bicentennial of the birth of George Washington.

  1. Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park is a fun destination for everyone in the family. Located on the Maryland end of D.C., the park was established in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly, it was then remodeled into Washington D.C.’s first amusement park before eventually closing down in 1968. Glen Echo is part of the George Washington Memorial Highway and is managed by the National Park System. Visitors to the fun park can engage in activities such as dancing for charitable causes, as well as attend volunteer events. The Park hosts cultural and recreational activities all through the year.

  1. Greenbelt Park

Located approximately twelve miles away from Washington D.C., Greenbelt Park is a peaceful and beautiful habitat for specially adapted plants and animals. The original intention for the park was for it to be part of the surrounding green belt for the Greenbelt city, however, one section today functions as a park, while the other section is part of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The Park is known to be a safe and affordable attraction for visitors who come here to hike, camp, and enjoy the serene surroundings. The Park has a 5.3-mile trail used for hiking and horse riding.

  1. Hampton National Historic Site
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This National Historic site is located in the Hampton area in Baltimore Country, Maryland. The site preserves the remains of a huge estate built in the 18th century, the facilities in the estate include the original stone slave quarters, a Georgian manor house, gardens, and more. The Hampton mansion was home to the Ridgely family through the years 1745 to 1948. The mansion, which was the largest private home in the U.S when it was completed in 1790, was home to the Ridgely family for seven generations. Till today, the Hampton home still remains a historic representation of Georgian Architecture. Visitors can take a tour of the slave quarters and the overseer’s house in the estate.

  1. Harmony Hall

Sitting on an open pasture land estate of over 60 acres along the Potomac River is this historic 18th Century building. Located in Fort Washington, the structure was bought in 1966 by the National Park Service in order to preserve the rich history and culture it represents to southern Maryland. The building is a two-and-a-half-story Georgian country-style house built with red bricks with a beautiful surrounding landscape. The Park also houses some of the Want Water House and Canal remains. Today, visitors can enjoy tours of the grounds filled with rich colonial history.

  1. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet at a confluence in the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. Originally in 1944, designated the Harpers Ferry National Monument. In the park, you will find the historic center of Harpers Ferry which is a historic industrial area from the 19th century. Also contained here is John Brown’s Fort – the most visited historic site in West Virginia. The Historic Park is made up of 4,000 acres including land in the Shenandoah Valley in Jefferson County, it is managed by the National Park Service. Today, the park hosts multiple historic museums in restored buildings and is visited by thousands of people every year.

  • Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park
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Harriet Tubman is a black historic figure who was formerly enslaved and later broke free to become an activist in the Underground Railroad, risking her life repeatedly to lead 70 slaves to their freedom. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is a 480-acre unit managed by the National Park Service. The National Monument was commissioned under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013, by President Barack Obama to commemorate the life of the hero and icon – Harriet Tubman. The Historic Park was officially designated a National Historical Park in 2014.

  • Monocacy National Battlefield

On the 9th of July, 1864, the final battle which secured the United States victory against the Confederacy as they attempted to take Washington D.C., often referred to as the “Battle That Saved Washington,” took place on the Monocacy National Battlefield. The armies were led by General Jural Early fighting for the Confederates, and General Lew Wallace fighting for the Union. Today, the Battlefield is managed by the National Park Service. The Monocacy National Battlefield was placed on Preservation Maryland’s list of threatened historic properties in 2013.

  • Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm

The Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Cove Farm consist of a living farm museum located in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This farm and park is a national historic district and is part of National Capital Parks-East. There are a total of sixteen structures and buildings located on the grounds including a plantation, and an agricultural complex. The farm also doubles as a center for environmental research including fishing, and observations of the wildlife present. Visitors to this park and farm can witness the rich history it has to offer, as well as engage in farming activities.

  • Piscataway Park

Established in 1961, the Piscataway Park was set up as a project to curtail excessive urbanization, and encourage relaxing natural spaces like the park. It was the first of its kind as at the time. The Park today spans about 5000 acres, stretching 6 miles along the Potomac River from Piscataway Creek to Marshall Hall. The Park is most famous for the wildlife present including exotic animals such as Bald Eagles, Deer, and Foxes. Visitors can also engage in fishing activities and scenic strolls with the stunning view of the Potomac River.

  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
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Also referred to as Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail or PHT for short, this National Scenic Trail preserves the paths which were plied by President George Washington. The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail was established as a partnership between the Potomac River and the Allegheny Highlands with the goal to preserve a collection of trails for recreational purposes including transportation, education, and health. The trail has an 830-mile network of already existing and proposed trails. Guests can hike, bike, and enjoy boating activities along the trail.

  • Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Commemorating the Chesapeake Campaign of the 1812 War, this 290-mile-long trail was named after the United States of America’s national anthem. This National Historic Trail connects several historic sites across Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Some of the sites include museums, forts, raided towns among others. The trail’s topography consists of water and land routes, highlighting the one-of-a-kind landscape of the Chesapeake. Biking, hiking, and Kayaking are among the many activities that visitors enjoy along the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.

  • Thomas Stone National Historic Site

Lawyer and budding politician – Thomas Stone, was one of fifty-six men who signed America’s declaration of independence. This National Historic site was established to protect his home and legacy, commemorating him and his efforts. Also known as Haberdeventure or the Thomas Stone House, the site has origins dating back to 1770 where Thomas Stone himself built his family home. His life will soon change in 1776, when he signed the Declaration of Independence, cementing his status as an American historical figure. The home will remain owned by the Stone family up until the year 1936.

  • Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail

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