Best Tent Camping Maryland  by Evan Balkan

Best Tent Camping: Maryland Guide Book

by Evan Balkan (Menasha Ridge Press)
Best Tent Camping Maryland  by Evan Balkan
From the majestic Atlantic Coast to the sublime Appalachians of the westernmost counties—with some piedmont vista, old forest, and Chesapeake Bay bounties thrown in for good measure—camping in the Old Line State has never been better. Hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of miles of rivers lace the countryside around these forest hideaways, opening the door to endless adventure.

© 2016 Evan Balkan/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Tent Camping: Maryland" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 50.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 50.

The backcountry campsites at Assateague Island National Seashore are not for the faint of heart; they are reached only after a decent walk or paddle and require that you haul in all your gear, even water. Those who do undertake the trip are rewarded with an unparalleled experience—a stunning (and often empty) beach where, on a clear night, accompanied by the soft lap of Atlantic waves, one can gaze into a sky full of stars unimpeded by artificial light. It’s like stepping back a century or so, and it offers an unforgettable experience, well worth the work of getting there.
Berlin, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Assateague Island is a barrier island, stretching 37 miles from just south of Ocean City all the way to Chincoteague in Virginia. It’s very narrow in places; this allows for watching the sunrise over the Atlantic and then turning around later in the day and watching it set over Sinepuxent or Chincoteague Bay. The name Assateague is known all over the country as the "place with the wild horses." Indeed, they’re all over the island, though the Virginia (known as Chincoteague ponies) and Maryland herds are kept separate. First-time visitors to Assateague are often amazed when they spot one of the animals; by the end of the visit, they’ve probably fought more than one urge to shoo them away from their campsite or off the road.
Berlin, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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How’d you like to wake up on the beach, the Atlantic Ocean over the closest dune, while the silhouette of a wild horse stretches across your tent wall? Sounds like paradise? It’s pretty close, and it’s well worth the relentless mosquitoes. It’s Assateague Island National Seashore. Oceanside campsites at Assateague Island can be tough to get. Everyone’s clamoring for a spot in the sand just a hundred feet from the Atlantic. (You should note, however, that the campsites are in the dunes, so the ocean won’t be visible from your tent.) Even summer’s heat and biting bugs aren’t enough to deter the crowds. They come for the sunrises, sunsets, horses, swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and off-roading.
Berlin, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Not to be confused with Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park is run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. In what’s an oft-quoted boast, National Geographic Traveler selected Assateague State Park as one of the ten best state parks in America. Assateague State Park is the only ocean park in the state parks system, hemmed in by the Atlantic on one side and Sinepuxent Bay on the other, located on Assateague Island. Those who have been camping here for decades can remember the days when the campsites were in full view of the ocean. That is no longer the case, but it’s for a very good reason: massive erosion. The dunes have been restored; while they cut off the view (there are paths between dunes), the restoration was essential for the fragile ecosystem the park hosts.
Berlin, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Big Run is just one of the many state parks and forests in Garrett County; what sets it apart from its neighbors is its proximity to the unspoiled Savage River Reservoir. At 300 acres, Big Run State Park is relatively modest in size, but it sits within the Savage River State Forest, which, at 53,000 acres, is the largest of Maryland’s state forests and parks. Big Run is just one of the many state parks and forests in Garrett County; what sets it apart from its neighbors is its proximity to the unspoiled Savage River Reservoir, where anglers can fish for a seemingly endless supply of bass, catfish, crappie, perch, trout, and walleye. Fishing is permitted year-round with a non-tidal fishing license.
Swanton, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Brunswick Family Campground possesses some prime real estate, astride a particularly beautiful stretch of the Potomac River. Brunswick is a small city (population 5,000) in southwestern Frederick County, near the Washington County border. The campground itself used to be an airfield, so there’s lots of space. These facilities have been updated rather nicely, probably as a result of being under new management since 2012. Furthermore, the campground enjoys proximity to state parks (Gathland and Gambrills); Civil War battlefields (Monocacy and the can’t-miss Antietam, site of the largest battle of the war); and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. As a result, it could provide for a nice family outing. There is often musical entertainment on weekends.
Brunswick, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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All campsites along the canal have two things in common: the Potomac in front and the towpath behind. This means an endless supply of boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking opportunities. Every site is some what different in character, however, in that the surrounding topography changes and nearby historical sites and towns (or lack thereof) change the experience of camping in each site. As a general rule, expect a large, cleared area with individual campsites scattered around the available space. While the sites are usually big, they’re never terribly far from one another. Antietam Creek has as its main draw point its proximity to Antietam National Battlefield, which is a short drive (or canoe ride) away.
Hagerstown, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
What follows is a continuation of hikwe-biker sites, moving northwesterly along the C&O Canal toward Cumberland. North Mountain is nicely wild, with little evidence of humanity, either modern or historical. After Antietam and Killiansburg Cave comes the Horseshoe Bend hiker-biker site (Mile 79.2). This area is closest to the city of Hagerstown, where you can get whatever supplies you need. From Hagerstown, take MD 65 south from I-70 about 8 miles to a right at Taylors Landing Road to the boat launch. Horseshoe Bend is 1.7 miles downstream.
Hagerstown, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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The first five hiker-biker campsites in this section all sit within or adjacent to the Green Ridge State Forest. What follows is a continuation of sites from Cacapon Junction (Mile 133), moving northwesterly along the C&O Canal toward Cumberland. This guide contains information about the following hiker/biker sites along the C&O Canal: Indigo Neck, Sideling Hill Creek, Devils Alley, Stickpile Hill, Sorrel Ridge, Paw Paw, Purslane Run, Town Creek, Potomac Forks, Irons Mountain and Evitts Creek.
Little Orleans, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
There are 32 tent-only hiker-biker campsites along the canal, located roughly every 5 miles. The H/B sites are limited to one night per site. This can be an annoyance for a lot of people, as it requires breaking down and cleaning up daily. However, it creates a great situation for people who want to hike, bike, or boat their way along a segment of the river and canal. The hiker-biker sites are often physically indistinguishable from one another, so determining which one you want comes down to location.
Potomac, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to use Catoctin as a presidential getaway, naming it Shangri-La. Catoctin Mountain Park has a pedigreed history as a getaway spot—the presidential retreat at Camp David lies on the same property. The area was developed in the 1930s partly as a retreat for the families of federal employees. Nearer the park headquarters, it’s easy to access trails that take in Chimney Rock, Wolf Rock, Thurmont Vista, and the Blue Ridge Summit Overlook, a fantastic loop through hardwood forests with grand, sweeping views. If access to the bathhouse and water is most important to you, try to snag site 10 or 20.
Thurmont, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Spring is a fantastic time to come here, as the wildflowers that dot the swamplands explode in color. An abundance of wildlife thrives in the managed forest, while the swamp waters attract loads of beaver and birds. Diamondback terrapins, a state mascot, live within the swamp areas and its tributaries. Bald eagles also nest here. With 19 miles of trails in the forest, a hiker can cover them all in a few days and take in the forest’s wonderful ecological treasures. If all the forest and swampland isn’t enough, there’s also the four-acre Cedarville Pond, stocked with bass, bluegill, catfish, and sunfish.
Brandywine, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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The park’s namesake is a 78-foot waterfall, which qualifies as Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall. Cunningham Falls State Park is situated in the Catoctin Mountains. Cunningham Falls is an easy half-mile hike from the Houck camping area along the Falls Trail. The park itself has lots of hiking trails, including a mostly isolated one (part of the Catoctin Trail) heading to the Manor camping area. Additionally, the park’s fluid border with Catoctin Mountain Park assures even more hiking opportunities nearby.
Thurmont, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
The Manor Camping Area has 31 sites total. There are only one-fifth the number of sites of the William Houck Area here, and many people regard the Manor Area as a second choice if they couldn’t get a place in William Houck. As a result, unless it’s high season and a weekend, you very well may have a good chunk of the camping area to yourself. Cunningham Falls State Park has returned once more to an almost pristine state. The Catoctin Iron Furnace, a stark reminder of the past, is situated very close to the Manor camping area and remains a relatively easy and popular hike from the end of the picnic area. Also nearby (running right through the camping area) is Little Hunting Creek, which provides put-and-take trout fishing.
Thurmont, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Many Marylanders might be surprised to know that this portion of their state actually lies west of the Eastern Continental Divide. The obvious main attraction here is the proximity to Deep Creek Lake, a 3,900-acre lake and a four-season recreation area that draws from several surrounding states. Deep Creek Lake State Park is the best of both worlds: water and mountains. Abutting both Meadow Mountain and Deep Creek Lake, it offers even more of an attraction: while much of the real estate surrounding the lake has skyrocketed and pushed rental rates beyond the means of many working families, the state park’s campgrounds offer a great alternative. What surrounds the campground is what makes camping here worth it even if you find the site too populated. The vast majority of campers cross over State Park Road to head to the lake, which offers a paradise of boating, swimming, and fishing.
Swanton, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Situated on a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Elk River, Elk Neck State Park contains a wealth of beauty (though no elk), encapsulated within a real diversity in topography, including beaches, marshes, and forests. Despite this, even on busy weekends, there’s almost always a spot to stay, so you can feel comfortable making a last-minute decision to go and get a walk-in site. Elk Neck remains a perfect place for families wishing to camp, drawing folks from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Delaware. Expect crowds and not much privacy. Still, it’s difficult to spend a few days at Elk Neck and not have a pleasant experience. Fishing, birding, hiking, boating, and swimming are popular activities.
North East, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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One couldn’t ask for a better location for a campground. Fort Frederick sits up the hill, easily accessible via a paved path (Fort Frederick Road). Down from the fort, you cross the C&O Canal Towpath running alongside Big Pool. The campground sits between the towpath and the Potomac River. Fort Frederick is perhaps the best place to view the span of Maryland’s military history. The fort’s location makes it a prime attraction. Parkland contains sections of the Potomac River, C& O Canal, Big Pool, and the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT), a 23-mile paved path that follows the former Western Maryland Railway line. The Potomac allows for great swimming (be careful: the currents can be deceptively swift midriver), boating, and fishing. The species of fish, both native and introduced, number in the dozens—bass, carp, catfish, crappie, eel, herring, perch, pickerel, shad, sunfish, and trout among them.
Big Pool, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Gambrill State Park, at more than 1,100 acres, sits within an area of Frederick County that is packed with parks and recreation opportunities. Gambrill sits on a ridge of Catoctin Mountain and contains the summit of High Knob, modest at 1, 600 feet but providing some impressive views: Frederick City Municipal Forest to the north, Gathland State Park and the Middletown and Monocacy valleys to the south, and the Civil War historical site, South Mountain, to the west. Gambrill State Park is divided into two recreational areas: Rock Run, at the park entrance, is where you’ll find the campground; High Knob encompasses the top of Catoctin Mountain. Midway between the two areas is the Trailhead Parking Lot, which provides access to Gambrill’s 16 miles of hiking trails.
Frederick, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Camping here is a real out-of-the-way experience, and it’s well worth the trouble locating it. The six sites within the Piney Mountain Area constitute huge, cleared areas carved from the forest that sit along the unpaved Piney Mountain Road. If the idea of a fire grill, lantern hook, and picnic table means that, in your view, you’re not at all roughing it, you can also camp anywhere in the forest where there are not established sites, provided you have obtained a backcountry permit.
Sang Run, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
A word of warning: the Garrett State Forest’s camping areas aren’t very easy to locate because they’re sandwiched between two prominent state parks: Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor. In fact, it’s more accurate to say that the two state parks are located within the forest, and the forest is easily mistaken as a greenbelt between Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor. Both state parks have well-established camping facilities (Herrington Manor is cabin-only), and, as a result, people are often unaware that they can camp in the forest as well. The largest and best-maintained camping section in the forest sits between the two parks and is called the Snaggy Mountain Area. It’s a wonderful-if underutilized-primitive camping area.
Oakland, MD - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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