Calvert Cliffs State Park

Saint Leonard, Maryland 20685

Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert Cliffs State Park Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A shallow sea once covered all of southern Maryland. When it receded twenty to twenty-five million years ago, the steep shoreline now known as Calvert Cliffs were exposed and began to erode. They're still eroding today (making them dangerous to walk on), continually revealing the East Coast's largest assemblage of fossils."

More Calvert Cliffs State Park Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Hikes with Kids: Washington, DC, the Beltway & Beyond (The Mountaineers Books)
Jennifer Chambers
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"Calvert Cliffs State Park is a unique place in southern Maryland, known for its shoreline cliffs along the Chesapeake Bay where you and your kids can pretend to be archaeologists and search for fossils."
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Washington, DC (Menasha Ridge Press)
Renee Sklarew and Rachel Cooper
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"Famous for the abundance of fossils and prehistoric shark teeth found along the sandy beaches of the Chesapeake Bay, Calvert Cliffs State Park is a popular destination for hikers and beachcombers alike. The main hiking trail to the beach offers visitors a wonderland of almost mystical beauty as it passes through wetlands and forest. This 1,400-acre park in southern Maryland features beaches flanked by sedimentary cliffs dating back to the Miocene era, about 6–20 million years ago. People can access the beach either by boat or by hiking the trails leading to the shoreline. The most direct route is the Red Trail, a 1.8-mile trek from the Calvert Cliffs State Park entrance. Along the way, you’ll pass protected marshlands peppered with water lilies, submerged tree trunks, and reeds. The marshlands provide a thriving habitat for turtles, bullfrogs, ducks, and a number of bird species."
Hiking Maryland & Delaware (Falcon Guides)
David Edwin Lillard
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"A hike through forest and bog down to the Chesapeake Bay where fossils are abundant below the sandstone cliffs. Calvert Cliffs State Park is unique among hiking opportunities in the region for its up-close views of the Calvert Cliffs from below, fossil hunting opportunities, and hiker-only access to the Chesapeake shoreline along a mile of sandy beach. The cliffs and the shores below contain more than 600 species of fossils from the Miocene epoch, more than ten million years ago. The cliffs were formed when southern Maryland was under a shallow sea. Adding to the pleasure: Foraging for fossils on the sandy beach is permitted —but no digging. Kids love it. Pair the trip to Calvert Cliffs with a visit to St. Michael’s or Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, and you have a great day of wandering. Special considerations: About half the park is open to hunting in various seasons, including spring turkey season. Check at the kiosk for schedule. There is no hunting along the red trail to the beach."
AMC's Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C. (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
Stephen Mauro and Beth Homicz
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"Calvert Cliffs State Park offers a perfect circuit hike with a halfway point at a stretch of Miocene-epoch cliffs rich in shark teeth and other ancient fossils."

Calvert Cliffs State Park Trip Reports

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Nice walk. View of the Chesapeake was amazing at the end of the Red Trail. Will visit this again.
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Nice area, beach fun to explore. Found a number of beautiful sharks teeth. Recommend.
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I took along my twelve year old on this one. he enjoyed looking for fossils and shark teeth on the beach. was a little confused as to the dog policy on all web sites for the state it states no pets on or off leash, and when we got there there where leashed dogs everywhere.
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Culvert Cliffs State Park seems to be a popular place for short hikes and the use of the small beach. There is an minumum entrance fee which made me wonder after we were through with the hike, why the park was in such poor repair. The trails are marked but no map was provided at the entrance when requested. Only one large map behind a glass partition as you start on the red trail. (Be sure to print the map off this website before attempting to navigate through the park.) Several problems we found during our hikes on the many trails were:
(1) the trails were marked with the color but the distances were not accurate, (2) no natural animal sightening on the red trail which could be due to the volume of traffic and noise (3) large amount of storm damage throughout the park which has caused falling trees and erroision (4) most of the beach is closed due to errosion from the above cliffs where trees and large amounts of clay have fallen. If you are only out for a hike through the forest, I would recommend this park - as there is little traffic on all the trails except the red trail. We saw more animals and / or tracks on the service road then we saw on all the other trails within the park. One last bit of advice - make sure you have a driving directions to this park, as the average GPS unit will not have it loaded.
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Within this stretch of Southern Maryland, which is somewhat barren for state parks (my experience is limited) I think this is one of the better trail run opportunities. It is very convenient to Pax River area, which is where I was staying.

Not very hilly compared to PA and NY where I normally run, so I would rate this as a fairly easy few mile hike or run. The main trails were pleasant and well kept. In my opinion, the cliffs are somewhat unimpressive and anti-climatic, but the scenery in the woods and marshy areas is quite pleasant and what makes the run worth it.

I took the red trail out to the cliffs and then a mix of the orange and white trails back to the parking area. About 5 or 6 miles. The less traveled orange and white were somewhat confusingly marked, and the trail map on a kiosk at the parking area is not consistent with the trail map in the book. The trail map in the book is reasonably close to the actual trails, so you should trust that, but keep your direction senses somewhat tuned if you are on any of the trails north of the red.

I enjoyed it and will probably go again on my next trip down to Pax.

Calvert Cliffs State Park Photos

Trail Information

Saint Leonard
Nearby City
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Trail Type
Skill Level
3 hours
June through September
Swimming, Hunting, Camping, Birding
Additional Use
USGS Cove Point, MD
Local Maps

Trail Log