Updated April 2021
- BWI Trail Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, 12.5-mile paved
- Cross Island Trail Difficulty: Easy, 6-mile paved
- Centennial Park Difficulty: Moderate, 2.6 miles paved
- Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail Difficulty: Easy, 1.4-mile boardwalk
- St. Mary’s River State Park Difficulty: Moderate to difficult, 7.5-mile dirt
- Rockburn Skills Park Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult, varies
- The Torrey C. Brown Trail Difficulty: Easy, 20 miles stone dust, not a loop
There are many great bike trails in Maryland for families to enjoy. After making sure the tires have plenty of air, the brakes work and the chains have plenty of lube take your pick from these popular options.
Maryland is filled with paved and unpaved bicycle trails. While many are for more advanced riders, there are plenty fit for family outings. If your family is ready for some two-wheeled fun, check out the following spots.
Family friendly bike trails in Maryland
1. BWI Trail (Easy to Moderate)
This 12.5-mile paved bike trail circles BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, taking cyclists through parts of Glen Burnie, Ferndale and Linthicum. The trail begins at the Linthicum light trail station, but many families either start or end their journey at the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Observation Area, located near the intersection of Dorsey Road and Arundel Avenue in Severn. Here, families can watch (and hear) airplanes land on the nearby runways.
Parking is available next to the observation area as well as at Sawmill Creek Park, located at 301 Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie. Or, families can bike to the trail from the B&A Trail by using the Stewart Avenue bridge and John Overstreet Connector Trail.
2. Cross Island Trail (Easy)
A 6-mile trail that runs east to west along an abandoned rail corridor in Queen Anne’s County, the Cross Island Trail is a “hidden gem” in the world of Maryland bike paths, says Ernest Freeland, owner of Bike Doctor of Crofton. “It’s more like you’re riding at the beach,” he says. “It feels like you’re not even in Maryland.”
The paved trail begins near Terrapin Nature Park, a waterfront, 276-acre park in Stevensville that is home to a variety of waterfowl, wildlife and plants. From there, the trail takes cyclists along Kent Narrows, through canopied forests and on bridges that offer scenic views of the area’s waterways. It also connects cyclists to Old Love Point Park, the Kent Island boat launch and the Chesapeake Exploration Center, a visitor’s center with exhibits on the Eastern Shore’s heritage.
“There are lots of stopping points,” Freeland says. And, the trail can be a welcome diversion for families in need of out-of-car breaks during trips to the Maryland and Delaware beaches.
3. Centennial Park (Moderate)
With 2.6 miles of paved pathways that wrap around a lake, 337-acre Centennial Park is a favorite spot for families from across Maryland. Jon Posner, store manager at Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City, says he frequently rides there with his children, Jonah, 4, and Avery, 2, for both exercise and education.
“One of the things I like a lot about Centennial is the arboretum that exists throughout the park in the form of informational signs placed along the paths that point out the trees, their leaves and seeds,” he says. “It is also nice to have the circuit go all the way around the lake because it allows for a ’round trip’ type of bike ride rather than an ‘out and back’ trip.”
But don’t let the fairly flat paths around the main entrance deceive you. This park packs plenty of hills. Centennial Park has several playgrounds, as well as boats for rent, picnic areas and basketball courts if younger family members need a break. Parking is available at each of the park’s four entrances. The main entrance off Route 108 offers quick access to the lake path.
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4. Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail (Easy)
Opened in 2011, the Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail runs along Fishing Creek in northern Calvert County. It sits on the former home of the Chesapeake Beach Railway, which operated from 1900 to 1935. The 1.4-mile boardwalk trail starts at Chesapeake Beach Water Park and ends at Richfield Station or vice versa.
With two bridges, the trail gives bikers up-close views of native marsh and creek wildlife like red-winged blackbirds, ospreys, great blue herons and river otters. Some bikers have even spotted bald eagles on their journeys. The trail is wheelchair accessible, and parking is available at the water park.
5. St. Mary’s River State Park (Moderate to difficult)
If your family prefers mountain biking, this Southern Maryland gem boasts a 7.5-mile trail which loops around the lake, home to freshwater fishing and some of the best bird-watching in the state. The single-track dirt trail is shared by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The trail is located off State Route 5 on Camp Cosoma Road (3 miles north of Great Mills and 24 miles north of Point Lookout State Park). Trail access is provided from the parking lot at the boat ramp.
6. Rockburn Skills Park (Moderate to Difficult)
If you’re looking for a more challenging family adventure, Rockburn Skills Park is the place to be. The off-road park, located in Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, opened in 2012. One of the main features is a pump track – a continuous mountain bike and BMX course, filled with hills, dirt mounds and jumps. You don’t have to be a pro to ride here, but family members should be stable cyclists. That means no training wheels.
The park also has a rock-filled, uphill bike trail and three courses for riders of varying skills. Mountain bikes or those with knobby tires are best.
Be sure to check if the park is open before you go, as rain and muddy conditions can temporarily close the park. Parking is available inside the park’s east entrance off Landing Road. Restrooms are available on the park’s west side and sometimes on the east side near the turf fields, depending on the sports schedule.
7. The Torrey C. Brown Trail (Easy)
Formerly the Northern Central Railroad or (NCR) Trail
Chris Stelzig, an Annapolis father of three, calls this trail one of the best in the area for younger kids. The flat, 10-feet wide path has a stone dust surface and runs for 20 miles from the Hunt Valley area to the Pennsylvania state line along the Gunpowder River.
The multi-use trail, a former line of the Northern Central Railroad, opened in the mid-1980s. The trail now hosts more than 500,000 visitors a year.
When riding, remember: This trail is not a loop. If you ride 10 miles from the start, you have to ride 10 miles back.
Parking is available at several sites along the trail, including off Freeland Road at the northern end and Phoenix Road at the southern end. Restrooms are also available along the route.
By Allison Eatough
Easy – Mostly flat, smooth surfaces, stopping points of interest along the way
Moderate – Some hills or rough surfaces
Difficult – Includes hills or off-road surfaces and possibly obstacles
Tips for bicycling with your family
Many paths in Maryland are multi-use, meaning cyclists, pedestrians and even equestrians sometimes share the space. Some paths also cross public streets. When biking, remember the following tips:
- Obey traffic rules and signs. Bikes are vehicles. You and your child are both expected to obey the same traffic laws, signs and signals that apply to cars and drivers.
- Always use bike lanes whenever they are available. Remember, on sidewalks, pedestrians always have the right-of-way. Ride cautiously and respectfully. Warn pedestrians at least two to three seconds before passing them. Bicycle bells are great for this, or if you do not have a bell, do so verbally and politely.
- Slow down and give pedestrians at least an arm’s length of clear space when passing. This will help avoid collisions and near misses.
- When a bicycle path crosses a street or turns, always look both ways. Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you. Watch out for doors opening from parked cars.
- Everyone – adults and kids should wear a bike helmet. The helmet should fit snug enough so when your child yawns, the helmet is pulled down tighter on his or her head. It should not be able to rock from side to side.
- Don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen.
- Make sure your cell phone is charged in case of emergency.
Lastly, before starting out, Joyce Heid, a licensed training provider for the American Red Cross who teaches CPR and First Aid reminds families to hydrate before and during your ride. “Hydrate starting the day before. Avoid caffeine and soda. Ideally, for your ride pack a commercial sports drink, coconut water or water. Do not guzzle. Instead do frequent sips, giving your body time to absord the fluids and electrolytes. Guzzling can lead to stomach cramps and vomiting, not something fun to do on the side of a trail.”