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HomeOutdoorsHiking7 Maryland hikes with amazing views

7 Maryland hikes with amazing views

Updated April 2021

  1. Maryland Heights Trail, Difficulty: Hard, 4 miles round-trip, mountain view
  2. Annapolis Rock and Black Rock, Difficulty: Hard, 2.2-mile, mountain view
  3. Northern Peaks Trail, Difficulty: Moderate to difficult, 5-mile, mountain view
  4. Cross Island Trail, Difficulty: Easy, 6.5-mile, bay view
  5. Lighthouse Trail, Difficulty: Easy, 0.8-mile, bay view
  6. Red Trail, Difficulty: Easy, 1.8-mile, bay view
  7. Grist Mill Trail, Difficulty: Easy to moderate, 2.3 miles, bay view

Amazing views can be just the enticement needed to get the whole family enthusiastic about a hike in the woods. Luckily, Maryland offers plenty of hikes with breathtaking views of either the Appalachian mountains or the Chesapeake Bay.

The hike up to the overlook cliff of Maryland Heights outside of Harper’s Ferry is tough, but it’s a favorite for families and kids, says Ranger David Fox.

“There’s some huffing and puffing involved, but the view is the reward,” he says of the 700-foot ascent. “People tend to forget how tired or hot they might be when they stop to take it all in.”

The historic town of Harper’s Ferry and the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers can be seen far below and the Blue Ridge Mountains spread out in the distance. Kids can perch on the rocks of the large outcropping and look down on even the birds flying below.

To help foster kids’ interest in hiking, Angela Pease, interpretive ranger with Maryland State Parks, recommends taking your time as you hike, allowing kids to go at their own pace as they explore their surroundings.

“Take time to walk and experience things,” she says. “Stop and do a sniff test. Allow kids to see, touch (non-poisonous things), and smell. Promote the experience of using all their senses.”

If you are looking to take the kids on a hike with a view, we have found a few options that will peak their interest. Those listed include a variety of terrain from laid back, stroller-friendly jaunts, to more strenuous mountaintop adventures. Keep in mind that some of the trails are popular, and the state parks may close once they reach capacity.

Hikes with mountain views

Within an hour’s drive — or a bit more — you’ll find mountain hikes with rewarding views. Here are three to try.

Maryland Heights Trail, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

For families who enjoy a challenge and a taste of history, the Maryland Heights Trail is part of the 2,000-mile trail system in Harpers Ferry NHP. From the trail’s overlook Harpers Ferry from the top of Maryland Heights. cliffs, you have a bird’s-eye view of Harpers Ferry, and you can see 50 miles across the Potomac and Shenandoah river valleys. The hike to the cliffs is steep and rocky and is about 4 miles round-trip. There is a stone fort from the civil war further up the mountain, which Fox says also presents a beautiful eastward view during the winter when the trees are bare. The roundtrip route to the cliffs and stone fort is about 6.5 miles

Hikes View Maryland HeightsW
Harpers Ferry from the top of Maryland Heights.

Directions to the trailhead: From the visitor center parking lot, cross the Potomac River on the Appalachian Trail footbridge to the Maryland side, and then walk upstream on the C&O Canal Towpath for 1/3 mile, where you will see a sign and the trailhead.

Difficulty: Hard
Fee: $15/vehicle park entrance fee
Distance: 1.5 hours from Annapolis
171 Shoreline Dr., Harpers Ferry, WV (Harpers Ferry NHP Visitor Center)
304-535-6029, nps.gov/hafe

Annapolis Rock and Black Rock on the Appalachian Trail

The view from Annapolis Rock.Forty of the Appalachian Trail’s 2,168 miles run through Maryland. While many people backpack the AT for days or weeks at a time, there are several scenic day hikes that an adventurous family can enjoy.

Hikes view Annapolis RockW
The view from Annapolis Rock.

Annapolis Rock is a 2.2-mile hike from the trailhead at the parking lot on Route 40. The vista presents a view of Greenbrier Lake and Cumberland Valley to the west from an elevation of 1,700 feet. Black Rock is one mile further north along the trail with another scenic western view. The hike to both rocks and back to the parking lot is a challenging 6.4 miles.

Difficulty: Hard
Fee: Free
Distance: 1.5 hours from Annapolis
Access Point: Parking lot on Route 40, 1/4 mile east of Greenbrier State Park
​301-791-4767​ (South Mountain State Park)

Northern Peaks Trail, Sugarloaf Mountain

Frederick County’s Sugarloaf Mountain is a monadnock, a stand-alone mountain that rises above the surrounding land, so the mountain’s overlooks present sweeping views of the sprawling farmland 800-feet below. The Appalachian Mountain range can also been seen off in the distance to the west. The 5-mile Northern Peaks Trail (blue) begins at the West View parking lot, looping around the summit and past the White Rocks overlook. From the blue trail, you can take either the ¼-mile green or red trails to the summit. Add the 2.5-mile Mountain Loop trail (white) for a 7-mile hike that includes four vistas of the three overlooks and the White Rocks. Download the trail map from the website below

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Fee: Free
Distance: 1 hour from Annapolis
7901 Comus Rd., Dickerson (Park’s main entrance). Follow signs to the West View overlook parking lot near the top of the mountain.

Hikes with bay views

From the Chesapeake Bay to the Patapsco River, several easy to moderate hikes follow or lead to the water. Whether looking for a lighthouse, shark’s teeth or a suspension foot bridge, you’ll find much to explore in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Cross Island Trail, Kent Island

For a relaxed, paved hike, Randi Hogan, outings chair for Anne Arundel County Sierra Club, recommends Kent Island’s Cross Island Trail.

The Cross Island Trail terminates at the Terrapin Beach Park with a great view of the Bay Bridge and Chesapeake Bay, Hogan says. The 6.5-mile trail, which runs parallel to Route 50, links Kent Narrows’ Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor Center with Terrapin Nature Park. It passes through Old Love Point Park, which has athletic fields and a playground.

Difficulty: Easy
Fee: Free
Distance: 15 minutes from Annapolis
191 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville (Terrapin Nature Park)
425 Piney Narrows Rd., Chester (Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor Center)

Hikes view Elk NeckW
The view from the Lighthouse Trail in Elk Neck State Park.
Lighthouse Trail, Elk Neck State Park

For an easy loop with a view of the Chesapeake Bay, try the 0.8-mile Lighthouse Trail at Elk Neck State Park. The trail leads to the Turkey Point Lighthouse, which sits at the end of a peninsula on a 100-foot cliff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. For a moderate hike, take the White Banks Trail (3 miles) to the White Clay Cliffs above the bay. The park has additional trails that take hikers through a variety of terrain, including beaches, ponds and forests

Difficulty: Easy
Fee: No charge to access Turkey Point area
Distance: 1.5 hours from Annapolis
4395 Turkey Point Rd., North East

Red Trail, Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert Cliffs State Park.Calvert Cliffs’ 1.8-mile Red Trail traverses marshlands and forests, across boardwalks and dirt paths, culminating in an expansive water view where the massive cliffs meet the Chesapeake Bay.

HIke view Calvert CliffsW
Calvert Cliffs State Park.

An added motivator for kids, the beach near the cliffs is a popular fossil-hunting location. Use sieves, shovels, or your hands to search for shark teeth and other fossils. The trail is 1.8 miles each way, for a total of 3.6 miles along an easy, flat route.

Difficulty: Easy
Fee: $5/vehicle; $7 for out-of-state residents
Distance: 1 hour from Annapolis
10540 H. G. Trueman Rd., Lusby

Grist Mill Trail, Patapsco Valley State Park
Hike view Grist MillW
The Swinging Bridge off the Grist Mill Trail.

Just outside Baltimore, Patapsco Valley State Park encompasses 32 miles of the Patapsco River. With 170 miles of trails, it boasts a wide range of hiking opportunities. The handicap accessible Grist Mill Trail in the Avalon section of the park begins at the Lost Lake parking lot and follows the river and railroad bed for 2.3 miles. The trail passes a suspension footbridge that crosses over the river and continues to Bleode Dam. Hikers can pick up additional trails along Grist Mill, such as the Valley View Trail (.9 miles) or Cascade Falls Trail (2.2-mile loop) with views of the river and rapids.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Fee: Weekdays, $2/vehicle; Weekends and holidays, $3/vehicle. Additional $2 for out-of-state residents
Distance: 40 minutes from Annapolis.
5120 South St., Halethorpe

By Hannah Anderson

Photo credits:
Maryland Heights – Photo courtesy of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Modern Photo Collection.
Grist Mill Trail – Swinging Bridge: Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program.
Calvert Cliffs – Photo courtesy of Maryland DNR.
Elk Neck State Park – Photo courtesy of Maryland DNR.
Annapolis Rock – Photo by Annie Myers, Creative Commons.

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