Top picks for family-friendly biking in Maryland

family bikingBiking is a great family-friendly summer activity. Because June is Get Outdoors month here in Maryland, Chesapeake Family asked Connie Yingling, public relations coordinator at the Maryland Office of Tourism, for some advice on making the most of the outdoors from the seat of a bike.

"Even if you only have a couple hours, you can find a trail that works for you," says Yingling. "There are a lot of resources for hikers and bikers here in Maryland, and not just in rural areas. There are great trails in populated areas, too."

Here are Yingling's top trail picks for family-friendly biking in Maryland. Of course, these trails aren't just for bikers; families will also enjoy hiking these trails.

1. The Cross Island Trail is a rails-to-trails path that runs six miles east to west, across Kent Island, and is an easy bike ride. "This particular trail is good for families because it's mostly flat, and is especially good for small children," Yingling says. It also has a lot of variety, from water views to woods to a wooden bridge.

The Chesapeake Exploration Center on Kent Narrows is a great place to start your adventure as it features exhibits that explore the history and culture of the Eastern Shore. It also has bathrooms. The trail ends on Kent Island, where there are plenty of restaurants to stop at for a soda or ice cream, take a rest in air conditioning, and use the bathroom.

2. For a longer family trip, Yingling recommends the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Cumberland. The 184.5 miles of towpath is a scenic bike path that follows the Potomac from Washington, DC, to Cumberland. There are plenty of locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts to see along the way. Yingling cautions that it is a crushed rock trail, so the skinny tires of a road bike are not well suited to it.

3. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore has "fabulous biking" and even kayaking, Yingling says, who has biked there several times. She adds that families can get a dose of history while they are there—Blackwater is located in Dorchester County, which is Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas country.

4. Another rails-to-trails path, the B&A Bike Trail stretches 13.3 miles from Annapolis to Glen Burnie. Find parking and public restrooms at the Earleigh Heights Ranger Station in Severna Park, and water fountains at regular intervals along the path.

5. For a quick trip closer to home, Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis is a great place to visit, Yingling says. "It's especially good for families with little kids who are looking for a shorter walking trip."

6. Just north of Baltimore is the perfect trail for a day trip—the Torrey C. Brown Trail (formerly the Northern Central Railroad Trail). Yet another rails-to-trails path, this one cuts through Gunpowder State Park. This 20-mile trail is popular with bikers and hikers, says Yingling. It is tree shaded and flat.

Yingling points out that you don't have to do the entire trail on a given ride; you can do as much of the path as your time and skill level allows.

For more information on hiking and biking trails in Maryland, Yingling recommends families use the following resources:

  • Hosted by the Maryland Department of Transportation, cycle.maryland.gov includes a great interactive map of various trails around the state. "You can click on various trails to get ratings and reviews, learn the bike level of comfort with kids, and more," Yingling says. "There is so much information."
  • The website of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, dnr.state.md.us, gives you downloadable access to trail maps for state parks. "There is a state park within 30 minutes of all Maryland residents," Yingling says.
  • The website of the Maryland Office of Tourism, visitmaryland.org, is a good place to start for regional overviews, Yingling says. There is also a section that talks about trails.