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Hike Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Maryland’s Eastern Shore features countless miles of Bay, river and stream shorelines, marshes, forests, and wide open spaces. The terrain is varied, though almost always flat, and is known as a birder’s paradise. This spring and summer, take some time to slow things down a bit, and head to the shore for a hike or bike among nature. Bring your binoculars, a shovel for kids to enjoy shoreline digs, and maybe even a swimsuit for a dip in the Bay at these five spots for a great family hike. 

adkins arboretum

Adkins Arboretum
Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for students 6–18 and free for 5 and younger.
Hours: Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sun., noon–4 p.m.
Grounds open daily.
Stroll through four miles of easy walking paths that wander through native forests at Adkins. Choose a short walk or loop trails together to extend your distance. Kids can enjoy the First Light Village and Emily’s Play Garden nature play spaces.

Tuckahoe State Park 
Queen Anne
Admission: Free
Tuckahoe State Park is adjacent to the arboretum. It features some 20 miles of scenic trails for hiking and biking, including a fitness trail for kids as well as a fun playground. Trails include walkways through pine forests, trails around Tuckahoe Lake, and the Creekside Cliff Trail. The Park also has campgrounds, kayak launches and rents mountain bikes during the summer.

Photo by Ann Levelle. Wye Island as seen from the Wye River.

Wye Island
Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area 
Admission: Free
Wye Island encompasses some six miles of trails and 30 miles of shoreline along the Wye and Wye East rivers. The Island is the perfect getaway for a family looking for a quiet walk through the woods and some water to splash in.

The land is mostly flat and the paths are clear and easy to follow; none of the trails are strenuous. There is a good chance you will see some wildlife, including deer, ospreys, eagles, and maybe some foxes or turtles.

Drive to the end of the gravel road on Wye Island to the trailhead for the Ferry Landing Trail. There you’ll find an easy, mile-long walk under Osage trees that will take you to a small sandy beach perfect for splashing around. At low tide it’s possible to wade for a long distance around the island.

The School House Woods Nature Trail, which you passed on your way to the end of the island, takes hikers through old growth forest with large mature hardwood trees and around the edges of fields. Again, the trail is never far from the water.

There are no amenities on the island other than a couple of outhouses. You should come prepared with water and snacks or a lunch. Dogs are welcome. 

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Admission: $3.00 per vehicle; Pedestrian, Bicyclist, $1.00 per person age 16 or older
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge comprises more than 28,000 acres of marshland, streams and forests along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It is a part of the Atlantic Flyway—a critical migration highway for migrating birds, and provides visitors with numerous ways—including by kayak, bike, or on foot—to enjoy nature and spy wildlife. Hikers can enjoy trails throughout Blackwater that will take you along the water and through the forests to learn about local plants and wildlife. 

The Key Wallace Trail is a 2.7-mile trail that lets visitors explore and observe a timber stand improvement area, as well as wildlife and birds. 

The Marsh Edge Trail is a popular 1/3-mile trail along the Little Blackwater and Blackwater rivers that leads from a mature pine forest to a typical Eastern Shore marsh. This transition zone from forest to marsh features a wide variety of plants, which in turn attracts a diverse wildlife population. Hikers may also be able to see ospreys nesting or bald eagles fishing. 

Find more details about Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on our full park profile.

Bald Eagle at Eastern Neck. Credit: USFWS/Volunteer Charlie Lister

Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge
Rock Hall
Located on a peninsula surrounded by the Bay and the entrance to the Chester River, There are 7 trails at Eastern Neck, with both paved and trail hiking options, boardwalks over marsh that supply gorgeous views of the water, access to the beaches, and a kayak trail on the water. 

The refuge hosts over 240 species of birds, 18 species of mammals, and hundreds of butterflies can be seen. During winter the tundra swan visits the surrounding waterways and can be viewed from several observation decks with viewing scopes. Families with kids will delight at the views along the Bayview-Butterfly Trail, which is lined with butterfly-attracting native plants. The refuge also features fishing and crabbing spots, kayak and boat launch, restrooms along the path. Paved trails are wheelchair accessible.

Pocomoke River State Park. Photo by Michelle Gillespie

Pocomoke River State Park
Admission: Free for day use.
Pocomoke River State Park is located in the southwestern part of Maryland, not far from Salisbury. The park is known for its unique cypress swamp, which borders the Pocomoke River. Aside from a vast trail system, you can also explore the river by renting a canoe or kayak at the marina. The park’s forest and swamp are home to a wide range of animals including bald eagles, otters and more than 50 species of fish. 

There are two tracts to the park—Milburn Landing and Shad Landing—which both lie along the Pocomoke and offer campsites, hiking trails, kayak trails and picnic sites.

—Ann Levelle

Looking for more family-friendly hikes? Head to these great hikes for families!

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