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27 Amazing National Parks in Maryland (+ Beautiful Photos)

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Antietam National Battlefield | Maryland National Parks
Antietam National Battlefield | Maryland National Parks

Maryland National Parks

Maryland National Parks! In this article, we feature some incredible national park sites in the great state of Maryland. We’ve got 27 national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Old Line State.

These Maryland National Parks include amazing historic sites, incredible monuments, beautiful parks, legendary trails, and much more.

We’ll give you 27 reasons why you’ll want to make Maryland your next vacation destination.

Maryland National Parks Table Of Contents

  1. Antietam National Battlefield
  2. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  3. Assateague Island National Seashore
  4. Baltimore-Washington Parkway
  5. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail
  6. Catoctin Mountain Park
  7. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
  8. Chesapeake Bay Watershed
  9. Civil War Defenses Of Washington
  10. Clara Barton National Historic Site
  11. The Fort Foote Park
  12. Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
  13. The Fort Washington Park
  14. George Washington Memorial Parkway
  15. Glen Echo Park
  16. Greenbelt Park
  17. Hampton National Historic Site
  18. Harmony Hall
  19. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  20. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park
  21. Monocacy National Battlefield
  22. Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm
  23. Piscataway Park 
  24. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  25. Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
  26. Thomas Stone National Historic Site
  27. Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail

National Parks of Maryland

1. Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam National Battlefield | Maryland National Parks
Antietam National Battlefield | Maryland National Parks

I’m a retired history teacher who likes nothing better than to pack up his car and go off in search of America’s past. And Maryland’s got a lot to offer in this department!

Beginning with the Battle of Antietam which featured the bloodiest single day in American history. It was one of the pivotal battles of the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln was desperate for a Union victory against Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia.

Many historians consider this battle to be a stalemate. Lee’s invasion of the North was stopped, however, and this was decisive enough for Lincoln to move forward with his historic Emancipation Proclamation.

Six Other Ways That Antietam Changed The Course Of History

Iron Brigade near Dunker Church | Maryland National Parks
The charge of Iron Brigade near the Dunker Church, on the morning of September 17, 1862 | Courtesy Of Wikimedia Commons
  1. Robert E. Lee is the military genius who confounded one northern general after another. Lee was fresh off of his victory in the Second Battle of Bull Run. At Antietam, his plan was to invade the north. He was repelled, however, and would not attempt another invasion of the North until the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
  2. A string of Confederate victories in the summer of 1862 had brought France and Great Britain close to recognition of the Confederate States of America. This would have been devastating for the Union cause. Lee’s inability to win a decisive victory at Antietam halted this momentum towards diplomatic recognition.
  3. The Union’s ability to stop Lee and force him to withdraw lifted northern morale.
  4. Antietam was one of the first battles in history to feature photographic images of twisted bodies littering the devastated landscape and stacked in heaps like slaughtered livestock. These images brought the horror of war home to the civilian population.
  5. The Union’s ability to stop Lee helped President Lincoln’s Republican Party in the 1862 elections. Democrats had been highly critical of the President’s conduct of the war. They were hoping to make significant political gains. Republicans, however, actually gained seats in the Senate and maintained a majority in the House.
  6. While Lee was stopped, Union Commander George McClellan refused to pursue Lee’s Army as Lincoln felt he should have. For McClellan, this was the beginning of the end as Lincoln began to search for a new commander.

Things To Do At The Antietam National Battlefield

Newcomer House | Maryland National Parks
Newcomer House is the visitor center for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area

If you’re a first-timer then I definitely recommend beginning your trip at the visitor center. The Newcomer House and Barn are positioned at the eastern gateway to the Antietam National Battlefield.

The Newcomer House serves as Visitor Center for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.  There you can see museum exhibits about the battle.

There is a self-guided 8 1/2 mile auto tour through the battlefield. The tour has 11 stops and begins at the Dunker Church.

Or, if you prefer walking to driving then you can hike the Bloody Lane, Cornfield, Final Attack, Union Advance, Antietam Remembered, Sherrick Farm or Snavely Ford Trails.

The Pry House Field Hospital Museum | The Birthplace Of Modern Emergency Medicine

The Pry House Field Hospital Museum | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Another place that you should check out is the Pry House Field Hospital Museum. The Pry House sits on Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland. It was built in 1844 as the home of Phillip and Elizabeth Pry and their six children.

During the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, the house served as headquarters for General George McClellan, as well Major Jonathan Letterman, the army’s medical director.

Antietam is the birthplace of modern emergency medicine. It was here that Letterman developed an efficient system for securing, evacuation, and treating casualties. Now called the Letterman Plan, it remains the basis of medical response on battlefields and in disaster situations around the world.

Today the Pry House is home to the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, a satellite museum of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. The museum includes two floors of exhibits with original artifacts and text panels discussing battlefield medicine and field hospitals of the Civil War, especially Antietam.

Visitors will see fascinating exhibits including a re-creation of an operating theater, interpretive panels and objects relating to the care of wounded and the effects on the civilian population in the area as well as information about the Pry House.

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2. Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Maryland National Parks

Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Maryland National Parks
Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Courtesy of the National Park Service

Need a good stretch of the legs? How about the longest hiking trail in the world?

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a marked hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Just how long a hike is that? Approximately 2,200 miles. You don’t have to do it all however.

Given my former profession, I love learning about the history of places. I realize that not everyone shares my passion so I’ll try to keep my history lessons short and to the point. And, I promise there’ll be no homework assignments.

The original concept for the Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye. MacKaye was a forester, planner and social reformer who wrote a 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects first proposing it.

Benton MacKaye & The Appalachian Trial

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The longest trail in the world was the brainchild of forester, planner and social reformer Benton MacKaye | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In MacKaye’s original vision, the Appalachian Trail would put back together the various parts of American life that were rapidly coming undone in the early 20th century.

It would fuse leisure and industry, environment and labor, community development and wilderness preservation into an interrelated project.

“Let us assume the existence of a giant standing high on the skyline along these mountain ridges, his head just scraping the floating clouds. What would he see from this skyline as he strode along its length from north to south?”

-Benton MacKaye

Giving City Dwellers An Escape

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Benton MacKaye wanted to give city dwellers an escape (courtesy newyorksimply.com) | Maryland National Parks

MacKaye wanted to give city dwellers an escape from their humdrum urban existences. His bold proposal was nothing less than a wholesale reinvention of social life, economic organization, and land use.

The trail was built by private citizens and completed in 1937. It is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.

It’s a truly magnificent hiking trail traversing the scenic, wooded, pastoral and wild lands of the Appalachian Mountains.

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You’re Never Too Old Or Young To Hike The Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail | Maryland National Parks
At 83, M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart has become the old person to complete the Appalachian Trail | Courtesy of the Associated Press

Think you’re too old for the Appalachian Trail? M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart strode into the record books as the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. Eberhart is an 83 year old from Alabama who is best known for by his trail name Nimblewill Nomad.

At the other end of the age spectrum, we have five-year old Harvey Sutton who completed the Appalachian Trail in July of 2021. Nimblewill and Harvey prove that you’re never too old or young to complete this amazing trek.

Josh Sutton on the Appalachian Trail | Maryland National Parks
In July of 2021, five year-old Harvey Sutton became the youngest ever to hike the complete Appalachian Trail | Courtesy of Josh Sutton

3. Assateague Island National Seashore | Maryland National Parks

Assateague Island National Seashore | Maryland National Parks
Feral pony and foal at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, USA (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) | Maryland National Parks

There are so many wonderful things for you to do at Assateague Island National Seashore.

As a first-time visitor, you should stop at the visitor center to see exhibits and obtain information about the many recreational activities and natural features in the seashore.

So Many Wonderful Outdoor Activities To Choose From

Assateague Island National Seashore | Maryland National Parks
How many places can you go crabbing? Assateague Island National Seashore is one of them! (Courtesy of the NPS)

A list of the outdoor activities include:

  1. Biking: Cyclists may travel to Assateague over a bicycle-pedestrian bridge and follow a paved bike path along Bayberry Drive through 4 miles of island habitat. 
  2. Camping: Reservations are required from March 15 through November 15. There are five campsites to choose from including one which accommodates horses.
  3. Crabbing: Be sure to bring  a hand line or string with a weight and/or a crabpot or trap bait (chicken necks, bait fish), net with long handle, ruler to measure the crabs and a cooler with lid and ice.
  4. Hiking: Trails include Life of the Dunes, Life of the Forest and Life of the Marsh complete with trail guides.
  5. Horseback Riding: The national seashore does not offer horses for rent or horseback riding tours. Day use horseback riding is permitted in Maryland from October 9 through May 14. Riding is permitted on the beach only, east (ocean side) of the black and white posts.
  6. Fishing: Surf fishing has been a popular recreational activity on Assateague Island for generations. A license is required.
  7. Swimming: NPS Lifeguards supervise designated beach areas in Maryland and Virginia sections of Assateague.  (Source: NPS)

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4. Baltimore-Washington Parkway | Maryland National Parks

Fall colors on the Baltimore Washington Parkway | Maryland National Parks
Fall colors on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway | Courtesy of the National Park Service (NPS)

It’s a beautiful parkway which offers its travelers some wonderful adventures. There are several places to visit along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

You can have a picnic or camp in Greenbelt Park, Greenbelt road Route 193 west off the parkway. You can see the NASA Visitor Center on Soil Conservation Road off Greenbelt Road Route 193 East. 

Be Sure To Check Out The Green Belt Museum

Greenbelt Museum | Maryland National Parks
Exterior of the rear of of the Greenbelt Museum, a house museum in Greenbelt Museum in Maryland. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

As a history buff, one of my favorite places to visit is the City of Greenbelt and the Greenbelt Museum. The Greenbelt Museum provides a gateway to the rich history and living legacy of Greenbelt, Maryland, an experimental cooperative community created in 1937 by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

While you’re there you can take a trip back in time. The Museum offers tours of an original historic home, exhibits, public programs, educational programs for children, and walking tours of the historic town to visitors and the community. 

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5. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail | Maryland National Parks

A kayaker paddles on still water surrounded by marsh grasses | Maryland National Parks
A kayaker paddles on the trail at Jug Bay National Wildlife Refuge | Courtesy of the NPS

Captain John Smith was an English explorer who played an pivotal role in America’s founding. Smith served on the governing council of Jamestown, Virginia He led two voyages on the Chesapeake Bay.

Smith’s contact with native tribes and his Chesapeake Bay voyages, documented in maps and journals, helped early English colonists learn about the region that became their new home.

There is but one entrance by sea into this country, and that is at the mouth of a very goodly bay, 18 or 20 miles broad. The cape on the south is called Cape Henry, in honor of our most noble Prince. The land, white hilly sands like unto the Downs, and all along the shores rest plenty of pines and firs … Within is a country that may have the prerogative over the most pleasant places known, for large and pleasant navigable rivers, heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.

-Captain John Smith

Things To Do On The John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail

Captain John Smith Historical Map | Maryland National Parks
Map courtesy of the Chesapeake Conservancy

The trail commemorates Captain Smith’s exploration of the Bay in 1607 through 1609, and is the nation’s first all-water national historic trail. It stretches over 3,000 miles and traverses most of the Chesapeake’s great rivers.

The trail is administered by the National Park Service. It connects with 16 National Wildlife Refuges, 12 National-Parks, and three other National Trails.

Trails I would recommend exploring include the following:

  1. The Billy Goat Trail-It’s a popular trail near Potomac, Maryland. This is a protected area designed to preserve the remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canals with the original structures still intact. The trail offers spectacular views of the Potomac River.
  2. Scott’s Run River Trail-It’s a wonderful area for nature trips, walking, and running. It features a beautiful waterfall. This is a beautifully wooded trail with a mix of inclines, flat areas, and areas with loose rocks. 
  3. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail-It’s a popular trail that leads up to an overlook of the Great Falls. You will have wonderful views of the water and rock formations.

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6. Catoctin Mountain Park | Maryland National Parks

Catoctin Mountain Park | Maryland National Parks
The visitor center at Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Catoctin Mountain Park is located in north-central Maryland. It is a part of the Catoctin Mountain Range which forms the northeastern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s in the Appalachian Mountains System

The park offers a wide range of outdoor activities which include:

  1. Camping: Camp sites include Owens Creek Campground, Misty Mount cabin camping, Adirondack shelters, Poplar Grove youth group sites.
  2. Cross country Skiing: Generally, the best skiing is along certain sections of park roads which are closed to vehicular traffic.
  3. Fishing: Prominent trout fishing streams.
  4. Hiking: The park features easy, moderate and more strenuous hiking trails. There are both East Side & West Side Trails which include a number of interesting features.
  5. Horseback Riding: Approximately 6 miles of trails are maintained in Catoctin Mountain Park for public horseback riding.
  6. Orienteering: If you would like to practice your orienteering skills, the park maintains two courses that are available for public use.
  7. Picnicking: The Chestnut Picnic Area and the Owens Creek Picnic Area have many grills waiting for you.
  8. Rock Climbing: Bouldering and Rope Climbing are available at Catoctin Mountain Park. (Source: NPS)
Catoctin Mountain Park | Maryland National Parks
An Orienteering Post at Catoctin Mountain Park | Courtesy of the NPS

7. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park | Maryland National Parks

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | Maryland National Parks
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Before the railroads took passengers and freight across the nation, before the interstate network of highways made America easily accessible by car or truck, the canal was a lifeline for communities. In the 19th century, along the Potomac River, coal, lumber, and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market.

Today the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park is 184.5 miles of adventure. Originally, the C&O Canal was a lifeline for communities and businesses along the Potomac River as coal, lumber, grain and other agricultural products floated down the canal to market.

Visitors hike or bike the C&O Canal each year to enjoy the natural, cultural and recreational opportunities available.

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8. Chesapeake Bay Watershed | Maryland National Parks

Chesapeake Bay Watershed | Maryland National Parks
Chesapeake Bay Watershed | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed spans more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—and the entire District of Columbia. More than 18 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay is home to numerous fauna that either migrate to the Bay at some point during the year or live there year-round. There are over 300 species of fish and numerous shellfish and crab species.  It’s a great place to explore.

Beaches along the tidal rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are often safe for swimming, fishing and boating.

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9. Civil War Defenses Of Washington | Maryland National Parks

Civil Defenses of Washington | Maryland National Parks
Civil War Defenses of Washington | Courtesy of the NPS

During our nation’s bloodiest conflict, one of President Lincoln’s greatest worries was that Confederate forces would take Washington, D.C. For the South, our nation’s capitol was the elusive prize that might have brought the southern states their independence.

To prevent this from happening, 68 forts and 93 batteries armed with over 800 cannons encircled Washington, DC. Along forested hills surrounding the nation’s capital, visitors can see the remnants of a complex system of Civil War fortifications.

Nineteen of these original sites are now managed by the National Park Service. Among these are included:

  1. 122nd New York Infantry at Battleground National Cemetery
  2. 150th Ohio National Guard Infantry Monument
  3. 98th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument
  4. Battery (Fort) Ricketts which was constructed as part of the Eastern Branch Line Defenses (Anacostia River).
  5. Battery Kemble which held two 100-pounder Parrott rifles, placed in such a way as to sweep Chain Bridge along the Potomac River and the Virginia shoreline. 
  6. Battleground National Cemetery established shortly after the Battle of Fort Stevens, in the summer of 1864. This battle marked the defeat of General Jubal A. Early’s Confederate campaign to launch an offensive action against the nation’s capital.

And that’s only a part of the total number of sites which still remain to be explored.

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To Learn More About The Civil War

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So many books, so little time! If you’re looking to learn more about the war in its entirety then I’m recommending three of the best Civil War authors on the planet. I’m also going to recommend three of my favorite books when it comes to the Battle of Shiloh. The author and book recommendations are courtesy of me while the photo (above) is Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So many books have been written about the Civil War and the various battles that took place. Of course, the big three authors when it comes to war are, in my humble opinion, Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote and James M. McPherson.

What these three have written are the best collections of books encompassing the war as a whole. You can’t go wrong with any of these authors. My personal favorite is Shelby Foote. I have read his fabulous three volume history of the Civil War–twice!

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When it comes to Civil War historians, you can’t go wrong with Shelby Foote (pictured on the right). Here he is giving then President Jimmy Carter a tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield. President Carter really knew how to pick his tour guides! (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library)

10. Clara Barton National Historic Site

Clara Barton National Historic Site | Maryland National Parks
Clara Barton National Historic Site | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We move from taking lives to saving them. Clara Barton is one of the most honored women in American history and rightly so. During the American Civil War Barton became known as an “Angel of the Battlefield.”

She courageously provided nursing care and supplies to soldiers. She found other ways to help the military too. With permission from President Lincoln, she opened the Office of Missing Soldiers, helping to reconnect more than 20,000 soldiers with their families.  

Clara Barton’s compassion extended beyond the boundaries of her native land. She went on to volunteer with the International Committee of the Red Cross, providing civilian relief during the Franco-Prussian War.

Her greatest accomplishment, however, was the establishment of the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881. Clara Barton served as first president of this organization Red Cross for 23 years, retiring in 1904. She died at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912. 

Things To Do At The Clara Barton National Historic Site

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An interior image of the Clara Barton House. It was built in 1891 and was the final home of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The National Park Service has restored eleven rooms, including the Red Cross offices, parlors and Clara Barton’s bedroom. Visitors to Clara Barton National Historic Site can see how Barton lived and worked surrounded by all that went into her life’s work.

Visitors are led through the three levels on a guided tour emphasizing Barton’s use of her unusual home. There are 9 acres of land at her Glen Echo home including the 38-room former residence of Barton. 

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11. Check Out Fort Foote Park | Maryland National Parks

Picture of Fort Foote’s two 15-inch Rodman Guns. Image courtesy National Park Service.

Fort Foote was constructed in 1863 as a part of the ring of fortifications designed to protect Washington from a Confederate attack. Fort Foote was constructed for the purpose of defending, in connection with Battery Rogers, the water approach to the city.

Today visitors can explore the fort. It’s a lovely forested area where some of the original fort bastions have been preserved. There are two 15-inch guns sitting on carriages overlooking the Potomac.

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12. Visit Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine | Maryland National Parks

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What a story this fort has to tell! Immortalized by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. O! say can you see . . .

Key did see! He saw the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. American forces resisted the dramatic British bombardment of Fort McHenry and proved they could stand up to a great world power.

Key was inspired upon seeing the American flag still flying over the fort at dawn and wrote the poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry.” His poem was published and its stirring lyrics became known as the Star Spangled Banner.

This song was America’s unofficial national anthem until President Herbert Hoover made it the official national anthem over a century later.

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Explore Fort McHenry

Francis Scott Key immortalized Fort McHenry through his Star Spangled Banner | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I recommend beginning your adventure at the visitor center where you can see the park movie. It’s a wonderful way to become familiar with the park’s history.  The fort tour is self-guided with informative exhibits to help visitors understand its historical importance.

At the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, spectators can also partake in a variety of programs, including the Fort, Flag and Fire! Ceremony every Saturday at 2 p.m. in July and August, which invites spectators to enjoy guided tours and even assist in the changing of the 42-foot flag.

After the history lesson, you can relax on the grounds and enjoy a picnic with the family. My favorite part of the tour was soaking in the scenic views of the water and brushing up on American history with “flag talks” given by highly informative park rangers.

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13. Visit Fort Washington Park | Maryland National Parks

Fort Washington | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Named after America’s first President of the United States, Fort Washington was built to defend the river approach to  Washington, D.C.

Today, this beautiful park offers a great setting for family picnics. There are tables and grills for small groups throughout the park. These are available for use on a first-come first-served basis from 8:00 am until dark.

The park also serves as a wonderful venue for special events including weddings. Ceremonies are allowed near the lighthouse, in the visitor center loop, and in reserved picnic areas tough permits are required. 

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14. George Washington Memorial Parkway | Maryland National Parks

Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Washington St. and George Washington Memorial Pkwy. SW | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The George Washington Memorial Parkway was designed for recreational driving. It connects sites that commemorate important episodes in American history and preserves habitat for local wildlife.

The parkway and its associated trails provide a scenic place to play and rest in the busy Washington, DC metropolitan area. (Source: NPS)

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15. Glen Echo Park | Maryland National Parks

Stone buildings at Glen Echo Park
Glen Echo Park | Courtesy of the National Park Service

For over 100 years, Glen Echo Park has served as a place of amusement and leisure for its visitors. The park was the dream of Edwin Baltzley whose claim to fame was the egg beater. He invented the device and then went into real estate development with his brother.

In July of 1888, the Baltzley Brothers purchased just over 500 acres that extended from Cabin John Creek and continued eastward along the Potomac River. They named their property Glen Echo on the Potomac.

Glen Echo Became A Part Of The Chautauqua Movement

Baltzley Brothers
The Baltzley Brothers | Courtesy of the NPS

Their park became a part of the Chautauqua Movement. This movement began in Chautauqua, New York, in 1874, as an organized way to teach Sunday-school organization, management, and Bible-study.

The National Chautauqua of Glen Echo, the 53rd such assembly to be established, was incorporated in February 1891, for “the purpose of establishing and maintaining an institution of Learning to be conducted upon the Chautauqua idea and plan.”

In 1911, the Washington Railway and Electric Company was operating the trolley line from Washington, D.C. to Glen Echo and they were looking for a way to increase ridership on that particular line. The company purchased the site and Glen Echo Amusement Park was born. (Source: NPS)

World Cruise with servicemen
The World Cruise ride was a very popular ride with servicemen during World War II, as seen by the line waiting out the door in this photograph | Courtesy of the NPS

Glen Echo And The Summer Of Change

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Security guard Frank Collins confronts NAG protester Marvis Saunders | Courtesy of the NPS

Believe or not, Glen Echo became a part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In the spring of 1960, a group of students organized themselves as the “Non-violent Action Group” (NAG) and began protesting Northern Virginia lunch counters, restaurants, and department stores.

During the summer of 1960, they came to Glen Echo Amusement Park. On the evening of June 30, Laurence Henry, a 26 year old Howard University student, led approximately two dozen NAG members, both black and white, and two high school students on a protest of Glen Echo Amusement Park.

With the support of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, on March 14, 1961, announcement that the park would open its doors to any patron, regardless of skin color.

Black children on carousel eating cotton candy
Black children eating cotton candy on the carousel in the 1960s | Courtesy of the NPS

Glen Echo Becomes A National Park

An interior view of the carousel at Glen Echo Park, Maryland | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The General Services Administration officially acquired the title to Glen Echo Park on April 1, 1970. The Glen Echo tract and title was officially transferred to the National Park Service on March 5, 1976.

Today Glen Echo Park is an arts and culture park.  As for the amusement park, the only ride remaining is the carousel.

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15. Greenbelt Park | Maryland National Parks

Greenbelt Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for an idyllic spot to go camping then Greenbelt Park is it. Located in suburban Greenbelt, Maryland, Greenbelt features affordable camping, peaceful surroundings and National Park Service hospitality.

The park has a 172 site campground, nine miles of trails and three picnic areas. For only $20, you can spend the night under the stars and on the doorstep of the nation’s capitol.


17. Hampton National Historic Site | Maryland National Parks

The exterior of the Hampton Mansion. Hampton National Historic Site contains the grounds of an 18th century estate. It is run by the National Park Service. At the time it was built in 1790, the mansion was the largest private home in the United States. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Hampton Mansion was, at one time, possibly the largest private home in America. Visitors have an opportunity to step back in time and experience life in the 18th century. It’s an example of late-Georgian architecture in America.

Visitors can take self-guided tours of the mansion, the farm and living history stations.


18. Harmony Hall | Maryland National Parks

Harmony Hall | Courtesy of the National Park Service

The 18th century Harmony Hall Mansion is located on a 62.5-acre open pasture land estate along the Potomac River.  This estate was purchased by the National Park Service in 1966, to preserve southern Maryland cultural heritage.

Surrounded by a rich landscape, it offers visitors many chances to connect with Colonial History. The park also home to the remains of the Want Water House and canal. (Source: NPS)


19. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park | Maryland National Parks

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Just as the name of Francis Scott Key is inexorably connected to Fort McHenry so is the name of John Brown likewise linked with Harpers Ferry.

In October of 1859, Brown led a raid against the military arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The raid was intended to be the first stage in an elaborate plan to establish an independent stronghold of freed slaves in the mountains of Maryland and Virginia.

Brown was captured during the raid. He was convicted of treason and hanged, but the raid served as a flashpoint. In the North, Brown was hailed as a hero while is the South he was depicted as the devil incarnate. This event helped move the two sections of America ever closer to Civil War.

Things To Do At Harpers Ferry

Visitors walking in Lower Town Harpers Ferry
Visitors walking in Lower Town Harpers Ferry | Courtesy of the NPS

History truly comes to life at Harpers Ferry. There visitors can explore museums and exhibits, hike to overlooks or along Civil War skirmish lines, join a ranger-guided tour or sign-up for a living history workshop.

I recommend beginning your visit at the visitors center where you can pick up helpful information. Rangers are available to answer your questions.

Before heading out to explore the town and its surrounding natural beauty, as a history buff I recommend a stop at the Harpers Ferry Park Association’s Bookshop. It has a wonderful collection of books on the Civil War.

If you’re looking to combine history and nature then check out the 22 miles of hiking trails at Harpers Ferry. It happens to be the mid-point of the 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail.

Picnicking is also available at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park at a designated picnic area adjacent to the Visitor Center parking lot. Picnic tables are on a first-come, first-serve basis.


20. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park | Maryland National Parks

The visitor center at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Dorchester County, Maryland | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As one who taught history for almost thirty years, I’m still enthralled today by stories of the Underground Railroad. The challenge for me was to explain to my students that, despite the fact that those who helped runaway slaves escape to freedom were called “conductors,” this was not a real railroad by any stretch of the imagination.

Instead, The Underground Railroad was a network of people, African American as well as white, offering shelter and aid to escaped enslaved people from the South. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 empowered slaveholders to pursue these runaways to the northernmost reaches of America and bring them south once again.

This meant that runaways had to escape to Canada to be truly free. People known as “conductors” guided these fugitives. Hiding places included private homes, churches and schoolhouses. These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.”

The people operating them were called “stationmasters.” An estimated 100,000 people were freed by their heroic efforts.

Harriet Tubman

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Harriet Tubman

The most famous of the conductors was herself born a slave. In 1849, Araminta Ross, escaped a plantation in Maryland with two of her brothers. Harriet Tubman became her married name and one by which she would win eternal fame.

Tubman returned to the south to lead her niece and her niece’s children to Philadelphia via the Underground Railroad. She became a dedicated abolitionist who is believed to have personally rescued 300 people.

After the Civil War began, Tubman became head of an espionage and scout network for the Union Army. She provided crucial intelligence to Union commanders about Confederate Army supply routes and troops and helped liberate enslaved people to form Black Union regiments.

An excellent book about this extraordinary women is Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Bradford.

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

-Harriet Tubman

Things To Do At The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park

It’s an incredible experience to adventure to walk into the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center. It’s in the heart of Dorchester County, Maryland, amid farm fields, creeks, and marshes.

You will find exhibits, an audio-visual program, visitor information, a museum store, research library, and seasonal interpretive programs.

While you’re in the neighborhood, you should also head over to Dorchester to see The Harriet Tubman Museum & Education Center. It started in the 1980s. It’s run by dedicated local volunteers who want to share Harriet Tubman’s story and preserve her legacy.

The museum building features a powerful and moving mural of Harriet Tubman that has attracted attention from around the country.


21. Monocacy National Battlefield | Maryland National Parks

Gambrill Mill Area, Monocacy National Battlefield 2 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By the summer of 1864, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia is being besieged by Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac. To relieve the pressure on his army, Lee launched another of his daring plans.

Lee ordered General Jubal A. Early to take his corps and advance up the Shenandoah Valley, cross the Potomac, then turn to the southeast to threaten Washington, D.C. After scattering the few Union units that lay in his path, Early was primed to march on Washington with little to impede him.

News of the Confederates’ approach quickly spread and this put Washington into a state of panic. Grant had to detach an entire corps from the forces besieging Petersburg to protect the capital. The problem was that Grant’s forces needed time to reach Washington.

A scratch force of Union troops assembled to meet the advancing Confederates near Frederick, Maryland. The goal was to delay Early’s force. The two opposing forces met in what became known as the Battle of Monocacy.

The hastily assembled Union forces delayed the Confederates enough to allow reinforcements to reach Washington and repel the threat posed by Early’s army.

Things To Do At Monocacy National Battlefield

Map of park boundaries with trails and buildings shown.
Monocacy National Battlefield Auto Tour | Courtesy of the NPS

Visitors to the Monocacy National Battlefield will explore 1,647 acres of rolling farm fields, historic buildings, and sweeping panoramas along the scenic Monocacy River. There are seven walking trails. Some provide scenic walks whereas others cover phases of the battle.

You can also take a leisurely 5-mile round trip hike around the northern section of Rock Creek Park.

If you prefer driving, however, there’s a self-guided auto tour. The auto tour has five stops, all of which are key locations related to the Battle of Monocacy. The route follows public roads and totals about six miles round-trip. 


22. Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm | Maryland National Parks

Oxon Cove Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia

Who doesn’t love animals. Especially if you’re not the one who has to care for them.

At Oxon Hill Farm you can take a self guided tour of the farmyard to see the cows, pigs, horses, sheep, goats, and chickens. Watch where you step!

While you’re there you’ll also notice antique farm equipment, historic structures, and informational outdoor exhibit placards. Stop by the Visitor Barn to pick up a Self-Guided Walking Tour.

Or you can check out Oxon Cove Park’s 512 acres. You can bike, hike, jog or walk along the lower fields or riding the bike path along Oxon Cove.

It’s also a great place to have a picnic.  There are first come, first serve picnic tables next to the parking lot. Please be sure to dispose of all litter properly.


23. Check Out Piscataway Park | Maryland National Parks

Piscataway Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a lovely place to spend the day then why not visit Piscataway Park? If you enjoy watching wildlife it’s home to bald eagles, beavers, deer, foxes, ospreys, and many other species. The park also has a public fishing pier and two boardwalks over fresh water tidal wetlands, a variety of nature trails, meadows, and woodland areas.

While you’re there you should also check out the National Colonial Farm. It’s a historic farm museum that demonstrates 18th century agriculture.


24. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Maryland National Parks

A trail splits through a green, forested area. A group of hikers walk in the distance.
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Courtesy of NPS

Imagine a trail that has something for everyone. History, nature, recreation, wildlife, biking, hiking, paddling or just enjoying a quiet getaway for the hustle and bustle of an urban world. On the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail you can find your own special outdoor adventure.


25. Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail | Maryland National Parks

Three children look at a map provided by a woman.
The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail “Trail Stewards Program” connects students and communities that live along the 560-mile Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail with historical events that happened in their backyards. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The 560-mile Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail takes you to battlefields and landmarks of the War of 1812. Points of particular interest include:

  1. Flag Raising at Fort McHenry
  2. Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum
  3. Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
  4. Fort Washington
  5. Concord Point Lighthouse
  6. North Point Beachhead War of 1812 Historic Sign

26. The Thomas Stone National Historic Site | Maryland National Parks

Thomas Stone Home | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Stone. He was among the men who pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to give birth to the United States of America.

After the fighting at Lexington and Concord, Stone wanted to give King George III an opportunity to bring about peace without revolution. He was one of a group of men who supported the Olive Branch Petition, which informed the king of the continued support of the colonists, but the king refused to read it and declared the colonies to be in rebellion.

While Stone lived to see the 13 Colonies victorious in the American Revolution, he died in 1787 and was therefore not able to be a part of the Constitutional Convention which created the current government of the United States. Stone’s greatest contribution to the revolutionary cause was his support of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Things To Do At The Thomas Stone National Historic Site

Map image showing two trails inside park boundary
Thomas Stone National Historic Site Map | Courtesy of the NPS

Visitors can take a wonderful walking 1.5 mile trail called the Outbuildings Trail. It goes past Horse Barn and passes the Tenant House, the Corn Crib and the Tobacco Barn. It connects with the Stone Family Cemetery trail. 


27. Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail | Maryland National Parks

A statue of General Rochambeau on top of a pedestal. He is pointing into the distance. Another bronze statue is below him.
General Rochambeau Statue | Courtesy of the NPS

Washington’s ultimate success against the British was made possible through an alliance with France. On July 11, 1780, 55-year-old General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau arrived with an army of 450 officers and 5,300 men in Narragansett Bay off Newport, Rhode Island.

This marked the beginning of a most successful military cooperation that culminated 15 months later in the victory at Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and his troops.

From New Hampshire to Virginia, the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail connects major metropolitan areas, state and national parks, historic and scenic trails, and countless other historic sites.

The rout is a 680-mile series of roads used in 1781 by the Continental Army under the command of George Washington and the forces under the command of Admiral Rochambeau during their 14-week march from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia.  


Take A Deeper Dive With More Than Just Parks

pattiz brothers theodore roosevelt national park north dakota
At More Than Just Parks, it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

We’re More Than Just Parks which means we’re more than just parks. We believe that it’s not about the destination. Rather, it’s about the journey.

And it’s a journey of the body and the mind which is why we love to give you the opportunity to take a deeper dive so that you can learn about the history behind these special places.

With that in mind, we’ve got some wonderful book recommendations for you.

  1. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James M. McPherson.
  2. Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery, and the Rivalry That Built the Appalachian Trail by Jeffrey H. Ryan.
  3. Assateague Island A Guide to Assateague Island National Seashore Maryland and Virginia by William H. Amos.
  4. Captain John Smith: Writings with Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America by Captain John Smith.
  5. Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War by Stephen B. Oates.
  6. What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life by Marc Leepson.
  7. John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights by David S. Reynolds.
  8. Harriet, The Moses of Her People: A Biography of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Hopkins Bradford.
  9. Fighting for Time: The Battle of Monocacy by Glenn H. Worthington.
  10. Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route and the Franco-American Alliance by Donna Passmore and Jan Smulcer.

RELATED: 30+ Best National Parks Books


Map Of Maryland National Park Sites


List Of Maryland National Park Site

  1. Antietam National Battlefield
  2. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  3. Assateague Island National Seashore
  4. Baltimore-Washington Parkway
  5. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail
  6. Catoctin Mountain Park
  7. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
  8. Chesapeake Bay Watershed
  9. Civil War Defenses Of Washington
  10. Clara Barton National Historic Site
  11. The Fort Foote Park
  12. Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
  13. The Fort Washington Park
  14. George Washington Memorial Parkway
  15. Glen Echo Park
  16. Greenbelt Park
  17. Hampton National Historic Site
  18. Harmony Hall
  19. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  20. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park
  21. Monocacy National Battlefield
  22. Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm
  23. Piscataway Park 
  24. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  25. Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
  26. Thomas Stone National Historic Site
  27. Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
Tony Pattiz

Tony Pattiz is a retired history teacher currently researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks.

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