Did you know that in addition to state and city parks, Maryland is home to 13 national parks? That’s 13 different opportunities for adventures. Monument visiting. Hiking, Kayaking. History tours. Fishing, Boating. Possibilities abound!
One of the best ways to explore National Parks with kids is through the Junior Rangers program (no advanced registration necessary!) Stop by the visitor center at the park and get a Junior Ranger booklet for that park. Booklets offer a wealth of age appropriate information and activities for your child. After your child completes the activities, present the booklet park ranger or a park volunteer at the visitor center. They will award them a certificate and a Junior Ranger badge!
While many National Parks are free, some require a per-person or per-vehicle admission fee. Why not buy an annual “America the Beautiful” pass for $80? It’s good for the whole year at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites — and covers the entire family!
National Parks Near Baltimore
Assateague Island National Seashore
7206 National Seashore Lane | Berlin | Website
Wild horses! One of the best things about visiting Assateague Island (besides swimming in the ocean, of course) is seeing the wild horses roam. Biking, canoeing, horseback riding, kayaking — Assateague is an outdoor adventure haven. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Campsites are available for $30 a night, but definitely plan ahead. There is a $20 fee per vehicle (not required if you have an Annual National Park pass).
Admission: $20 Per Vehicle (7 Day Pass)
Antietam National Battlefield
Sharpsburg | Website
Biking, hiking, historic programs, and more. This park is the site of the Battle of Antietam, which led to President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. With trails varying in length from .3 miles to 1.8 miles, Antietam is a great place for hiking with families.
Admission: $5.00 Per Person (age 16 or older; 15 and under FREE) or $10.00 Per Vehicle, 3 Day Pass
Catoctin Mountain Park
6602 Foxville Road | Thurmont | Website
25 miles of hiking, fly-fishing, camping, and horseback riding. Nestled in the mountains of upper Maryland, Catoctin Mountain Park honors Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legacy in the U.S. In addition to the Junior Ranger program, kids can earn their Junior Angler badge and participate in the TRACK Trail here! TRACK Trail booklets sets kids on an adventure to discover more about trees, bugs, and the natural balance of nature.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Potomac to Cumberland | Website
Make this the summer you visit the C&O Canal! Believe it or not, the park is 184.5 miles of adventure. There are seven visitor centers in the park, but the ONLY location in the park that collects entrance fees are at Great Falls Entrance Station. The Brunswick Visitor Center shares the building with the Brunswick Railroad Museum (which is cool if you have a train-loving kiddo!). The Williamsport Center offers FREE 1-hour boat rides and tours. Aside from the towpath, there are many great hiking trails in the Park: the Tunnel Hill Trail near the Paw Paw Tunnel, the Ferry Hill Trail near Sharpsburg, as well as 14 miles of trail near Great Falls (including the Billy Goat Trail). Bicycle riding is permitted on the canal towpath, Western Maryland Rail Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, and Berma Road. Children under the age of 16 required to wear helmets.
Admission: $10 per vehicle, 3 Day Pass, only collected at the Great Falls entrance
Clara Barton National Historic Site
5801 Oxford Road | Glen Echo | Website
The Clara Barton National Historic Site commemorates the life of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. The home served as first headquarters for the Red Cross. The site is currently closed for construction and there is not a date for reopening.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue | Baltimore | Website
A source of American pride — and a must visit for every kid that lives near Baltimore — Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Kids will love their ranger talks and watching flag changes. In the summer, the Fort McHenry Guard provides cannon and musket firing demonstrations, fife and drum performances, and period games and demonstrations.
Admission: $15.00 for adults 16 years of age and older; children 15 and younger are free, 7 Day Pass
Fort Washington Park
13551 Fort Washington Road | Fort Washington | Website
Visit Fort Washington Park for one of the most picturesque views of D.C.! Built to defend the river approach to Washington, DC, Fort Washington has stood as silent sentry for over 200 years. Fort tours, picnic areas, 3 mile trail, and fishing on the Potomac are some of the activities the park offers.
Admission: $10 per Vehicle, 7 Day Pass
6565 Greenbelt Road | Greenbelt | Website
Just 12 miles from D.C., you’d never know how close you were to the city! The park offers four trails — from 0.8 miles to 5.3 miles if you walk the entire perimeter of the park. Join them on Saturdays June 9, 16, and 23 and Sundays June 3 and 10 for campfire programs at the campground.
Admission: FREE (Campsite Fees apply)
Hampton National Historic Site
535 Hampton Lane | Towson | Website
Hampton National Historic Site provides a unique educational experience to visitors (and it’s FREE). As the northern most slave owning plantation, the site provides a complete snapshot into history at the preserved 18th Century Mansion and grounds, including a mansion, farm house, granary, dairy, mule barn, slave quarters, greenhouse, smokehouse, orangery, and more. With 62.4 acres, there is a lot to explore! Guided tours are available Thursday-Sunday.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument
4068 Golden Hill Road | Church Creek | Website
This national monument honors Harriet Tubman, an American hero who dedicated her life to freedom, and her contribution to the Underground Railroad. Walk through their exhibits, or take the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway. Kids can collect seven trading cards at the site, and use them to Use the cards to learn more about Harriet Tubman (Savvy and Courageous), Araminta Ross (Harriet as a child), Tubman’s Choice of freedom or family, The Bucktown Store, The Underground Railroad, and more.
A partnership between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park operates the 16,000-square foot, LEED Silver certified visitor center and administration building, along with a 2,700-square foot open air pavilion with a fireplace and picnic tables. The state park is a 17-acre site adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Admission: FREE (There are no fees to visit Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, but some partner sites may charge fees.)
Monocacy National Battlefield
5201 Urbana Pike | Frederick | Website
Explore 1,647 acres of rolling farm fields, historic buildings, and sweeping panoramas along the scenic Monocacy River (less than 2 miles from Downtown Frederick). Take part in a ranger program or go for a hike.
3400 Bryan Point Road | Accokeek | Website
A wildlife haven! This is where you want to go for fishing and boating. Keep an eye out for bald eagle, deer, and fox wildlife. Then explore the park’s fishing piers, boardwalks, and National Colonial Farm. What is National Colonial Farm? A historic farm museum that demonstrates 18th century agriculture and a certified organic farm used for demonstration and education. The park is part of the Potomac Heritage network of trails. Fort Washington Marina, part of Piscataway Park, offers boat slip rentals and boat repair services, opportunities to rent canoes and kayaks, and food services.
Thomas Stone National Historic Site
Maryland’s Thomas Stone National Historic Site commemorates Thomas Stone, one of 56 men to sign the Declaration of Independence.The park contains 322 acres of trails and the restored home of Thomas Stone, outbuildings and family cemetery. The Visitor Center features exhibits, orientation film, sales area, picnic tables and restrooms. Explore the site with a ranger. Tours are about 30 minutes. If your kids are into geocaching, try the Captain John Smith Geotrail!
Buy a National Parks Passport
Not only does the Passport to Your National Parks have TONS of handy information of any national park you visit, it provides space for ‘cancellation’ stamps which can be found in almost every national park in the system. What could be (cool)er than visiting parks and getting stamps if you’re a kid? Or hey, an adult. We like stamps, too. A $20 Amazon purchase that’s definitely worth it!
Have a Fourth Grader? You Can Get In For Free
If you happen to have a kiddo that just completed fourth grade, be sure to nab a FREE park pass. As part of the Every Kid in a Park Initiative, fourth graders (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age) is eligible for FREE entry into national parks. Just be sure to go to the Every Kid in a Park Website in advance to sign up and get your pass. You need to print your pass and bring it with you when you visit. Electronic copies aren’t accepted.
Don’t worry. The rest of your family can get in free with your 4th grader. The pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
Why fourth grade? Research shows that kids ages nine to 11 are beginning to learn about the world around them. They’re open to new ideas, and they are likely to connect to nature and history.
If your child is going into fourth grade next school year, you can apply for the 4th Grade Pass in September! It will be good through August 31, 2019.
Editor’s Note: If you click on the Passport to Your National Parks link and purchase one from Amazon, we may receive a small commission.