Maryland is a small state with a wide range of spectacular terrain. From the Blue Ridge mountains in the west to the Eastern Shore, there’s no shortage of gorgeous views. That’s especially true in autumn when Maryland’s fall foliage takes center stage.
Whether you prefer camping in the woods or strolling through quaint historic towns, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the top ten places to catch the best Maryland fall foliage.
State and National Parks
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities for leaf peeping in Maryland. Every region of this beautiful state has at least one state or national park. Here are five of the best parks for taking in Maryland’s fall foliage!
1. Seneca Creek State Park
Outdoor enthusiasts will love Seneca Creek State Park. It’s home to the Schaeffer Farm Trail System, which offers over fifty miles of scenic trails. These trails are arranged in a series of loops stretching all the way from Damascus to the Potomac.
Hikers, bikers, and equestrians will have plenty of close-up views of autumnal color. However you travel the trails, Seneca Creek State Park is a perfect fall destination.
Bring a picnic so you can take in the Maryland fall foliage around the ninety-acre Clopper Lake. While swimming and wading aren’t allowed at Clopper Lake, you can rent a boat and enjoy the scenery that way. Children will love visiting the recycled tire playground, too!
2. C & O Canal National Historic Park
Originally constructed to transport coal, the C & O Canal stretches from Washington, D.C. to Williamsport, Maryland. The C & O National Historic Park now offers over one hundred and eighty miles of scenic views. For the best of Maryland’s fall foliage, you’ll want to plan plenty of time for exploring the towpath.
The rocky towpath is an easy walk for most hikers. Bikers are welcome, too, but be aware that the speed limit is 15 miles per hour. The scenery is so beautiful in autumn you won’t want to speed past, anyway!
The canal itself offers plenty of scenic views, too. Fishermen are welcome to bring their rods and reels to the canal. Canoeing, kayaking, and boating are allowed from the canal and into the Potomac River.
Take in all the autumn foliage on one of the public canal boat programs headed by a park ranger. You can travel the canal and learn its history at the same time! These public canal boat programs offer tours while riding on an 1870s packet boat or a 1900s electric launch boat.
3. Elk Neck State Park
Elk Neck State Park is home to the historic Turkey Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was originally intended to safely guide boats around the tip of Elk Neck Peninsula. Today, visitors are welcome to climb the lighthouse stairs and take in a beautiful view of Maryland’s fall foliage.
Elk Neck State Park is also a great site for camping, especially in the cooler fall temperatures. A variety of rustic, youth, and miniature cabins are available for rental. Be sure to stop by the Nature Center, too, for hands-on activities and fall programming.
Photographers and birders will love this location because of all the wildlife. Hawks, loons, and orioles are especially active during their fall migration. If you’re lucky, you might even see bald eagles along the shoreline!
4. Gunpowder Falls State Park
Stretching across both Baltimore and Harford Counties, this is one of Maryland’s largest parks. Gunpowder Falls State Park has spectacular views from every angle of its over eighteen thousand acres!
The park has incredibly varied terrain, from Gunpowder River and tidal wetlands to steep, rocky slopes. Hike to either or both of the Gunpowder Falls and enjoy the majestic view!
Don’t miss the other waterways in this large state park. While it might be a little cold in the fall for swimming, there are plenty of ways to get in the water while enjoying Maryland’s fall foliage. Gunpowder Falls State Park offers lots of opportunities for tubing, kayaking, and boating.
5. Patapsco Valley State Park
Located along the Patapsco River, Patapsco Valley State Park extends into both Howard and Baltimore Counties. This park has amazing trails for hiking and horseback riding. If you want to take in all of the Patapsco Valley’s autumnal color, spend the weekend camping!
The Patapsco Valley State Park is nationally known for its beautiful scenery and two hundred miles of trails. Photographers searching for the best trip to capture Maryland’s fall foliage will have endless opportunities here.
You don’t have to go hiking to see the best Maryland fall foliage. Maryland has plenty of historic sites and picturesque towns that come alive with color every autumn. Plan a day trip or book a weekend getaway to these scenic locales!
6. Deep Creek Lake
Deep Creek Lake is well known for its autumn color. Good Housekeeping, Travel & Leisure, U.S. News, and World Report have all listed Oakland, Maryland among the best small towns to see fall foliage.
You can’t beat the location. Tucked in the mountains of Western Maryland and surrounding Deep Creek Lake, Oakland has no shortage of beautiful scenery. Don’t miss the annual Autumn Glory Festival, when the community hosts a five-day celebration of Maryland fall foliage!
Since Deep Creek Lake is a popular vacation spot, you’ll have plenty of rental options. Many visitors book a cabin by the lake for a mini-getaway and spend time boating, too. Book early because this well-known vacation spot is especially popular in the fall!
7. Chestertown, MD
For breathtaking scenic views, you can’t miss a road trip down Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Take a self-guided driving tour of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway for forty-five historical sites and over one hundred and twenty-five miles of scenery. You’ll see plenty of Maryland fall foliage and waterfront views on this historic tour.
Finish up your road trip with a weekend getaway in Chestertown, Maryland. This historic waterside town has plenty to see and do. Whether you prefer a weekend of adventurous kayaking, family-friendly parks, or tours of the town’s history, Chestertown has it all.
8. Brookside Gardens
This fifty-acre park in Montgomery County, Maryland has something for every season. In the autumn, you can see brilliant dogwood, Japanese maple, and winged euonymus take center stage.
Brookside Gardens includes a large number of conservatories, formal gardens, and other designated areas. For the best view of Maryland fall foliage, check out the Woodland Walk and Maple Terrace. However, you can count on beautiful displays of autumn color from every area of Brookside Gardens!
If you’re traveling with children, make sure they get to see the Children’s Garden. This area is also called ‘Explore Maryland!’ and has an incredible, interactive display of the state’s native plants. It’s a memorable way to explore fall foliage from every region of the state!
9. Historic Annapolis, MD
The capital city of Maryland is best known for its waterfront views, but it also has a beautiful display of Maryland fall foliage. Annapolis is considered one of the most walkable towns in the United States. Stroll through the downtown area for the day or book a hotel to enjoy the weekend!
Founded in 1649, this busy city still retains plenty of historic charm. You’ll have no shortage of eateries, quaint shops, and historic tours during your stay. The trees in downtown Annapolis cover the city in vibrant color every fall.
Top it all off with a visit to the United States Naval Academy campus. In the fall, you’ll often see midshipmen in formal brigade parades–especially before a home game. What better way to celebrate autumn than by enjoying fall foliage and a football game in Annapolis?
10. Thurmont, MD
In northern Frederick County, Maryland, the town of Thurmont sits at the foot of the Catoctin Mountains. If you’re looking for a 360-degree view of Maryland fall foliage, this is the town to visit!
Plan your trip in mid-October to see the annual Catoctin Colorfest. This juried arts and crafts festival features over three hundred vendors in the Community Park. However, the whole town gets in on the fun to celebrate autumn!
While you’re in the area, take time to see the Maryland fall foliage up close at Cunningham Falls State Park. There are plenty of easy walking trails along with more difficult hikes. From an annual fall festival to scenic public hiking trails, Thurmont has everything you need for an amazing autumn getaway.
Catching the Best Maryland Fall Foliage
Whether you prefer hiking trails or strolling through town, there are plenty of ways to take in Maryland’s fall foliage. Book your campsite or bed and breakfast early, especially if you’re planning to visit a local fall festival. Since Maryland is known for its beautiful autumn color, events like Autumn Glory and Catoctin Colorfest are very popular!
In fact, Maryland has plenty of fun activities once the leaves begin to turn. Visit one of the incredible apple orchards throughout the state. Then, check out some of the best pumpkin patches in Maryland!
- About the Author
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Ellen Smith is a novelist, freelance education writer, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards.
While quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellen and her family started gardening. They are now in their third year of maintaining a vegetable garden, two flower gardens, and several thriving house plants.
With a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology and a master’s in education, Ellen is no stranger to researching and sharing what she’s learned. Ellen especially enjoys learning and writing about sustainable gardening practices and native plants.
Ellen can be reached at email@example.com