With a network of unmarked trails spanning several miles, Patuxent River State Park is an equal drive from both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
The park is located on the upper section of the Patuxent River in Woodbine, Md., and is a popular spot for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and hunting. The hiking trails all lead from various parking lots within the park's grounds, part of which is a state wildlands area. The trails are mostly flat and offer a nice escape from Washington (34 miles away) and Baltimore (36 miles).
What Makes It Great
Patuxent River State Park is different from other parks we've reviewed here in that there isn't a defined system of hiking trails. Instead, a network of unmarked trails snakes through the park. There's no telling how many miles there are — some people walk around for two miles, while other groups tackle four miles or more. How far you go is really up to you.
Perhaps the best feature of hiking at Patuxent River State Park is the peaceful atmosphere. Ask anyone who has spent time here and they'll tell you their hike was quiet and felt secluded from the real world. If your goal is to get away for a few hours and experience nature, this park will help you achieve that.
The park is frequented by horseback riders, which can be a good and a bad thing for these natural surface trails. Good in that the horses help blaze a path, but when the trail is wet either in the spring or after a lot of rain, it turns into a muddy mess. Your best bet is to go here in the summer or fall when the weather — and the ground — is a bit drier.
As far as hunting at the park is concerned, there are clearly defined areas for this so you don't have to worry about any safety issues if you're there for a hike.
Who is Going to Love It
Experienced hikers will enjoy Patuxent River State Park for its remote feel. Stepping foot on the trails takes you to another world, and it won't seem like you're only 30 or so miles from the nearest major city.
Because the trails are unmarked, however, it's best to come prepared with food and water. And, like any hike, always bring a buddy or a family member with you.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Patuxent River State Park is a short drive from both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. From D.C., take 495 and merge onto 270 north. From there, jump on 370 east, and then take Shady Grove Road east, Airpark Road, and 124 north to 108 west. The park is off that road.
From Baltimore, take 695 and get onto 70 west. Exit that road at Rt. 94 and drive south. The park is about seven miles down that way.