Travel: Close to Home Adventures

I have lived in Maryland my whole life, and I still find myself discovering new trails and picture-perfect places to explore. I recently posted a poll on my Instagram story asking who wants to learn more about what – local adventures or nearby adventures? The results were basically 50/50, so I decided to make a post combining the two. Here you will find my personal favorites, starting with closest to home (Havre de Grace, MD) to places within three hours away from home.

Susquehanna State Park
Havre de Grace, MD 

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Located right off Rock Run Rd in Havre de Grace, Susquehanna State Park contains about 15 miles of different hiking trails for you to wander on and a TON of great photography spots. Not only is it full of scenic views but also includes historical areas for you to discover. The longest and most challenging trail is the red-blazed Ridge Trail (3 miles).  If you have horses, all trails are equestrian-friendly, except that purple blaze around the Mansion. Camping is available on the campground and is open April through October. The photos above (left) is of the Millpond found along the purple-blazed trail and (right) is the side of the Carriage Barn.

Rock State Park
Falling Branch/Kilgore Falls
Pylesville, MD 

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Kilgore Falls is the second highest free-falling waterfall in Harford County! It features a 1.3 mile loop trail that splits towards the water – you can go up to the trail to the top of the waterfall or venture down to get a view of the waterfall (like pictured above). The fall time is personally my favorite time of year to visit. The trail is easy and suitable for kids and pets. The only downside to here is the parking is limited to 28 spots. The summertime is the most popular time (of course), and the park officials will sit at the lot to make sure there is no illegal parking along the road, so getting there early is key in the summertime! To get to the waterfall you do need to cross the water, but it’s an easy hop across a few rocks (but be careful!). If you really want to get the full experience, visit Eagle Nest Outfitters to get yourself a cozy hammock to relax in.

Gunpowder Falls State Park
Swimming Hole
Kingsville, MD

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The swimming hole here is by far, my favorite spot to be on a hot summer day. The Wildlands Loop trail is a moderate 5 mile (both ways) hike along the Gunpowder River. The best parking lot for this trail is off Bel Air Road, directly across from the Gunpowder Lodge. There are a few trails at this parking lot, but to make sure you’re on the right one, head through the tunnel and follow the white blazes allllll the way down to the swimming hole (which you will find on your left). Although it is not a secret spot, it is, however, less crowded than Pot Rocks (located the opposite direction of the swimming hole). Please be cautious here though, there is a large Copperhead snake (who I named Henry) that claims this swimming hole his home. He does make himself known while you are there, but honestly, I have never had a problem with Henry.

Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve
Holtwood, PA

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Tucquan Glen is a 2.2 mile trail tucked away alongside the Susquehanna River – it’s one of the most enjoyable trails I’ve hiked in awhile! It reminds me of something out of Jurassic Park. The photo above was taken in October, but honestly, I am more excited to hike it in the winter when there is snow!  To me the trail is moderate but to others, it may be more moderate-intense. At the beginning of the trail, you have a narrow but well-maintained path to walk along the water. There are a few up and down hills, a lot of rocks along the path, however, so wear your hiking boots! When looking for parking, don’t drive too fast down Rt. 372 or you will pass it! There is a small parking lot on the right and just past that lot is an even smaller one on the left. To start the hike, follow the yellow blazes all the way out to the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks. Once you get to the tracks and enjoy the view for a little, walk to the left of the yellow trail and you will find the start of the blue blazed trail. The blue trail runs parallel to the yellow trail on the other side of the creek. Along this side of the hike, you will find waterfalls along the way and a handful of interesting finds.

Great Falls
McLean, VA

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If you want big waterfalls and rapids, Great Falls is a must-see. The photo above was taken after venturing off the recommended path and climbing a few rocks, but you can still find amazing views along the trails. There is an entrance fee of $10 when entering the parks, but it is totally worth it! (If you plan to visit more than once a year, I’d recommend the Annual Pass for $20). There are two sides of this park and while both sides are fun to explore, I would recommend the C&O Canal National Historical Park over the Great Falls National Park. The C&O Canal is across the river on the Maryland side with more trails to wander on, such as the Billy Goat Trail A. This trail is one of the most difficult trails in the East. The only downside to this trail is there are no dogs allowed and if you’re afraid of heights, I don’t suggest hiking this trail.  Overall, there is so much to do at Great Falls and although it is a moderately-trafficked park, there is still a lot to explore on your own here!

Shenandoah National Park
Luray, VA

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Shenandoah has over 500 miles of hiking trails and while I would love to say I have hiked them all, I have not (yet). My favorite trail in the Central District is Dark Hallow Falls, mainly because it has a waterfall that is fun to climb up! The photo above was taken alongside Skyline Drive. Old Rag trail is also a trail I highly recommend but be prepared because this trail is 9.2 miles and intense. Thinking of camping and hiking a week here in the Spring of 2018, who’s in?!