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Top 10 Places to Bike in Maryland

Map of top 10 places to bike in Maryland.

From scenic coastal trails and heavily-trafficked city paths to long-distance journeys through beautiful wooded forests, mountainous landscapes, and historic structures, Maryland offers some of the best biking adventures. To see a little bit of everything, check out these top-rated Maryland trails for biking.

1. Anacostia River Trail – Washington D.C. to Bladensburg, MD

Bridge on the Anacostia River Trail with a train.

The Anacostia River Trail is a beautiful 20-mile that spans both sides of the Anacostia River and connects 16 waterfront neighborhoods to local outdoor recreation areas, shopping centers, schools, and more. The trail’s surface varies throughout, but overall, it’s a very family-friendly and moderately easy route for biking.

One of the main highlights along the Anacostia River Trail is the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. This beautiful nature oasis allows cyclists to stop and enjoy its water gardens, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. You won’t want to miss its 500-year-old lotus and tropical lilies! At the trail’s official terminus, it also connects with several other popular biking routes in the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, so you can continue your ride further if you want to.

There are paid parking lots near the southern end of the trail, and public parking is also available at Anacostia Park and Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.

Tips: Since the surface of this trail ranges from smooth and paved to crushed limestone and wooden boardwalks, it’s best to bike with wider tires if you can.

2. Baltimore and Annapolis (B&A) Trail – Annapolis to Glen Burnie, MD

Curved path way on the B&A Trail.

The Baltimore and Annapolis Trail (or the B&A Trail) is a paved, 13-mile bike trail that’s part of the East Coast Greenway trail system. A rail-trail built along with the old Annapolis and Baltimore Short Line, the B&A Trail is great for families who want an interactive way to cycle together.

Along the route, you’ll pass many educational features, including historical markers, a refurbished ranger station originally built in 1889, and the Planet Walk, a linear museum about the solar system! Both kids and adults will enjoy the astronomy lessons while biking between parks, over wooden bridges, and through neighborhoods. There are a few slightly steep sections on the trail, but it’s a very gentle ride overall.

There is public parking available in Severna Park, where you can explore the historic ranger station before hopping on the trail for a ride.

Tips: The B&A Trail also connects to the BWI trail, a 12.5-mile loop around Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

3. Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath – Georgetown to Cumberland, MD

Curved pathway next to the canel on the C&O Towpath.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath (or C&O Canal Towpath) is one of the longest biking trails in the United States! At 184.5 miles long, there’s so much to see and do while you cycle this route. Whether you go out for a day trip or you pack up your bike for a longer adventure, you won’t be disappointed with this ride.

The C&O Canal Towpath stretches almost the entire length of Maryland, and there are plenty of places to stop and eat, drink, or rest right off the trail. As you ride, you’ll bike through the famous Paw Paw Tunnel, built-in 1850. You can also stop for several side trips to different historic sites, natural areas, and attractions on the route, including the Glenstone Museum, Seneca Creek State Park, Antietam National Battlefield, historic lock houses, and much more. With convenient primitive campsites and bed and breakfasts all along the way, this popular trail is a long-distance biker’s dream come true.

There are many entrance points along the length of the trail, so it’s best to plan your trip in advance.

Tips: If you bike this trail west to east, it’s a downhill trip in that direction. Otherwise, bike it in the opposite direction if you want more of a challenge. And if you don’t want to bike the entire route, consider choosing a single region of the towpath to explore.

4. Great Allegheny Passage – Cumberland to Pittsburgh, PA

Leaves falling on Great Allegheny Passage

The Great Allegheny Passage (or GAP) is a breathtaking 159-mile bike trail that offers cyclists a scenic and relatively flat journey through the Appalachian Mountains and the Maryland countryside. The crushed limestone trail follows old footpaths and railroad lines through the wilderness and offers stunning views of waterfalls, river valleys, farmland, and more.

The Great Allegheny Passage traverses through the Cumberland Narrows (a scenic, deep gorge), the magnificent mountainous Laurel Highlands region, and cuts through the 20,500-acre Ohiopyle State Park. The journey also leads you through the region’s mining and steel-making corridor before reaching its end at Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh.

Parking and signage are plentiful all along the Great Allegheny Passage, making it easy to get on the trail at many different points.

Tips: At Point State Park, you can also stop and visit the Fort Pitt Museum to learn more about how Fort Pitt and the Western Pennsylvania region helped shape the course of American history.

5. Assateague State Park – Assateague Island

Wild horses at the Assateague State Park in Maryland.

Located on the Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park is Maryland’s only oceanfront park. It offers cyclists a beautiful and exciting bike ride through a wildlife refuge that’s home to a majestic herd of wild horses. The island itself is half in Maryland and half in Virginia, but the Maryland section provides plenty of scenic cycling opportunities with views of the surrounding bay, Atlantic Ocean, and pristine sandy beaches.

On the Maryland side of the Assateague Island National Seashore, the paved park roads offer bike lanes separated from the main road by a wooden rail. You can also follow a non-separated bike lane along the road to the campground, South Ocean Beach, and enjoy access to all the other beaches. If you choose to bike on the Virginia side of the island, you’ll enjoy nearly 7 miles of trails that weave through the beautiful oceanside landscape.

Assateague State Park is located at the end of Stephen Decatur Highway (Route 611).

Tips: Camping overnight is a great way to turn this bike ride into a multi-day adventure! There are plenty of campsites at Assateague State Park, some with electricity and others that are pet-friendly too. Just make sure to reserve your site in advance.

6. Baltimore Waterfront Promenade – Baltimore, MD

View of Baltimore skyline on the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade.

If you want to explore the most populated city in Maryland by bike, the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade is a popular cycling route along the city’s inner harbor. This area is packed full of activities, museums, fresh seafood restaurants, and scenic waterfront views, so it’s a great way to experience the city’s unique culture.

Previously, biking wasn’t allowed on the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade, but thanks to recent bike improvements to the route, it is now! Try cycling from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry for a fun 3.2-mile ride along the waterfront. You’ll pass plenty of points of interest along the way, including the Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, and end at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

There are many places to park your car in downtown Baltimore near the inner harbor. Just pay attention to those parking fees, as they can get pretty high!

Tips: This area can get busy with pedestrians, so bike slowly and cautiously or head out early in the day before it gets too busy. After your ride, take some time to stop by the National Aquarium, one of the top attractions in the area!

7. Patapsco Valley State Park – Ellicott City, MD

Path at the Patapsco Valley State Park.

Patapsco Valley State Park stretches along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, featuring 16,000 acres and 8 developed recreational areas. It’s also a very popular place for mountain biking and is home to more than 200 miles of trails.

The mountain biking at Patapsco Valley State Park has something for everyone, with great flowy multi-use trails and some technical areas too. There are some challenging hills, but the climbs aren’t overly difficult, and the descents are great fun! One of the most highly-rated multi-use trails in the park is the Cascade Falls Loop Trail, a 2.3-mile trail featuring an elevation gain of 318 feet with a few stream crossings and beautiful views of spectacular waterfalls. Just watch your speed because the path is open to hikers too!

For directions to the park, visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Tips: You’ll have to pay a fee to enter Patapsco Valley State Park and the cost varies depending on the season and the day of the week.

8. Three Notch Trail – Charlotte Hall to Laurel Grove, MD

Paved path at The Three Notch Trail.

The Three Notch Trail is a 13-mile trail in Southern Maryland. It’s paved and smooth for an easy and gentle ride through the beautifully wooded landscape. It’s built on a former railroad and features interpretive signs along the route that provide more information on the history of the railroad and the area’s native plants and animals.

If you’re a nature-loving cyclist, you’ll enjoy the Three Notch Trail for its calming and peaceful sights and sounds. You’ll pass several schools, community facilities, and Fifth District Park, which has a playground, recreational sports fields, and picnic areas. 

To access the Three Notch Trail, park at the John V. Baggett Park trailhead in Laurel Grove.

Tips: Local Amish and Mennonite residents can bring their horses and buggies onto certain sections of this trail, so watch carefully for those as you cycle.

9. Green Ridge State Forest – Flintstone, MD

Muddy mountain biker on the trail at The Green Ridge State Forest.

The Green Ridge State Forest is Maryland’s second-largest state forest, featuring 48,000 acres of oak and hickory forests with pockets of barren desert-like land due to its low levels of rainfall. With more than 80 miles of trails, this beautiful state forest is the perfect place to enjoy an off-road adventure on two wheels.

Before heading out for a ride on one of the trails here, check that it permits cycling because some do not. However, the Green Ridge Mountain Bike Trail is an excellent option for bikers. It’s a 12.5-mile route that features moderate to difficult riding features. It’s primarily a single-track trail and winds through the rugged natural landscape of the forest, offering a thrilling escape into nature and putting your biking and endurance skills to the test.

Please visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for directions to Green Ridge State Forest.

Tips: The Green Ridge trail system is also a gateway to several other great biking routes, connecting to the Buchanan State Forest Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park Trail.

10. Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area – Elkton, MD

Fair Hill Natural Resource Area, a state park of Maryland, located in Fair Hill; looking southward at the bridge over Big Elk Creek, from along Black Bridge Road.

The 5,656-acre Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Northeast Maryland is strongly associated with equestrian events and sports, but it’s also home to some of the best mountain biking trails in the state!

Known for its natural beauty, Fair Hill is home to a rugged 80-mile trail system. Beginners will enjoy the Red Trail (2.5 miles), which offers a less technical ride through wooded areas, open fields, and across Grammies Run Creek. On the other hand, the Orange Trail (5.8 miles) gives experienced mountain bikers more of a challenge, winding through rolling hills and featuring a few steep climbs.

The address of the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area park office is 300 Tawes Drive, Elkton, MD 21921.

Tips: If it’s rainy or muddy, consider riding the Blue Diamond Trail (6.5 miles) instead. It’s a double-track gravel trail that features historic ruins, horse pastures, and Big Elk Creek.

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References:

  1. https://www.traillink.com/trail/anacostia-river-trail/
  2. https://www.aacounty.org/departments/recreation-parks/parks/trails/banda-trail/
  3. https://www.canaltrust.org/plan/
  4. https://www.visitmaryland.org/scenic-byways/chesapeake-ohio-canal 
  5. https://gaptrail.org
  6. https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/pages/eastern/assateague.aspx
  7. https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/baltimore-national-heritage-area.htm 
  8. https://www.npca.org/articles/96-maryland-s-new-star-spangled-land-and-water-trail 
  9. https://www.trailforks.com/region/patapsco-valley-state-park/
  10. https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/maryland/patapsco-valley-state-park/mountain-biking 
  11. https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/patapsco.aspx 
  12. https://www.traillink.com/trail/three-notch-trail/
  13. https://www.stmarysmd.com/docs/threenotchtrailbrochure.pdf 
  14. https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/publiclands/Greenridge/Trails.aspx
  15. https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/FH-NRMA-Map-Brochure.pdf

Photo Sources:

Tim Evanson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Onore Baka Sama, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
daveynin from United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Fritz Geller-Grimm, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Elliott R. Plack, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
David Wilson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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