Best Parks and Trails in Baltimore

Many of the best parks in Baltimore offer fun opportunities for outdoor recreation, as well as a glimpse into the city’s historic past. In fact, several spots played a significant role in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. These spots range between some of the largest city parks in the country to nationally recognized gardens and trails.

While hiking near Baltimore, visitors can also take advantage of other recreational amenities, such as pools, zoos, skating facilities and wildflower preserves. Some Baltimore hiking trails can even be found just outside of the airport to give travelers a quick stretch between flights. Learn about some of the top spots for hiking, biking and other outdoor fun around Baltimore below.

Top Parks and Trails

BWI Airport Hiker-Biker Trail

The Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport is not a location where most visitors would expect to find a 12.5 mile bike trail. Nevertheless, the BWI Trail begins just outside the terminal and circles around the airport. For those without a bike on hand, a convenient bike rental is set up at the entrance to the terminal, as well.

In addition to offering one of the best spots for cycling in Baltimore, BWI Airport also provides access to a Cardio Trail. This consists of two different American Heart Association walking paths that loop around the terminal. Both offer about a 20 minute walk so travelers can stretch their legs before or after their flights.

Patapsco State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park is a massive park that follows 32 miles of the Patapsco River. As a result, the area offers dozens of trails for avid hikers and bikers, as well as those interested in fishing, camping and even horseback riding. This spot is recognized nationally for its hiking opportunities, boasting over 200 miles worth of trails to explore. While some of these trails are reserved for hiking only, many others are open to mountain bikers as well. The rest of the surrounding 16,043 acres are divided into eight maintained recreational areas for visitors to enjoy.

Gwynns Falls And Leakin Park

Sitting adjacently along the Gwynns Falls Stream, these two parks in Baltimore make up one of the largest woodland park areas in the country. Combined, these parks span more than 1,000 acres just northwest of the city center. This area offers a number of recreational opportunities, including tennis courts and other sports fields. Leakin is also well-known for its miniature trains that visitors can ride.

The main trail in the area is the Gwynns Falls Trail, a 15-mile path that is recognized as a National Heritage Area for the city. It winds through the historic urban greenway, along with several smaller trails throughout the parks.

Patterson Park

The oldest of all the parks in Baltimore, Patterson offers residents both a wealth of recreational activities and a storied past. This site marks where American troops prepared for the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812. Over a decade later, Patterson became the city’s first official park. During the Civil War, this area also served as a hospital and camp for the Union soldiers, known as Camp Washburn.

Since then, the park has expanded to over 130 acres, and now includes amenities like a boat lake, ice skating rink and wildlife center. The Patterson Park Pool is a particularly popular spot, offering a variety of swimming sessions for all ages.

Cylburn Arboretum

One of the more scenic and leisurely spots for hiking near Baltimore, the grounds of this historic mansion consist of 200 acres of trees, plant life and walkable trails. After serving as a private estate and later a children’s welfare home, this spot eventually became the city’s biggest public garden. It was previously known as the Cylburn Wildflower Preserve and Garden Center, until the name was changed to recognize the natural woodlands that exist on the property as well. More than just a park, the arboretum also aims to teach visitors through its educational center, museum and summer camps.

Druid Hill Park

Another of the oldest parks in Baltimore, Druid Hill is known as the city’s first municipal park and spans around 745 acres just north of the city center. It was originally part of the American Parks Movement that focused on establishing parks in urban areas, and is now a part of the National Register of Historic Places. The Jones Falls Trail is a popular hiking path that runs through the woodland area of this site.

Aside from the trail, this park is also home to the Maryland Zoo and one of the oldest Victorian glass conservatories in the country. Popular Druid Hill Park events include the weekly farmer’s market and the Ride Around program, which provides bikes for visitors to ride around the Druid Hill Reservoir.

Sherwood Gardens

Like the arboretum, this Baltimore park offers a historic treasure trove for flower lovers to appreciate. Once an estate owned by the Baltimore Sun’s founder, the site is now considered one of the most well-known tulip garden in all of North America. Each spring, Sherwood hosts a showcase during which 80,000 tulip bulbs are planted throughout the estate, as well as an abundance of other flower species.

Visitors are invited to explore the six acres of gardens throughout the year. This property is dog friendly and picnics on the green are encouraged, though it is important to be mindful of the crowds during peak season.

Charm City Skatepark

For those interested in more indoor recreational opportunities, this skate park offers 28,000 square feet of warehouse space for skateboarding, rollerblading and BMX biking. Visitors can pay a small fee to use the facilities from afternoon to evening throughout the week. Features include ramps, rails and even a foam pit to experiment with. As the first skate park in Baltimore, Charm City is a popular spot in the community, and hosts many events including visits from professional skateboarders.

Loch Raven Reservoir

This large reservoir not only provides drinking water to the city, but it is also surrounded by many of the best Baltimore hiking trails, offering amazing views and some challenging paths. Hikers and bikers of any skill level can find an exciting trail here. For example, Deadman’s Cove Trail offers a short and easy scenic hike around the reservoir. Those looking for more of a challenge can check out the 9.3-mile Merryman’s Mill Trail. The hike becomes more challenging as visitors progress down the path through wooded areas, where the crumbling structures of old houses and a cemetery can be spotted.