Highly regarded as one of the best state parks in Maryland, Patapsco Valley State Park is a must-visit for RV lovers on the east coast. Named after The Patapsco River that runs right on through the valley, the park is very popular and attracts both locals and visitors alike who are looking to get back to nature.
Located only 12 miles from the center of Baltimore, Patapsco Valley State Park had the honor of being crowned the first state park in Maryland when it was officially opened in 2006. Before being designated as a state park, it was originally a forest reserve that opened way back in 1906. The park also made history by being home to the first Civilian Public Service; it was a place for conscientious objectors to serve in the military without fighting in the war.
There is so much to see and do at Patapsco Valley State Park that it won't be possible to fit in everything on your first trip. There are more than 16,000 acres of untouched beauty for you to explore, including over 20 miles of hiking trails, multiple water-based recreational activities, a disc golf course, and several picnic areas. The terrain of the park is mostly woodlands, but there are also plenty of diverse regions, thanks to the prominence of the Patapsco River.
For RV lovers wanting to stay at the park, there is one campground suitable that comes equipped with electrical hookups. There are also group, tent, and cabin camping options in the park if you are looking for something a little different. With adventures abound and much to explore, it's time to take in as much of Patapsco Valley as possible.
RV Rentals in Patapsco Valley State Park
Transportation in Patapsco Valley State Park
Getting to and from Patapsco Valley State Park is relatively simple since it is close to Baltimore. There are numerous ways to access the park with the most popular being via the Baltimore National Turnpike. Using the westbound entrance for most RVs will be difficult, so the majority of travelers recommend entering from the eastbound section.
Driving is the only fully connected way to get around the entirety of Patapsco Valley State Park since it is so large. Typically, being parked at the campgrounds means you won't be getting very far north or south of the park. These are two very different feels. The northern end is full of serene surroundings and is a bit quieter—great for hiking — the southern end sports all the historic sites and the iconic Swinging Bridge.
When traveling across the park, guests will find six distinct and unique areas. Patapsco Valley State Park's individual sections offer a plethora of services, amenities, and outdoor opportunities. With busy seasons come busy crowds; if any areas are full, you can always move on to the next. Each holds its own charm and scenic landscape. Parking can be found in all main areas of Avalon, Daniels, Hilton, Hollofield, McKeldin, and Pickall. Be sure to stop by them all before you see your trip through.
If you're staying overnight, you'll be parking your rig in Hollofield Campground. Parking can be a bit tricky, and somewhat tight for larger hauls. The campground hosts are quite gracious and readily assist guests with any issues, so you won't have to go it alone.
Campgrounds and parking in Patapsco Valley State Park
Campsites in Patapsco Valley State Park
Hollofield Campground is the only RV friendly campground within Patapsco Valley State Park that you can call home during your stay. Open all year, the campground features 26 sites that are suitable for RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length. Some spots can be tricky for larger rigs, but the campground hosts are noted as being very creative with helping their guests find solutions.
The campground does have some sites available with 30-amp electric hookups, and overall, the sites are rather spacious and allow for reasonable privacy and shade. There should be no need to level your site as they all have a gravel pad. Each site also has a fire ring and picnic table for you to enjoy. Campground-wide amenities include a bathhouse with restrooms, an RV dump station, potable water, and firewood for sale. The campground is pet-friendly, and generator use is permitted, but you must follow the park's quiet time requirements. Reservations are highly encouraged, especially if you want to stay at a powered site. If you do decide to make a reservation, they can be made up to one year in advance.
Washington DC / Capitol KOA
Another great RV friendly camping option outside of the park is the Washington DC / Capitol KOA. Located in Millersville, this campground is perfect for RV lovers who also want to explore Washington D.C thanks to a shuttle bus that will take you to the capital city for a day of historical exploration.
Suitable for RVs up to 90 feet in length, there are over 80 sites for you to choose from that vary from having 30 and 50 amp full hookups to being water and electric only. The campground also has plenty of handy amenities, including showers, toilets, a jumping pillow, camp store, basketball courts, a pool, and a nature trail. You also have the option to rent bikes, use Wi-Fi, or visit the dog park with your furry friend. Washington DC / Capitol KOA is open from the beginning of March to the end of November, and reservations are recommended since it is a popular place to stay. Quiet hours at the campground are from 10 PM to 8 AM.
Hilton Area Campground
While the Hilton Area Campground isn't suitable for RV camping, if you want your options open, you can use this campground for alternate purposes. The Hilton Area features tent-only sites, six cabins, and four group camping sites. All of these sites vary in length, but they are all equipped with fire pits and picnic tables. All of the tent-only sites are primitive with no hookups, but the cabins feature electricity, heaters, a full-size and set of bunk beds. If you are traveling with a group and want to stay in the group camping area, you will have to organize a reservation in advance to ensure a site is secured. Camp hosts will also be able to help you with any questions you may have about the Hilton Area Campground.
Seasonal activities in Patapsco Valley State Park
Trekking Across the Swinging Bridge
This point of interest is easily recognizable and is a destination you'll readily recall for years to come. The remarkable Swinging Bridge is an iconic area that visitors flock to experience. It actually swings, too — making this bridge a unique and fun crossing experience. As if the bridge wasn't enough, it's what's below it that is worth even more of the attention. The views of the Patapsco River are absolutely astounding from atop the bridge.
Many come to the outdoors to get a taste of some excellent hiking, biking, and more. But, when you use a wheelchair, your options may seem much more limiting. Luckily, Patapsco Valley State Park is one of many state parks that has worked to keep as many areas as possible accessible to guests of all abilities. The Grist Mill Trail, situated in the Orange Grove Area, and close to the famed Swinging Bridge, is a wheelchair accessible, paved, wide, level path. This pleasant layout features cutouts along the way that go out to the river, and are great for exploratory visitors.
Biking Along the River
Patapsco Valley State Park runs as a diagonal line, west to east, across Maryland. It's an expanse that follows along the Patapsco River and is carved by changes in terrain and natural landmarks. It's a mountain biking paradise out here, with miles upon miles of loops that intertwine and make for varying levels of trails to conquer. You'll definitely want to ditch the four wheels for two; biking is one of the more popular ways you'll see visitors zipping around the park.
As early as about mid-March, eager park guests can shuffle in and start casting their lines. It's a popular pastime to see folks enjoying out here, whether along the water's edge or even those who wade right on in. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources readily stocks public streams and ponds, meaning Patapsco Valley State Park's waters are brimming with hungry mouths. Some avid anglers opt for the river shore near the Orange Grove Swinging Bridge, while others enjoy Lost Pond's bounty. So park your camper and find your favorite fishing spot!
Located all the way at the top of the park in what is known as the McKeldin Area of Patapsco Valley, visitors will find a disc golf course perfect for some fun for people of all ages. The course consists of 18 holes that feature a mixture of open, blocked, and wooded areas that prove to be challenging. Whether it's your first go at this fun sport, or you're a seasoned pro, you're sure to take away an afternoon full of fun memories. If you don't have any discs, you can ask staff members if there are any available for rent, but regardless, it will be a good idea to bring your own.
During a hot summer day, there is no better way to cool off than by jumping in the Patapsco River for a swim. There are plenty of different areas for you to splash about at throughout the park, and nearly all of the river is open to swimming. One of the more popular swimming spots is in the Daniels Area. Here you will find a natural pool-like swimming area thanks to Daniels Dam. There is no guarantee that any lifeguards will be on duty during your time at the park, so take precautions when swimming.
The valley and state park are home to a vast community of birds waiting for you to admire. Most species to frequent this area of Maryland fall within the forest-interior dwelling species and shrubland species. There are several important watchlist species of birds that find solace in the Patapsco Valley forests and shrublands, so you may get to spot some pieces of nature that you've never seen before! Be sure to bring your binoculars in your camper to assist you in finding the birds hiding in the tall trees or distant shrubs. Hot tip: ask one of the friendly staff for their favorite birding areas, and you might get to witness even more activity.
Visiting the Playground
Another area of the park, dubbed the Avalon area, is the ideal playtime getaway for kids with a bit of extra energy. Maybe all that hiking and exploring has been quite enough yet? This colorful, eye-catching playground is a pretty choice among visiting kids. Climb, slide, laugh, and play until you can't anymore. Besides the play structure, an additional area with swings is also available that accommodates kids of all ages and abilities.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Patapsco State Park thanks to the 32 miles of hiking trails and over 200 extensive miles of multi-use trails. With so many options for trails, guests are sure to find one to suit the intensity they are looking for. There are many scenic areas to start your hike, ranging from the McKeldin area to the Avalon-Glen Artney area. Guests can explore the northern scenic biking trails and secluded retreats down to the rich history of the southern portion of the park.
The valley's impressive trail system crosses four counties and provides some of the most extensive hiking, biking, and even horseback riding opportunities. There are at least five trails across the park's expanse that allow for equestrian use. Unfortunately, the park doesn't have any areas for horse rentals, but visitors are free to come along with horse trailers in tow. There's nothing quite like following the length of the Patapsco River atop your favorite horse, so consider bringing your horse during your visit to the park.