Smallwood State Park | Outdoorsy

Smallwood State Park
Guide

Introduction

What do you seek on your next sojourn? If you're looking for a place to park the RV on your next camping trip that has it all, then head to Smallwood State Park in southern Maryland. The park is located on a tributary of the Potomac River just 45 minutes from Washington D.C. and offers guests a chance to step back in time while exploring the great outdoors. The park is named after Revolutionary War officer and former governor of Maryland, William Smallwood. The home he once lived in (known as Smallwood Retreat) still sits in Smallwood State Park and has been restored so that visitors can tour the edifice and learn about how life in the area once was.

There's also plenty to do for the non-history buffs in your group. The park's location along the Mattawoman River makes it easy to enjoy a day on the water, whether you're canoeing the water trail, relaxing on your pontoon, or reeling in bass at one of the many tournaments held throughout the year. For those that prefer to keep their feet on solid ground, there are two hiking trails, dozens of picnic tables and pavilions, and plenty of ranger programs and events to keep you busy during your time at the park. If one day wasn't enough to see it all and do it all, head to the campground and see if you can snag a spot.

Smallwood State Park's campground is outfitted with 15 RV and tent friendly sites. Each site is equipped with electric hookups, and don't hesitate to bring Fido along, as pets are allowed throughout the campground so long as they are leashed. You can book a site in advance, or try your luck and hope to snag one on the day or your arrival.

RV Rentals in Smallwood State Park

Transportation

Driving

Smallwood State Park is the perfect weekend getaway for your next RV vacation. Located less than an hour away from Washington D.C., the park is easily accessible off of MD-210. Even if you're driving a big rig, this route provides wide, straight roads with very few inclines or curves along the way. The park is also nearby US-301, which offers a similar, smooth driving experience. The small town of Rison is located just outside of the park should you need to gas up the motorhome before entering. For more comprehensive options for supplies and restaurants, you can stop off at one of the many towns or cities located along MD-210 or US-301.

Once inside the park, roads remain wide and paved for easy maneuverability. If you're staying the night, the campground is located just past the park headquarters on the northwest side of the park. The campground is set up in a loop format, and sites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 30 feet in length.

Parking

If you're just visiting for the day, there are plenty of parking areas available in the day-use area.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Smallwood State Park

Campsites in Smallwood State Park

Reservations camping

Smallwood State Park Campground

Smallwood State Park is equipped with a small, RV-friendly campground. Each of the 15 sites is equipped with electric hookups, a picnic table, a lantern post, and a fire ring. The campground is situated in a forested area, so all sites are at least partially shaded, and both hiking trails, a dump station, and restrooms with showers are all located nearby. Rigs up to 30 feet in length will have no problem fitting into the sites, and Fido can come along too, as all sites are pet-friendly.

The campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to 12 months in advance. Although reservations are not required, they are recommended (especially during the peak season), due to the limited number of sites available.

First-come first-served

Smallwood State Park Campground

If you weren't planning on staying the night but one day at Smallwood State Park wasn't enough, you may be able to snag a spot. If any sites are unreserved upon your arrival to the park, they will become available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The campground has 15 RV-friendly sites equipped with electric hookups, picnic tables, fire rings, and lantern posts. Rigs up to 30 feet will be able to fit into the shaded sites and feel free to bring your furry friends along to this pet-friendly campground. There is a dump station, restrooms with showers, and access to hiking trails nearby.

Sites fill up quickly, especially during the peak summer months, so if you'd like to guarantee a site, advanced reservations are recommended.

Alternate camping

Camping Cabins

If you'd like to ditch the RV for a night or two, you can rent one of Smallwood State Park's camping cabins. There are six rustic cabins and two modern cabins available. The rustic cabins can sleep up to four guests, while the more modern cabins can sleep up to six and are equipped with heat and air conditioning. No matter which cabin you choose, you'll find it outfitted with furnished rooms, open-air porches, and an outdoor picnic table and grill. Although no indoor plumbing is available in the cabins, they are located in the main campground, and restrooms with showers can be found nearby. The cabins operate year-round, with reservations available up to 12 months in advance.

Youth Group Camping

If you're planning a camping trip for an organized youth group, you can reserve one Smallwood State Park's organized youth group campsites. There are two sites available, each of which can accommodate up to 25 people. Each site is outfitted with a picnicking area, a fire ring, and access to restrooms. The youth group campsites are available from April through October, and advanced reservations are required.

Off-site Campgrounds

If you weren't able to snag one of the 15 sites available at Smallwood State Park, don't fret. There are numerous alternative options in the Washington D.C. area, along with various state parks nearby. If you are looking for top-notch amenities like spacious sites, full hookups, and seasonal pools, check out the private RV parks in and around Washington D.C.

If you prefer to get the most out of your Maryland state park pass, then book a site at one of the parks close to Smallwood. Cedarville State Forest is the closest option, about 45 minutes to the northeast of the Smallwood State Park. The forest has 27 RV-friendly sites available, each of which is equipped with electric hookups.

Seasonal activities in Smallwood State Park

In-Season

Smallwood's Retreat House

Visitors can take a visit to the past during their RV vacation to Smallwood State Park by visiting the Smallwood Retreat House. The park's namesake and wartime hero, William Smallwood, and his family dwelled in this residence and ran a tobacco plantation that once operated on the land. The house and barn have since been restored and are open on various Saturdays from May through September. If you'd like to arrange a tour of the property, you can do so with a minimum of two weeks' notice.

Biking

Just because there are no designated biking trails in Smallwood State Park doesn't mean you shouldn't bring the bikes along in the Airstream. The park is actually a starting point for a 26.5-mile biking loop that will lead you all around southern Charles County and the nearby Doncaster Demonstration State Forest. This loop is not recommended for beginners, as there are some parts that require technical riding skills. If you're up for it, the loop is fun and scenic -- it's even part of the international General Smallwood Olympic Triathalon!

Boating

Smallwood State Park's prime location on the Mattawoman Creek means that you could spend hours, if not days, exploring the area via water. The creek is a tributary to the larger Potomac River, which eventually flows out into the Atlantic Ocean. The park's marina is well equipped and offers six boat launches, 50 slips, and a concession stand where you can purchase snacks, bait and tackle, and other gear you may need for your day on the water. You will need to tow your own boat behind the Sprinter, however, as rentals are not available at the park.

Picnicking

Once you're ready for a break from a full day of exploring the park, you can relax and enjoy an outdoor meal at one of the park's picnicking areas. Visitors will find grills and tables near the marina and Smallwood Retreat House. There are also three pavilions available for rent if you are expecting a group or hosting an event. If you are staying the night, you can always hunker down right outside of the travel trailer, as each campsite is equipped with its own picnic table and fire ring.

Off-Season

Hiking

After you park the T@B and set up camp, you can lace up your hiking boots and explore Smallwood State Park's two hiking trails. No matter what your skill level, you'll be able to enjoy the trails. The Generals Walk Trail is a bit longer and more strenuous, measuring two miles in length. There are various exit opportunities along this route should you only want to hike a portion of it. The other trail is the three-quarters of a mile Birdwatchers/Bluebird Trail. This is an easier trail, and is, as the name suggests, a great hike for birdwatching.

Fishing

Anglers visiting Smallwood State Park will be happy to know that it is renowned for its largemouth bass fishing. The park sits on a tributary of the Potomac River, which offers some of the best bass fishing experiences in this part of the country. There are various tournaments held throughout the year, so check in with the park office if you're interested in participating. Other common catches include carp, catfish, and white and yellow perch. If you forgot to pack any gear along in the campervan, you can always head to the concession stand near the marina.

Events and Programs

Besides having a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, Smallwood State Park also offers an assortment of educational events and programs throughout the year. Programs could include guided hikes, junior ranger programs, or campfire nights. If you're visiting with your RV rental during the month of December, don't miss the Colonial Christmas, where the old Smallwood property is transformed for the holiday season.

Birding

Birding enthusiasts will have plenty of viewing opportunities during their RV vacation to Smallwood State Park. There is a designated birdwatching trail that leads through a wooded area, and at less than a mile long, the trail makes for easy trek for the whole family. There are over 400 bird species in the state of Maryland, so keep your eyes peeled for yellow-billed cuckoo, snow geese, little blue heron, and more while you wander the park.

Find the perfect campsite.