Washington County in Maryland is known for its remarkable national parks that document our country’s Civil War history and provide hiking and biking trails with an international allure. In 2016, the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial anniversary, and it’s launching several programs like Find Your Park to help nature enthusiasts get to the know the nation’s parks and find the perfect ones to visit in the centennial year. So put on your hiking boots and get ready to explore some of the most scenic parks on the East Coast. Here’s your guide to the top national parks in Hagerstown and Washington County, Maryland.
Antietam National Battlefield & Antietam National Cemetery
History buffs may want to check out Antietam National Battlefield & Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg—the site of the pivotal Civil War battle that killed or wounded up to 23,100 soldiers in 1862. Today, visitors can visit the tombstones of victims of one of the bloodiest battles on U.S. soil. The park has a museum and visitor center, and families can drive or walk the battlefield.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park is home to one of the country’s most famous transportation routes that delivered coal, lumber and agricultural products. The 184-mile-long canal was actively used from 1831 to 1924, but today the canal and surrounding area has been turned into a nationally registered historic park for the public to enjoy. Visitors can go hiking or biking on several trails like Billy Goat A, Great Falls, Williamsport, Four Locks and Paw Paw Tunnel. There is a designated camping site equipped with electricity, grills, bathrooms and water. Several picnic tables are scattered throughout the park, so feel free to bring packed meals.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The world famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches out for 2,185 miles from northern Georgia to Maine. In Maryland, the trail lasts for 41 miles and passes through many prominent stops like C&O Canal Towpath and High Rock where visitors can go hang gliding. From the highest elevations hikers can see spectacular views of the valley below. Whether you’re visiting for the day or hiking all 41 Maryland miles, you will be treated to one of the most scenic spots and best wildlife viewing along the route.
Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park
Tucked between two rivers, Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park is a 4,000-acre charming park with a rich history. The area is home to a well-preserved farmhouse where the war’s most prolific abolitionist, John Brown, organized his raid. Visitors can walk or bike around the area to see breathtaking scenery of rivers, wooded hills and historical buildings. Around the park, guests will find staff dressed in Civil War-era attire and re-enact various traditions and rituals.
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a 710-mile long route of multiple trails including the C&O Canal, Mount Vernon Trail, Laurel Highlands Hiking Trails and several more. Throughout most of the park, the trails run parallel to the famous Potomac River where George Washington explored. Outdoor enthusiasts can follow the late president’s footsteps by hiking, biking or paddling down the same routes. Visitors can kayak or canoe down the 355-mile long river that goes to the Chesapeake Bay. During snowy winters, guests can cross-country ski at the park.