People sometimes call Maryland “America in miniature” because it’s pretty much got all landscapes (mountain, city, farmland, ocean) covered. But where, exactly, should you go for that transcendent mountaintop view, rushing waterfall backdrop, or the other most Instagrammable spots in the state? Here are 16 stunning suggestions.
Iris Garden at Ladew
There's plenty to marvel at within the 22 acres of the Ladew Topiary Garden, which was established by 1930s hard-partying huntsman Harvey S. Ladew. The grounds contain 15 garden spaces, as well as countless detailed topiaries (one depicting an entire fox hunt scene). But the biggest stunner might be the serene space of the Iris Garden, with 770 plants of iris varieties from around the world, a koi pond filled with vibrant fish and delicate lilies, and a giant recreation of a Chinese sailing ship.
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Sunflowers at Clear Meadow Farm
Planted every year in July, the sunflowers don’t start blooming until mid-September at this Harford County farm. But the end result is countless rows of the happiest flowers on the planet staring back at you.
Great Falls of the Potomac River
The Potomac River acts as the border between Maryland and Virginia, but its greatest site, the Great Falls, is located 14 miles upstream from DC and belongs to the Old Line State. The best views of the series of 20ft falls are offered on the bank of the C&O Canal parkland, on the Billy Goat Trail on Bear Island, and at vantage points on Olmsted Island. Watch out for the adventurous folks using the falls to kayak, whitewater raft, rock climb, and hike along.
Peak of Sugarloaf Mountain
Find this mountain and park just 10 miles South of Frederick and take the 5.5-mile Blue Trail Loop for some amazing year-round views. Even amateur hikers can make it to white rocks, where views of rolling hills change color depending on the season. Bonus: there is a winery for reward at the base of the mountain.
St. Mary’s Seminary ruins
Sometimes beauty is discovered in the most unlikeliest of places and such is the case with the ruins of St. Mary’s Seminary in Patapsco Valley State Park. High up on a hill overlooking the Patapsco River, you can find the ruins of what was St. Mary’s College, which served as a seminary for the Redemptionists from the 1880s to 1972. Since then, the ruins have been a target for street artists and arsonists, but the original wrought-iron alter remains a majestic site.
Japanese maples at Cylburn Arboretum
The entirety of the 207-acre Baltimore city park known as the Cylburn Arboretum is beautiful -- with its magnolias, oaks, greenhouses, and various gardens. But the real showstoppers are the famed Japanese maples (a favorite for many wedding backdrops) with arterial branches that seems to curl and tangle in all directions at once.
Wild ponies on Assateague Island
One thing is for sure on Assateague: the island still belongs to the ponies. This 37-mile-long island shared by Maryland and Virginia and located on the Atlantic is home to a feral horse population that is cared for by the National Park Service. These ponies’ ancestors are thought to be survivors of a Spanish galleon that shipwrecked along the coast and today they can be seen mingling with campers along the beach or park grounds. (Just be careful not to give them human food.) But there’s nothing much more breathtaking than watching wild ponies galloping along a pristine beach.
Located in the Southern Maryland town of Lusby are 24 miles of expansive, jagged cliffs that frame the West side of the Chesapeake Bay. While the cliffs are popular for birdwatching, fishing, and hiking, the reason most people flock to them is to dig for 15 million-year-old fossils on the shoreline. Teeth from the massive Megalodon shark are one of the most sought-after items.
Muddy Creek Falls
Located in Swallow Falls State Park in Western Maryland is what clocks in as Maryland’s highest free-falling waterfall. Muddy Creek Falls encompasses nearly 60ft of river water that plunges into the Pottsville Formation. The roaring falls have provided such great inspiration through history that famous innovators Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone all camped by the falls together in July 1921.
Baker Park is a 44-acre linear park that slices through Downtown Frederick and in the heart of it is Carroll Creek. Walking alongside the lily pad-laden water with its fountains, colorful flowers, and stone bridges gives the illusion of being inside an Impressionist painting instead of a bustling Western Maryland metropolis.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most unique outdoor spaces in all of Maryland is the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which was founded as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating up the Atlantic. The refuge is home to a ton of endangered species, including the fox squirrel and bald eagle, which can be commonly seen year-round. For visitors, the canoe trail or wildlife ride are probably the closest ways to get into the action, like this massive, mesmermizing flock of snow geese.
King & Queen Seats
If you’re feeling particularly royal, head along MD 24, just eight miles North of Bel Air, to the day-use Rocks State Park. There are 850 acres of hiking trails along Deer Creek and, just a quarter-mile from one of the site’s parking lots, is a throne-like rock formation called the King and Queen Seats where, according to legends, Susquehannock Indian chiefs once sat in tribal council. Up here, there’s not only an emerald-green view of the park but also kid-friendly climbing areas, an oversized bird’s nest, and balancing logs.
George Peabody Library
Who says all beauty has to be found in nature? In a design straight out of Beast’s castle, this library housed in the Peabody Institute of Music and that's a part of Johns Hopkins University, features five tiers or ornate, cast-iron balcony that climb to the bright, open skylight 61ft overheard. Liberal arts nerds will rejoice in being surrounded by 300,000 volumes of lit, classics, and history books.
Chesapeake City Bridge
Okay, so while there is another bridge in the state of Maryland that gets all the attention, we like the more charming structure in the tiny town of Chesapeake City in Northeast Maryland -- with a population of just over 600. The simple arched bridge looms over the C&D Canal and looks particularly lovely during sunsets.
The town of Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. The states, more or less, share the beautiful historic site, and some of the best vistas are from Maryland Heights and the Appalachian Trail on the Maryland side, where you can spot Amtrak trains shooting in and out of the mountainside.
Hard to determine what’s more beautiful: the inside or the outside of the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park. The giant glass structure is surrounded by botanical gardens with vibrant tulips and inside there are five distinct rooms with individual climates -- some full of cacti and others full of orchids and palm trees.
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