Your Guide to Hiking and Exploring Rocks State Park
Climb the East Coast’s most majestic rock and take a dip under a hidden waterfall.
Location: Jarrettsville, MD
Getting there: 86 miles southwest of Center City — about an hour and a half by car
Personal space: 855 acres, 3.5 miles of hiking trails, and two nearby satellite parks — Falling Branch and Hidden Valley, the latter of which is known for uncrowded trails and peaceful fishing
Entrance fee: $4-$5
The greatest draw at the aptly named Rocks State Park is the King and Queen Seat, a 190-foot-high stone summit that affords the sorts of breathtaking views you see on brochures for state parks — miles of tree-covered hills, Deer Creek and its valley, plus jaw-dropping fall foliage if you time your trip right. Vertical climbers love this place, with its towering piles of boulders and climbs of up to 115 feet, but it’s also easy to explore off-belay. The popular, wooded White Trail offers a moderate two-mile loop to the site and back, with cool rock formations all along the way.
Water is another element that puts Rocks on the map: Not only does the lovely Deer Creek run along much of the park (offering opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, tubing, swimming, and even a little whitewater, if that’s your thing); there’s also Kilgore Falls, Maryland’s second-highest vertical-drop waterfall, tucked inside the 67-acre Falling Branch Area. You can’t get there via trail from the main park — you’ll have to hop in the car for the five-mile drive. But you should: The 17-foot waterfall, surrounded by giant rocks, feels like a secret that you stumble on at the end of a single-track half-mile hike through a pristine forest. In summer months, some hikers take a dip in the pool under the falls; in the autumn, well … maybe just a toe-dip? Word to the wise: Check the website to see if you need reservations. Owing to the delicate natural environment and limited trail space, Rocks rangers have always been vigilant about crowd control — even more so since COVID.
Published as “Rocks State Park” in the “Call of the Wild” guide in the October 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.