Hike the Deer Creek Trail

2 Miles Round Trip - Out-and-Back Trail

Deer Creek Trail Pulloff - Search Nearby - Added by Ashley Stimpson

If it's a weekend in the warmer months, chances are the parking lots are full at Central Maryland's popular state parks. Palmer State Park isn't just a Plan B; it's a pristine reserve, undeveloped and begging to be bushwhacked. As a bonus, you'll be all alone...for now.

Because Palmer State Park is still under development (with no timeline given for its completion), there are only a few trails that meander through this 555-acre reserve. Palmer's official website offers a not-so-helpful topographical map, but the easiest way into the park that I could find was near the bridge (Old Forge Rd) over the Deer Creek. As you cross the bridge heading south, you'll see a small pull-off on your left, suitable for one or two cars. 

The trail starts just beyond the road's east guardrail. From there, you can take a short path down to the water to marvel at some angsty graffiti and the muddy shallows, or you can continue to head east, following the tranquil Deer Creek for roughly a mile. The trail is worn enough to discern as it twists away from and back to the creek indiscriminately. There are a few ideal spots to lay down a blanket and picnic on the sandy banks while your dogs cool themselves in the slow current. 

History buffs will dig Palmer for its ruins. The remains of the Husband Flint Mill and Deer Creek Iron Works are scattered about the forest. You'll find old foundations and an impressive stone wall, now buried in moss. Keep your eyes down and you may find other, more personal artifacts from the mill village that used to populate this area. 

The trail ends rather unceremoniously, dissolving back into the forest in front of you. The temptation to bushwhack is almost too much to resist. 

On this particular Sunday, I met zero people but at least a dozen toads. Palmer State Park is open for fishing and paddling, but you'll have to launch from a nearby area (ideally Rocks State Park). Hiking in the park feels a little like stealing a sneak preview, or getting a glimpse of everyone's future favorite outdoor spot. Don't miss the chance to say you hiked Palmer State Park before it was cool.  


Dog Friendly
Picnic Area


2 Miles
Out-and-Back Trail

Stay Nearby

Gap, Pennsylvania

Lancaster / New Holland KOA

Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia / West Chester KOA

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

Elizabethtown / Hershey KOA

Millersville, Maryland

Washington DC / Capitol KOA

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful Solitude

A great place to get away from the crowds at some of the busier parks in the area. Quiet trek along the wooded riverbank.