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.  

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots (ideally waterproof)
  • Swimming Suit
  • Picnic Supplies
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray 
  • Camera
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RT Distance 2 Miles
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Dog Friendly
Picnic Area


Leave a Review

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.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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