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Backcountry Camping Newbie

Hi everyone,

I’ve been an avid camper, hiker, and general outdoor enthusiast since birth but only recently have found my new obsession of backpacking! I’m from the Midwest, but recently I moved to Maryland, near Baltimore. The only place I know of for backpacking is the Appalachian Trail and Washington National Forest. Does anyone have any suggestions for places to backpack for a day or two (preferably dog friendly) within say ~100ish miles? I really want to do some dispersed camping and would be willing to travel longer distances if anyone knows a good place! Any help or pointers would be appreciated as I’m newer to the backpacking world!

8 Replies

@Bellevillain88 Take a look at the AllTrails app.  There's a free version and it has a ton of info (dog friendly, etc.) as well as comments from others .  

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@Bellevillain88welcome to the obsession!

try this, a pretty comprehensive look at hiking around you (btw, I'm down the road a bit in VA), same general hiking range.

I stick to the national forests and wilderness areas due to permits not required, can camp anywhere, and campfires allowed, the same reasons I avoid SNP.  Also more trails/better scenery than SNP anyway.

My favorite places are the high country above Grayson Highlands State Park/Mt Rogers National Rec Area), but that's a long drive. 

Second fav is Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in WVA and not far from you, but which has become incredibly crowded during corona.

good luck!

REI Member Since 1979

Thanks for that.



Hi Bellevillain88 and welcome to Conversations,

If you're willing to commit to driving a bit further, there are many many trails in the George Washington/Jefferson National forest with exactly what you're looking for. The nice part of the national forest, is that you don't need a permit in most cases and there are no fees. There are plenty of one day and two day hikes that you can enjoy. In-and-back, a circuit, or a weekend thru-hike is easy to find and quite often less crowded than the AT.

You might like Ramsey's Draft Wilderness Area, North River Gorge, or Shenandoah Mountain area. These would be about 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours from MD. I would recommend purchasing the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map to look for some trails:

These maps are a fantastic resource and some of them cover areas closer to MD. 

I operate a day-hiking nature education service in the areas that I listed above. If you're interested in more info about the area, send me a message.

There are a lot of variables:

  1. What is your fitness level?
  2. What is your "confidence" level"?
  3. What is your dog's fitness level?
  4. What is your experience level?
  5. Would you prefer to have a nearby town that you could retreat to or where you could celebrate the end of the trip? A cheap room and a hot meal can be a wonderful thing when things don't turn out as expected.
  6. What are you hoping to get in return for your efforts (e.g. vistas, waterfalls, solitude, wildlife interactions, etc...)?

In the three areas that I mentioned, you can find everything from a leisurely hikes with areas to set up a base camp by a stream up to scrambles that will make you wonder why the he!! you wanted to do this...😀




Hi @Bellevillain88 , and welcome to the Old Line State!  I live about 45 minutes north of Baltimore.

Unfortunately, Maryland has very limited backcountry within its borders.  We have an incredible amount of outdoor spaces and state parks to hike in, with a surprising amount of scenery considering the metro areas and urban and suburban sprawl.  Most of the state parks have campgrounds, but the only backcountry, primitive camping that I am aware of is in the Green Ridge State Forest.

And don't forget about our neighbor to the north, Pennsylvania.  Here's a link to some of the offerings there.

Good luck and happy camping!

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@Bellevillain88 Although its not an overnighter, the rock creek area in silver springs is great for day hikes and about every other person on the trial has a dog 🙂  Really nice in the summer time as there is a stream that the dog can play in....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
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Consider Monongahela National Forest, not too far from MD in West Virginia. My wife & I are also newbies and recently went there for our first trip, and thought it was a great place to start. Plenty of trails to choose from, and the one we picked had lots of access to fresh water.

If your willing to go to WV, the Appalachian Trail runs right through Harper's Ferry...Great Views

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.