For some of the Chesapeake Bay’s most dramatic and distinctive coastal scenery, head down to southern Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs State Park. It’s a trip to the beach and a trip back in time, all rolled into one outing.
Where is Calvert Cliffs State Park?
Calvert Cliffs State Park is located just north of the town of Lusby in Calvert County, Maryland. The park is situated on a peninsula with the Patuxent River to the west and the Chesapeake Bay to the south and east.
Address: 10540 H. G. Trueman Road, Lusby, MD 20657
The entrance is located just off Maryland Route 4, which runs north-south through Calvert County. Since it can be a bit of a drive depending on your starting location, keep an eye on Maryland State Parks’ Twitter account. The account may (but not always) post when the park has reached capacity for the day. Entry is $5 per car or $7 for out-of-state vehicles.
Those traveling from Washington, DC, should take Pennsylvania Avenue until it turns into MD-4, or alternatively the Suitland Parkway to its intersection with MD-4. The trip should take roughly 80-90 minutes without significant traffic.
If you’re coming from Baltimore or points north, you’ll take I-97 through Anne Arundel County, followed by Maryland Route 2. This road links up with MD-4 and runs concurrently until past the park. Without traffic, this drive will take about an hour and 40 minutes.
From the south, you’ll likely use some combination of US Route 301 and Maryland Routes 234 and 5. A trip from Virginia will take at least an hour, with Fredericksburg about an hour and 40 minutes away, and Richmond just over two hours’ drive from the park.
Top Things To Do At Calvert Cliffs State Park
Calvert Cliffs State Park offers a variety of activities for outdoors lovers of all ages and all skill levels.
Fossil Hunting At Calvert Cliffs
One of the most unique draws of Calvert Cliffs State Park is the area’s ancient heritage – fossils! Tens of millions of years ago, the land that is now Delaware, parts of New Jersey, and most of southern and eastern Maryland was hundreds of feet underwater, covered by a shallow sea known as the Salisbury Embayment. The remains of the animals who lived and died here drifted to the bottom, where they were fossilized. Today, as the cliffs that give the park its name crumble, they reveal more and more of these ancient artifacts. Experts have identified over 600 species of fossils here!
For safety reasons, park rules prohibit fossil hunting or activity of any kind directly underneath the cliffs. But you can still find incredible specimens washed up on the nearby beach. Keep an eye out for sharks’ teeth, one of the most common finds!
Calvert Cliffs Hiking Trails
The park offers some excellent hiking opportunities for all skill levels. There are 13 miles of trails in total. The most popular route is the out-and-back Red Trail, which runs 1.8 miles each way. Dirt paths make up most of the trail, along with elevated boardwalks in marshy parts of the park.
There’s excellent bird-watching in the open areas of the trail and plenty of signs of the park’s native beavers. While the walk is easy, remember your walk back will be uphill the entire way, although at a very mild grade. The Red Trail terminates at the beach adjacent to the cliffs.
One of the more jarring elements of the park is the Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas offshore dock platform located just a few hundred yards off the beach. It’s a reminder of the Chesapeake Bay area’s other heritage that goes hand in hand with fossils – fossil fuels. You can also catch a glimpse of Cove Point Lighthouse to your right.
Other trails are also available at the park, including the Blue and Yellow Trails which offer shorter loops through the woods. The Orange Trail connects to the Red Trail near each end, allowing a longer and more strenuous hike for those with the skill and fitness level required.
Can I Swim At The Calvert Cliffs Beach?
Yes! You can swim at the beach at the end of the Red Trail. However, there is no lifeguard on duty, and swimming is done at your own risk. The beach is fairly small and narrow but isn’t often crowded. Swimming is also prohibited in the area underneath the cliffs.
Hunting and Fishing
Hunters can take advantage of approximately 550 acres here. During the hunting season, you can find deer, turkeys, and upland game like rabbits or squirrels. As much as you may want to cast your line out into the bay, fishing is only allowed at the pond near the picnic area. But don’t stress too much. There are plenty of other excellent fishing spots in Maryland within a relatively short drive!
Are Pets Allowed?
Feel free to bring your four-legged friends. Dogs are allowed at the park as long as they remain leashed.
Is There Camping At Calvert Cliffs State Park?
Calvert Cliffs is a day-use park, meaning there’s no in-park campground other than a few youth group-only sites. You do have other options for camping nearby in Calvert County and other locations throughout southern Maryland.
Calvert Cliffs State Park Trail Video
This video from May 2021 shows parts of the Red Trail heading toward the park’s beach, as well as views from the beach.
Is Calvert Cliffs State Park Worth The Trip?
Calvert Cliffs State Park is an excellent place to get outside for an afternoon. Whether you come for the hiking, the fossil hunting, or just some relaxation on a quiet beach, it’s certainly worth a visit for anyone in the DMV region looking for one of the area’s best state parks.