Tag Archives: Swimming Creeks in the DC Area

Open Swim: Places Around the DC Area that Welcome the Public to Take a Dip

Cool off in the river at Patapsco Valley State Park

 

When the weather gets hot, many of us start looking for places to enjoy the quintessential warm-weather activity — swimming! — to cool off and have some fun. This round-up of places around the area to take a dip includes lakes, rivers, swimming holes, the Chesapeake Bay, and even the Atlantic. We’ve been to most of these spots, and those we haven’t visited either get kudos from friends or have been touted enough by other resources to warrant inclusion. And if you know of other great locales to swim that are within day trip distance, feel free to share in the comments and I’ll add them.

BEACHES on the BAY

Sandy Point State Park
Where: 1100 East College Parkway | Annapolis, MD
Hours: Daily, 7am – sunset
Admission: $5-7/May – Sept weekends, $4-6/weekdays
Enjoy views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the beach at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis. At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big beach park with lots of recreational opportunities — swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, hiking, and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty. And snack food and beach and picnic supplies are available.

Calvert Cliffs State Park
Where: 10540 H. G. Trueman Road | Lusby, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $5-7/vehicle
Well known as a fossil hunting locale — as its cliffs erode, prehistoric remains of marine life are revealed — but it’s even better for beach fun, swimming, and hiking. To access the beach, you have to tramp a couple of miles through woods (and there are even more trails if you’re up for it), but the walk is worth it for some sand and surf. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $5/MD residents, $7/out-of-state visitors.

Flag Ponds Nature Park
Where: 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway | Lusby, MD
Hours: Friday & Monday, 9am – 4pm | Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Admission: $8/vehicle on weekends

Not only is there plenty of sand for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, it’s also a great spot for fossil hunting — look for shark teeth and other prehistoric remnants along the shores while you’re there, too! Note that hours are 9am – 6pm on weekdays and 9am – 8pm weekends from Memorial to Labor Day. Admission is $8/car. See more pics of Flag Ponds, and check out the official site here.

Bayfront Park
Where: 7255 Bayside Road | Chesapeake, MD
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk
Admission: $18/adult, $10/child for non county residents

A nice little spot in Chesapeake Beach, MD. With a small but nice stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, shark teeth to fin, and cliffs edging the shoreline, it’s a great place to spend a day — especially with little ones since they can’t roam too far. The only downside is the steep admission fee. [Update: Closed to the public.]

Mayo Beach Park
Where: Edgewater, MD
When: Memorial Day-Labor Day | Fri 4-7pm, Sat & Sun 9am – 7pm
Admission:

Added per a reader comment below, this park in Anne Arundle County is open for swimming in summer, and it looks like a nice spot to enjoy some sand and surf. Passes to access the beach park must be reserved in advance.Be sure to know other beach rules like no grills or dogs allowed.

Cape Henlopen State Park
Where: Lewes, DE
Hours: Open daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $8-10/vehicle

It’s a little over two hours from DC (and on the Atlantic), but still doable as a day trip if you leave early, especially on a weekday when there is less traffic. We just did this and had a fantastic day at the beach — packed up the car with a cooler and beach gear, got on the road early, and we were on the beach by 10:30am. Enjoyed dinner outdoors and ice cream in town before heading back, arrived home at 9:15pm. Totally worth the time in the car.

 

LAKES & RIVERS

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: 8020 Baltimore National Pike | Ellicott City, MD
Hours: Daily, 9am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person weekend, $2-4/vehicle weekdays

There are several nice, shallow swimming areas in the park’s Patapsco River, most notably in the Avalon section near Cascade Falls. There are several entrances, and Avalon and Hilton are closest to that area. Depending on where you park, there is some up (and down) hill hiking on rooty trails, something to be aware of with little trampers. KFDC Tip: If an area is at capacity and closed, try another part of the park instead — see the list of areas via main park link above.

Cunningham Falls State Park
Where: 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road | Thurmont, MD
Hours: Daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person

There are two parts to this park, and the lakes and beautiful waterfall (and camping) are located in the William Houck Area, three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77. The lake area welcomes swimmers and has a beach for hanging out. You can wade in the pools of the falls area, too. It’s a short hike to access, and there are a couple of trails to take, the half-mile Lower Trail is easy, and the 3/4 Cliffs Trail is more difficult with lots of rock scrambling.

Purse State Park
Where: Nanjemoy, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

This is best if your main purpose is fossil hunting — it’s a great place to go for it — and you want to get in some “beach” time, too. Wear swimsuits, bring a picnic, and be sure to check the tide table so you can make the most of your time there.

Point Lookout State Park
Where: 11175 Point Lookout Road | Scotland, MD
Hours: Open daily, 7am – sunset weekdays, 6am – sunset weekends
Admission:

Located on a peninsula between the Chesapeake and the Potomac, the park includes a beach area where visitors can hang out and swim on the river side. A picnic area shaded by trees is nearby and close to the parking lot as well.

Gunpowder Falls State Park
Where: 7200 Graces Quarters Road | Middle River, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $5-7/person

There are six areas of the park, and a swimming beach on the banks of the Gunpowder River is in the Hammerman Area, which is located in Middle River, MD. There are also playgrounds, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking trails if you want more recreation.

Aguia Landing Park
Where: Stafford, VA
Hours: Open daily 8am – 8pm
Admission: $3-4.50/child, $4-6.50/adult

I read about this park in this article that I recently shared on the blog about beaches within day trip distance. It gets so-so reviews on Yelp, but there is a swimming beach.

Mason Neck State Park
Where: Lorton, VA
When: Park open daily, 8am – 9pm, swimming in summer
Admission: $7/car on weekdays, $10 on weekends.

Located on a peninsula, the park has small beach areas on Belmont Bay.  There are no designated swim spots, but we’ve seen people taking a dip when we’ve been. You could also just wade knee or ankle-deep in the shallow areas near the shore.   It’s especially nice to cool off after hiking through the woods or on boardwalks over wetland areas. For more fun on the water, paddling rentals are available.

 

SWIMMING HOLES & CREEKS

Seneca Creek
Where: 16315 Old River Road | Poolesville, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Mentioned in this article, this “hidden” spot is located right off River Road on the way to Homestead Farm and the sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers. You can apparently park at the Seneca Store parking lot (see address listed), and walk through a small field to the creek. Update: A KFDC reader just let me know you can’t park in the lot anymore, so you have to drive down the road a bit and park on the side of the road.

Overall Run
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

The flowing water from Overall Run Falls pools into a swimming hole that can be a nice reward after a long hike or an easier spot to access if you just want to swim. To keep it low key start from the Thompson Hollow trail head; for a long loop start at the Matthews Arm parking lot. FYI – We’ve done a portion of the hike to these falls before, but they were mostly dry, so I recommend doing some research (perhaps calling the park to check) before you go.

White Oak Canyon Trail
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

According to the NPS website, there are a range of hikes on this trail, from an easy two miles to a strenuous seven, to the waterfalls with several swimming holes along the way. It’s apparently popular, so expect to share the path and waters with others.

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GO

* Generally, weekdays are less crowded than weekends at places.

* Capacity is limited at many spots, so it’s best to get to places early or in the afternoon after early people leave.

* It’s a good idea to have a Plan B in case you do get turned away. See what other activities are nearby a location, so you can save the day, especially if it’s a long drive.

Do you know of other good swimming spots around the area? Please share in the comments, if so!

 

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