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A Walk in the Park: Rocks

The Susquehanna River; by Scott McDaniel

Residents and visitors seeking a magnificent outdoor adventure in Harford County need not look further than Rocks State Park. Totaling 855 acres and nestled within Deer Creek Valley, the park boasts three separate day-use areas—Hills Grove, Rock Ridge and Wilson’s—each providing unique recreation opportunities.

Entrances are all located off of Saint Clair Bridge Road, each approximately a half-mile apart. Once inside a specific area, the other two are only accessible via Deer Creek or the park’s 3.5-mile trail system.

All three offer restrooms and picnic facilities as well as large pavilions that can accommodate groups up to 150 people each. Available by permit, the pavilions feature barbecue pits, tables and power outlets, and are frequently utilized for birthday parties, family reunions, weddings and more.


King and Queen Seat; by Rob Bailey

A rockin’ view

Towering above Deer Creek Valley is the Rock Ridge area, home to the historic King and Queen Seat. Standing 190 feet above the valley floor, the magnificent rock outcrop is compromised of several massive boulders. Legend has it that the area once served as a ceremonial gathering place of the Susquehannock people.

Visitors who traverse this impressive feature are treated to breathtaking views of the heavily forested valley. Rock climbers will also marvel at the opportunity the area provides. Safety, of course, is a major concern, and those interested in climbing should contact a local outfitter or guide to plan their excursion.


In the valley below

The Hills Grove and Wilson’s areas provide the easiest access to the 53-mile long Deer Creek, which stretches from Pennsylvania through Rocks, Palmer and Susquehanna state parks before emptying into the Susquehanna River.

Frequented by fishermen and paddlers, the creek was home to the last known population of the Maryland darter—a small fresh water fish found exclusively in Maryland. In fact, the darter is considered the rarest freshwater fish species in the world. Although swimming in the creek is also popular, there are no lifeguards and should be considered at your own risk.

Park staff also manages the nearby Hidden Valley Area and Falling Branch. Both are undeveloped—meaning they lack restroom and picnic facilities—but offer spectacular hiking trails.

Falling Branch is home to Kilgore Falls, Maryland’s second highest vertical drop waterfall. Considered environmentally sensitive, visitors should stay on the trail and visit during the early morning or on a weekday.

Make a day of it!

For those looking to spend more time in the area, consider camping nearby. Since this park is day-use only, many visitors set up camp at Susquehanna State Park and drive to Rocks for the day.

Article by Stephen Badger—public information officer.
Appears in Vol. 19, No. 2 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2016.