Editors' pick

Calvert Cliffs State Park

Park - State

Editorial Review

Located in Calvert County, this park is a long haul from practically anywhere in the Washington area, but it's worth it. A two-mile hike through a piney forest and cypress swamp leads to a spectacular mile-long span of cliffs and a bracing view of the Chesapeake Bay. Better yet, the cliffs are filled with Miocene-era marine fossils, allegedly 600 varieties, free for the taking on the beach. Our kids could not believe their good fortune to discover, embedded within big gray chunks of sandy stone, fossilized creatures between 8 and 15 million years old. Fossil shark teeth are easy finds. Near the parking lot there's a big play area; save it for when you return from your four-mile round-trip.

Because the cliffs are soft and constantly eroding, they aren't safe to climb or explore. Limit fossil hunting to the beach area. This is a serious warning: Not long ago a 12-year-old girl was killed when a part of the cliff collapsed on her and her father. It's also a long haul to the cliffs and back (45 minutes each way). Bring a pack loaded with water, snacks, tissues, binoculars, a small hammer, a plastic container and Ziploc bags for your finds. In spring and fall, dress everybody in layers; the winds off the bay can be powerful and chilling.

-- John Kelly and Craig Stoltz

The dirt trail offers an easy hike with very little chance of stumbling or tripping over rocks or branches. People have even been seen pushing strollers along the path. The trail offers views of the high cliffs and occasional sightings of beavers in waters along the path. No pets are allowed. Restrooms are at the visitors center.

-- Laura Fravel