Nature Areas

A brilliant Baltimore Oriole perches among branches covered in pink blossoms.

Photo by Ray Hennessy

Dates and venue for ICMB XII in 2025 have been announced!

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Information on this page refers to the conference held in 2023. Check back soon for updates.

Maryland has been called "America in Miniature" due to the diversity of terrain packed into its small area: rugged mountains, rolling farmland, marshy shores, and sandy ocean beaches. And at the center of it all, the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Whether you're enjoying Baltimore City's harbor, parks, and greenways, or venturing out into the rest of the region, the hardest part will be picking where to explore next.

Maryland has a high incidence of Lyme disease, a bacterial disease transmitted to humans by the bite of the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick). Ticks in Maryland are entering their period of greatest activity during May.

If you plan to spend time outdoors, make sure you know how to prevent tick bites, identify and safely remove ticks, and the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. Ticks typically have to be attached for 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so promptly checking for ticks is key to prevention.

Near the conference venue

There are a wealth of walking trails, parks, and other nature-oriented activities located nearby, or easily accessible via public transit.

Pierce's Park

For a quick break, head down Pier 5 to find this pocket of green and enjoy its interactive sculptures and native plantings. If you have time, check out more of the Inner Harbor's collection of waterfront parks.

Waterfront Promenade

Take a stroll along the 7 miles (11.3 km) of this scenic multi-use path, which you can access right outside the conference venue's front door.

Patterson Park

Known as "Baltimore's back yard", Patterson Park is a 55-acre urban oasis and recreational hub, and a beautiful example of 19th-century park design. Stroll the walking paths, admire the whimsical architecture of its Victorian Observatory, take a self-guided tour of the park's trees, or stop by the Patterson Park Audubon Center.

Getting there:

Fort McHenry Seawall Trail

The Seawall Trail that runs along the perimeter of Fort McHenry National Monument has fantastic views of the water and the Port of Baltimore, and is a popular spot for biking, walking, and running. Access to the grounds outside the Star Fort historic area is free. Paved surface with minimal grade, accessible to wheelchairs.

Getting there:

Inner Harbor Kayak Tour

For a new perspective on the history and ecology of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, try a 3-hour guided kayak tour with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks ($20, experienced kayakers only).

Getting there:

Sculpture Gardens at the BMA

The Sculpture Gardens at the Baltimore Museum of Art offer 33 sculptures spread across a lush and tranquil 3-acre park. A lovely spot to recharge, and even better paired with a bite at Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen, the BMA's much-lauded restaurant that focuses on heritage regional foodways.

Getting there:

  • Charm City Circulator, Purple Route from stop 302 (Inner Harbor) to stop 315 (31st St - Baltimore Museum of Art).

Druid Hill Park, Maryland Zoo, and Rawlings Conservatory

Druid Hill Park is the third oldest established park in the U.S., and its 745 acres are still a key recreation spot for Baltimoreans. The park is home to playing fields, tennis courts, a disc golf course, Druid Lake (a reservoir), and a zen garden. Inside the park, zoologists will find much to enjoy at the Maryland Zoo ($24), while those with a botany bent will thrill to the collections at the historic Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens (free).

Getting there:

Cylburn Arboretum

The Cylburn Arboretum boasts hundreds of specimen trees and plants, gardens, and a historic mansion on 200 acres. Its wooded walking trails are a great spot to get a taste of wilderness inside the city.

Getting there:

Lake Roland

Lake Roland Park packs a remarkably diverse array of ecosystems into its 500 acres, including wetlands, meadows, mature hardwood forests, and a rare section of remnant serpentine barrens. Hiking and biking trails, a children's play area, and a nature center.

Getting there:

For Runners

Several popular running routes connect to the Waterfront Promenade, steps from the conference venue. Nearby Patterson Park has excellent 5K possibilities. Charm City Run's Fells Point store also has recommendations for 5K, 10K, and half-marathon routes around the Inner Harbor. If you're looking for a social experience, try one of the November Project's free and inclusive group runs.

For Cyclists

Dockless e-bikes are available for short trips through the city's micromobility (scooter and bikeshare) program. For longer-term rentals, try Joe's Bike Shop (Fells Point store, 1 mi/1.6 km from conference venue) or Baltimore Bicycle Works (2.1 mi/3.4 km from conference venue, Charm City Circulator Purple Line). Baltimore City publishes an online Bike Facilities Map, and Bike Maryland collects helpful cycling resources such as maps, trails, shops and more.

The Baltimore Visitor Center in the Inner Harbor is the terminus of two multi-use trails popular with cyclists, each of which follows a tributary of the Patapsco. The Visitor Center is 0.5 mi/0.8 km from the conference venue.

  • The 12 mi/19 km Jones Falls Trail follows the path of the Jones Falls stream north past Penn Station, through Druid Hill Park, past the Cylburn Arboretum, and into the leafy northern neighborhood of Mt. Washington. Distinctive blazes help with wayfinding. The first 2 miles (to Penn Station) run alongside city streets. If you prefer to skip to the greener sections, take the Light RailLink tram ($2) to Penn Station and pick up the trail there. Since the trail intersects with the Light RailLink line in multiple spots, the tram can also be used as a return leg (details here).

    Jones Falls Trail Map. Jones Falls Trail Information.

  • The 15 mi/24 km Gwynns Falls Trail is an urban greenway that connects 2000 acres of publicly owned parkland in the Gwynns Falls stream valley with over 30 neighborhoods in west and southwest Baltimore. A major highlight is Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, one of the largest woodland parks in the Eastern U.S., home many additional miles of walking trails and the Carrie Murray Nature Center. The trail surface is mostly asphalt, with some crushed stone. Distinctive blazes and kiosks help with wayfinding.

    Gwynns Falls Trail Map. Gwynns Falls Trail Information.

A short drive away

These spots are only accessible by car (ride app or rental), but all are within an hour's drive of the conference venue.

Masonville Cove (5 mi/8 km)

The U.S.'s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, restoration of Masonville Cove began in 2007. Today, the site is home to an environmental education center, accessible walking trails, over 251 bird species, Captain Trash Wheel, and Baltimore City's first-known pair of nesting bald eagles.

Loch Raven Reservoir (20 mi/32 km)

Rent a kayak ($19) or small boat ($30) from the Loch Raven Reservoir Fishing Center and take in the serene beauty of the reservoir's miles of open water. If you prefer to stay on land, the shorelines also offer miles of beautiful trails. Open daily at 6am.

Irvine Nature Center (20 mi/32 km)

Located on 200 acres of land at the headwaters of both the Gwynns Falls and Jones Falls, the Irvine Nature Center has 8 miles (13 km) of walking trails, a native plant garden, a raptor aviary, a Native American history site, and many educational programs for adults and children. Admission to the site is $5, some events have additional fees.

Soldier's Delight Natural Environment Area (24 mi/39 km)

Maryland once contained a third of the U.S.'s serpentine grassland and oak savanna. Today, almost all of the state's remaining 2000 acres of this rare ecosystem are found at the Soldier's Delight Natural Environment Area. Hike the 7 miles (11 km) of trails and learn about the area's many rare plants and insects or the ongoing habitat restoration and invasive plant management efforts. Visit the historic chromium mine and take an entertaining self-guided Miner's Life audio tour.

Torrey C. Brown/NCR Rail Trail (28 mi/45 km)

Rent an electric bike at Pedego in Monkton and pedal through Gunpowder Falls State Park on this scenic rail-to-trail path that extends all the way into Pennsylvania. Or explore on foot from one of the many access points along the trail's 20 miles.

Bacon Ridge Natural Area (26 mi/42 km)

900 acres of expansive marshes and mature forests with a network of trails that are great for hiking and mountain biking.

Sandy Point State Park (35 mi/56 km)

This popular park features a public beach (right on the Chesapeake Bay!), boat launch, food and beverage concessions, picnic areas, bathhouses, playgrounds, and natural surface trails. Entrance fee, $5 per person.

Terrapin Nature Park (40 mi/64 km)

This award-winning 276-acre nature park on the Eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay features a 3.25-mile oyster chaff walking trail, which meanders through wildflower meadows, wetlands, tidal ponds, woodlands and sandy shorelines. View waterfowl and wildlife from two observation blinds overlooking tidal ponds.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary (45 mi/72 km)

Jug Bay is an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area, and one of three components of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Walk the boardwalks along the marsh, watch the osprey dive for fish, enjoy the forest canopy. This quiet place in southern Anne Arundel County is perfect for hiking, kayaking, and birdwatching. The sanctuary is made up of five different properties, preserving 1700 acres of wetland. Some areas have entrance fees ($6 per vehicle).

Further afield

If you have access to a car and are ready for a long day trip or overnight adventure, here are a few of the region's distinctive outdoor experiences.

For paddlers

Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards have become a very popular way for Marylanders to get out on their beloved local waters. However, note that May is early in the season, so some outfitters may not have regular hours. None will rent paddlecraft if wind speeds are too high. Call ahead if this is an activity you are interested in. A few notable outfitters in the region are: