Where is Elk Neck State Park?
- 4395 Turkey Point Rd, North East, MD 21901, United States
Elk Neck US State Park is in the Northeastern corner of Maryland, on the peninsula in Cecil County, near the border with Delaware. Located between the Northeast River and the Elk River, it's approximately 60 miles from Baltimore and Philadelphia. Whether it’s for a day or the weekend, the park provides an incredible way to experience the local wildlife and escape the city.
How Big is Elk Neck State Park?
The park covers 2370 acres of land and has 6 trails from easy to moderate difficulty. The trails offer visitors with over 12 miles of hiking and biking throughout the park and range from 50m to 177m elevation gain. Each trail enables visitors’ access to viewpoints of local wildlife and for children and the elderly to enjoy the spectacular views of the park. The park also includes the famous 35-foot Turkey Point Lighthouse that dates back to 1833. The lighthouse sits atop a 100-foot bluff overlooking the Upper Chesapeake Bay.
Elk Neck State Park Weather
In the spring the weather improves, and visitors can expect mild weather with the occasional rain and temperatures between 35-75F. Spring is marked by the return of Osprey, and families visiting the park as it comes to life.
In the summer visitors can expect there to be a lot of sunshine as the clouds clear out and the temperatures rise to around 65-85F. There will be more volunteers around the park and will usually allow visitors access inside the lighthouse.
In the fall, the weather becomes milder and the temperatures typically begin to drop to around 40-65F. Along with the resident wildlife, visitors will be joined by the migration of the common loon and the tundra swan to mark the coming of winter.
In the winter visitors can expect cold and wet weather with temperatures around 25-45F. Visitors may be fortunate enough to see bald eagles, the once-endangered brown pelicans, and double-crested cormorants nesting.
When did Elk Neck Become a State Park?
In 1935, State Forester Fred W. Beasley persuaded Dr. William Abbott to change his final will to what would become part of the park as we know it today. As a naturalist, Dr. Abbott originally intended the area to be a gift to the Boy Scouts of America. However, in 1936 Dr. William Abbott bequeathed the land along the Elk River to the state. The state would later buy more land, and from 1937-1941 the Civilian Conservation Corps began working on making the park and trails more easily accessible to visitors.
Things to do in Elk Neck State Park
Elk Neck was created and designed with families in mind and allowing people to experience the beauty of the area. Below, our State Park Visitors Guide outlines a list of top things to do and see while visiting the park, along with a summary to help you enjoy your visit.
Turkey Point Lighthouse
The 35-foot historic lighthouse can be found on the Turkey Point Lighthouse Trail loop. The trail is listed as an easy hike and is approximately a 0.8-mile hike from the parking area at the south end of the peninsula. It can be crowded in peak season, but the hike is well worth experiencing the view of the bay.
The park offers 6 trails that range from 1.5 to 3 miles from start to finish and range from novice to difficult hiking status. Visitors are permitted to ride bicycles on the trails, but cyclists should be aware that some parts of the trails do not allow bikes along certain sections. The trails are closely monitored and maintained by volunteers and clearly marked. It’s recommended to check for trail updates before planning a hike, because the park will close trails affected by severe storms if needed.
Animals in Elk Neck
The park is home to a variety of animals that can be seen along the trails and in designated areas throughout the park. Along with shorebirds, visitors can see multiple species of hawks and eagles in “The Raptor Viewing Field”. The park is also home to a variety of amphibians, mammals, and marine life that can be seen throughout the year.
The bay has some great fishing. Visitors have access to fishing piers in the park as well as a launch facility for those wanting to venture out into the bay. Rogues Harbor Boat Launch is located on the east side of the park along the Elk River.
If you’re looking for a place to relax for an afternoon, the North East Beach area comes highly recommended and is busiest in the peak of the summer. It's recommended to wear water shoes while swimming because of the large rocks in the water.
Canoeing and Kayaking
North East Beach area is also home to the canoeing and kayaking launch point. The calm waters of the beach make it ideal for all levels to paddle in and out of the area. It's most crowded in the summer, so it’s recommended to arrive earlier in the day when there are fewer people if you are a beginner.
When to go to Elk Neck State Park?
Each season has something unique for visitors to experience making the park a wonderful place to visit year-round. In the winter it’s generally less crowded and provides the unique perspective of seeing the bay through the trees and flora. The spring and fall offer milder temperatures and are also a wonderful time for photography as the season's change and the wildlife is more active. The summer is peak season, and many visitors make the most of the warm sunshine on the beach or out on the water in the bay. Whatever season you decide to visit the park, you can expect to be captivated by the sights and sounds of the local wildlife.
Must-Have Things to Bring to Elk Neck
The park is well-established and has a fair amount of the essentials covered for its visitors. List of Parks put together a list of must-haves to make sure you’re prepared to have a great time at the park!
Whenever traveling it’s always wise to have water. The park has numerous water fountains and access to clean water, but it’s something you never want to run out of. We recommend bringing a full thermos for each person. It won’t be too heavy to carry and will definitely come in handy walking the trails on hot summer days.
There's a snack shop in the park and plenty of options around but as most parents know - you always need snacks. It never hurts to have something small to hold you over for another hour or so, the sunset is worth the wait.
Elk Neck is not a park that is considered big enough for visitors to easily get lost, but it does happen. It’s always good to have a downloaded map on your phone you can access offline a well as a physical map. Phone service is generally not an issue in the park but having a backup is always a good idea just in case you lose signal, or your phone battery dies.
Jacket and Cold Weather Attire
Make sure you check the weather before visiting the park. We recommend always having a jacket or something to keep you dry in your bag. The winters are generally cold and wet, and although it's rare, the park has experienced hurricanes and tornadoes.
If you’re planning on hiking, try to bring hiking boots or shoes with some grip that you don’t mind getting dirty. Even though most of the trails are maintained, the trails are much more enjoyable with some traction if it has rained or snowed.
Sunglasses, Sunscreen, and Warm Weather Attire
The summer can get hot and being on the bay you will need sunscreen. Sunglasses are also recommended especially if you’re planning on being out on the water. We recommend polarized sunglasses to relieve your eyes from the strain of the reflection off the water.
depending on your plans and how long you will be in the park will influence the cooler size you’ll need. For a day we recommend something that can hold some drinks and food. In the summer you’ll want a bigger cooler to keep hydrated and enough ice to withstand the heat.
There's a lot of wildlife in the park, but you’ll want a pair of binoculars primarily for local birds. The raptor viewing area is a great place to look and with a little patience, you can see diverse species of hawks and eagles in the area.
In the spring and summer we recommend you have plenty of bug spray. Today we have options from bracelets and other devices to “deter/repel” mosquitoes. You don’t want to be in the middle of the trail or wake up after the first-night camping covered in bites.
The park also asks all visitors to bring their own bags for garbage in case the trash cans are full to keep the beach as clean as possible since it can get windy. Sometimes the trash cans are full so rather than leaving it, the park and future visitors appreciate guests leaving the park cleaner than you found it.
Where to stay in Elk Neck State Park
The park boasts 250 campsites, 15 cabins, and 4 youth group sites. Visitors can expect facilities including family bathrooms and showers, as well as wooded and open field camping options. Campers also have access to grills, which are available throughout the park. With all the camping options available, some people prefer to bring or rent an RV. RV’s have an array of available places to set up since most of the campsites are equipped with amenities to support them. If sleeping in the great outdoors isn’t for you, don’t worry there are plenty of options nearby, including over 20 hotel options within 12 miles of the park.
Food Nearby Elk Neck State Park
The park has limited options, so it's recommended to bring some snacks and drinks if you plan to stay in the park for a few hours.
Outside the park, you can find snack shacks like “The 10th Hole at Sandy Cove”. They traditionally operate from late spring through the fall and offer simple items from ice cream to grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza. If you don’t feel like being around the crowds of the beach or lighthouse, Annie’s Sunset Café is a great choice to watch the sunset by the bay.
Maryland is known for its crab, and Captain Chris’s Crab Shack comes locally recommended. Beach Grill Plus is another nearby eatery that offers full meals, daily specials, and is known for its Prime Rib on weekends.
Airports Near Elk Neck State Park
Most of New England is relatively compact compared to the rest of the United States and Elk Neck State Park is no different. You have plenty of options for airports if you are flying in and would like to visit the park. The closest airport is New Castel Airport (Wilmington, DE) and is approximately 30 miles from the park. You also have the choice to fly into Philadelphia International Airport (Philadelphia, PA), Lancaster Airport (Lancaster, PA), or Baltimore/Washington International (Baltimore, MD) that are all between 50-75 miles to the park.