At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk, daily.
Cost: Free. Donations to ACLT appreciated.
Tips: No smoking or fires on ACLT grounds. ◾ Also not allowed on trails: motorized Vehicles (such as ATVs), horses, and bicycles, except that bicycles are permitted on the East Loop Trail. ◾ Stay on trails to protect the habitat. ◾ Wear sturdy, close-toed waterproof hiking boots (not sneakers); a hiking stick will help on steep trails. ◾ Trails may be flooded in low-lying areas near Parkers Creek and its tributaries. ◾ Deer hunting is conducted on the preserve in cooperation with the MD Department of Natural Resources. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. See ACLT’s Hunting Season Schedule webpage for more details. ◾ Portable restroom at North Side Trailhead and South Side Trailhead.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Prince Frederick SE, Prince Frederick CE
American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve
North Side Trailhead – 676 Double Oak Rd., Prince Frederick, MD 20678
PF2Bay Trailhead – 105 Vianney Lane, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
South Side Trailhead – 2650 Scientists Cliff Rd., Port Republic, MD 20676
The American Chestnut Land Trust’s (ACLT) Parkers Creek Preserve is a complex of parcels, accumulated gradually since 1986, originally centered around an iconic American Chestnut tree that survived the great chestnut blight for a century. Now amounting to almost 3,600 acres on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, it is Calvert County’s largest block of undeveloped land. At Parkers Creek Preserve, ACLT owns almost 1,400 acres, manages 1,800 acres owned by the State of Maryland, and holds conservation easements on 374 privately-owned acres. The section owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is known as Parker’s Creek Wildlife Management Area. The Preserve is bisected by Parkers Creek, a tidal stream that empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and that is the county’s wildest unspoiled feature. The forest and wetland habitats here are truly impressive and it is hard to believe that most of this land was once farmed for tobacco.
Parkers Creek Preserve will appeal to birders who like to hike. The Preserve has a well-developed network of trails that pass through mature hardwood forest with scattered patches of pines, skirting field edges and going through bottomland wetlands. The size of some of the larger trees is truly breathtaking. American Holly and Mountain Laurel are dominant understory plants. For a description of Parkers Creek’s unique habitats and wildlife, consult DNR’s Parker’s Creek Natural Area website.
One would think that, given the location on the Coastal Plain, the land would be flat, but one would be wrong. The Preserve is criss-crossed by numerous tributary streams, some of which flow through deep, steep-sided ravines. Consequently, many of the trails at Parkers Creek are surprisingly hilly and challenging. Nonetheless, the trails will transport you to another time, and offer a peaceful respite not far from the busy Route 2/Route 4 highway corridor.
There are three main access points for the large ACLT preserve:
1) North Side Trailhead: 676 Double Oak Rd., Prince Frederick, MD 20678. This area also includes the administrative office of ACLT and Double Oak Farm (see Special Features below). The North Side Trailhead is the access point for a network of trails that loop north and south along the slopes leading down to Parkers Creek.
2) PF2Bay Trailhead: 105 Vianney Lane, Prince Frederick, MD 20678. This trailhead shares the parking lot of St. John Vianney Church, and note that PF stands for Prince Frederick: this is the “Prince Frederick to the Bay Trail.” It is an “out-and back” trail, not a loop and runs 6.1 miles from St. John Vianney to an overlook over the Bay. Along the way, it passes ACLT headquarters at Double Oak Farm and connects with the North Side trail system.
3) South Side Trailhead: 2650 Scientists Cliffs Rd, Port Republic, MD 20676. The trails on the northwest side of Scientists’ Cliffs Road pass some historical farm buildings dating back to the time when tobacco farming was predominant here. The parking area at this trailhead also provides access to Parkers Creek’s East Loop, located on the southeast side of Scientists’ Cliffs Road.
A fourth ACLT area, Warrior’s Rest Sanctuary, hosts sensitive habitats and is not open to the public, except for special events and guided canoe tours.
Consult the excellent trail map provided by ACLT at the link at left. Printed maps are available for free at ACLT’s trailhead locations. The trails in each of the three areas open to the public are all worth exploring, each offering its own features and habitats. A unique pulley-raft allows hikers to cross Parkers Creek between the North Side and South Side in lieu of a bridge. Be forewarned that the North-South Trail, which is the access for the raft from the South Side, is the longest and most challenging trail in the preserve, with many steep hills. However, in spring 2023, ACLT announced that a new spur trail provides a shortcut to the raft, minus the challenging hills of the North-South Trail.
Where to find the new spur trail to the raft: The Raft Spur Trail, not yet shown on ACLT maps, is part of the South Side Trail System. From MD Route 2/4 south of Prince Frederick, turn north onto Parkers Creek Road and follow it almost to the end (about two miles). Look for the DNR Wildlife Management Area parking lot on the left side of Parkers Creek Road. Do NOT park on Parkers Creek Rd. After parking, walk to the end of Parkers Creek Road, walk around the gate, and you’re on the spur! After 1/10th of a mile, the spur intersects with the North/South Trail. Turn left and follow it approximately 1/2 mile to the creek and raft. Look for white blazes on the spur and pink blazes on the North/South Trail.
Another new trail that opened in December 2021, the Holly Hill Trail on the North Side, provides access to a parcel that was purchased by ACLT in 2017. The trail passes the historic Holly Hill Log Barn, which dates back to the 1840s-1850s.
It is also possible to access Parker’s Creek Preserve by using small parking areas provided for hunting access to the DNR-owned Parker’s Creek WMA. There are five DNR parking areas: 1) on Simmons Ridge Road; 2) on Double Oak Road; 3) at the end of Goldstein Road; 4) on Route 765/Main Street, a short distance south of downtown Prince Frederick; 5) and on Parkers Creek Road. The first three parking areas are all on the north side of Parkers Creek and are accessed from MD Route 402/Dares Beach Road; the Route 765 parking area is in a little forested hollow quite near Parkers Creek itself; and the last parking area, on Parkers Creek Road, is on the south side and is accessed from MD Route 4 at Port Republic. As noted above, the Parker’s Creek Road parking area provides access to the new short cut spur trail to the pulley raft that crosses the creek. See DNR’s Parker’s Creek WMA website and WMA map for location details.
The DNR parking area at the end of Goldstein Road on the north side of Parker’s Creek is noteworthy because it provides access to brushy fields, unlike the forest that carpets most of Parker’s Creek. The parking area on Simmons Ridge Road is located where the road is crossed by the PF2B Trail and can be used as an alternate access point for that trail. The Double Oak Road parking area is located along ACLT’s Double Oak Road Trail, and can be used to access the associated network of North Side foot-trails.
Over 180 species have been reported on eBird from Parkers Creek Preserve. There are five separate eBird hotspots that cover the Preserve:
- American Chestnut Land Trust–North – 155+ species
- American Chestnut Land Trust–South – 174+ species
- American Chestnut Land Trust – PF2B Trail – 72+ species
- American Chestnut Land Trust–East Loop – 124+ species
- Parkers Creek – 63+ species (this hotspot refers to an undefined area but may be loosely used by some birders for the DNR-owned Parkers Creek WMA. The hotspot pin is located south of the DNR parking area along the Double Oak Road Trail on the North Side of the Preserve.
Parker’s Creek Preserve is known for its rich community of Forest Interior Dwelling species. There are breeding populations of Wild Turkey; Prothonotary, Kentucky, Hooded, and Worm-eating Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat; both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Wood Thrush; Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher; Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireo.
At the creek during migration, it may be possible to find Virginia Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, and Willow Flycatcher. At Double Oak Farm at the North Side Trailhead, look for Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler, and swallows flying overhead; sparrows are possible in winter. Bald Eagles are present year-round, and Ospreys are numerous from March through September. Other raptors include Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, and both vultures. Breeding Red-headed Woodpeckers are possible; look on snags in or near Parkers Creek, as well as at other spots near water.
In 2005, Parkers Creek became famous in the birding community when the South Side hosted a singing male Swainson’s Warbler, a species that had not been found in Maryland for many years. The bird was present near the Flint Trail from May 21 through June 10 of that year, and was seen, heard, and photographed by many birders. That is the last accepted record of Swainson’s Warbler in Maryland to date.
The trails at Parkers Creek are not wheelchair accessible. However, there is good birding from or near the car along the long driveway (Double Oak Road) into the North Side headquarters area and around the headquarters area (gravel parking lot), as well as at the South Side parking area. There is even good birding at the paved parking lot for the PF2B Trail at St. John Vianney’s Church. Further, there are two public roads that penetrate through the North Side of the Preserve, running almost due south from MD Route 402/ Dares Beach Road. These are
1) Tobacco Ridge Road: from MD Route 402 heading east, turn right just past a Calvert County Public Schools office building to go south on Tobacco Ridge Road, which comes to a dead end at the gates of the Prince Frederick Water Treatment Facility (no entry). The PF2B Trail crosses Tobacco Ridge Road.
2) Simmons Ridge Road: from MD Route 402 heading east, turn right just past the intersection with Clay Hammond Road (on the left). Simmons Ridge Road will take you south into a circular courtyard that is ringed by private homes, and you might think you’re reached the end of the road, but look carefully along the southern edge of that courtyard for an opening where the road continue south. There are signs marked “Private Property,” but these refer to the properties along the road, not to the roadway. The roadway itself provides right-of-way to the DNR-owned Parker’s Creek Wildlife Management Area, which is managed by ACLT. The WMA has a small parking area next to an old tobacco barn on the right (west) side of the road. The PF2B Trail crosses Simmons Ridge Road at this point and there is good birding along the road and at the parking area itself. A short distance beyond the WMA parking area, Simmons Ridge Road enters private property and you should not proceed further.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet.
- The State of Maryland has designated the Parkers Creek Natural Area as one of its thirty-plus State Natural Areas, a coordinated statewide system that recognizes and seeks to conserve the best remaining examples of Maryland’s native landscapes for future generations.
- In addition, 0ver 1,700 acres at Parkers Creek are within a designated State Wildland. Maryland Wildlands are areas of state-owned land that have retained their wilderness character or contain rare or vanishing species of plant or animal life or similar features worthy of preservation. There are 38 sites that have been designated as Wildlands by the Maryland General Assembly. Wildlands may include unique ecological, geological, scenic, and contemplative recreational areas. These sites are Maryland’s equivalent to the federal Wilderness Preservation System.State-designated Wildlands are managed for passive recreation only, including hiking, hunting, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding and nature interpretation. See interactive Wildlands Map.
- Parkers Creek Preserve has been designated as the Parkers Creek Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
- Parkers Creek Preserve is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service.
Since 2020, ACLT has been engaged in a project known as the Parkers Creek Heritage Trail, funded by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, part of the Maryland Historical Trust. Through the Parkers Creek Heritage Trail, ACLT is providing a rich set of interpretive materials that explores the history of Parkers Creek back to pre-colonial times. The interpretive material is displayed on trail-side signs, at certain historic sites in the Preserve, and on the Heritage Trail website.◾ A few times a year, ACLT offers canoeing on Parkers Creek and/or access to its Warriors Rest Sanctuary, which is normally not open to the public. See the ACLT calendar. ◾ Double Oak Farm, at the North Side Trailhead, grows vegetables using environmentally-friendly and sustainable farming methods and is a demonstration project for these methods. Most of the food is donated to a local food pantry, but some is available for purchase through ACLT’s Farmer’s Markets, held in the summer. ◾ Maryland Master Naturalist training and classes are conducted at Parkers Creek Preserve.
There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Calvert County, but many birders participate in MOS through the Anne Arundel Bird Club or the Patuxent Bird Club; both of these MOS chapters offer field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. In addition, the Southern MD Audubon Society serves birders in Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s Counties.
- ACLT has posted a short YouTube video with stunning aerial footage that provides an overview of the habitats at Parker’s Creek:
- Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television, Episode 3002 has three segments, including one called “Marshland Mosaic” about the Parkers Creek Preserve, with excellent footage of the tidal marsh and creek. Other segments in this episode are “Of Trout & Trees,” about fly fishing for native Brook Trout in western Maryland, and “Futures in Forestry,” about MD DNR’s Natural Resources Career Camp, which offers high schoolers a chance to learn first-hand about forestry and other outdoor careers.
Free. Gravel parking lots at the North Side and South Side Trailheads. Paved parking lot at St. John Vianney Church for the PF2Bay Trail. Also small gravel parking areas that serve the DNR Parkers Creek WMA. See DNR’s Parker’s Creek WMA website and WMA map for location details.
North Side Trailhead: From MD Route 2/4 near Prince Frederick, turn east onto Dares Beach Road. In about 0.3 miles, go 180 degrees through the traffic circle to stay on Dares Beach Road. Continue east for 2.1 miles and turn right (south) onto Double Oak Road. At a private farm on the right, look for a gravel road on the left with a sign for ACLT. Follow this gravel road east to a parking area near the ACLT office, Double Oak Farm, and the North Side Trailhead.
PF2Bay Trailhead: From MD Route 2/4 at Prince Frederick, turn east onto MD Route 231/Church Street and go about 0.1 mile. At the T-intersection with MD Route 765/Main Street, turn right (south) and go about a block and a half to St.John Vianney Church on the left. Turn left immediately after the church building and drive past the church to a parking area at the rear. The trailhead is well-marked with a kiosk near the edge of the woods on the right as you enter the parking area.
South Side Trailhead: From MD Route 2/4 south of Prince Frederick, turn north onto Parkers Creek Road and then in 0.5 miles, turn right (east) onto Scientists Cliffs Road. The parking area and trailhead is on the left in about 1.0 mile, opposite the intersection with Aspen Road on the right. There is an old barn at the parking area.
Calvert County: Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm ◾ Calvert Cliffs State Park ◾ Chesapeake Beach ◾Flag Ponds Nature Park ◾ Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum ◾ Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area ◾ North Beach ◾ Solomons Island ◾ Ward Farm Recreation & Nature Park
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Free - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewYoung People / Families
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkChesapeake Bay Western ShoreHunting AreasPrivate Sanctuaries and PreservesState Natural Areas & Wildlands