At a Glance

Hours:
  • 8 AM to dusk, daily year-round, except park closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
  • During periods of inclement weather and poor trail conditions, the park may be closed to protect the trails.
  • The county sometimes schedules large equestrian events; the park may be closed to hiking and birding at these times because the event might use the trails. Call the County Parks Office at (301) 932-3470 to inquire before you visit.
  • Entry when the park is closed is prohibited.

Cost: Birders and hikers – free. Horseback riding is limited to those with a paid annual membership.

Tips:  A heads-up: the compass marker on the county’s trail map at the link below is not properly oriented; north is actually toward the upper LEFT corner of the map, not the upper right as shown. ◾ Bring a scope in winter if you plan to hike one of the trails with water views. ◾ Trails may be wet or muddy and have exposed roots and rocks. Wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots or shoes. ◾ This park is primarily maintained as an equestrian facility; be prepared to meet horses on the trails. ◾ Fields are leased to local farmers for planting, and there may be tractors working the fields. Stay out of planted cropland at all times. ◾ Printed trail maps are available at the sign-in bulletin board located in the horse-trailer parking area. ◾ Portable restrooms and a couple of picnic tables are near the main parking area.

Prohibited: No bicycles on the trails. ◾ Dirt bikes/ ATVs and other motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails. If you see dirt bikes/ATVs on the trails, please call the Charles County Sheriff’s office at 301-932-2222 as soon as possible. ◾ Also prohibited: tobacco use, alcoholic beverages, glass containers, firearms, drones, fireworks, model airplanes or model rockets.

Best Seasons:  The birds are great year-round, but there is heavy equestrian use on weekends year-round. Try to visit on weekdays and arrive as soon as the park opens (8 AM).

Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Benedict SW (majority of the park); Benedict SE (the southeastern corner of the park, including the large marsh there, all of the Blue Trail, and part of the Red Trail, as well as the marsh between the Blue and Red Trails)

Local MOS Chapter:  Patuxent Bird Club or Anne Arundel Bird Club

Maxwell Hall Park

6700 Maxwell Drive, Hughesville, MD 20637
(301) 932-3470

Are you the kind of birder who likes to hike? Then Maxwell Hall Park is for you. This 670-acre park features about 14 miles of trails that wind through diverse habitats of woods, hedgerows, fields, and marshes, with rolling hills that offer outstanding views of the Patuxent River and access to the river’s sandy beaches. The Patuxent River is the longest river entirely within the State of Maryland, and at Maxwell Hall, the river is a wide tidal estuary, attracting waterfowl and gull in winter and terns and waders in summer.

Most of Maxwell Hall Park consists of second-growth deciduous woodland; older trees are located in stream valleys, of which there are several. There are a few areas with planted conifers. The fields are leased to local farmers and most are in crops, but occasionally you will come across a fallow shrubby area. There are marshy creek outlets at a few areas along the Patuxent River. There’s more than enough to occupy a birder over multiple visits.

The property is located in northeast Charles County; the land is owned by the state but leased to the County, which operates the park primarily as an equestrian facility. Note that on some maps, the park may be labelled “Maxwell Hall Natural Resources Management Area,” the state’s name for the property.

Birders and hikers are welcome. The main entrance is located off Maxwell Drive, and is easily accessed from MD Route 231; the main parking area includes a large separate lot for horse trailers and provides access to most of the trail network. There is a separate, smaller lot a short distance to the north on Teagues Point Road, at the trailhead for the park’s Brown Trail. [Google map]

Trail maps are available on the sign-in bulletin board located in the horse-trailer parking area. Or print your own and take it with you, using the link at left. Before exploring Maxwell Hall Park, you might want to download the free AllTrails smartphone app, which covers most of the trails at the park. The maps in the app will allow you to see exactly where you are on the trail system, and you can trace your route while in the park.

Maxwell Hall Park has six main trails, given color names; all are marked and well maintained. Some parts of the terrain are hilly and steep; other areas are gently rolling. In general, the trails slope downward from the main parking area toward the Patuxent River to the northeast; see the trail map at link at left, which gives the distances of each trail.

Several streams run through the property, and the terrain near the streams tends to be steeper. The smaller streams feature wet crossings but there are bridges at the larger ones. Small marshy areas where the creeks flow into the Patuxent River are located in the north part of the park, near the Brown Trail; medium-sized marshes are between the Orange and Red Trails and also between the Red and Blue Trails; and a large marsh – the largest in the park – is at the southeast corner, off the Blue Trail. Note that the Patuxent River is tidal at this point, and the water levels in the marshes vary with the tides, so the birds in the marshes may change considerably with the time of day and ebb and flow of the tides.

Note that the best access to the Brown Trail – which is itself a network of looped trails – is via the small auxiliary parking area on Teagues Point Road, a short distance north of the main park entrance. The Brown Trail includes some steep slopes.

As you walk, you’ll constantly encounter objects that are intentionally placed as horseback riding obstacles; these include jumps such as logs, little A-frame structures called coops, brush-filled boxes, straw bales, and more. Pay attention to these objects because they serve as handy singing and hunting perches for birds such as flycatchers, Eastern Bluebirds, swallows, and sparrows.

Birdlife:

The eBird hotspot for Maxwell Hall Park lists 146+ species.

Year-round species (essentially all are breeders): Canada Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher (may be absent in December), Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Eastern Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Cardinal.

Winter – 61 species, including some that may be present over a longer period from fall through spring: Mallard, American Black Duck, Canvasback, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great-Black Backed Gull (may be infrequent), Northern Harrier (rare), Sharp-shinned Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Common Grackle, Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Summer/breeding season – 50 species, including some that may be present from spring through fall; essentially all are breeders: Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Green Heron, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Purple Martin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, House Finch, Chipping Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Brown-headed Cowbird, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting.

Spring and/or fall migrants: Snow Goose, Cackling Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Chimney Swift, Blackk-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Bonaparte’s Gull, Laughing Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Common Loon, Great Egret, Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wren, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, American Pipit, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler.

Sporadic: Rock Pigeon, European Starling, Field Sparrow.

Wheelchair Access:

The trails at Maxwell Hall Park are not wheelchair-accessible.

Pet Policy:

Pets are allowed but must be on leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet.

Special Features:

A collage of photos of the different trails at Maxwell Hall Park is available through the Friends of Maxwell Hall website. The images are oriented to an interactive map that enables you to see images at different points along the trails.

As mentioned, horseback riding is the most popular activity at Maxwell Hall Park, and the facilities include a fenced warm-up area and a cross-country jump course. Riders must purchase memberships to bring in their horses, and only a limited number of memberships are available each year, in order to prevent damage to the property from excessive use. No horses are available to rent on site.

The park takes its name from Maxwell Hall, a historic house located within the park grounds. The house, built in 1768, is open to the public only for special events and by appointment; there is no walk-in visitation. The Friends of Maxwell Hall have produced a Virtual Colonial Faire that provides a set of videos, including a virtual tour of the house as well as exploration of various aspects of the house’s history, including the holding of enslaved people in the 1700s and 1800s.

There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Charles 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 Maryland Audubon Society serves birders in Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s Counties.

Multimedia:

Regional Raptors” is one of the videos included in the Virtual Colonial Faire (see under Special Features above). The 17-minute video is hosted by Mike Callahan and John Sullens from the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center. They display a selection of raptors from the collection of unreleasable birds housed at the Education Center, and discuss their natural history as well as the general features that define raptors.

Parking:

Main entrance has large gravel lot with separate area for horse trailers, located off Maxwell Drive. Smaller auxiliary lot, also gravel, located a short distance north on Teague’s Point Road [Google Map]; look for a small lane leading uphill into a wooded area, immediately north of the house at #17364 on the right side of the road as you travel north.

Directions:

From the Washington, DC area: From the DC Beltway (I-495), take Exit 7 to go south on MD Route 5/Branch Avenue to Hughesville, MD (about 24 miles). At Hughesville, follow signs to take MD Route 231 east for 5.2 miles. Turn left to go north on Maxwell Drive. Maxwell Drive will end at the main parking area for the park in about 1.1 miles. Just be careful to stay straight on Maxwell Drive and ignore any forks in the road. If you wish to park at the small auxiliary lot for the Brown Trail, just before reaching the main parking area for the park, bear left off Maxwell Drive onto Teagues Point Road. Drive another 0.6 miles to the auxiliary lot on the right, just north of the house at #17364.

From the Baltimore area: From the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), take Exit 4 for I-97 southbound. Follow I-97 for 9.8 miles to Exit 7. Take Exit 7 onto MD Route 3 southbound. In 9.7 miles, Route 3/Crain Highway will pass under US Route 50 and at that point, the route number changes to US Route 301 (still Crain Highway). Continue south on Route 301 for another 24 miles and then turn left onto MD Route 5 to go southeast to Hughesville, in about 10.2 miles. At the roundabouts at Hughesville, follow signs to take MD Route 231/Prince Frederick Road east for 5.2 miles. Turn left to go north on Maxwell Drive. Maxwell Drive will end at the main parking area for the park in about 1.1 miles. Just be careful to stay straight on Maxwell Drive and ignore any forks in the road. If you wish to park at the small auxiliary lot for the Brown Trail, just before reaching the main parking area for the park, bear left off Maxwell Drive onto Teagues Point Road. Drive another 0.6 miles to the auxiliary lot on the right, just north of the house at #17364.

From Prince George’s County: Use US Route 301 to go south to Waldorf. In Waldorf, turn left to go southeast on MD Route 5/Leonardtown Road for 10.2 miles. At the roundabouts at Hughesville, follow signs to take MD Route 231/Prince Frederick Road east for 5.2 miles. Turn left to go north on Maxwell Drive. Maxwell Drive will end at the main parking area for the park in about 1.1 miles. Just be careful to stay straight on Maxwell Drive and ignore any forks in the road. If you wish to park at the small auxiliary lot for the Brown Trail, just before reaching the main parking area for the park, bear left off Maxwell Drive onto Teagues Point Road. Drive another 0.6 miles to the auxiliary lot on the right, just north of the house at #17364.

From La Plata or other areas in western Charles County: Take MD Route 6/East Charles Street east out of La Plata, and drive east for about 7.0 miles. At Olivers Shop Road, turn left to go northwest for 3.5 miles, then turn right to go east on MD Route 231/Burnt Store Road for 3.6 miles. At the roundabouts at Hughesville, follow signs to take MD Route 231/Prince Frederick Road east for 5.2 miles. Turn left to go north on Maxwell Drive. Maxwell Drive will end at the main parking area for the park in about 1.1 miles. Just be careful to stay straight on Maxwell Drive and ignore any forks in the road. If you wish to park at the small auxiliary lot for the Brown Trail, just before reaching the main parking area for the park, bear left off Maxwell Drive onto Teagues Point Road. Drive another 0.6 miles to the auxiliary lot on the right, just north of the house at #17364.

From St. Mary’s County: Use MD Route 5 or MD Route 235 to go north to Hughesville. At the roundabouts at Hughesville, follow signs to take MD Route 231/Prince Frederick Road east for 5.2 miles. Turn left to go north on Maxwell Drive. Maxwell Drive will end at the main parking area for the park in about 1.1 miles. Just be careful to stay straight on Maxwell Drive and ignore any forks in the road. If you wish to park at the small auxiliary lot for the Brown Trail, just before reaching the main parking area for the park, bear left off Maxwell Drive onto Teagues Point Road. Drive another 0.6 miles to the auxiliary lot on the right, just north of the house at #17364.

From Anne Arundel or Calvert County: Use MD Route 2/4 to go south to Prince Frederick. In Prince Frederick, turn right to go west on MD Route 231/Hallowing Point Road for about 7.1 miles. Turn right to go north on Maxwell Drive (preceding right turn is signed as Bluebird Hill Place). Maxwell Drive will end at the main parking area for the park in about 1.1 miles. Just be careful to stay straight on Maxwell Drive and ignore any forks in the road. If you wish to park at the small auxiliary lot for the Brown Trail, just before reaching the main parking area for the park, bear left off Maxwell Drive onto Teagues Point Road. Drive another 0.6 miles to the auxiliary lot on the right, just north of the house at #17364.

From the Eastern Shore: Use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and continue west on US Route 50 to Annapolis. Take Exit 23 to go south on MD Route 2, and then follow directions as given above from Anne Arundel County.

From Western Maryland: Use I-70 eastbound and then I-270 south to reach the DC Beltway. Then follow directions as given above for the Washington, Dc area.

Nearby Sites:

Charles County: Allen’s Fresh Natural Area / Zekiah Swamp Natural Environmental AreaChapman State Park & Chapman Residual Wildlife Management Area ◾ Indian Creek Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Indian Head Rail TrailMattawoman Natural Environmental Area ◾ Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management AreaSmallwood State Park

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsHay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh

Features and Amenities:

BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater View

Type:

County ParksThe Rivers of the Western Shore