At a Glance

Hours: Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round.

Cost: Day use fee: $2 in winter, $5 in summer for MD residents, $3/$6 for out-of-state visitors. Pay at honor system box in off-season or entrance booth in summer. Annual State Park passes are $75.00 for MD residents and $100.00 for out-of-state visitors. Lifetime senior passes are also available for a one-time fee of $10.

Tips: A scope can be helpful. ◾ Birding is best early in the morning before boaters, fisherman & other recreational users disturb birds on the lake. ◾ During periods of high visitation, when the park’s capacity is reached, the park will be closed & cars will be turned away at the entrance. ◾ Black bears are present in the park. ◾ Parts of the park are used for hunting. Be aware of hunting seasons and visit accordingly. ◾ Restrooms are located in the beach area, in the campground, and at the boat launch.

Best Seasons: Spring, winter.

Local MOS Chapter: Allegany-Garrett Bird Club

Rocky Gap State Park

12562 Pleasant Valley Road, Flintstone, MD 21530
(301) 722-1480

Rocky Gap State Park is a state-owned recreation area with resort features as well as back-country areas. The park’s 3,000 acres include Lake Habeeb, nestled at the foot of Evitts Mountain, and the privately owned and operated Rocky Gap Resort Casino, which features a golf course and a full-service hotel with several restaurants. The park offers water recreation, camping facilities, and hiking trails. The park is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the resort by the Golden Casino Group. The park’s manmade Lake Habeeb, fed by Rocky Gap Run, covers 243 acres and offers a white sand beach and swimming. Boats (canoes, kayaks, or electric motors only) are allowed on Lake Habeeb; a boat launch fee is assessed. Boats can be rented at the park.

Hiking trails at Rocky Gap accommodate all abilities. The quarter-mile Touch of Nature Trail is a paved route to an accessible fishing dock.  Other trails include the four-mile Lakeside Trail and the five-mile Evitt’s Homesite Trail, which climbs Evitts Mountain amid streams with hemlock, mountain laurel and rhododendron growing nearby. The Evitts Homesite Trail leads through the 943-acre Rocky Gap Wildlands, an expansive tract of state-protected land left undeveloped for passive recreation. The Rocky Gap Wildlands are off the beaten path and the trail is long and steep, requiring excellent physical fitness and determination. The reward for those who choose the trail is immersion in the dense hemlock forest and spectacular views at the top of the mountain. See the Trail Map link at left for more trail information.

Birders usually start at the parking area for the beach, scoping the water for swimming birds. The sandy beach might have shorebirds during migration, but only when crowds of people are not present (early morning is best).  A stop at the campground area can be productive, especially around the edges of the woods and shrubby areas. A walk up the trail to the dam can yield good looks at swallows in season, and the dam also provides another good overlook for checking the surface of the water. Any of the trails through forested areas are good for warblers, flycatchers, and thrushes during migration and breeding season. The amphitheatre area near the boat launch has some good shrubby hedgerows and lakeside plant habitat. Even the golf course can hold birds such as flycatchers and bluebirds.

Birdlife:

Rocky Gap State Park boasts over 215 species reported on eBird. Rocky Gap is the best spot in Allegany County for finding waterfowl. It is also noted for turning up some of the rarer birds ever found in the county. Occasionally there are shorebirds at the beach at the end of the main entrance. Waterfowl that may be hard to find in western Maryland occur here, such as all three scoters (Black Scoter being very rare), Long-tailed Duck, all three Mergansers, Greater or Lesser Scaup, and others. There are usually several Ruddy Ducks here in early winter. The pine woods found throughout the park host singing Pine Warblers. There have been a number of other significant bird sightings at the park. Allegany County’s only record of Piping Plover occurred at Rocky Gap’s beach. Other western Maryland rarities recorded here include Red-necked Grebe and Eared Grebe, Red-throated Loon, American Golden Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Red Phalarope, and Snow Bunting. Caspian, Common, and Forster’s Terns are often seen at Rocky Gap in spring.

Parking:

A large paved lot is located at the main park entrance. Additional parking is available at the resort hotel, at the campground, and at the boat launch near the northeast corner of the lake. There is also a large parking area near the amphitheater on the northeast lake shore.

Special Features:

A Nature Center is located in the campground area at the east end of the lake. The Nature Center offers interpretive activities such as nature hikes, talks, nature crafts, demonstrations, children’s programs, campfire programs and special events. The Nature Center has open hours for visitors to explore the building and its many exhibits. ◾ In addition, the park has a Scales and Tales Aviary that houses captive birds that cannot be released. The Aviary does not have regularly scheduled open hours; however, visitors may schedule a visit Labor Day through Memorial Day based on staff availability. Modified hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day allow visitors to observe feeding and training of the birds.  The Aviary is located at the southwest corner of the lake. ◾ A seasonal food concession is located in the beach area, and additional food options are available year-round in the casino hotel. ◾ A 943-acre section of the park has been designated a State Wildland, with special protections to limit development and to preserve the area for passive recreation. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Allegany & Garrett Counties Bird Club, which hosts field trips in the region and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.

Directions:

From I-68, take the Rocky Gap State Park exit (Exit 50) and head north along Lake Shore Drive into the park. The Ranger Station, parking area, and beach are located straight ahead. To reach the campground, turn right (east) onto Pleasant Valley Road and travel 1.5 miles to the campground entrance.

Nearby Sites:

Finzel Swamp, C&O Canal Terminus, C&O Canal – North Branch Recreational Area, Green Ridge State Forest.

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams

Features:

BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingFishingHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingLake, Pond, Bay, River, OceanNature CenterObservation Platform or TowerOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsSwimmingWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Nature CentersPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsState Natural Areas & WildlandsState Parks