Harford's best picnic spots

  • Picnic basket packed with Vienna bread from Groll's Bakery, San Cosmo wine from Mount Felix Vineyard and Winery and Riesling wine from Legends Vineyard.
Picnic basket packed with Vienna bread from Groll's Bakery,… (Photo by Sarah Pastrana )
April 16, 2013|Allison Eatough | For Harford Magazine

The dogwood trees are beginning to bloom, the air is warm and free of humidity, and residents everywhere are breaking out their long-dormant shorts and sandals. It’s spring and the start of picnic season.

From state and county parks to amphitheaters and nature centers, the county is filled with scenic places to enjoy an open-air meal that combines food and friends with nature.

To help narrow your search, we’ve listed nine of the county’s best picnic areas. Some are well-known spots while others might surprise you. So what are you waiting for? Dig out the wicker basket, pack the potato salad and start picnicking!

Rocks State Park
3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville

With more than 850 acres of dense forests, massive boulders and waterfalls, Rocks State Park is often described as one of the most dramatic and scenic spots in Harford County. Residents flock to the park every year to go tubing, canoeing, fishing and hiking. Skilled rock climbers also love the park for its “royal” rock formations, The King and Queen Seat. These natural rock outcrops soar 190 feet above Deer Creek and were once believed to be a ceremonial gathering place of the Susquehannock Indians. Picnickers interested in exploring the outcrops should visit nearby Rock Ridge Picnic Area, which offers parking, restrooms, grills, playground equipment, picnic tables and pavilions. The Hills Grove and Wilson’s areas of the park offer the same amenities but are located northwest and north of the Rock Ridge area, respectively. Hills Grove and Wilson’s are handicapped accessible. Picnickers must have a permit to use any of the pavilions, which can accommodate between 120 and 150 people and cost about $150. Pets are permitted in all three picnic areas. Service charge to enter picnic areas: $3 per resident, $5 per out-of-state resident on weekends and holidays; $2 per vehicle, $4 per out-of-state vehicle on weekdays. Seniors with a Department of Natural Resources Golden Age Pass and children in car seats are free.

William A. Humbert Amphitheater
Corner of Hickory Avenue and Lee Street in Shamrock Park, Bel Air
410-638-4561 (park), 410-803-9784 (concerts)

Instead of a picnic lunch, how about a picnic dinner, accompanied by live entertainment? Each summer, hundreds of residents bring their lawn chairs, picnic blankets and stocked picnic baskets to the William A. Humbert Amphitheater for the Bel Air Summer Concert Series. Located at the corner of Hickory Avenue and Lee Street in Shamrock Park, the amphitheater is named in honor of the musician who worked with the Bel Air Recreation Council to form the concert series in 1967. Concert performers range from the U.S. Naval Academy Band to rock and jazz groups, says John Beilfuss, concert series coordinator. The lawn in front of the amphitheater is about 28,000 square feet, giving plenty of space for both small and large groups. In the past, some groups have even hosted crab feasts on the park’s picnic tables, Beilfuss says. The 9.9-acre Shamrock Park also has playground equipment for little picnickers who want a change of scenery. Concerts are on Sundays at 7 p.m. in June and on Sundays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in July and August. Parking is available along Lee Street.

Rockfield Creative Playground
Churchville Road, Bel Air

As part of the county’s 51-acre Rockfield Park, Rockfield Creative Playground has been a favorite picnic spot among Harford County families for more than a decade. The playground is surrounded by a fence and includes slides, swings, a rope walk, plank bridges and a sandbox. Restrooms, picnic tables and a pavilion sit nearby. “The pavilion and the playground itself are just so inviting for the family,” says Mike Stritzinger, recreation specialist for Harford County. “You can sit there and chat with other parents and watch the kids.” Both the Town of Bel Air and the Bel Air Recreation Committee oversee the playground, which is usually closed for one week in late April/early May for maintenance. In the future, both groups hope to expand the park’s paved pathways, which currently run from the parking area near Rockfield Manor down to the playground and around the athletic fields. To access the playground, use the park entrance near The John Carroll off Maryland Route 22.

Eden Mill Nature Center
1617 Eden Mill Road, Pylesville

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