Rocks State Park in northern Maryland is just a one-hour drive outside of Baltimore, making it a great option for nature photographers living in, or visiting, the city. There are two main features in the park that will appeal to photographers. The first is Kilgore Falls, a beautiful 19-foot waterfall. The second is the King and Queen Seat, a 190-foot rock outcropping that rises about the surrounding forest.
Kilgore Falls is located in the Falling Branch Area of the park, which is separate from the main park. It is about 5 miles away from the King and Queen Seat. Both of these park features are easy to access, with just a short hike needed for each one.
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Photographing Kilgore Falls
The parking lot for the Kilgore Falls trail is located on Falling Branch Rd. in Pylesville. You can use these GPS coordinates to reach the parking lot: 39.68983, -76.42227
From the parking lot you will have about a 1/2 mile hike to reach the falls. The trail is rocky and uneven with a lot of tree roots, but it is an easy hike. As you approach the falls you can either keep going to the top of the falls or cross the creek using some stepping stones to get through the shallow water. You can also cross over at the top without needing to wade through too much water. The area around the falls is very rocky and often wet, so be sure to wear shoes that will give you a good grip.
→ Related reading: 10 Tips for Fabulous Waterfall Photography
There are many rocks and boulders around the falls, so it is easy to move around and get different vantage points and varying perspectives for your photos.
Kilgore Falls can be a popular spot, so try to plan your visit at a time when others aren’t likely to be there. The park doesn’t open until 9:00 am (March – October) or 10:00 am (November – February), so unfortunately getting there early to beat the crowds isn’t really an option. On a May weekday I arrived right after 9:00 and there were only 2 other people around the falls when I was there. On the short hike back the parking lot I passed a few others that were coming in.
Photographing the King and Queen Seat
The other noteworthy feature of Rocks State Park is the King and Queen Seat, a rocky area that provides a stunning view of the surrounding forest. There are a few different trails within the main section of the park that lead to the King and Queen Seat, but the easiest way to reach it is to park in the Rock Ridge Picnic Area off of St. Claire Bridge Rd. and take the red trail just about a quarter of a mile (see the map below).
Signs will lead you to the King and Queen Seat, so as long as you get to the parking lot of the picnic area you should have no trouble finding it. From here it is a short, mostly level, easy hike. The trail ends at the King and Queen Seat, and in order to get the best view you will need to do a very small amount of climbing on/over the rocks. It is nothing intense, but you’ll want to leave any unnecessary gear behind and keep everything else in a backpack so you can have your hands free. There is a 190-foot drop from the edge of the rocks, so be careful. Near the edge you can get a photo of the rock formation as it juts out. When you walk out onto it you can get a nice view of the surrounding area. This is a great place to visit in the fall when the leaves are changing color.
Here are a few things that you will want to take with you to Rocks State Park
You’ll need a sturdy tripod to get a good photo at Kilgore Falls. Even on sunny days there is a good bit of shade from the trees and the rocks near the falls. For a good quality tripod at a low cost I recommend a Sirui carbon fiber tripod.
Remote Shutter Release
Remote shutter releases (cable release) are inexpensive, and when you’re photographing from a tripod you can take the photos without touching the camera, which can help to improve the sharpness of your photos.
Neutral Density Filter
A neutral density filter can be helpful for using slow shutter speeds and blurring the falling water at Kilgore Falls. I recommend neutral density filters from B+W.
A polarizer can be helpful for getting contrast in the sky at the King and Queen Seat, and for reducing glare at Kilgore Falls.
Especially at the King and Queen Seat you will want to have your hands free, so a backpack is ideal. There are many different styles and brands of photography backpacks, so use whatever you have or the type that you prefer.
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Also in the Area:
We also have guides available for several other parks and locations not far from Rocks State Park. While you are in the area check out some of these other locations: