Elk Neck State Forest
Elk Neck State Forest is 3,571 acres situated in central Cecil County consisting of four separate tracts of land. Elk Neck State Forest is open to the public for hunting, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Shooting ranges for bow, hand gun, shotgun and rifle are also available to the public. Permits are accessed from a self-service honor system located at the Maintenance Complex.
The forest supports a diverse habitat with mixed deciduous and evergreen trees and an understory of mountain laurel, azaleas and other native shrubs.
Birdwatchers, including members of the Cecil County Bird Club, enjoy observing the forest's abundance of migratory birds. For those interested in wildflowers, the Forest is home to an abundance of natural flora.
Main Tract – 2958 Acres
Located off of Irishtown Road. Public access and parking along main trails. Shooting Range, hiking, and public hunting are available.
Shady Beach Road Tract – 53 Acres
Located off of Shady Beach Road No public road access or parking.
North East Tract – 190 Acres
Located off of East Old Philadelphia Road No public road access or parking.
Black Hill Tract – 370 Acres
Located off of McKinneytown Road to the rear of the Black Hill Ranger Station. Public access and parking are available to rear of Ranger Station. Public hunting and hiking are available.
The Forest is open from sun rise to sun down each day. During periods of inclement weather, forest roads may be closed temporarily until they are safe for public use. The Forest will remain open with public parking available at the Main Entrance off of Irishtown Road.
Inclement Weather Related Closings:
Users are reminded that the trails on Elk Neck State Forest are unimproved surfaces and may not be accessible for vehicle traffic after snow and ice events. As conditions warrant, road and trail closures may cease or limit operations at Elk Neck State Forest during normal hours of operation and on holidays.
These closures are instituted with public safety in mind and users are asked to contact the forest office for updates and closures of the trail system in advance of visiting the facility.
All trails and facilities on Elk Neck State Forest will be closed any time a State of Emergency has been declared for unsafe road conditions either Statewide or in Cecil County.
On bad weather days, please call the Forest Office for current road conditions and temporary closures at (410) 287-5675.
Public hunting is available on Elk Neck State Forest for all current seasons. No permits are required to hunt on the Forest except for a valid hunters license. To verify dates and regulations please check the Guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland.
Accommodations for hunters with disabilities are available at numerous sites on the Trails located on the Main Tract. Please contact the Forest Office for further information and locations.
Hike through diverse wooded flatland, rolling hills, and marshlands in Elk Neck State Forest on over twenty eight miles of combined drivable trails and foot trails. Twelve miles of improved wide forest roads, flanked by thick woods (mixed deciduous trees and evergreens) allow for seasonal vehicle access due to road conditions. Once you pass the shooting range, the trail becomes more pleasant and isolated.
The Mason Dixon Trail System crosses between the North East Tract and the Main Tract and gives avid hikers a pristine pass through the densely forested Plum Creek Watershed.
The Elk Neck Trail System begins within the Main Tract and crosses on and off of Forest Property and eventually crosses the Black Hill Tract as it runs for its final destination, the Turkey Point Lighthouse at Elk Neck State Park. This trail covers approximately 14 miles for avid hiking enthusiasts.
Several miles of unimproved fire trails provide the beginner hiker with a modest tour of the interior portions of the Main tract on Elk Neck State Forest.
Firewise Geocaching Trail
Elk Neck State Forest is home to a new geocaching trail that promotes the Firewise Maryland program. The trail system was developed to provide both a fun and educational outdoor experience for all types of users.
The Forest does not offer any ORV Trails and does not permit the use of non-licensed off road vehicles, motorcycles, or ATVs on any tract of the State Forest.
Take a minute and gaze upon the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed from atop of the Pete Bond Scenic Overlook located off of the Main Road Trail. The overlook is accessed off of a parking area .3 miles from the entrance. Onlookers may look at the northern realm of the Chesapeake Bay from this vantage point or gaze at the vibrant fall colors of the numerous hardwood species during mid to late fall.
The shooting range at Elk Neck State Forest is open 9:00 a.m. to sunset Tuesday through Sunday. Mondays open at 1pm and will close at sunset. Ranges are open on all holidays including Mondays from 9 AM until Sunset.
You may purchase a permit for the year at a cost of $50.00 for ages 18 to 61, $25.00 for anyone 62 or older., or you may choose to purchase a daily permit for $10.00 (under 18 years of age is Free with a paying adult). The permits may be purchased at the forest office through an honor system (cash or check). If paying with cash you must have exact amount. Please download the range regulations below for specific information on using the range. All rules and regulations are posted on information boards and daily permits.
Beginning June 9, 2009, Elk Neck State Forest Yearly Range Permits will be available for purchase from any authorized Sport License Sales agent or online at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Sport License Sales site at https://www2.md.wildlifelicense.com/.
There are four ranges:
- 100 yard (riffle/muzzleloader)
- 50 yard (pistol)
- skeet range (no thrower provided)
- bow & arrow range
All shotguns shot on the rifle range must utilize a slug shell. No shot shell of any type is permitted on the rifle range.
All shooters must supply a target stand that is free standing in accordance with the range regulations. Target center is required to be a minimum of 48” above the ground.
Elk Neck State Forest does not rent firearms for use by the public nor provide ammunition or targets.
Ranges are staffed by Forest Service personnel only during periods of high use and are patrolled by the Natural Resources Police.
A copy of the Range Regulations may be downloaded here: Range Regulations
Permits are available at the Maintenance Complex near the Main Entrance and must be obtained prior to using the range complex.
All ranges are closed the second Saturday in September to allow for the Northern Chesapeake Sportsmans Kids Youth Day activities.
Leave No Trace
Elk Neck State Forest is Trash Free. Read more about Leave No Trace.
There is no camping available on Elk Neck State Forest.
- Buy a State Forest Trail Guide Online
- State Forest Amenities
- State Forest Events
- Please Leave No Trace
State Forest Information
- Elk Neck State Forest
130 McKinneytown Road
North East, MD 21901
Mailing Address Only
- 717 Irishtown Road
North East, MD 21901