Best Picnic Spots in Howard County

Anna Hogue helps her daughter, Sophie, 6, cast a fishing rod during a family picnic at Scott¿s Cove Recreation Area in Laurel. (By Sarah Pastrana / June 4, 2012)

Dig out your wicker basket and checkered blanket, slice the watermelon and pack the cold fried chicken. It’s picnic season.

Howard County is filled with scenic places to enjoy these casual open air meals that combine food and friends with nature. From lakes and reservoirs to parks and farms, the potential picnic spots are endless.

To help narrow your search, we’ve detailed eight of the county’s best picnic areas. Some are already well-known to residents while others are considered hidden gems. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start picnicking!


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

1. Scott’s Cove Recreation Area, Laurel

Called a “hidden secret” by some Howard County residents, the Scott’s Cove Recreation Area is located along the Rocky Gorge Reservoir. The reservoir — owned and managed by Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission — provides water for residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as scenic views for picnickers who gather along its shores.

Boating and fishing are allowed, but participants must pick up the appropriate permits beforehand, says Kimberly Knox, community outreach manager for the commission. Watershed permits are available at the Brighton Dam Visitor Center, 2 Brighton Dam Road in Brookeville, or the commission office at 14501 Sweitzer Lane in Laurel.

Scott’s Cove also has a playground and picnic tables within walking distance of its parking lot. The area is open for visitors through Nov. 15.

Address: 10972 Harding Road, Laurel, 20723. Phone: 301-206-8233. Web:


2. Schooley Mill Park, Highland

The wetlands, woodlands and meadows of Schooley Mill Park make it a favorite among picnickers. The park is home to minnows, frogs, turtles, several species of birds and even beavers. In addition, the park features an equestrian ring, more than four miles of trails, basketball courts, multi-purpose fields, baseball fields and tennis courts.

Picnic tables and grills are available. Personal grills are not permitted. Leashed pets are allowed in the park but not in picnic or sports areas. The park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk or as posted.

Address: 12975 Hall Shop Road, Highland 20777. Phone: 410-313-4700. Web:


3. Howard County Conservancy, Woodstock

If you’re looking for a natural, historical and educational picnic spot all rolled into one, venture to Mt. Pleasant Farm, headquarters of the Howard County Conservancy. This 300-year-old, 232-acre farm is home to more than 140 species of birds and other wildlife, as well as historic buildings like the farm’s original log cabin, a carriage house, a blacksmith shop and a smokehouse.

The property also has a nature center, four miles of trails, and resident animals like goats, chickens and Ranger, the conservancy’s Barred Owl. The conservancy hosts educational events year-round for  adults and children, including free “Wonder Walks” to explore everything from signs of spring and butterflies to bouquet making and haiku. Most walks occur on Saturdays at 10 a.m., ending just in time for an outdoor meal.

Potential dining spots include a picnic area, benches along the trails and ample grassy hills.

“The conservancy is a beautiful property, no matter what time of year,” says Sarah Fahrendorf, an Ellicott City resident and frequent conservancy visitor. “Feeding the goats is actually one of my kids’ favorite things. It’s a popular place when there are programs going on; otherwise I often find we get the whole place to ourselves.”