Hiking Paxutent River Park, MD

One of the things I really enjoy about the mid-Atlantic corridor is the plethora of parks and green spaces. Last Monday, I flew into BWI for a week of meetings in the DC area, and after I checked into the hotel, I went to Paxutent River Park. It is about 15 miles from where I was staying in Waldorf, MD.

Hike summary: 5.3 miles, from the shore of the Paxutent River to the forest and back to the river. Got there around 1545 and left around 1815.

I went to the Visitor Center to see if I needed to pay an entrance fee; the person at the desk didn’t ask for any. I picked up a trail map, and I was off!

Most of the trail is packed dirt, and is just a bit rough. That’s not a criticism, understand, I prefer my trails like that.

In general (refer to the trail map for this, I went the following route: Brown, Green, Red (very short time), Blue, Purple, and Red again. The last part of the Red trail seems to be along the road only.

The trees in the park are amazing. We have tall trees in Oklahoma, but not a lot like these, with their thin trunks and high canopies (the wind here is too much for that sort of tree).

This unusual set of roots was along the Brown trail.

At a couple points, you get a good view of the Paxutent River. There is a spur off the Green trail that leads you to an overlook, but there is an unofficial trail that leads from the overlook right down to the river bank. It was marshy down there, I don’t know if the river as a whole was down, or if there was a tide out effect.

There are a number of structures in the river. I realized that the structure to the left was a nest platform, for Ospreys. There were several along the river.

I could not figure out what the structure to the right was. When I got back to the main part of the park, there was one a little closer to shore, and it turned out that in each case it was a platform for a camera and a transmitter. They are Osprey-Cams. Very cool.

After I got off the trail, I wandered around the main area of the park. You can go right down to the water. There is a fishing dock, a boat ramp, and apparently canoes and kayaks can be rented.

Here are the usual maps of the hike, based on topography, the terrain as overlayed on Google Earth, and the altitude.

Once again, my GPS altitude is questionable. There were a couple decent climbs, but I do not think that almost 200 ft is justified. The topo map (max altitude indicated of only 80 ft) bears this out. I will investigate in my copious spare time to see what the GPS problem might be.

Here is the trail map. I could not find this online anywhere. The MD department of parks has a vague reference to hiking trails here, and some websites had hike reports, but I didn’t find a trail description anywhere.

This was a wonderful way to spend a couple hours not in a hotel room! I saw NO people on the trails, amazingly enough. There were people walking on the road into the park (why there, the forest is far prettier). As for wildlife, I saw a couple squirrels in the mammal category, and a fair number of birds, including the ospreys. One curious thing, I saw two dead voles, in both cases right in the middle of the trail. Neither had any sign of trauma, and hadn’t been there very long (no ants on them). Wonder why…

This is a basic walk in the trees. I liked it.

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