Hiking Patapsco River State Park, MD

Summary: 5.3 miles, about 300 ft of altitude gain, nice out-and-back with a lollipop.

Monday I got into BWI around 1330, checked into the hotel, and got a late lunch. After doing some work, I decided it would be a good afternoon for a hike. I have wanted to hike Patapsco River SP for a while, so that was my target.

A word about planning. The state parks of Maryland are uniformly wonderful. The hike information provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) uniformly sucks. There are no maps online – they only want you to buy maps from their vendor. It makes planning difficult.

So I headed towards the PRSP HQ. I got there and paid my $4 fee, and asked the attendant about hiking trails. He handed me maps (why can’t these be online?) and told me that at that part of the park there was less than a mile of trails. The longest trail is at the Avalon area, he gave me directions, and told me that my $4 fee covered me there as well. I headed out.

I got on the trail around 1700. A sign warned that the park closed at 1945. I note that when I got off the trail and headed out, there was an MDNR ranger parked at the gate with his lights on, waiting at 1930 to close that gate at 1945.

As I drove to the trailhead through the park, I immediately saw several deer off the road in the woods. It’s a pretty drive. You go under I-95, which is on a bridge at least 200 ft over your head. There is no water at the trailhead, although I did find water at one of the shelters. Bring your water bottles full.

I headed out on a nice wooded trail. The trail is near the river, and winds around quite a bit. It also doesn’t go very far.

There is a lot of pretty neat stonework in the area; here is an example.

This heron was sitting by the river. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this bird is about four feet tall.

The nice hiking trail ends at a big pond. I went around the pond on the south, and picked up much smaller trails that continued along the river. Eventually, the trail veered back to the paved path due to a deep culvert. The culvert went all the way to the path, and turns out was sourced from a creek that came from Vineyard Spring. There was a VERY nice trail here that led up into the hills.

This trail went up at a fairly steady pace, and it was a very nice walk. The trail along here is shared between hikers and mountain bikers. About halfway up, the trail splits, with a hiker-only segment to the right. It goes up very steeply and then levels out (the shared trail continues up at a constant but shallower rise). At the top, you can lollipop back down, or take a trail to the NE or to the NNW (I note for the record that these trails are documented on a big map at the trailhead, but are not online).

At the bottom, I headed back towards the river. There were occasionally abandoned stuff along the way, like this gas/oil tanker.

At some point, you lose even the smaller trails. I ended up walking back to the paved road and finished my walk there heading back to the trailhead. This shelter was along the trail; it’s where I found the working water fountain.

Here are topo, terrain, and altitude maps.

The image above is courtesy of Garmin MapSource.

The image above is courtesy of Google Earth.

The image above is courtesy of Garmin Basecamp.

This was a nice hike. The emphasis along this part of PRSP is the paved jogging/biking trail. The rougher trails are up in the hills. It bugs me a little that the MDNR will not post maps to allow you to plan your hike. If I had known that the main emphasis here was the paved path I would have diverted somewhere else.

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