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“Patapsco State Park is an absolute gem, just minutes from Baltimore, MD. Singletrack, river, climbs”
— Michael Dale
Main entrances to the park charge for parking. But there are tons of free parking areas right at trail heads along main roads. Do not use after a heavy downpour or during icy conditions ;)
This park is where the Blair Witch Project was ACTUALLY filmed. The route starts at the very popular Soapstone Trail
. It's just on the other side of Rolling road from the "Park N Ride" which is just at the end of I-195. Plenty of free parking. The trails at Patapsco State Park are singletrack, less the Grist Mill Trail
, which is a paved bike route that takes you along the river and intersects with many trail heads. It's less than ten minutes from Baltimore, but you would never know it! Most of the year, the trails are stunning! You need to watch your footing a little. But you're out in the woods, not a rail trail.
Features: Birding — River/Creek — Swimming — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Need to Know
There are three bathrooms along this route. One at mile 1. One near mile 3. And one near the end. Around mile 2.5 you can either continue onto Sante Branch Trail or hop on a road. For this route, you hop on the road, turning left for a hundred feet or so until you get to a stop sign. Then make another left. Follow that past a play area/park on your right and a sign that I believe says "Dead End" or Private Drive... just past that, there is another trail just off to your right. It isn't labeled on maps, but it is known as "Lung Buster". Take that trail down. You'll get to railroad tracks at the bottom. Cross them, and you'll see a bridge ahead.
Most of this route is pretty easy to manage. There are a few areas where you'll either get wet crossing streams, or need to slow down to hop across the dry rocks. There are roots and rocks around, so watch your footing. Absolutely fantastic run, though!
From Soapstone trailhead at the Park N Ride, head along soapstone for one mile. At the parking lot, go straight towards the restroom and take the fire road that goes up hill next to it. Follow that until it takes you to another road. Turn right on that road for about 200 feet and hop onto the Santee branch trail. You'll come to a T or a Y, depending on how worn it is at any time of the year. Bear left until you get to a well loved stone/gravel road. turn right and follow across an actual street, where the sante branch trail continues. Follow santee until you get to a larger stream crossing. Once across it, you can either go to the left or right, but you want to bear left. it will take you up to a field along high tension lines. right by the second one you go by, the trail goes back into the woods to your right. Follow the trail. Shortly after being back into the woods, you'll see a road ahead. follow the trail to the road. From there, turn left, instead of continuing on the trail. Take that road turning left for about a hundred feet till you get to a stop sign. turn left at the stop sign and follow the road down hill. You'll pass a playground/terrain park on your right. And shortly after you see a sign that says "Dead End" or Private Drive Ahead, you'll see another trail off to the right. It isn't on maps. But it is called Lung Buster. Take that down hill until you get to railroad tracks. Cross the tracks and you'll see a bridge. Take the trail down and across the bridge to steps that take you up to the rest of the park. You are now on cascade trail. Shortly after getting on to cascade, at the T turn left and hug the left (there are a few branches of cascade that go to the right but we ignore those this time) follow it until you get to waterfalls. From there, simply continue to the trail on the other side. After going up some wood/rock steps make a sharp left to get on to the Ridge Trail
. It is Orange Blazed. Follow Ridge trail until you get to your Second entrance to Valley View (again white blaze)... or you could continue along the ridge trail, if you miss valley view, they are nearly identical.
Follow either until you get to a fire road and turn left to go downhill. This trail is called Waterbars. Take that until you get to a paved road and turn right on to River Rd. River Rd takes you to a pavilion area where there is a playground, restrooms, parking, etc. Right at the end of the playground area turn left onto Gun rd and cross the bridge. Shortly after that, you'll see the trail pick up again to your left. Continue onto the trails again! Follow it until it takes you out to another little parking area and head very briefly to the left, until you see an archway/tunnel. Turn right up the tunnel onto the road and follow that to the first parking area you saw at the end of soapstone. Follow soapstone back to the parking area. DONE! :)
Flora & Fauna
You'll find deer here all year, at all times of the day, along with foxes, the occasional snake - in 100+ runs in the park, I've only seen one - and toads hopping during night runs like mad for a month in the summer.