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“Loop that alternately overlooks and hugs the picturesque Little Gunpowder Falls.”
— Adopt These Trails!
The trail surface is generally excellent, and this loop runs fast. It is heavily used by mountain bikers, and you can count on it to be clear of major obstacles. A perfect after-work blast of a run, with enough short, steep hills to make you work for it. On the characteristically hot-humid days of the Chesapeake Bay area, take a refreshing dip in the toothache cold water of the Little Gunpowder. A nice deep swimming hole is located just downstream of Bottom Road. This run can be easily extended by connecting to the other areas of the Little Gunpowder Falls Trail downstream of Bottom Road (to Hereford Road and beyond) or upstream of Pleasantville Road (Pleasantville Loop).
Features: Swimming — Wildflowers
Need to Know
Multiple little creek crossings can mean soggy feet if weather has been wet. You often see many mountain bikers at likely times (evenings, weekends, nice holidays). Maps of the area can be had from the Maryland DNR, but are a bit over-priced and of generally poor quality.
I can't emphasize the quality of the trail surface enough. There are very few sections where the footing is poor enough to warrant slowing even a little.
Parking for this loop is to be had on the south bank of the Little Gunpowder Falls (LGpF) on Bottom Road, or on the north bank of the Falls (Falls is Chesapeake speak for creek) 200 yards down Guyton Rd. The loop described starts at the steel bridge spanning LGpF on Bottom Road. Begin by running north on Bottom road, past the intersection of Laurel Brook Road to find the yellow blazed trailhead of the Ma and Pa trail (remnants of the passenger railway connecting Baltimore to Pittsburg, dismantled circa ). The trail leaves Bottom road and ascends briefly to the rail bed, now pleasantly overgrown. For just over a mile, the trail stays on the rail bed, sometimes surrounded by steep cuts in the hillside, and sometimes with sweeping vistas of the LGpF creek bed. At 1.3 miles, the trail drops steeply down into the creek bed from the railway, and meanders along with the LGpF for awhile, crossing several small tributaries along the way. The trail will diverge from the creek to make a few meandering ascents before reaching Pleasantville Road. Cross on the metal bridge (beware narrow shoulder) and turn downstream on the Little Gunpowder Falls trail (white blazes). Dip down to cross a rivulet and ascend steeply to regain a railroad grade. The trip back downstream is a great mix of flat singletrack on old rail bed, punctuated by punchy, short climbs in and out of the creek bed. Small rivulet crossings abound, as well as spectacular views of the boulder strewn and crystal clear LGpF. The trail will terminate high on the hillside as it re-joins Bottom Road. Sprint down the ramp-y Bottom Road and back to the steel bridge.
Flora & Fauna
This drainage feels shockingly wild, given its proximity to Baltimore. Maples, Tulip Poplar, and Sycamore guard the banks of the little gunpowder, making for a consistently dense, verdantly shaded canopy in the summer. You are likely to see the usual eastern fauna (chipmunks, squirrel, white-tail). I have been surprised at times to see beaver and even bald eagle along the Little Gunpowder's banks. The Little Gunpowder is also an excellent trout stream, although the waters upstream of the described loop are considered a better fishery.
History & Background
For an interesting historical perspective of the Ma and Pa railway, see xxxx's Country Walks Around Baltimore, chapter