Explore the most popular forest trails in Patapsco Valley State Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

The parks are getting super crowded on weekends now. Today, there was the boy scouts camping for the weekend in the Hilton Area. The trails were very crowded and the kids were loaded up with hiking gear. The Sawmill, Santee and Forest Glen trails are the rockiest in the whole park system. These trail will connect you from the Orange Grove area to the Hilton area. Many people will hike from the Hilton area all the way to the Cascade Falls, which is located near the Swinging Bridge. If you would like a special map I created 2 years ago email me, ( baltoken@yahoo.com )

The Rockburn ( PURPLE ) loop is in my opinion the easiest section of the Avalon area. Once you have hiked up the Water Bars ( Ridge connector ) you will see the Rockburn sign. The entire loop is a well used and marked. Many bikers are always on this section but the trail is plenty wide. Its fairly level with small ups and downs. This loop would be idea for anyone just getting into hiking or mountain biking. There is no water crossings unless you hike part or all of the Hop The Snake trail ( Blue ). Part of my recording includes the New Ridge extension. It's not yet finished but much of it has been cut out already. What's not cut out has flags you can follow. I saw bikers on it today.

very nice trail overall, a little above begginer. gets pretty steep at times for novices. at two parts you have to cross little creeks walking across the rocks. a lot of people and dogs on the trail. about 2 hours out and back if you stop at the falls for 10 mins.

This weather has been un-real. Cold or Raining one day then 60's or 70's the next. If the wind didn't die down I wouldn't have left the house. The Cascade, Bike Buster and Garrett's Pass has a lot of down trees. The trails are good to go again. These trails are always well maintained. My 3-mile loop today was one long up then all down the second half. Although we got a lot of rain the day before the trails were very dry. The wind dries the trails but you need to watch for falling branches. The water was a bit deep at the stream crossings and some of the rocks you hop across at the Falls were underwater.
Sunny and in the 60's, Few hikers but plenty of bikers in the evening. Park is very crowded on weekends now. If not on a weekday, come before 10AM or wait until 4PM. Park closes at 7:30PM now.

Now that it's getting hot out the park is becoming super crowded. During the summer months, if you don't get there by 10 in the morning you may not be able to park inside the main area. You will need to park up on S. Rolling Rd. and hike down the Soapstone Trail. It got to 80 degrees today and with no leaves on the trees it was super hot out. Remember to carry plenty of water. Although this is one of my short trails it will indeed give you a workout. Many ups and downs. They placed Spot-A-Pots at the Soapstone trailhead but the water fountain is working. I never recommend this area of trails when its raining. These trails get very muddy and being steep could be a problem for some people. I wish I could have hiked more but the heat and steep hills drained this old senior. Happy Hiking !!

This was a good loop with good variety in trail type. A couple water crossings were a bit more challenging than anticipated. But there were a lot of smaller trails that went off in different directions and weren’t on the map so sometimes staying on the trail we wanted was challenging. Be sure to watch out for bicycles, a couple came up on us fast with minimal warning.

The main Park road into the Avalon section was blocked off due to a house fire on South Rd. The water pumper truck was connected to a fire hydrant. Because that area was closed I decided to drive up to Landing Rd. and hike the Morning Choice trail section. I first planed to hike 2.8 miles but ended up hiking 4.4 miles. The Morning Choice is a long trail which is well defined and marked. If you go off that main section you well see that many other trails are NOT marked but they do connect back to the main run. Today I added the (Barley and Hops) trail which is considers as a Horse and Biker trail. I hiked this to try and create a loop without back tracking. I also added the two Connector trails to gain access to the Ridge. I added mileage. The Ridge trail is the true butt kicker. Big ups and downs !! Great Day and it was almost 80 degrees but windy as it's been for a week now.

Today the weather was great but the wind was blowing. When I got to the park there was a bike ride event going on. The staging area was at the Playground. The place was packed to the brim with bikers. Their challenge route was along the Ridge trail and looping along the Grist Mill section. Because of the event I decided to hit the highest trails in the park that were mainly foot-trails. If you want to hike the most challenge trails in the park then you need to follow this recorded track loop. It features many steep climbs, boulder scrambles, cliffs and the best views of the park. There are many hard climbs along this route but you do get breaks in between each of them. I met a lot of great people on the trail and being a senior this took me 4 hours to hike these 4 miles. It’s the Best the park has to offer. ( Be Careful and enjoy your Hike ).

Hiked this trail with my brother two summers ago. Aside from choosing an unbearably humid day, the hike was enjoyable and not too taxing. We're planning to use this section for a point to point hike from Mckeldin in to Ellicott City.

just took a short trip to the overlooks today but I'll definitely be back!

I general hike a least 3 miles in the park each time I come here. One of the loops I did today was only 2 miles so because I was in the area I decided to do this short loop. This would be a great starter loop for your kids to test out because you have the pond and stream near you to access. This would keep the kids from getting bored. Super easy trail.

Enjoyable moderate hike with a few hills, water crossings, one little waterfall. This was a beautiful spring day. My hike was about six miles. G Ood training hike

Well here I am again hiking one of my favorite loops. Being a senior I have options to controlling the distance I hike. Since November I have been dealing with Planter Fasciitis and I have good days and bad. Well I got lucky again. Looked like rain but not. I have spent a lot of time teaching people on trail how to use the All/Trails software. I truly think if you follow other All/Trails members tracks in any area you will learn a bit more about the program and the ability to see more trails. I have talked about other layers as a Pro Member. If you follow a member you would want to load their recording into your record then hike that track. The track I hike may not be on your map but the trail is there. Want Help or a special map of the area. Message me at baltoken@yahoo.com ( Notice: Dana Romano - You need to contact me. )

Moderate trail with a ton of rocks and flowing river. Very gorgeous scenery and leads right into Patapsco. A ton of other hikers and dogs.

hiking
20 days ago

This trail is nice mix of riverside flat and moderate uphill through the woods. Lots of visual surprises along the way. The trail is shared by bike riders, horse riders, and hikers. Everyone was super friendly. Was the least busy trail I’ve ever been on in the park.

hiking
22 days ago

This is a good hike, nothing spectacular. You get some pretty good views of a babbling brook, otherwise not much visual stimulation.

A few notes: one. This is NOT “Soapstone trail”! You are only on soapstone for about 1/3 of the overall time, you cross over Santee Branch, Bull Run, and others. So, the title is very misleading. If you stay on Soapstone, this would be a different hike all together.

***Also, I used 3 different apps and clocked this at average of 3.2 miles with elevation gain 530 feet

Today it was quite warm out but I and a few other people got caught in a rain storm. I recommend hiking the Blacktop trails any time the weather is calling for rain. I did have a rain jacket but no pack cover. This hike was only to check on the progress of the dam removal. As I got started the rain busted loose and I turned back to seek shelter. There was 8 people standing in the restroom hall with the same idea. As that hard rain pasted many of us got back on trail. Much of the new sewer pipe is in place. It has to be relocation before the dam can be removed. Stay off the dirt trails for one day and be kind to nature. Give them a few days to dry out. It's no fun falling in the Mud. - Need information regarding Patapsco Valley State Park or a map I created of all the trails at Avalon, Orange Grove, Hilton, Hilltop, Glen Artney and Rockburn. Contact me. baltoken@yahoo.com

Easy, short hike on a nice spring day. The trail was a little muddy from rain the day before but it wasn’t bad. The trail was well marked with multiple directions to take to get to the Falls.

If it wasn't so windy out I would have enjoyed this trip a lot better. I have just hiked three days in a row and the wind just doesn't want to quit. I hike this loop a few times a year. Be sure to be on the right side when you enter the tunnel. I enjoy the rocky climbs on the start of the Forest Glen or the Pigs Run. The (White) Santee trail is basically flat with small ups and downs. Much of the Santee was muddy two days ago but it's drying out. Now the rain is coming again. Because of the Nunnery Trail being a long stretch I always come down that way. In the summer I break for lunch up at the Hilton Area. It's always a lot less crowded there then the Swing Bridge area.
Note: If you are at the Swinging Bridge and your All/trails map done show up don't worry. Just load a track in the recorder and hit record. The Gps tracks you but the map is a bit slow in that area. So is Cell service. I don't text under I have moved from that area.

With the weather getting nicer, the park is becoming a bit more crowded. When the park gets crowded the bulk of the people are always on the Howard County side of the park. The Swinging Bridge and Playground areas get packed. That's when I park up in the Glen Artney section. You drive thru the tunnel at the lost lake pond and go up the hill. At your first left drive up and around the loop. When you see the Santee Branch trail sign pull into the parking lot and you will see a trailhead at the fire road. This places you in a area that is rarely used. The Santee trail was a mud hole today most likely because of the recent snow melting but the Nunnery and Vineyard trails were dry as a bone.

One of the most enjoyable features of the Orange Grove, Glen Artney and Avalon section of the Patapsco is the many ways you can hike the trails here. You simply decide where you wish to park then work your loop from there. No need to just hike a boring out and back trail. There are so many connectors that you have the ability to hike a long track or cut it short if you are pressed for time. I am a local and hike here weekly. Within this one area you can hike one mile or seven and loop back from where you started by simply using the Grist Mill trail if needed too. The older soapstone can get muddy at times but on big deal. If you need a custom map of this area contact me: baltoken@yahoo.com It was windy and cold today but I love it. Sure beats sitting around the house all day. ( Seniors )

This trail/road is one of our family favorites! The app suggests its moderate but I would suggest it’s easy at best. Since it’s the old Albertson Rd, there are a lot of paved areas and it is relatively flat. It’s a great trail for dogs and families with small kids. If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to spot some herring, people fishing, rock climbing and (lazy river) tubing. There are great spots for dogs to swim or to catch some rays and have lunch on big boulders in the river.

Beautiful day out and the park got super crowded. It was so crowded the DNR was working the gate. Bikers and Hikers where everywhere. Great to see so many people out and about. I first hiked up old River Rd. to check on the dam removing progress. On my way back I decided to climb the Bike Buster trail to short cut my way to the Falls. To avoid much of the Cascade Falls trail I took the upper trails then came back down the Cascade. This way I did have to go up and back on the crowded Falls trail.

Haven’t done the full loop yet, but the first part is very fun and runnable.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice views easy flat trail

it nice during the week, get a little bit more crowded on the weekends

Nice day out but it was windy. Before hiking I fished the Lost Lake Pond for 4 hours. The DNR stock 250 trout in the pond. It was quite crowded with a bunch of us old timers. I caught 1 but other people were having better luck then me. After fishing it was time for a hike. The Soapstone trail is always muddy in many sections. It's a heavy used trail by bikers and when they cross the many feeders they are spreading the mud. The New Overgrown section and Bull Run was in fine shape. Restrooms at the Soapstone trailhead in the park is closed during the winter. You have a Spot-A-Pot at the Pond. Need a great trail map I created: email me.. baltoken@yahoo.com

Nice hike. Not too challenging. Some nice views of the river. Distance is more like 6.75 if you park in the lot by the Woodstock Inn.

This loop truly has 3 parking options. You can park on S. Rolling Rd. or use 2 locations inside the park. 1 spot would be near the Lost Lake Pond and you would hike up through the tunnel. Another option is to drive through the tunnel and go straight up to the end where the Soapstone main trailhead is. There is a restroom and water in that location but it's closed in the winter. The Soapstone trail has many small feeder streams so beware of the weather. It can and stay muddy for days. The main Soapstone trail is very heavily use due to the college track team and also bikers. I recommend using the New Alternate Soapstone trails. There is also a New Overgrown trail that now connects to the mid-switchback section of the Bull Run. At the bottom of Bull Run heading to the Bike Jumper is a larger stream crossing. Manageable under normal conditions. The Bike Jumper is a good climb up which leads you to the main intersection of the trail junction. The Vineyard Trail, Fire Rd., Santee Branch and main Santee. If you take the Vineyard trail you can expand this loop by including the Grist Mill back to the pond and up. The Santee Branch or Fire Rd. leads you back towards the Park drive which you will hike on for a small section. There are a few break off trail you could choose to make this loop a bit smaller. When I hike this loop in the evening I park at the Trailhead in the park so when I finish I have dinner at one of the Pavilions. There is even a playground area for the kids.

hiking
1 month ago

Good loop on a beautiful afternoon. Views of the river with the sparkling sun were photo worthy.
The mill race was interesting to see. Next time I think I will go down stream to the mill. Saw hikers, runners, and a couple of bikers. It was not crowded. Trail in good shape.

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