Switchback Trail

EASY 239 reviews

Switchback Trail is a 4.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Marriottsville, Maryland that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
4.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
347 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly

backpacking

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

Directions from Ellicott City, MD: Travel west along Interstate 70 several miles taking exit 83. Head north approximately 4 miles on Marriottsville Road to reach the state park entrance. Parking is available immediately after the contact station.

hiking
5 days ago

Had a nice, uncrowded afternoon hike with my husband on a weekday. Enjoyed taking a few detours from Switchback to enjoy more of the river. Recent rains and flooding made for some squishy parts, but not enough to be frustrating. The rapids were REALLY rapid, I was glad I didn't have any kids to keep an eye on with the river being so swollen and wild. Fun wildlife, lots of songbirds, a snake sunning on some rocks, and a great blue heron that stayed opposite us on the river bank for over an hour as we sat to enjoy the waterfall. All in all a nice hike. Pro tip: grab a paper map and take note of your orientation compared to the river, railroad, or road and you'll have a good idea of your exact placement on the trails if you're scouting a particular route.

hiking
1 month ago

I only come here once in a blue moon. Although I hike a 4 mile loop here it's basically all they got. I live next to the Avalon, Orange Grove, Hilton, Hilltop area and there is over 34 different trails just in that section. Over 134 miles !! I hike many 3 and 4 mile loops weekly and there is a lot more to see. The only problem in my area is it gets over crowded on weekends. I also don't like the Gun Range being near by. To Noisy. I carried a rain jacket in my pack but it never rained.

hiking
1 month ago

Really nice trail; went on a chilly April morning with our 3 and 5 year old. Little traffic, but did see a few bikers. Saw lots of turtles along the river. Noise from shooting range was a distraction for sure, but overall a great hike and doable with young kids who are enthusiastic about hiking.

hiking
2 months ago

A nice easy trail, with plenty of parking even for an early afternoon start.

hiking
2 months ago

The trail name is misleading when accompanied by the current trail outlined. There is a fork you can take to go on switchbacks. If you skip the fork, then you will be able to see some gorgeous rapids.

hiking
7 months ago

I love this trail. I recommend trying it in both directions; each one seems like a very different hike, which is somewhat unusual.

There’s lots of great trees, and the river is beautiful. It’s very easy, and is moderately trafficked.

hiking
8 months ago

Very lovely hiking area. Beware that this hike follows a few of their trails, so the marker colors will change. We walked counter clockwise on the loop and somehow got onto another path closer to the river in the last mile of the hike (which turned it into the last mile and a half of the hike). The path closer to the river had a very steep ending which was not too welcome after we had already been walking for about 4 miles. Probably easy to avoid the detour that we took, but we were so engrossed in our surroundings that we missed it.

Would totally go back, but will have to pay more attention next time.

hiking
9 months ago

McKeldin is our go-to hiking spot during the week. There are several moderate trails, most of which connect, so you could potentially spend a day here. The water areas are beautiful, and there are nice pavilions for picnicking.

hiking
9 months ago

This was a decent hike & mostly shaded, which is a plus for a summertime hike with my pup. The path started out rocky, but then the rest of it was packed dirt (easier on the pups paws). The river was beautiful as was all the greenery. The only drawbacks were the road noise & sounds of gunshots at the nearby shooting range. I felt the trail was well marked but at the end of our hike it seemed to dump us out on the paved road that runs through the park. I thought we took a wrong turn, but I think that's just how it ends! Overall an enjoyable hike!

10 months ago

I like this trail. Easy but nice. Beautiful nature and well maintained. Congrats the park rangers.

hiking
10 months ago

Great hike. Things to watch out for - horse poop (there is A LOT) and mountain bikers (they do not slow down or stop). Had to dock a star for that and for the road noise at the beginning and end of trail and also the shooting range that must be super close because I had to duck a few times thinking I was being shot at. We walked the trail clockwise and it runs along a creek. We saw a few people riding horses and a few kids fishing. Once you get into the trail further the gun and traffic noise die down and it becomes quite pleasant with the trickle of the stream to your left. Towards the end of the trail there is an awesome waterfall. Then you hear the road noise again. Still a fun uncrowded trail that is very easy to hike.

mountain biking
10 months ago

A fun trail to ride, some sections are a bit dicey with an incredibly thin trail and margin of error. Horse traffic can be a bit tough to navigate. Overall, though, this is a nice trail for novice riders.

hiking
10 months ago

Hiked five miles there today always have fun here...some downed trees that need to be cut up but other then that its a great place to hike and bike

hiking
10 months ago

Very nice hike. It was easy for everything but the one ascent, which I would rate moderate. I am looking forward to hiking it in the Fall when the colors change and then again in the Spring when the river has some flow to it. It is shaded almost the entire way other than when you have to traverse along the road and parking lots (1/4 to 1/2 mile). The one negative is that the park doesn't open until 9:00 AM and there is only one spot outside the park that I could find to park. I am an early morning hiker, so 9:00 AM doesn't cut it. About 1/2 mile south of the park entrance, there is a pull-off that will hold 6 - 7 vehicles, depending on how everyone else parks. Directly across from the pull-off is a trail head you can't miss. Fifty feet in and you will be on the Switchback Trail. Go left (clockwise) if you want to get the 1/2 mile ascent out of the way; go right (counter-clockwise) if you want your ascent later in the hike.

11 months ago

Easy, scenic and not crowded.

hiking
11 months ago

maybe the most invasive species I've seen in one place. lots of mountain bikers and horseback riders.

if you go hiking here please wash your boots before you go anywhere else to hike.

hiking
11 months ago

Nice trail, very crowded on weekends.

hiking
11 months ago

I'd say it's a light moderate trail. We took our 4 kids, small dog and my mother in law. I do think it must be further than 3.8 miles. Make sure you play in the river a bit!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Definitely felt more like a moderate trail. Very nice, would do it again.

hiking
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nice walk! River, train tracks, and a cool tire park

hiking
Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Nice hike I saw some turtles and ducks.

hiking
Sunday, February 26, 2017

Really enjoyed the trail.

birding
Monday, January 16, 2017

This was a fun trail--as others have said, not easy but an enjoyable moderate. The ranger told me that Switchback is actually 4.5 mi. Muddy and rocky in sections. If u follow the white hash marks u will not get off the trail. Saw pileated woodpecker and belted kingfisher. Less enjoyable was hearing the firing range nearby, very loud on the last 1/4 of the trail.

hiking
Sunday, January 15, 2017

It was my first time going out hiking here in Maryland, in fact it was my first time in many years. It was a nice hike but all I heard besides the streams when I was along side of it was continuous gunfire from the gun range across the way. I normally don't mind gunfire, I love to shoot my own guns from time to time, but it was non stop the entire hunt. It was a nice trail, great scenery, but I didn't see much wildlife.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wow...loved it!! We hiked it with our five and eight year olds + my step father; it took about hours and 15 minutes. Great views!! Lots of places to fish & have a picnic lunch beside the river.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Amazing hike!!! I would not rate easy at all due to the climbs and descents.

mountain biking
Sunday, November 13, 2016

Certainly not a bad trail but there are sections that certainly aren't biker friendly ie trees crossing the trail and stairs. aside from that I really enjoyed my first lap. I would recommend starting on the west side and running it counter clockwise though.

hiking
Sunday, November 06, 2016

This was the first hike my husband and I have taken. Great trail - a little flat land, a few hills, some rock climbing, and some great water views of the rapids. Got a little off course at the end, didn't even realize it but we were able to track up a hill to get back on track. We would come back for sure.

hiking
Monday, October 24, 2016

Great trail, scenic, very easy and flat with only one brief but steep climb. Actual distance was 8.3 miles according to map my run for the full loop. Not sure where 3.8 came from. Perhaps a dyslexic entry.

hiking
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Great trail but sometimes difficult to follow. I used this app to make sure that I stayed "on course" and enjoyed it. The fall leaves really made it more beautiful!

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