Switchback Trail is a 4.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Marriottsville, Maryland that features a river and is rated as moderate. 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.

1 day ago

Ok trail - took us 90 minutes to finish a brisk walk with our dog. Very little foot traffic on a chilly day mid week. Parts of the trail are very wet and muddy (had rain earlier in the week) and poorly marked. Beautiful walk along the river with various vantage points. I would say the trail is moderate because of some steep stairs, but it’s listed as easy. I may try it again when it’s dry!

1 month ago

This was a very nice hike, walked along the river for a majority of the trail. Some spots that get rocky and some spots that are pretty muddy (due to the excessive amounts of rain this year).There is incline at the beginning and end of the trail and mainly flat in between. This would be a very nice ride on horseback as well. I can imagine it gets pretty crowded in the summer time. We passed lots of dogs along the way as well.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice trail, mostly flat except for the end, pretty view of the river and its rapids. Passed horses and other families.

hiking
2 months ago

*** Warning: Hornets are active along this trail ***
On September 1, 2018 two hikers/runners were stung by hornets(?). A week ago, a horseback rider was stung 25 times.

walking
4 months ago

Easy trails but lots of horse feces. Not very scenic

4 months ago

Loved this trail. There are also lots of conjoining trails that allow you to make this longer if you want to. It’s fun to go down to the river in hot weather too.

hiking
4 months ago

While it was a nice little hike, we were all very disappointed about the state of the trail. I guess there are people that go horseback riding on these trails so they were pretty messed up in some sections from the horses going through the trail when it was wet and there were some sections that were very soft from the horses ruining them and my husband almost lost a shoe. Would expect things to get soft if it had rained recently but it has been weeks since it rained. Overall an easy well marked trail that my kids didn't have any problem with and there were some nice views of the Patapsco River.

hiking
4 months 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
6 months 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
6 months ago

hiking
6 months ago

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

hiking
7 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
Monday, October 30, 2017

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
Friday, October 06, 2017

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
Sunday, September 17, 2017

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
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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!

Friday, August 18, 2017

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

hiking
Thursday, August 17, 2017

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
Sunday, August 13, 2017

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
Sunday, August 06, 2017

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
Thursday, August 03, 2017

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.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Easy, scenic and not crowded.

hiking
Thursday, July 06, 2017

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
Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Nice trail, very crowded on weekends.

hiking
Sunday, June 25, 2017

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.

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