Patapsco Valley State Park (I) – Thru trail – 9.7 miles

1/12/2020 – Thru trail (white) – Unnammed cut through – Lower thru trail – Pain cave – Hell of the North – Double trouble – Thru trail – 9.7 miles

Elevation gain: 902ft


I was apprehensive about the location of this trail and was prepared to drive by if parking was only avail on the side of the road but even so the area is tiny (enough space for about 7 cars) it’s off street.

🚙 Location: 8100 Alberton rd. Windsor Mill, MD 21244

It feels a bit weird – to me at least – because we have to walk through/in front of somebody’s private property in order to get to the park’s actual entrance a few hundred feet away. I find it unsettling. I sort of feel like we are trespassing.

This gate marks the entrance of the trail

Thru trail looks lovely from the get go, lightly winding through the forest next to Patapsco river. I can hear hikers from the other side, beyond the railroad tracks. There is another trail on the hill but I’m happy that we are not on that side. It’s in the shade.

It’s suppose to be unseasonably warm today but still kind of chilly right now.

The forest is awful quiet this morning and makes me wonder what cases the birds to disappear from certain locations. Chirping is quintessential in the woods to me. Especially on a sunny day!

A couple catches up to us with a dog so we walk down to a tiny beach area a few feet from the trail to let them pass. Mag finds these rocks in the water very suspicious and gets stopped in his tracks, kind of mumbling – not yet barking – to himself. They sort of look like whales….

On our right, are a series of bigger rocks stretching through the river, one is marked with a graffiti heart. I would love to go over to take a closer look but the water is too high to hop over. I don’t want to take my chances with Mag in tow.

Jumping back on the trail we are heading towards a gorgeous rock wall and also find a tree trunk carpeted with lush moss and these handsome brown meaty fungi (Wild brown stew fungus?).

A beautiful view awaits us at the huge bend in the river, morning dew reflecting on the trees like diamond covered spiderwebs.

As we walk along the bend, bells start ringing from across Patapsco and I can see the bell-tower of a lovely little church. A bridge is also visible ahead of us in close proximity.

As we get closer, it becomes obvious that it carries only trains over the river.

As we walk away a CSX freight train crosses providing a lovely picture opportunity.

Lot of parks we’ve already visited had abandoned structures and old walls throughout and Patapsco Valley State park is no exception. We even come across this empty white – vandalized – building full of colorful graffiti. Maybe a church at one point?

After stopping at the water for a minute so Mag can cool off….

….we continue towards Daniels Dam. It is beautiful here and the sound of the thundering waterfall is therapeutic.

After climbing back on the trail we leave the last big bend behind. There are some Canadian geese hanging out at a small island. They obviously enjoying the climbing temperatures on this sunny day.

Within about a quarter of a mile we catch up with the railroad tracks but are forced to hurry up. A loud whistle letting us know there is another train coming. Keeping on the left we wait for the train to pass – video below – ….

….then keep on the trail, disappearing underneath. It’s pretty cavelike with excess water-droplets draining from above. I urge Mag to hurry up and we emerge quickly on the other side. Mag yet again takes a dip, this time in Brice Run.

Temperatures are climbing, just like us, following the cascading water on an elevated trail. As soon as I see Wrights Mill rd I know something is not right….even though there is a horse farm ahead which would make Mag very happy for hours to come. We spend about 5 minutes looking for the continuum of the trail but I am forced to turn back and scrutinize the map under magnifying glass to see where I made a mistake letting our trail wonder off….

Brice Run cascading below us
Asian bittersweet – Celastrus orbiculatus

I guess I was so mesmerized by the Run that I missed the now obvious map signage of the small loop we would’ve had to do by crossing the water.

I’ve tried! There is noooo way we can proceed through Brice Run! Water is way too high. So we actually going back to the railroad bridge and cross there, even though sign says it’s illegal. Blahblahblah.

Our trail continues in only about 20 feet beyond the bridge, taking us high above the tracks, overlooking Patapsco river.

MAN it’s hot! My double socked feet will likely catch on fire in my heavy boots.

We turn right at the first opportunity on the top of the hill following the white Thru trail.

The forest is spectacular! We have a wonderful view through naked trees and finally there are birds chirping.

Our next cross reference in the woods is a monstrosity of a house with a huge green container. The unfortunate fact is that we are getting closer to Granite aka developed area. We are on the edge of the state park. Beyond the house we turn left until we see a green gate where we follow the trail downhill to the right. Passing a couple, racing down in Mag’s fashion we cross a tiny noname creek at the bottom.

Our next stop is the clearing under the power lines where Mag takes a 10 minute rolling session. Yippee.

When he finally rolled enough we continue into the woods, climbing through the slaloming path. Reaching the top we get to a small – trail – intersection and to a view of cookie cutter monstrosities.

Keeping to the right the trail follows the development for quite a while, I would say for a mile? (That rhymed.) A slight descend will take us to another noname creek….

….with lots of birds jumping and flying around. Lovely location for a picnic. A little wren shows interest in us sitting on a dead tree stump.

Looking on the map I see that the trail circles around the “mushroom development”.

Two hours into our walk and it’s the first time that I hear a woodpecker at all, but this is my fave! Pileated Woody woodpecker. He is somewhere in the woods laughing at us. Oh, but now I see him! Waaaay toooo far to even pretend that I can take a photo. So we carry on around the fenced off houses yet again heading downhill.

I’ve decided earlier that we’ll take a shortcut on the bottom of this section to return to the river and head back on our loop. There is one problem. The trail shows on the map but not in the forest. It’s ok. We’ll improvise. Phone in hand we follow the invisible trail through the woods, looking at the map.

The invisible trail

We’ve just scared a beautiful fox away. Mag is in hunting mode all the sudden.

Patapsco river is in front of us, lazily stretching through the forest, accompanying the railroad tracks.

I am forced to shut off ResQWalk at 4.71 miles to reserve battery power.

This is our turning point. As it’s visible on the pic above we’ll – for the most – keep next to the river. Before heading back Mag needs to model inside a huge tree for a pic. It doesn’t happen every day that he is able to sit inside a living tree.

Scenery yet again is gorgeous, there are a bunch of little islands in the river here. So pretty. We stop for a few minutes to test the waters.

Since we are heading back next to the river the walk is easy, it’s flat and Mag is eager to lead the way. Across the river there is a big beachy area and a family of four are playing rock skipping. Hidden from them on our side, behind an embankment is a little gem of cascades and generously covered mossy stones.

We are pinched between towing rock walls on our left and the river on our right. I can hear a Kingfisher somewhere above the river and can see the railroad bridge way ahead of us in the distance.

Looking back towards the rock skippers

This trail still has some surprises for us, starting right about now.

Taking a turn to the left, we have to hop over a small creek and start climbing steeply uphill the trail like a snake winding underneath our feet. The wind also appears to have picked up and feels chilly since we are in the forest. Making it all the way up the view is wonderful but can not capture it through thousands of branches.

Heading downhill again for just a bit and crossing under the power-lines again, just going the opposite way.

I have to stop taking pictures at mile 6.8 otherwise my phone will die. I will have to invest in an outside battery.

While in the forest we have different trail options to follow and I am so talented that pick the most challenging one. Rocky, steep, full of fallen autumn leaves and overgrown….it’s more like an unmaintained water slide if you ask me but we are heading upwards on it. Finally at the top we have a breather and thankfully the trail goes back to normal, just winding lazily through the woods. After catching up with river we shortly return to our cut off after the bridge….

….blue dot on map. From here on we backtracking next to Patapsco river, encountering most of the ppl on our whole loop. I guess they slept in. It’s 2pm and they just starting their walk.

Mag catches scent of some horses and pulls me all the way from the dam to the car. He falls asleep within minutes.

Almost 10 miles in 4 hours in unseasonable heat. It was a great hike!

Recommend this trail wholeheartedly! Even though it’s winter and most pictures look brown and dreary that should not stop anyone to go for a hike. Nature looks so much better in person.

See you next week….

P.S.: parking area was full of cars when we got back, stretching onto the private driveway on one side. I guess there had to be 20+ cars.

Published by magzilla44

Magzilla, our AMSTAFF has rescued us in 2017 on a rainy day in May. It was a rough start because we didn’t know anything about him after him walking up on our property. But he has showed us what an amazing person he is and things became happily ever after pretty quick. He is very social, both with people and other pets. He loves his cat sisters and brothers and off course walking.

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