Patapsco Valley State Park (V) – Pickall trail – 8.8 miles

3/21/2020 Pickall trail – Patapsco-Thru trail – Mill Race trail – Patapsco-Thru trail – Rockhaven Avenue – Stairway to Haven – Patapsco-Thru trail – Pickall trail – Festivus for the Rest of us – Festivus – Pickall trail

Elevation gain: 869ft

Location: Old Frederick Rd. at Johnnycake Rd. before green metal bridge. Windsor Mill, MD 21244

Latitude 39.3103 Longitude-76.7923


I’ve noticed this trail on our last adventure from across the river and looked it up. Parking is not available at the trailhead and I am usually very uncomfortable walking with Mag on any road without a sidewalk. To get to this trail we would have to cross the bridge where there is no threshold for pedestrians….not cool with me. So….I got my hubby to drop us off at the trailhead. He is working at the shop today and will pick us back up when we finish our hike.

Mag is ready!

Like most trails in Patapsco this one as well follows the river for a while. Instead of leading us down to the water this one however starts going upward after a few hundred feet. The view is quite spectacular from up here.

Hiking on the narrow path, soon we find ourselves pretty close to I70 which runs above us and literally on top of us when we dip below the twin bridges. Even though I am not for vandalism but I happen to like graffiti. I wish we would have more structures all over with positive messages and the wonderful colors. This would be a great place for that reaching towards the bottom of the highway. Some of the graffiti artists are extremely talented.

We are keeping with the river but at one point destruction to the forest caused by some sort of construction cuts us of at the delta of Cedar Branch. We are not supposed to cross here but I am not sure what they want us to do? Fly away? Crossing the Branch and then the barrier we are back on the damaged trail.

From here on we are on Patapsco-Thru Trail keep following the river until ducking under Baltimore National Pike’s double bridges. Just before that would happen we come across this poor Teddy bear left to die on this tree.

Off course I’ve rescued him! Look at that face!

It wasn’t easy to cross the little creek that joins Patapsco under the bridge with its own little dam….

….but after successfully doing so we got to enjoy a pretty beach area.

FYI: solution to cross the small creek: follow the trail upward between the pillars, through the larger black rocks above, closer to the base of the bridge.

The trail here becomes Mill Race Trail.

It’s quite lovely after climbing up from the river. This stretch is about 1.3 miles and looks wild and wonderful.

We keep going until the little wooden bridge leading us into the woods. But before we would jump on it we go visit the waters.

The wooden bridge also means that we are yet again on another portion of the trail – Patapsco Thru – which I’ve mentioned before. This one comes and goes.

While leaving the river behind we have a nice little – big – mountain (feels like) to get up on. Phew that was challenging! Hiking through the forest, we are heading towards Rockhaven Ave. and then Stairway to Haven, before reaching the highway again.

That was weird! I have been on I40 many many times and never noticed that there is a trail literally 5 feet from it. We are moving as fast as we possibly can to leave this section since the cars doing 60-80 mph coming head on. Jeeeeeeez! I am glad that there at least guardrails between us.

After successfully passing this short portion we head back under the highway to re-emerge on the other side. Thankfully the trail stays farther away from it here, taking us deeper into the forest. Crossing over the small creek that ends up dumping into Patapsco under the bridge, we start to climb slightly upwards. At the top of the hill we yet again very close to the road but the trail takes a sharp left turn away from it. Before we do that I spot this giant ant on top of a stacked stone pile.

We are back on Pickall Trial for awhile. On our right there are several developments with there own entrances to the main trail. We keep away from those. Moving steadily, we catch up to a caravan of people and their dogs. They are nice enough to let us pass. Keeping our pace we get a glimpse of Patapsco from up above. The silver river snakes below us with lazy rapids.

Following the trail we make a huge right to left U turn and come across yet again the clearing through the woods. Even though there are barricades, we manage to cross the mess and carry on within Cedar Branch to find our way up the hill, catching back up to the trail somewhere higher up the hill.

It’s hard to spot the path but after a bit of a search I am able to. Dragging through wet leaves and the muddy underlayer, we manage to pull ourselves back on track.

This huge boulder is hanging on a thread caught by a stump.

Unfortunately the trail disappears yet again caused by another clearing which dumped debris and fallen trees on it. We lose it entirely and our only way out is to climb up on the huge machinery made muddy path and follow it towards north.

On this next pic we can see how much original trail we have missed. Probably half of “Festivus for the rest of us” as it goes out to almost touch I70 than circles back around a huge parking area with several huge pavilions.

Crossing this little bridge leads us to even more pavilions to the west, perching on top of the hill in the distance.

After finally leaving this huge parking area (entrance is from Johnnycake Rd.) the trail becomes Festivus and turns left to snake through the forest, getting closer to Patapsco again.

Mag takes the opportunity to roll in the leaves while I follow the flight paths of several woodpeckers.

Soon enough we are back under I70 and the tall twin bridges.

I usually have a trash bag with me but I found two larger piece of garbage which I pick up and struggle my way through the rest of the hike.

Safely made it back to the trailhead, the metal bridge on our left. Now we just have to wait for hubby to pick us back up.

Here is our hike map.

We hope you get a chance to hike this trail! It’s wonderful! And don’t forget:

Be healthy and happy!

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.

13 thoughts on “Patapsco Valley State Park (V) – Pickall trail – 8.8 miles

  1. What a nice hike! No people so it’s good for social distancing. We take trash bags with us too on our hikes, but those are few and far between right now. The Wildlife Refuges are still open in Florida and Georgia so we’ve been making a weekly trip. Not many people and we can keep to ourselves. 🙂 Love your Mag!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I’m a loner so I’m pretty much always in social distancing. Mag is my 24/7 company and loves our hikes. Very easy-going and well behaved. He is absolutely the best. I’m glad you can still get out and about. I would lose my mind without our daily and weekendly walks. Be well!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am one of those rebels or ignorant ppl if you will who worries more about the world’s economy than my health (or other’s). Our hikes and walks definitely help my thoughts to drift from all that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t watch or listen to the news either. Seems like, they only promote negativity. I was worried that I’ve opened my big mouth yet again and you are trying to ignore my comment. I am relieved….🙈🥳

        Liked by 1 person

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