4/4/2020 Marriottsville Rd. – Patapsco-McKeldin trail – Switchback 2017 NTD – Patapsco-McKeldin trail – North Branch Patapsco River Shore trail – Patapsco-McKeldin trail – Noname trail back to Marriottsville Rd.
Elevation gain: 394 ft
Location: 714 Marriottsville Rd. Marriottsville, MD 21104
Same location, different route on Marriottsville Rd. We park in the same lot next to the railroad tracks and head North to catch up to the Patapsco-McKeldin Trail on the other side of the road. Even though there is a small, makeshift parking area at the trailhead (fits maybe 4-6 cars), about a quarter of mile away, I find it safer to leave my car where it’s permitted.
After crossing the bridge from the parking….
….we also cross Henryton Rd. and Marriottsville Road Number 2 (yes….that’s the name) then cautiously walk across to a very muddy path….
….connecting us to the trailhead.
As usual, we follow the longest route to the left, uphill on a spacious trail winding next to Marriottsville Road.
My favorite Woody – Pileated – Woodpecker just flew across the trail in front of my eyes. However I am not just looking out for birds while we hike. Hearts are my other obsessions. Look at this beauty!
We continue our march up the hill, until we come across a big parking area at Switchback Trail within a hundred feet or so.
Carefully crossing – Mag has to sit down every time we cross – onto the trail which like a snake slithering among tall trees.
On our left is a gorgeous pine forest while on our right for more then a half mile is the McKeldin Area of Patapsco Valley State Park with its various structures.
Even though the forest still looks dormant its brown and gray colors with batches of neon green is spectacular to me. I find it beautiful even without bright colors. We are up high above Marriottsville Road and North branch Patapsco River. The trail takes a big right turn and heads downhill on the other side of the mountain. In the small valley is a tiny creek with lush green lettuce like plants (yet to find out what they are called). Walking upwards now, we soon reach a fork at Plantation Trail.
However we are going the opposite direction, down the hill. Unfortunately AllTrails does not show this path at all….it runs parallel with Patapsco-McKeldin but at the edge of the river. As you can see on this pic – on small tree in middle – it is marked with white paint.
Just a few feet on this trail and I find a small boulder with several species of beautiful flowers, growing out from its cracks and the surrounding area.
The path winds down dramatically, getting closer and closer to Patapsco, ending in a wooden staircase at the edge of the river.
The invisible trail – at least on AllTrails – is going in both direction so we head left to investigate. It actually ends in less then a hundred feet in a pile of fallen trees. Beyond is a limestone cliff stretching towards the sky, it’s footing growing out of the water.
So we turn back and follow the green river towards the SE.
The right side is very rocky, at some places there are hundreds of huge fallen boulders littering the forest.
The trail itself is ever changing with different materials switching back and forth. I spot thousands of Trout Lilly leaves but since it’s much chillier here they haven’t flowered just yet. We also hear a Mallard duck quacking away on the river, maybe looking for his mate.
We stop a few times where rocks are stretching into the river to take pics and for Mag’s swimming pleasure.
Just before the river-band, the groundcover becomes alive, changing to hundreds of Japanese Barberry bushes waking from their winter sleep.
I planned to cross Patapsco at this bend since my App shows a continuum of the trail on the other side….just forget to mention a horse I would need. Even though it’s not deep but it’s cold. I will not jeopardize getting a cold.
There is another crossings visible nearby but it also turns out to be a hoax. I give up on crossing (here at least, I usually have a hard time giving up on the longest route) so we get back on Patapsco-McKeldin. The jungle like ground cover spits us out at the South end of Plantation Trail.
We managed to emerge just when two riders pass on horseback so we manage to walk/run the next half a mile in record time. At the info board the trail splits – all 3 marked as Patapsco-McKeldin which I find idiotic – hence we follow the left branch. The river is quite beautiful here, rushing through small rapids while heading South.
A few minutes later we come across giant pebbles lazily reclining in the cool liquid, giving us a chance to take a break. Our view from the middle….
They say it’s lucky to get pooped on by a bird….I wonder….is it lucky to sit in a huge pile of Canadian goose doo doo? I let you know later. I cannot wait to change my pants though.
Back on the trail we pass another path on our right. Switchback is climbing uphill to sort of shortcut the riveredge-trail (still Patapsco-McKeldin) towards the Rapids we follow. Eventually we’ll catch up to it closer to the end.
The big loop of the North Branch ends in a fork splitting the river in two where we should be able to cross yet again but no luck. Have to keep up with the now so called South Branch, following it towards North (confused yet?)
At the next fork we keep left, still heading to the rapids. Promises, promises.
I spot the awesome Thru trail on the other side. We yet to hike that portion of it.
The river is gorgeous! We encounter a few runners on this stretch and to give them some space we go down to the boulder beach. While Mag fights with a huge driftwood I take some pics.
We cannot get enough of the water….
We had to….the rapids are calling. Climbing through an interesting flat surface 30 degree rock formation, targeting a blooming wild cherry tree on top, we reach another dramatic bend.
Trail traffic gets unbelievably busy here so we sit down on the edge of a boulder while everyone passes behind us.
Five minutes later we are back on track, coming up on a sandy beach….
….and beyond that, over the bend, in a lagoon….the rapids!
The trail climbs above it, providing a spacious lookout.
There is a tiny parking area here for a handful of cars but since it is well hidden, there are still a few spots available. I am sure mostly locals use it.
The railroad tracks are visible on the other side of the rapids. We are almost finished with our loop. Following the paved road for a quarter of a mile we turn left again at a small info board and some wooden steps on the hill.
Pretty much this whole time the trail keeps up with different branches of Patapsco, one is more mesmerizing than the next.
At the next possible fork we turn left and catch up on an unofficial – looks like fisherman – path with Piney-Run. While on it, I spot a Bald Eagle sitting on top of a distant tree above the tracks. Soon we reach Marriottsville Rd. and after crossing it, we make the last stretch and head back to our car.
Here is our loopsy-loop.
Funky how certain trails seem so much longer than others even though the distance is shorter. This is one of those.
It also inspired me to buy fisherman’s chest waders. No more not crossing! (There will be but I don’t know that just yet….aargh.)