Weekend Backpacker: Baltimore

Gunpowder Falls State Park
By Leonard Adkins
  |  Gorp.com

Cool, shaded spots by a swimming hole. Wildflower and pine fragrances wafting through the air. Owl hoots breaking the stillness of early evening. Muskrat and raccoon paw prints stamped into soft mud. Hazy silhouettes of deer foraging in the morning mist. These are some of the delights to be found just a short drive from Baltimore. Within Gunpowder Falls State Park's 17,000 acres are more than 100 miles of pathways, providing you with the opportunity to discover for yourself why the state has been acquiring land along the Big Gunpowder Falls, Little Gunpowder Falls, and Gunpowder River Valleys since 1959.

The hiking trails in the Hereford Area. Facing the river, take the trail through the field, cross a wooden bridge, swing left, and follow white-blazed Gunpowder South Trail along the river. To explore the hillside environment, turn right and ascend blue-blazed Panther Branch Trail, passing by bits of mountain laurel. The cry of a red-tailed hawk is often heard above the trees. Turn right at 3.1 to once again follow Gunpowder South Trail. Cross Gunpowder Falls on the Big Falls Road bridge at 3.8 miles and make an immediate left onto a blue-blazed gravel road. Even though you are walking along the same stretch of river, things will look different, since you are now walking upstream. Even the ripples in the water look dissimilar as the sunlight sparkles on them from a changed angle. After several ups and downs, return to river level and take a well-deserved break where Raven Falls drops down a smooth rock face at 5.3 miles. Leaving the falls, notice that a number of tree trunks have been gnawed upon by beavers. Gunpowder Falls was the first stream that the Department of Natural Resources used to reintroduce beavers back into Maryland in the 1950s. Cross Gunpowder Falls on the Falls Road bridge at 9.2 miles and turn to the right. This is the prettiest portion of the hike. Large boulders in the river churn the stream as it drops into pools surrounded by hemlocks and other green vegetation. The scene is more reminiscent of the mountains of western Maryland than of central Maryland. Leave the white blazes of the Gunpowder South Trail at 10.2 miles and ascend the blue-blazed Highland Trail to explore another hillside. Cross the paved Falls Road at 10.4 miles and gradually descend a ridgeline that, once again, has the look and feel of western Maryland. Rejoin and turn right onto Gunpowder South Trail at 11.4 miles, returning to your car at 12.8 miles.

Take I-83 Exit 27 and drive east on MD 137. After a half mile, turn left onto MD 45, follow it northward for 0.8 mile, make a left onto Bunker Hill Road, and come to the parking area in another 1.1 miles.

No permits required.

There are a few minor ups and downs with short, steep sections and several rocky places, but for most of this hike, the walking is comfortable and easy.

Hiking Trails in the Hereford Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park (available free from the park office).

50 Hikes in Maryland.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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