Baltimore County, Maryland 21228

Elevation Gain167ft
Trailhead Elevation428ft
Elevation Min/Max324/428ft
Elevation Start/End428/428ft


Patapsco is a hiking and biking trail in Baltimore County, Maryland. It is 0.4 miles long and begins at 428 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 0.9 miles with a total elevation gain of 167 feet. The Lot 3 parking is near the trailhead. Along the trail there is a pipeline.

Patapsco Professional Reviews and Guides

"In the midst of a metropolitan area, this Patapsco Park trail crosses the Swinging Bridge across the Patapsco River and then follows an old railroad bed to connect to the Hilton-area trails of Sawmill and Buzzards Rocks, where you will enjoy a dramatic overlook from a rock outcropping.

Who doesn’t love walking over a swinging bridge? Our inner child aches to jump and make it sway! Well, you get a swinging-bridge start on this combination hike of the Grist Mill Trail, the Sawmill Trail, and the Buzzards Rock Trail.

Cross the Swinging Bridge over the Patapsco River to the Hilton area of the park. Prior suspension footbridges at this location allowed residents of the Orange Grove mill town to cross the river to Baltimore County to work in the five-story Orange Grove Flower Mill of the C. A. Gambrill Manufacturing Company."

"Cascade Falls on the ridge east of the Patapsco River is the highlight of this hike."

"Three small cliffs within Patapsco Valley State Park are described below. The Ilchester area is, by far, the best and most popular. The Friction Wall and Woodstock Wall areas are included for informational purposes. These two areas should be of interest only if you live in the immediate area. Additional information on these, and other nearby mini-crags, is available in Mark Kochte’s Climb Maryland!"

"Take in the best of the Glen Artney Area: two branches of the Patapsco River, mature forest, and Lost Lake. The trailhead leads onto Soapstone Branch Trail.

A long, flat ridge drops off both sides of the trail, with Soapstone Branch to the right and very big beech trees all around. Just before 0.2 miles, the trail heads into a very deep gully; follow it down to level ground. Soapstone Branch is just a trickle here—small and narrow, but running clear."

"This is an easy yet scenic hike along a paved rail trail, passing two swinging bridges, an old viaduct, and a dam. Following the path of the original roadbed of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the trail parallels the river on the left and the railroad bed on the right, passing several historic sites."

"Even though this is one of the more popular sections of Patapsco Valley State Park because of its camping infrastructure, you can still get a few of the trails to yourself. On the Forest Glen Trail, you’ll initially walk downhill on a wide, packed dirt trail through lots of sassafras, oak, and tulip poplar.

At 0.2 miles, go straight instead of cutting off to the right. You’ll walk along a ridgeline and soon end at an overlook that provides a nice view of the Patapsco Valley below, especially if you’re hiking in late fall or winter. Turn around and return to the righthand cut you just passed."

"Although the area tends to have swarms of mountain bikers, the scenery is certainly a must-see, beginning with cascading falls and ending with ridgeline views.

While the scenery is spectacular on the trails of Patapsco, as a hiker you must be warned to watch your back! This area especially is extremely popular for mountain biking, and bikers sometimes come fast and furious around a corner on a narrow trail. Most trail enthusiasts are considerate users, but it never hurts to be on the lookout.

This hike combines the blue Cascade Falls Trail, the yellow Morning Choice Trail, the purple Rockburn Branch Trail, the white Valley View Trail, and the orange Ridge Trail to make a big loop around the Avalon and Orange Grove areas of Patapsco Valley State Park."

"See waterfalls, rivers, streams, upland forest, historic structures, and entire herds of deer in one of the more diverse hikes in Patapsco Valley State Park. This hike begins in the Orange Grove Area and takes in the Avalon Area before returning to the Orange Grove Area.

The 300-foot suspension Swinging Bridge provides one of the few places for easy access across Patapsco River. You can cross it to go to the paved Grist Mill Trail and the Hilton Area of the state park, but if you want to hike in the Orange Grove Area, turn around and head up the hill on the stone steps to the blue-blazed Cascade Falls Trail. It winds uphill, taking in a little switchback, before quickly coming to Cascade Falls, at 0.3 miles. Ferns, mossy rocks, and oak surround a narrow ridge where the falls spill over; the trail becomes a series of rocks that lead across the falls and give you an unobstructed, obviously fantastic view. It’s a superb way to start your hike."

Patapsco Reviews

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon13 Total
Some of the trails are closed currently due to flooding so check before you go. There are several trails to choose from, none of which are very difficult but they're worth a trip for the scenery and some nice touches like a water fall and a swinging bridge you can cross and some old rail tunnels to walk through. I've seen deer a few times on the trails. Lots of places along the way where you can wade in the summer to cool off.
The first part of the hike was great but then we got lost. The overall hike was good but we ended up hiking extra because we couldn't find the trail and walked along the road back to our cars.
This area offers a variety of terrain from the rocky stream areas to the packed dirt woodland forest paths, all of which are wide, clear, well marked and traveled. There are lots of optional trails (spurs. loops, connectors) that allow you to customize your outing. There are some nice views, though none I would describe as spectacular. There are usually a fair amount of mountain bikers and joggers (particularly on the flatter and neighborhood accessible Morning Choice trail) so I've seen less wildlife than I expected, though today we had deer laying down 50 yards off of the trail (the deer in my back yard aren't that tame!). You need to prepare your map and notes to account for all the trail intersections; otherwise you might take an unintended detour.
A very nice hike. Many changes in terrain, a few challenges near the waterfall, but overall a great trail. There were quite a few mountain bikes, but we all were courteous to each other. Definitely will be going back. The waterfall is the icing on the cake!
Great Trail. Not to crowded this time of year. The trail signs can be a little confusing. Really neat ruins though.
nice walk ... cascade falls very pretty ... time of year not the best ... will do it again on mountain bike ... looks awesome
Being from the Hudson Valley area in New York State I'm used to long trails (Appalation Trail, the various Revolutionary War trails and areas near West Point Military Acad.) with lots of elevation changes fairly deep into the woods. Newly relocated to Howard County, MD I was eager to search out new trails to hike and run....mostly run. In fact that is what I did on this the rain. Like the initial internet reviews, all of these trails are moderately rocky. It’s the dense tree cover and twisting layout that made this run so much fun. 70 degrees and rainy on this very early Autumn Day was awesome for about an 8 mile INTENSE trail run. Even though I ran a challenging trail system I would say it’s about as challenging to simply hike. There are about a half a dozen elevation changes (150 feet on average each time). LOTS OF STONES….its easy to turn an ankle here. To run it was like navigating the tire course from football practice, "knees up" only miles long. Even though initial review of this area gives a distance if 3.4 miles with a skill level of moderate to strenuous….i would say you easily have access to another 15 miles of trails depending on which combination you choose,…. because once you reach and cross the Patapsco River over the old cable bridge (used for the employees of the floor mill) you have access to another whole system of trials. Some of the trials are easy and some will have you grabbing the nearest tree trunk to steady your step. If you don’t want to get lost, bring the trail guide or a map. Although the blazes are very well marked there are so many fork in the road choices to make it would be easy to get lost. On the Hilton Side of the Park alone there are about 6 or 7 trails that intersect multiple times with each other. The two major land marks in the area are the rail line and the Patapsco River. So study up before you go unless you’re feeling adventurous and have the day ahead of you to get back to your vehicle.
Peaceful escape from suburbia. Some stream crossings require some balancing. I "jogged" the trail in "road running" shoes when the snow was melting so you won't need any hardcore gear. The directions I found useless other than to get to the trail head. There's some park BBQ spots with asphalt parking smack in the middle. Buzzkill. I pretty much said screw the directions and just explored. Maybe the third go I'll have the trail/map mastered and can take some friends. Don't take this as complaining. I love being in the outdoors. Just want to prepare any of you control freaks that expect things to go as planned. :) The author could have made the map better by drawing the streams. The land marks/reference points weren't enough.
This is a great "something for everyone" hike. There are many distance options and a unique swinging bridge to enjoy! I hike this with my hiking group every few months year around because it offers so much flexability and is wonderful throughout the seasons.
Hiked all main the trials on the parking lot side of the area. Nice afternoon hike. Quite and peaceful. A couple of stream crossings and some rocky sections here and there. Otherwise pretty easy trails. Definitely recommend.

Trail Information

Baltimore County
Nearby City
8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City; (410) 461-5005;
Local Contacts
Trail maps available for purchase at ranger station or at
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018