Northern Central Railroad Trail

Bentley Springs, Maryland 21120

Northern Central Railroad Trail

Northern Central Railroad Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A walk along 8 miles of the 20-mile Maryland section of the Northern Central Railroad Trail, a converted rail-trail through the rolling countryside of northern Baltimore County. Stow a bicycle at the south end for a 16-mile hike-bike excursion. The trail follows the railbed of one of the oldest railroads in America —the Northern Central, completed in 1838. It operated as a milk train, taking daily early-morning runs into Baltimore.

The passenger line carried Civil War wounded from Gettysburg to Baltimore, then carried the body of President Abraham Lincoln north en route to his burial in Illinois. It later become a commuter rail, with daily service to Baltimore until 1959. Special considerations: The trail is 10 feet wide, composed of crushed limestone. At the northern section there is plenty of solitude. As you approach Monkton, weekend bicycle traffic can be substantial. If you want the Monk- ton section all to yourself, travel midweek or, best of all, in winter."

More Northern Central Railroad Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Mountain Biking the Washington, D.C. / Baltimore Area (Falcon Guides)
Scott Adams & Martin Fernandez
View more trails from this guide book
"This converted rail trail leads its visitors across Maryland's beautiful fields and meadows, past forests and rural farmland, and along the rushing waters of Little Falls and Gunpowder Falls. As you pedal along, you'll pass through the many historic little towns whose whole history is based upon the corridor's connection between Baltimore and Harrisburg. Celebrate the thousands of volunteers who helped make this 20-mile stretch of uninterrupted rail-trail possible by taking time to enjoy this converted and historic old rail line. Continue an additional 20.5 miles along the trail's latest extension called the York Heritage County Rail-Trail all the way to York, PA."

Northern Central Railroad Trail Trip Reports

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4/16/2010
I traveled the entire length of this trail on my bike and my I must say it is a very good trail. If you want to start from the beginning of the trail, I suggest you arrive at the parking lot well before 9 am as it fills quickly since there is only enough parking for about 10 cars. If you dont get there early you can always parking in one of the other parking lots along the trail. The farther north you go the less crowded it will be. Most of the trail is pretty well shaded by trees so it shouldn't be to hot in the summer. The only problem I found with this trail is that people ride their horses on this trail in the northern parts of the trail and leave the horse's droppings behind ON THE TRACK.
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12/3/2007
Beautiful rail trail, but it can be very crowded. Once we were riding north to the PA state line and hit 500 runners in a marathon. Also the PA state line is not marked so we ended up ridding an extra 4 miles into a little PA town before we realized where we were. Only that town and Monkton are there places to eat. Carry food and drink. Go another 20 miles on a connector trail and you hit York, PA for a total of 80 miles round trip.
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9/1/2007
Great Trail that is relatively flat and easy to bike/walk. There are few shops and rest rooms about 1/2 way through. There are no trash cans along the trail or at the stop, so be sure to keep your trash with you.
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9/27/2006
I have cycled the combined North Central Railroad (NCR) Trail and York County Heritage (YCH) Trail many times both in sections and the entire length, up and back. It is a well maintained trail and a fantastic resource for walkers, joggers, cyclist, horseback riders and others. I generally begin my rides at the south terminus (Ashland) and cycle north. The trail is fairly flat until you reach MP15 where the grade increases to the MD-PA border. After crossing the state line, near New Freedom, the grade declines all the way to York, PA. It is not bad but is noticeable. In general, I find the MD NCR, which parallels the Gunpowder Falls River, to be more scenic, shadier and with a quieter surface than the PA YCH which seems to focus more on the historic. The trail can get crowded near the trailheads on weekends and holidays but is for the most part peaceful. There are many places to access the trail and plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat along the way. Recommended.
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6/4/2006
A very easy ride. We parked at Parkton and rode the trail north all the way to the PA line. It is a very gradual upgrade that you hardly notice. My bike meter said it was 7.2 miles and at our pace it took us 1 hour and 1 minute. On the return trip back south we stopped at one of the picnic tables for lunch and it was so peaceful as we had lunch and listened to the water running in the stream over the rocks. Our return trip took only 35 minutes. Very little bike traffic.
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3/18/2006
The trail is great. My wife and I started at Bentley Springs. We walked south about halfway, 4 miles, and returned to Bentley. I believe it was aruond Parkton that we saw the outdoor gym. Along one side of the trail for maybe 100 yards there is various structures to utilize for a workout, chipup bars, incline situp boards, step climbing units etc..
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1/7/2006
Although not a very good hiking trail (too flat and boring), this is a good trail for running--it has a soft, flat "stone dust" surface. The trail can get crowded on the weekend and it is sometimes hard to find a parking spot.
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9/7/2002
After a long summer of rail trails of questionable quality, this was a top-notch experience. This trail truly demonstrates that the state of Maryland wants to encourage outdoor activity, and is willing to put up the coin to maintain a favorable environment.

The trail is composed of white, sandy gravel dust packed quite firmly, so it is as smooth as concrete. Frequent maintenance is evident, not only by the lack of potholes and obstructions but also by the long stretches of obviously new surface. The trail is maintained as part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Nice and level, passing lovely scenery and very nicely-maintained homes, horse farms and pasture lands, my only complaint was the crowd. We had to visit 3 parking areas at the extreme southern end of the trail before we found one with a vacant spot, but this is to be expected: it was, after all, the first decent Saturday in 2 months. The trail is wide enough to accommodate the mass of people, and people are generally aware of rights of way and yield rules- thank God the horse riders weren''t out!

I''ll definitely be back, because I want to finish the rest of the trail in Maryland and also continue the other 20 miles after it crosses the state line into Pennsylvania.
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Trail Information

Bentley Springs
Nearby City
16
Distance
Minimal
Elevation Gain
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Easy
Skill Level
Year-round
Season
Gunpowder Falls State Park
Local Contacts
USGS New Freedom, Hereford, Cockeysville, Maryland
Local Maps

Trail Log