Patapsco Valley State Park Thru Hike

Adventures don’t always have to be remote, extensive or particularly ambitious to qualify as an adventure. I like to believe that most things that get you out of your comfort zone are some sort of adventure. I enjoy the planning of extensive, remote adventures but also of short, local ones that fit better with a typical work schedule.

The patapsco river

Over the last year my job has brought me to spend a considerable amount of time in Maryland, in an area close to Baltimore. Looking for hiking opportunities during the weekend, in the first months of visiting Maryland I have visited Patapsco state park multiple times. I was impressed by this state park so close to the city with its extensive network of trails and opportunities to paddle, swim and cycle. When I first realized the extent of the park, I started wondering if it would be possible to link all the sections in a continuous hike.

I looked for information online and found no trip report saying if it had ever been done or not. I started studying park maps found on the park’s website as well as trail maps of the region. I identified a potential route and scouted about half the route on different outings. I was convinced that my plan was doable and I decided to attempt a thru-hike whenever I would have a full free weekend in the area.

I started my hike in Sykesville on a Saturday morning in the month of February 2017. The western part of the park was a part I had not explored yet and I had to look at my GPS a couple times in order to ensure that I was following the planned route, as there are a lot of other trails and they are not always marked. There was no trail blazes at all in the Western portion of the park but the trail seemed to have seen good use and was therefore easy to follow. It would be another story with snow on the ground…

Patapsco Park Overview

The trail goes through lovely parts and the route I had planned stayed close to the river for most of the time. The Western part of the park was very quiet and I hiked through McKeldin and Woodstock area without meeting anyone. This might also be due to the fact that it was very early in the morning.

I started meeting more hikers as I came to Daniels area. In order to link all the areas some road walking is in order. Not all road walks stretches are pleasant but thankfully most are rather short. Drinking water was easy to obtain at each stream crossing feeding into the Patapsco (I filtered it all since it is close to the city).

Old Bicycle where the trail goes through some farmland

I finished my first hiking day at the entrance of the Avalon area on Washington boulevard, which I believe is, with Daniels area, the busiest section of the park. I hiked 26.7 miles that day and only had 5 miles left in order to complete my thru-hike. In Avalon area the main trail is paved and a lot of runners and cyclists use it. From there I took a taxi back to my place since the campground was not yet open for the season and camping is not permitted in other areas. I returned to the same point on Sunday to complete my thru-hike.

The area to the East of Avalon seems to see less travel and to be home to a considerable population of deer, if my sightings are representative of the population at all. It is an area that is closer to populated areas but that still feels remoted and isolated, except when it crosses a road. The trail to follow can be less obvious and a GPS is useful to identify the various trails, which do not always match those on the maps. The trail goes under many highways and roads in the area. It is a bit overgrown by sections.

This whole hike is a total of 31.7 miles and can be easily completed over two days. Be aware that most trails are shared with horseback riders and mountain bikes so be alert to other users need (hiking with headphones is not a good idea because you would not hear the warning from the mountain bikers). Close to Ellicott city the trail goes through some farms and you might observe cattle. It is a beautiful hike, not far from the city, that I would recommend to anyone in the area!

Patapsco in the summer - Halethorpe area
PlanHike through the whole length of the Patapsco Valley State Park, where trails are available. I walked from Sykesville to Linthicum over 31.7 miles of trails.
WherePatapsco Valley State Park extends along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, which runs in the South of the city of Baltimore in the state of Maryland, USA.
WhenFebruary 2017
DurationTwo days
Useful links Patapsco Valley State Park Official Site

2 thoughts on “Patapsco Valley State Park Thru Hike

  • September 12, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Hi Marilyn! Glad you enjoyed our lovely local park. 🙂 I am curious as to exactly what trails you took. I’ve been exploring the Patapsco my whole life and have thought about attempting this. How did you get from the area around Route 70 to near Ilchester Road?

    • September 13, 2017 at 12:42 am

      I was on the North side of the river in this area. Once you go under the 70 the trail is easy to follow until you reach houses on Oella avenue. The trail keeps going in between some houses and then I walked on Frederick Rd and River Rd. From River Rd it’s a little tricky, you have to go up through the woods where the public land starts (no sign) and eventually you go under an electric line and the trail is easier but still tricky to follow after. It goes through some farms until you reach the Hilton Area. I hope this helps!

Comments are closed.