While there are many beautiful areas to explore here on the Eastern Shore, once the summer flood of beach-goers begins, it can be nice to escape to the Western Shore for some outdoor adventures. One place you might want to check out is the Patapsco Valley State Park, which extends across 32 miles of the Patapsco River. Here, you can hike, bike, camp, canoe, fish, and even go horseback riding.
On an unseasonably warm Sunday in May, I ventured to Patapsco Valley State Park to enjoy some hiking. I had been planning on heading over to the Hollofield Area, just off Rt. 40, but my hiking buddy and I decided to park at the Soapstone Trailhead, on South Rolling Road.
While there are no amenities at the trailhead, because this is not an official parking lot for the Park, there is no fee to use this area. In addition, if it’s a busy day and the parking is full, there is a Park and Ride lot across the street.
In official day use areas, weekday admission is $2 per vehicle for in-state residents and $4 per vehicle for out of state residents. Weekend fees are more, at $3 per person for in-state and $5 per person for out of state. The day use areas open at 9 am and close at sunset. It can be a little hard to find information for the park, unless you know the specific area you are wanting to visit. Once you know that, you can find trail maps for each area here.
The Soapstone Trail is a 2.9 mile out and back that winds through some really nice shaded forest areas. It also connects to several other trails, including the Grist Mill trail which is paved and accessible.
Even though the weather was warm, the shade and occasional waterway helped keep us comfortable. Some spots along the Soapstone Trail are a bit steep and muddy, so be prepared! Many trails are shared with bikers, including Soapstone and Grist Mill, so be aware and keep your ears open.
As we transitioned from hiking the Soapstone Trail to walking the Grist Mill Trail, we came across several parking lots, restroom facilities, and a playground. You can access these via Glen Artney Road and parking at the Lost Lake parking area, or by going through the tunnel under the railroad and traveling up Soapstone Trail Road. On our way back through this area, around 12:30 pm, all the parking lots in this area were full and cars were waiting for spots so be aware that it may be difficult to find parking if you go later in the day on the weekend.
The Grist Mill Trail was flat and paved, so it was a little more leisurely than the Soapstone Trail. It runs along railroad tracks, which are elevated, so there were numerous tunnels to walk through to connect with other trails.
The Grist Mill Trail also travels along the Patapsco River and there are several areas where you can walk down to the river’s edge.
We sat and enjoyed a light lunch along the water and watched several people float by and numerous dogs go for a swim.
In most areas of the Patapsco Valley State Park, pets are allowed, with the exception of the Pickalls area, which is only available by reservation
Ultimately, there are many places to explore within Patapsco Valley State Park. Before the buildings were demolished, you could find the Griggs House, made famous by the movie The Blair Witch Project, and the Henryton State Hospital within the Park. Still in existence are the Thomas Viaduct, built in 1835, and the Swinging Bridge at Orange Grove, so you could plan your trip around visiting those sites.
I could definitely hike a new trail every month and still not see everything in Patapsco Valley State Park this year, even if I had started in January. So if you’re looking for a fun place to exercise and get some fresh air, be sure to visit this park and get out and explore!