Greenbrier State Park

Description: Greenbrier SP is located minutes off of I-70 and west of Frederick, MD. It is popular among hikers, mountain bikers, campers and fishermen. The focal points are 50 acre Greenbrier Lake and the surrounding hills and a view of Annapolis Rock on South Mountain. The trail system is well groomed and marked with a map kiosk at every trail junction. Oddly these maps are not marked with the typical "you are here" labels. If hiked in the direction shown here, most of the climbs are barely noticeable. Probably the only exception is the short climb to gain the ridgeline of Short Hill on the eastern side of the park. With the overall gentle slopes of the grades and numerous "bail out" points in case the hike needs to be truncated, this is the ideal place for beginners and younger families.

Google Custom Directions

At the park road split bear right and proceed to the launch ramp parking area.




Printable/Downloadable Map

View 3-D Map

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users


Trail Notes: Trails are blazed in different colors. The colors on this map match the blazes.

From the launch ramp parking area cross a grassy "back" dam to a kiosk at the Big Red trailhead which goes either straight into the woods or left onto a gravel road. Proceed straight into the woods. In 0.31 miles pass green blazed Copperhead Tr on the left. Soon come to a trail closure (Habitat renewal) and a trail relocation to the left. Turn left and follow a footpath as it loops through a shallow valley. In 0.28 miles pass the junction of blue blazed Rock Oak Tr on the left. At this point the trail will make a hard right and, follow the other side of the valley back out to the other side of the trail closure (0.21 miles from the last trail junction). At this point turn left onto the original trail.

In another 0.36 miles the trail makes another hard left and begins a gentle climb. Along the way you'll pass some domesticated Yew bushes on the right and then, if you look closely, a short section of stone wall, also on the right. These are indications that a home once stood here.

In 0.36 miles from the last turn pass the northern terminus of the gray Snelling Fire Tr on the left. Here is where the grade gradually increases and reaches its steepest part at the junction of a spur trail on the left. At this point the Big Red turns to the right and continues at a much reduced grade until you reach another spur trail on the right that leads to a parking area. Turn left to stay on the Big Red Trail and traverse Short Hill on almost level tread. In the winter you can get partial views to the east through the trees.

In 0.8 miles from the last junction arrive at the southern terminus of gray blazed Snelling Fire Trail. To shorten the hike by about 2 miles stay on the Big Red Trail and pick up the directions later in this description. To complete the circuit as described turn left onto the Snelling Fire Trail. Gray is not a very good color for blazes as most of the trees in the park has gray bark. I think the park management realized this as there are also white blazes along the route. In 0.71 miles pass a spur trail on the left and then another on the right. Continue a short distance to another spur trail on the right. Turn here and cross a small stream. This is a good lunch spot and is about midway through the hike.

From here turn right onto blue blazed Rock Oak Tr. Soon pass another spur trail that seems to cross an earthen dam that once impounded a small pond. There is no breach in the dam yet the pond no longer exists. In another 0.86 miles rejoin the Big Red Tr. The place where you you left the Big Red Tr earlier is only a couple of 100 yards to your right! Turn left onto the Big Red Trail. In 0.53 miles pass the junction of an abandoned trail on the right that still leads down to the campground. The map has been removed from the kiosk.

Continue straight for another 0.3 miles and arrive at the junction of orange blazed Camp Loop Tr. To shorten the hike by about 0.6 miles stay straight on the Big Red Trail and follow it back to the start of the hike. To complete the circuit as described turn right onto the Camp Loop Tr. In about 0.35 miles a spur trail will continue down into the campground. Make a sharp left here and follow the orange blazes out to the lake. Turn left onto an asphalt footpath and cross a bridge. In another 0.19 miles rejoin the Big Red Trail and follow it back to the first kiosk of the trip, crossing the dam and passing the southern terminus of green Copperhead Tr on the left. Retrace your steps across the grassy "back" dam you originally crossed.

Printable/Downloadable Directions and Trail Notes

Critique this outing



Name: Adventure Runner                                                                                      Hike: Greenbrier State Park
Date: 12/30/12                                                                                                       Rating: 3

Critique: I ran this route as described today. Mountain biked here a couple of times many years ago. This is a close-in mountainous option for people who live in the DC/Baltimore area. It's not bad (getting out in the woods is always good), but there are better options nearby.

On the positive side, the trails are well-marked and there is an excellent topo map at literally every trail junction. The park service has updated the maps with "YOU ARE HERE" stickers, making it impossible to get lost or even off-track. You actually don't even need to bring a map. The lake is pretty and the trails seem generally underused - it seems like most visitors come for the lake and other amenities. You'll probably have plenty of solitude.

Even though the trails are well-marked, they are mostly old roads that suffer from some erosion and drainage issues. They are full of small pointy rocks, without any interesting scrambling or boulder-hopping. You can see a little through the trees on Short Hill in the winter, but there are no real views from the ridge tops. The "mountains" are not impressive and the woods are mostly scraggly second-growth. The only scenery of note is the lake, which is extensively developed.

With these pros and cons in mind, you're better off going to Gambrill State Park or Sugarloaf Mountain (both closer to DC/Baltimore), or Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls Park (about the same distance from DC/Baltimore). Another option is to check out the lake and then head up the Bartman Hill Tr to the AT, and go either N to Annapolis Rocks and Black Rock Cliffs, or S to Washington Monument (all options similar in mileage).

I think this venue is most useful for mountain bikers (who have no access to AT) or for hikers/runners with families. You can escape on the trails for a bit while the kids and/or significant other play on the beach, swim, rent boats, etc.



Name: BikeDC101                                                                                                    Hike: Greenbrier State Park
Date: 9/25/11                                                                                                          Rating: 3

Critique: I did not follow the suggested hike entirely, but a good portion of it. I began as suggested at the boat ramp parking lot and started north on the Big Red trail (red blazes), turned off left (south) on the Rock Oak Fire Trail (blue blazes) to its end where it rejoined the Big Red trail, and continued on the Big Red trail back north to the boat ramp parking lot.

The hike itself is unremarkable. The hike is easy enough to be accessible to kids, without steep inclines. However, even my 3 year old found it rocky (with little rocks) and unengaging--there are no large rock formations. For comparison, she enjoys the Sugar Loaf trails, where she likes to challenge herself on the steep inclines, where she can also find nooks in large rocks to sit in for breaks. Back to Greenbrier, on the eastern sections of the Big Red trail, freeway noise is audible in the distance.

The bright spots were that we all enjoyed looking at the numerous variations of fungi on display here, from mushrooms to a range of other fascinating varieties. Also, we spotted two deer on the west side of the Big Red trail between the un-blazed trail to the Dog Wood Camp and the Camp Loop trail. Also, there are several different bird calls to listen to. Finally, the lake is in a beautiful area, and we encountered only 2 other groups (5 people total) and 1 mountain biker during our Sunday afternoon hike.

The hike is worth doing once, but I prefer trails that reward me with views or unique natural structures, which I did not find here.



Name: Trillium                                                                                                          Hike: Greenbrier State Park
Date: 7-10-10                                                                                                           Rating: 3

Critique: If criteria include opportunities for interacting with nature, think again. I saw a doe and twin spotted fawns, heard a wood thrush's gorgeous song, identified five species of native ferns and various fungi--including enchanting pixie cups, photographed a glittering teardrop shaped spider web backlit by the setting sun, and snacked on ripe red raspberries.



Name: Rob                                                                                                                 Hike: Greenbrier State Park
Date: 08/06/07                                                                                                        Rating: 1

Critique:   My rating of 1 out of 5 is based largely on the weather this, humid, and muggy!  The trail is very easy to navigate using the trail notes and map.  This hike is also pretty good for the exercise but not much else as I found it pretty uninteresting visually.


M.R.Hyker Note: We at cannot control the weather.


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