The Patapsco Valley State Park is a long narrow park that stretches
from the southern part of the Baltimore Beltway and north along the
river, almost to Liberty Reservoir. It extends even further up the
south branch. Portions of the park are well
developed with picnic pavilions, restrooms and well-maintained trail
systems. The Orange Grove Area is one such section. This is a good
place to introduce your family to nature. The labyrinth of trails
allows one to hike as little as 1/4 mile to view a water fall or
walk more than 8 miles while hardly retracing a step. The trails are
well groomed, blazed and signed, for the most part. There are one or
two junctions that might leave you scratching your head so please take
The hike described here is an easy 6.6 mile trek which can be expanded by adding an out and back on the south fork of the Morning Choice Tr and/or a one mile loop along the Rockburn Branch Tr.
Two notes of caution:
1) Most of the trails are open to and heavily utilized by mountain bikers. Keep a sharp eye and ear out for them.
2) These same bikers have created other trails that crisscross the official trail network. These are not signed or blazed. Avoid these trails as it is an easy way to get lost.
Trail Notes: Proceed up the blue blazed Cascade Falls Trail. Almost immediately the trail will split. (This trail has multiple components that can be used to make short loops.) Bear to the left, following the split rail fence. Soon reach Cascade Falls. Cross the stream on huge boulders and climb to the top of the falls. The orange blazed Ridge Trail comes in on the left (2). (This is your return route.) Stay straight on the Cascade Falls Trail. You'll cross the stream three more times. Twice other components of the Cascade Falls Trail will come in from the right. Ignore them. In 0.8 miles from the falls and shortly after the last stream crossing turn left onto yellow blazed Morning Choice Trail (3).
Cross gravel Norris Lane in 0.2 more miles (4). In another 0.2 miles the trail joins the red blazed Old Track Trail. Bear right here, following the dual blazes for a few yards. When the trails separate bear to the right to stay on yellow blazed Morning Choice Trail. In another 0.2 miles come to a fork in the trail (5). Turn left to complete this hike. (The other trail leads to Landing Road.) Soon reconnect and, nearly as quickly, disconnect from the east end of the red Old Track Trail. Skirt the western boundary of the Belmont Research Conference Center and in 0.3 miles arrive at the junction of a green trail straight ahead (6). Turn right to stay on yellow blazed Morning Choice Trail.
You'll walk along the edge of the Belmont Research Conference Center some more before re-entering the woods, passing an orange connector trail on the left in 0.5 miles after the last trail junction (7). This is a good place to spot grazing deer at dusk. In 0.5 more miles from the connector arrive at purple blazed Rockburn Branch Trail (8) (Right, straight and to the left). Either go straight or turn to the right to complete this pleasant 1.0 mile stroll. When you arrive back at the last trail junction (8) turn right and in a short distance come to the junction with the orange blazed Ridge Trail. There are no signs here but the orange blazes are apparent.
left and climb gradually, turning right onto the white blazed
Valley View Trail (9). The Valley View Trail will temporarily
"kiss" the orange blazed Ridge Trail (10) in another 0.9 miles
but turn right in a handful of steps. In 0.5 miles the Valley
View Trail ends at the Ridge Trail (11). Turn right. As you
weave in and out of short but steep coves you'll pass the ruins
of some old rental cabins that were used prior to Hurricane
Agnes. (That storm greatly changed the shape and functionality
of the park.) From this point follow the Ridge Trail for 01.1
miles (12) where it forks. Bearing left takes you back to
Cascade Falls. Following the right fork leads to River Road, not
far from the parking area. The choice is yours.
Hike: Patapsco Valley SP
Hike: Orange Grove