Gunpowder Falls West Circuit



Description: To begin with, the name Gunpowder Falls is a misnomer. There are no real falls, perhaps a little white water above Masemore Rd but no falls. Its still a pretty little river.


This is a 7.2 mile moderate figure-8 hike close to Baltimore that I like to walk in the winter when days are short, weather conditions are less than desirable and the urge to get out into the woods is overwhelming. Most of the hills are gradual. The two really steep ones are of short duration.


Th  The hike starts in a large parking lot on the left side of Bunker Hill Rd at the bottom of the hill.

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Trail Notes: From the parking lot begin walking up Bunker Hill Rd but very shortly turn left onto blue-blazed Bunker Hill Tr. There will be a “no Bikes” international sign posted there. Descend to a small stream and follow it east toward I-83. Just as you begin to hear the sounds of the highway the trail will leave the stream, turning right up the hill. Reach Bunker Hill Rd at 0.87 miles from the start. 

Cross Bunker Hill Rd and walk up the driveway for the Gunpowder Archery Club and through a plantation of White Pine. This is the beginning of Mingo Forks Tr. As you reach the top of the hill (locked latrines to your left) the trail turns hard right from the drive onto a footpath (0.59 miles from Bunker Hill Rd). 

Descend to the beginning of Mingo Branch. At the junction with yellow-blazed Mingo Ridge trail (0.21 miles from the archery range), continue downstream on Mingo Fork Trail. The trail will shortly go around the base of a hill and ascend along another fork of Mingo Branch. 

Just before reaching private property come to a post and the other terminus of Mingo Ridge Tr (0.25 miles from previous junction). Turn right and climb 0.19 miles up a hill through some pines to a gas pipeline Swath. At the crest of the hill a woods road will cross the swath. Turn right onto the forest road and descend to the Gunpowder South Trail at 0.53 miles from gas line swath). 

Bear left at the junction of Gunpowder South trail. Cross a stream at about 0.10 miles. The white blazed Gunpwder South Trail follows the river upstream. Come to Masemore Rd and the oldest steel bridge in MD (Circa 18XX) at another 0.42 miles. 

Cross Masemore Rd and continue upstream, soon passing blue-blazed Highland Tr on your left. 

In another 0.58 miles cross Falls Rd and almost immediately climb steeply for 40-50 yards to avoid a blowout of the bank. Quickly descend back to the river. Shortly after you descend to the river you will come to a pretty long rock field. At this location there are some nice big rocks sticking out into the Gunpowder. This is about the best spot for lunch on this part of the river. 

After lunch, continue upstream. Rely on the white blazes since there is little sign of a trail here. Shortly after the rock field a fisherman’s path will continue along the bank of the river but the Gunpowder South Trail will bear to left and proceeds to climb up a hill. 

At 0.79 miles from the crossing of Falls Rd it will again bear right and follow the river, but at a higher elevation for a while, to Pretty Boy Dam (Taking this out and back detour will add about 1 mile to the trip.) At this junction bear left onto blue-blazed Highland Tr. It flattens out on an old woods road.  

Cross Falls Rd again at about 0.23 miles from the last trail junction. Pass through a high voltage power line swath in another 0.50 miles. Descend to a small stream and follow it to its headwaters. Cross the stream and climb a short hill. Descend along another old road to the junction with Gunpowder South Tr (0.0.47 miles from crossing the power line swath. Turn Right and retrace your earlier steps crossing Masemore Rd and the bridge over a run. 

At the point where the trail reaches another stream and turns up hill (You came down this trail earlier) there are two options. You can either follow the white-blazed Gunpowder South Tr, passing the junction of previously traveled Mingo Branch Tr on the right,  back to the restrooms and from there take a paved walk back to the cars or follow my preferred option to stay along the river for a bit longer as follows. 

Cross the stream and follow an unmarked fisherman’s trail (Shown as red on the map) that follows the river downstream. Just before a sharp bend in the river you’ll have to climb a bit up the bank and follow an extremely narrow footpath through some Hemlocks. Descend again to the fisherman’s trail on the other side of the bend. There may be one or two blow-downs to negotiate after your descent. The trail ends at the confluence of Mingo Branch and the Gunpowder. Crossing the branch usually is not a challenge. After you cross walk towards an impressive stand of evergreens with picnic tables and lantern poles under its canopy. There is no trail here but just keep walking towards the evergreens. This is Camp Wood. Follow the old road to your right out of the woods, up the hill and behind the restrooms (closed in the winter). Follow the paved path back to the parking lot.

 Printable/Downloadable Directions and Trail Notes

 Critique this outing!



Name: Pete Fleszar                                                                                                 Hike: Gunpowder Falls-West Circuit

Date: 01/18/14                                                                                                        Rating: 4


Critique: I wound up here exactly because "days are short, weather conditions are less than desirable [at first choice exploration opportunities in the Tiadaghton] and the urge to get out into the woods is overwhelming." Hike was as described - except the blazed route just south of Masemore Rd crosses not on a bridge, but on askew stepping stones (outbound water went over my boots here). (The bridge has obviously been removed.) The scenic highlight (and trickiest treadway) for me was the passage along the river above Falls Rd. I did continued out a bit on the trail towards Prettyboy Reservoir, but there was a multi-stemmed chain saw blowdown in the 2nd hollow that I didn't want to navigate twice so I turned around. With a skiff of snow on the ground, as they say in western PA things were a bit "slippy" so I stayed on the Gunpowder South trail for the last leg of the return rather than attempt the lower fisherman trail. For the non-local a few notes about the trailhead might be in order. The last half mile or so of Bunker Hill Rd is a bit rough, possibly not winter maintained although no sign said that. There is an alternative pull off area where the hike re-crosses Bunker Hill Rd on top of the hill, almost underneath I-83 by the sign for the archery range. In PA one expects a large State Park parking lot to have a map kiosk and a functioning restroom. This new parking lot at the bottom of the hill despite its size and crowded nature on a weekend morning had neither. In fact there are no trail signs at all. It was only on the return that I saw the restroom building that clearly cost the taxpayers of MD a pretty penny - with sign "Closed for Winter". The paved path back to the parking lot was long enough to obscure visibility, pine needle covered and totally unsigned behind a nondescript gate so it was evident why I had missed it. (There is now a continuation of the Bunker Hill Trail before you reach the rest rooms that leads you more directly back to the parking lot. BTW, there is now a 4X4 post with a blue blaze marking that trail at the parking lot.) Hereford also appears devoid of the normal highway commercial establishments as well. Nor is there a welcome center on I-83 southbound at the state line. If driving some distance coming from the north to this venue, get off at Shrewsbury PA for a bodily function break.




Name: Bruce                                                                                                             Hike: Gun Powder Falls-West

Date: 07/04/13                                                                                                        Rating: 4


Critique: I did the Gunpowder Falls west loop on the morning of the 4th of July. Overall the trail notes are fine. A couple of comments. Starting point, there is not a "no bikes" sign but the trail start is fairly obvious across bunker hill rd coming back up from the parking lot on the left as you come out the way you entered. The latrines in the archery range are not locked. It looks like someone broke into them. The trail leaving the area identified as the rock area is overgrown, but obvious if you stay along the river. I did not go up the dam because it was getting hot, so I stuck to the base route. When I got back to the bridge, I decided to crossed the bridge on Masemore Rd walked .5 miles to Bunker Hill Rd and took a right to head back to the parking lot about .75 miles. My mistake was forgetting that I would need to cross the river! The water is pretty cold for July, but it only came up to mid thigh and my dog had to swim, but it really cooled him off. I saw a couple of joggers, another group of 4 hikers and quite a few fly fisherman up in the rocky area. Overall a good hike.



Name: Adventure Runner                                                                                      Hike: Gunpowder Falls West (Hereford Area)
Date: 12/23/12                                                                                                       Rating: 5

Critique: Ran this loop today. I included the out-and-back to the dam and took the official Gunpowder S Tr back to the lot. Truly a beautiful area.

This route is quite challenging for not being in the mountains. There are quite a few steep hills, lots of downed trees to climb over and under, and some rocky, scrambly sections. Some of the trails are also narrow and eroded. They are all well-marked and easy to follow.

The river is beautiful, as is the area around it. Highly recommend this loop.


Name: Jim                                                                                                                 Hike: Gunpowder Falls West
Date: April 17, 2010                                                                                                Rating: 4

Critique: Excellent hike ... we had a cool spring day, did all but the out-and-back to the reservoir. Fisherman's trail (red) at the end was tough going, but all was well described. The 4 of us were wearing full packs in preparation for a coming trip, so getting over/under some of the fallen trees took some creativity. I guess about 6 miles total, done in 4 hrs 15 mins. Difficulty ranged from a stroll down the road to pretty strenuous along the fisherman's trail Thanks so much for the detailed description.


Name: Bumpkin                                                                                                        Hike: Gunpowder West Circuit
Date: February 21, 2009                                                                                        Rating: 4.5

Critique: Very nice hike. The little detour up to Prettyboy reservoir ended up being a bit of a challenge. The trail turns into nothing but huge boulders, and if you stray off the blazed trail, it can include a few steep climbs. This was loads of fun, considering how close to Baltimore it is. It was a beautiful February day, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


Name: Gene                                                                                                              Hike: Gunpowder Falls West Circuit
Date: 10-25-2008                                                                                                    Rating: 3

Critique: GPS coordinates were right on, first time trying to use the route feature, I wish that all state parks would supply this feature for their trails now. Started off a bit confused entering trailhead, there was no "No Bikes" sign posted, but found blue blaze shortly after. Skipped the Mingo Ridge section, turned onto the white section bearing north to cut the trip short, didn't have enough time to make the reservoir route. Approach the archery range area with caution, there are targets located on both sides of the trail through the woods. Halfway down the white section is a geocache between that trail and the red Fisherman's trail on the map. We jumped over to the fisherman's trail along the river, was glad to, very beautiful views along the water, many signs of beaver activity in the area as well. Came out to the camping area right before dark, about five hours total, between three and four miles. Would definitely recommend a full day to complete the entire circuit. Thanks for the map and the coordinates, very useful information, looking forward to using the website again in the future!


Name: Mike                                                                                                               Hike: Gunpowder Falls West Circuit
Date: January 27, 2007                                                                                          Rating: 3.2

Critique: We began this trip a little late in the day for a January hike. As we began our hike at about 1:30 PM the temperature was warm, about 45 degrees f and the sun was high in a blue sky.

The hike was challenging for the terrain in Northern Baltimore County.  The Gunpowder was busy with fly fisherman, and the woods accommodated a few bow hunters looking for deer. This trip did satisfy my desire to get out and expel some of my energy and try to stay in  shape for future hiking experiences. Thanks for the maps and information on the trail.


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