Sweathouse Branch-Wildlands Loop

Description: The Belair Road area of Gunpowder Falls State Park is a very popular hiking venue. There are two parking lots at the main entrance and an overflow lot about 0.10 miles further north on Belair Road with a footpath that leads back down to the river. If you visit the park in the winter or during the week you might find some degree of solitude. 

This easy 5.0 mile circuit features the always pleasant Gunpowder River, the min-rapids of Sweathouse Branch, a mixture of forest types and the rolling hills of the Maryland Piedmont. Spring flowers include, but are not limited to, large clusters of Marsh Marigolds, Periwinkle, Bloodroot and Virginia Blue Bells

If this hike is a bit lacking in length consider adding the 5.1 mile Lost Pond Circuit also found on this site.

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Trail Notes: From the front parking lot, look toward the kiosk. There is a green metal gate to its left. Walk around it and follow a gravel trail to the right. Pass through a tunnel the goes under Belair Road and arrive at the Sweathouse Branch Wildlands Area of the park. Continue straight, following the river on the blue blazed Stocksdale Tr. Shortly after the sign the Pink blazed Wildlands Tr (your return route) comes in on the right. Continue on the Stocksdale Tr. In 0.22 miles the trail splits. Continue straight, following the river. In another 0.51 miles the blue Stocksdale Tr goes to the right. Remain straight, now on the yellow blazed Sweathouse Branch Tr.  

In 0.57 mile from the last trail junction the trail will bear right, away from the river, and cross Sweathouse Run. There are 2 large rocks to aid in your crossing. After the crossing you will bear right and climb steadily up the back of a low lying ridge. In 0.48 miles from the stream crossing cross a small feeder and descend once again to the Branch. After you cross the Branch the trail turns left following it for another 0.27 miles before turning right and climbing another short hill. In 0.44 more miles from leaving the Branch and hiking through a nice pine plantation, turn left onto the blue blazed Stocksdale Tr. 

In 0.81 miles turn left onto pink blazed Wildlands Tr. There is no sign here but you canít miss the old woods road or the pink paint on the pine trees. Follow the edge of another pine plantation for a 0.22 miles before turning right onto a footpath. Descend for 0.33 miles and cross a small stream. As you climb out of this last drainage you will begin to hear the traffic on Belair Rd. In 0.78 miles from the crossing find yourself back at the initial junction with the blue blazed Stocksdale Tr. Turn left and retrace your earlier steps back to your vehicle.

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Critique This Outing



Outing Critiques

Name:   Sarah
Date(s) of Hike: 04/17/16
Hike Name: Sweathouse Branch Loop

Outing Critique: A beautiful hike on a beautiful day!  The bluebells were astounding along the river.  Just SO many!  The trail intersections are all well marked.  Do not ignore traditional blaze turn signals (for new hikers: one blaze above another, turn in the direction the upper blaze is on), or you will miss the turn where the yellow trail cuts away from the river.  A very clearly defined trail continues straight beyond that point, just after a stream crossing, but turning right is the right thing to do there.  Just follow the blazes!

The only reason I did not give this hike a 5 is because for the last half mile or so on the pink trail the noise from Bel Air road is pretty pronounced.  Maybe taking the blue trail all the way, which cuts a small amount of distance, would keep you farther away from that. Something to consider.

Overall, highly recommended and also recommend combining with Lost Pond Circuit.  Did both today and thoroughly enjoyed myself.


Name: Geof                                                                                                                 Hike: Sweathouse Run/Wildlands Loop
Date: June 6, 2011                                                                                                    Rating: 4

Critique: What a beautiful hike! My wife and I walked this trail this morning, hitting the trailhead around 8am on a Saturday. We marveled at how close this trek into nature is to "civilization." Saw only about half dozen other people the entire 90 minutes we were on the trail. We stayed on the blue blazed trail. There were mildly steep hills. Overall, one of the best hikes we've taken together. Can't wait to bring our 8 y/o son!

Name: Vern                                                                                                                 Hike: Sweathouse Branch-Wildlands Loop
Date: 4/26/09                                                                                                            Rating: 3

Critique: This hike is a little gem. This morning, there were huge patches of Virginia Blue Bells and Periwinkle in full bloom. The trees are also starting to "green" up. The trail along the river is really muddy in patches, but once you get beyond that, they are really well groomed and well cared for.

The first water crossing (on the yellow trail) was a lot of fun. There are two ways to do it. I took the first route, which is the stepping stones across the stream. My wife took the second route, which is a large tree that fell in a perfect spot just upstream. Of course, my waterproof boots ended up filled with water, and my wife arrived on the other side high and dry. If you insist on remaining dry, I'd recommend the tree.

The rest of the hike had some small hills. We passed through a portion that was lined with hemlocks, but the remainder was mostly hardwoods. Along the route, there are some private residences visible just beyond the park boundaries.

The parking lot on the northbound side of Belair road was completely full when we arrived at nine o'clock on Sunday. There is a commuter lot directly across Belair road that was mostly empty. If you walk down the hill in front of the old (closed up?) bar, there is great access to the trail and the tunnel crossing Belair road, making this a great first choice for parking.

Based on the parking situation, I expected the trail to be packed, but that really was not the case. Mostly dog walkers, but also a few serious hikers, who I assume are breaking in their new footwear. For a proper hike, I would suggest combining the Sweathouse Branch loop with the trail on the opposite side of Belair road. All-in-all, this hike was a nice surprise and well worth a trip from anywhere in the Baltimore area.


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