Photo Courtesy Martin Fernandez BestRidesDC.com
PATAPSCO VALLEY STATE PARK
Howard, Baltimore, Carroll, and Anne Arundel Counties. MD
PATAPSCO VALLEY STATE PARK
Howard, Baltimore, Carroll, and Anne Arundel Counties contain perhaps one of the best riding destinations in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore regions, Patapsco Valley State Park. The park extends for over 32 miles along the Patapsco River with developed trail systems linked from the Avalon Area in Elkridge to the south to the McKeldin Area in Marriottsville to the northwest. The park contains over 220 miles of trail, and most are open to bikes.
Patapsco includes eight developed recreational areas, including the Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove Areas, the Hilton, Hollofield, Pickall, Woodstock, Daniels, and McKeldin Areas.
The park is rich in history, and as you ride its trails you’ll see glimpses of the past hidden in within the forests. Each area of Patapsco can be ridden independently or connected with each other to give you an epic adventure. You can easily connect the McKeldin, Woodstock, Daniels, and Pickall areas without leaving the park to craft an epic loop. Unfortunately, the Hilton and Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove areas are segmented from the park by Historic Ellicott City. Still, a short section of road would allow you to tie these areas together for a ride that can extend to more than 50 miles.
MORE held its inaugural Patapsco Epic in 2014 offering riders the opportunity to ride either a 25, 35, or 50-mile loop. Today, the annual Patapsco Trail Fest celebrates the park's many users with bike rides, trail runs, hikes and water adventures on the river.
Patapsco is not for the weary. The trails in the park are challenging, but incredibly rewarding; it’s no surprise this 16,000-acre park has become a regional favorite for mountain biking.
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In Celtic mythology, the word Avalon refers to an island paradise. The Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park might also be thought of as a "singletrack paradise" in the middle of two huge metropolitan areas.
Known simply as the Avalon area by most cyclists, this small corner of the Patapsco Valley State Park is quite possibly one of Washington, D.C./Baltimore’s most popular mountain biking playgrounds. Avalon’s terrain is oftentimes severe and nearly always challenging, but for serious off-roaders, these conditions represent nothing less than prime mountain biking real estate.
It’s worth noting that there are countless routes within Patapsco Valley State Park. Given this area’s proximity to Baltimore, it’s easy to understand why this ideal section of parkland is so popular with off-road cyclists.
Parking in the Avalon Area is limited and this part of the park closes frequently during warm spells and weekends.
Roughly between the McKeldin and Avalon areas of Patapsco Valley State Park is the largely undeveloped Daniels area. Extremely popular with paddlers, anglers, hikers, and mountain bikers, the Daniels area is an all-year playground rich in history. Riders will see few glimpses of a once-thriving mill community as they make their way along the park’s trails on either side of the Patapsco River. In 1886, communities along the banks of the Patapsco were devastated by a great food and very little evidence of their existence remains.
Today, the area is marked by the presence of the Daniels Dam. The dam once served as a primary source of energy for a denim and canvas mill that produced, among other items, tents for the Union Army. The mill remained operational until 1968 and in 1972 it, along with the town surrounding it, was destroyed by the power of the river fueled by tropical storm Agnes. Today, this location is a very popular put-in/take-out both above and below the dam for paddlers. Fishermen flock to it year-round to catch small mouth bass as well.
Parking is terribly limited in this part of the park, get there early if you want any chance of legal parking, this is a primary location for paddlers.
McKeldin is a unique stop in Patapsco Valley State Park, located in the southeastern corner of Carroll County, on the border with Howard and Baltimore County, and at the confluence of the Patapsco River’s north and south branches.
The area is best known for its rolling, wooded terrain, smooth singletrack, river crossings, and great riding. Scenic Liberty Lake, one of Baltimore’s primary water supplies, fills the valley just north of McKeldin. Damming in the north branch created Liberty Lake, less than 1 mile from the Switchback Trail.
During late fall and winter, cyclists can enjoy a picturesque view of the lake at Liberty Dam Overlook, located at the northern end of Switchback Trail. McKeldin is a perfect place for beginning to intermediate riders looking to hone their skills on hilly singletrack or to pedal peacefully along the scenic Patapsco River.
Advanced riders will also enjoy the nearly 7 miles of singletrack within the park and will be thrilled to explore dozens of trails on the other side of the river along the Woodstock area of Patapsco.
The trails at Woodstock provide a connection point between the Daniels area and the McKeldin areas of the park, and offer additional challenging and technical riding for the intermediate to advanced rider. They can be ridden as a loop, or if combined with one or both of the rides mentioned above, can extend your ride to more than 30 miles. If you register for one of the Patapsco Trail fest rides you’ll get a chance to ride several of the trails in this area.
Parking on the Baltimore County side is limited to the shoulder along Old Court Road ( not the most desirable). Or, park farther up the hill at Saint Alphonsus Church on Old Court Road (just not during services, and please be respectful of parishioners ).
On the Howard County side special permission has been obtained from the owners of the Woodstock Inn to allow parking on the downstream side of Woodstock Road and behind the inn, when you arrive please check in with the bar staff and let them know you are there - and come back for a tasty treat when you are finished!
If you park on the upstream side, be very careful not to interfere with any events going on at the bar, again - check in with the bar staff and let them know you are there please.
The trails at Patapsco Valley State Park are challenging and can be unforgiving to the unprepared rider. The trails are suitable for riders of intermediate and advanced abilities. MORE subscribes to IMBA's trail difficulty ratings
MORE Volunteers donated over 3000 hours of their time to help maintain the trails at Patapsco Valley State Park in 2018.
The Judges Bench
Ellicott Mills Brewing Company
Manor Hill Tavern
River House Pizza Courtyard
The Phoenix Emporium
The Trolley Stop
Dimitri's International Grille
Scittino's Italian Marketplace
Opie's Softserve & Snowballs
G.L. Shacks Grill
Daniels Restaurant & Open Air Bars
Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House
The Elkridge Furnace Inn and Garden House
Frisco Taphouse & Brewery