Trail Runs

I haven’t considered myself a runner for a long time. I ran back in middle and high school, as well as through some of my college years, but gave it up as it was hard to build muscle and run lots of miles. Since my return to running, I’ve discovered that the trails are where I like to live. I like road running too, but there’s something about running in nature that I find comforting.

This page captures some trails in the area that I like.

Trails

Morning Choice and Rockburn Branch Trail

It’s about 4 miles around the loop. The area is very rooty and has several mud patches, even when it’s been dry for most of the week. Outside of that, it’s a great trail and connects to several others, so you can extend the length of the run pretty easily.

Elevation Gain ~450 ft.
Length ~4 mi.
Stream Crossings ~4
   
Parking 39.217528, -76.752333
Trailhead 39.217525, -76.752352
Trial map https://www.trailrunproject.com/trail/7045789/morning-choice-and-rockburn-branch (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.217,-76.752/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Dunkin’ Donuts, 6010 Meadowridge Center Dr, Elkridge, MD 21075

Pickall Trail

The trail itself is only 2.8ish miles long, but has some rocky and muddy areas, as well as some obstacles. On the whole, it’s a pretty scenic run that follows the edge of the Patapsco River.

  • We used to do this longer loop, but the downhill portion from the big hill has proven to be a bit treacherous. So we follow this loop instead. There’s a pretty hard climb as you turn back, but it’s pretty fun.

  • Watch this trail after it rains. The early part of the trail can get quite swampy. Once you go under the bridge and across the stream/run-off, it gets better.

Elevation Gain ~600 ft.
Length ~7.4 mi.
Stream Crossings ~6 (most small, but two bigger ones)
*Estimated Time to Complete ~2 hours
   
Parking 39.310265, -76.793497
Trailhead 39.310296, -76.792333
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/pickall-alternate-long (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.310,-76.792/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Einstein Bros Bagels, 9250 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042

Daniel’s Trail

This may end up being my go-to trail for the winter. In general, it’s drains well. There are a couple of spots where you have to pick your way around the mud or water. It’s also pretty hard to follow in the fall, so make sure to load up your GPS. There are several stream crossings, including one right at the beginning, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get your feet wet. It’s also a really nice trail once you get onto the single track.

Elevation Gain ~850 ft.
Length ~6.7 mi.
Stream Crossings ~9
   
Parking 39.313717, -76.815594
Trailhead 39.31262, -76.81465
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/daniels-long (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.312,-76.814/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Einstein Bros Bagels, 9250 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042

Here are a couple of shorter versions of the route, in case 6.7mi is too long: short (gpx, pdf) and short/alternate (gpx, pdf).

Liberty West-Morgan Runs Trail

This is one of the more scenic runs. The map claims 988 ft. of elevation gain, but it ends up being more like 1,200-1,300 ft. It’s a tough run, but fun and well worth the effort. My hope is to do it enough that it becomes easy. This route is pretty runnable as long as you don’t get too much rain. If you do, then it can be awfully muddy in a few places.

Elevation Gain ~1,200 ft.
Length ~7.3 mi.
Stream Crossings ~2
   
Parking 39.4378171, -76.9375134
Trailhead 39.438073, -76.937516
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/liberty-reservoir-liberty-west-morgan-runs-trails--68 (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.438,-76.937/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Kismet Café, 1311 Londontown Blvd, Sykesville, MD 21784

Patapsco State Park Loop

This can be a challenging run. You pass the Cascade Falls and then hit the Ridge Trail, which is the challenging part. Some areas get fairly steep and requires quite a bit of strength endurance to get up. You should avoid this area in the wet weather. It’s known to have trail closures and flooding. I’d also avoid it on extremely humid days–especially after a small rain–in the summer. The trees do a great job trapping that humidity making it really hard to breath well. Also, I’d consider parking closer to where the Morning Choice and Belmont Trails meet. The parking area there is a little better.

Elevation Gain ~800 ft.
Length ~6.4 mi.
Stream Crossings ~6
   
Parking 39.217528, -76.752333
Trailhead 39.217525, -76.752352
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/cascade-ridge-morning-choice-loop (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.217,-76.752/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Dunkin’ Donuts, 6010 Meadowridge Center Dr, Elkridge, MD 21075

Cascade Falls Infinity Loop

This is similar to the Patapsco State Park Loop, except tougher. You don’t do the big loop, but you pick up Garrett’s Pass–which is a long, steady, mile and half climb. I’m not sure how this holds up in the rain, but I suspect the Garrett’s Pass portion along with the Lewis and Clark Trail are quite fine.

The AllTrails page has you starting up top within the park. That’s not a bad choice since there are restrooms there. However, living south of there, I find that the Landing Rd side is a much shorter trip for me. You can easily tweak the route to begin where Morning Choice meets Log Trail (which isn’t far from the Morning Choice trailhead) and then loop up to the falls, around Garrett’s Pass, up to the falls again, around the Ridge Trail, and take the short way back to the Morning Choice and Log Trail junction.

Note: the AllTrails page says it’s 800 ft. of elevation gain, my watch says 1050 ft., but I think they’re both wrong. I believe there’s more than that but can’t honestly say just how much. I suspect it’s off by several hundred feet at least. Also, most of the stream crossings aren’t bad in that you can easily jump over them or do a quick step on a rock and jump over it. There are a couple that are sizable and can leave you with wet shoes. There’s also a couple of areas that get muddy too–even after a dry spell.

Elevation Gain ~1050 ft.
Length ~8.2 mi.
Stream Crossings ~8
   
Parking 39.24098, -76.74999
Trailhead 39.24098, -76.74999
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maryland/cascade-falls-infinity-loop (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.240,-76.749/us12/en

Here’s an alternate version of the trail starting on the Landing Rd. side of Patapsco, and will likely be my preference.

Elevation Gain ~1050 ft.
Length ~8.2 mi.
Stream Crossings ~8
   
Parking 39.217528, -76.752333
Trailhead 39.217525, -76.752352
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/alternate-cascade-falls-infinity-loop (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.217,-76.752/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Dunkin’ Donuts, 6010 Meadowridge Center Dr, Elkridge, MD 21075

Alternate Switchback Trail

The early part can get swampy in wet weather, but the rest of the trail is pretty nice. There is a big climb pretty early on, but you’re rewarded later with nice views of the Patapsco and the McKeldin Rapids. The route is a bit short for my typical trail run, but if you know the area you can work a 6-ish mile run out of it.

Elevation Gain ~460 ft.
Length ~4.3 mi.
Stream Crossings 0
   
Parking 39.354696, -76.896499
Trailhead 39.354797, -76.896190
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/alternate-switchback-trail (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.354,-76.896/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Einstein Bros Bagels, 19114 Montgomery Village Ave, Gaithersburg, MD 20886

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail - Middle Section

This is a really pretty, well groomed, and well marked trail, at least until you hit N Frederick Ave. Once you go under the bridge, it’s not nearly as well marked and appears to be far less used. I use it as an out-and-back trail. It’s pretty tame elevation-wise and isn’t very technical. It’s also nice even after a rain (you’ll hit a couple muddy spots but it’s very good overall). For now, I stick to a shorter 6 mi. run here, but you can get 16 out of this part of the trail.

Elevation Gain ~650 ft.
Length ~6 mi.
Stream Crossings ~4 (they had bridges though)
   
Parking 39.18797, -77.217
Trailhead 39.187446, -77.217331
Trail map https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/maryland/seneca-creek-greenway-trail-middle-section (gpx, pdf)
Weather https://darksky.net/forecast/39.187,-77.217/us12/en
Place to go afterwards Einstein Bros Bagels, 19114 Montgomery Village Ave, Gaithersburg, MD 20886