Chesapeake Bay > Central Maryland > Baltimore County

Baltimore County

World-famous horse farms and historic towns tucked into the rolling hills of rural Maryland offer serenity just minutes from the busy downtown of Baltimore. Baltimore County has several public beaches, six public golf courses, and 10,000 acres of county parkland. Several magnificent state parks afford access to the county rivers and to some of the county’s 173 miles of Chesapeake Bay frontage. The county has the third largest area of thoroughbred race horse farms in the country. For those who enjoy shopping, the largest mall in the state—Towson Town Center—is here. Light rail and subway offer easy transport into Baltimore County from many locations.

Many opportunities for nightlife are spread about Baltimore County. Padonia Station (410-252-8181) is a restaurant and bar with a great game room, including video games, virtual reality games, and batting cages. It is located at Padonia, which is on MD 45 north of Timonium and Baltimore.

Nashville’s (410-321-6595) is a country music dance club at the Holiday Inn Select at Timonium. The Towson Dinner Theater (410-321-6595) provides entertainment while you dine. Towson is along MD 45 just north of Baltimore.

Patapsco Valley State Park

[Fig. 14(10)] Patapsco Valley State Park protects floodplain and provides public access to green areas along the Patapsco River. The park’s 14,000 acres embrace the river for 32 miles, crossing parts of Carroll, Howard, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel counties. From Liberty Dam on the North Branch and Skyesville on the South Branch, the park extends downriver southeastward to Baltimore Harbor’s Middle Branch. The Patapsco River winds through a steep and narrow canyon in the park, where ancient rock outcroppings have been exposed by the action of rushing water over the millennia. The fresh water of the Piedmont then crosses the fall line and ceases to flow as it becomes influenced by the tides of the coastal plain. This far north in the Chesapeake Bay, the water is only slightly salty.

The park—Maryland’s first—was established in 1907. Its forests contain old second-generation stands of oaks, tulip poplar, and beech with an understory of maple and dogwood. Giant sycamores lean out over the river, reflecting their splotchy brown-and-white bark in the dark water. Anadromous fish such as yellow perch and shad leave the brackish water of the bay and climb fish ladders at four dams to spawn here in the fresh water of the Patapsco. Great blue herons prowl the shallows for the spawn, while soaring osprey look for larger prey. Much more common than these Chesapeake Bay fish that must survive the polluted water in Baltimore Harbor and negotiate fish ladders are the freshwater fish such as trout, bass, and perch that draw anglers to the river. Upriver, water quality of the Patapsco is relatively good, but in sluggish areas it decreases, especially in the lower river below Elkridge and into Baltimore Harbor.

White-tailed deer, raccoons, red foxes, rabbits, and gray squirrels inhabit the woodlands of Patapsco Valley State Park. The sudden slap of a tail on the water as a beaver sounds an alarm can catch a hiker off guard. Even if the beaver disappears beneath the water, the conical, chiseled stumps along the bank give away the rodent’s presence. A flock of wild turkeys may not even fly when a canoeist glides silently into view, though a kingfisher may chatter irritably as it zips farther downriver to escape an approaching boat. Wood ducks, Canada geese, great blue herons, and other birds are common sights. Many species of warblers and neo-tropical migrating birds use the park on their long journeys. Campers, before they drift off to sleep inside their tents, may hear the low-throated hoot of a great horned owl or the high-pitched, descending call of a screech owl.

In spring, large colonies of mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) carpet the understory, their nodding white flowers hidden beneath the deeply lobed, umbrella-like leaves. Patches of bright yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum) catch the eye. The mottled purplish leaves, said to resemble the markings of a brook trout, are unmistakable. The flower bulb, which resembles a canine tooth, is responsible for one of the flower’s common names, dog’s-tooth violet.

Recreation is available in five general regions of the park. The first region, beginning at the park’s southern end, is located near Relay and Elkridge (southwest of Baltimore) and consists of three recreation areas: Avalon, Glen Artney, and Orange Grove. Next is the Hilton Area near Catonsville, then the Hollofield Area east of Ellicott City, then the Pickall Area (strictly for groups with reservations) near US 70 and Baltimore beltway Exit 17, and finally, the McKeldin Area 4 miles north of Exit 83 on I-70 and east of Sykesville. Camping is available at the Hilton and Hollofield areas. The park headquarters are at the Hollofield Area off the cloverleaf on the westbound side of US 40.

North Point State Park

[Fig. 14(11)] North Point State Park’s 1,320 acres lie at the end of a peninsula that extends like a foot from downtown Baltimore into southeastern Baltimore County. Park property meets the Chesapeake Bay on the east side and Back River to the north. Fort Howard, which is Federal property and not part of the park, lies at the peninsula’s southern tip.

More than half the park is the Black Marsh Wildlands, a state designation that guarantees protection of 667 acres of forest, fields, and marsh from development and intrusion in perpetuity. The 250-acre Black Marsh within the wild lands is the largest protected tidal marsh on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It is also considered one of the finest examples of a tidal marsh still remaining on the upper bay. A pair of bald eagles nests here. To ensure the eagles remain undisturbed, no trails offer access to the nest site.

The land that now makes up North Point State Park has its share of human history. Much of it has been continuously farmed for nearly 350 years. In the War of 1812, gunshots rang across the fields and marshes during skirmishes between local colonists and British troops invading Baltimore from the southeast. The route to Baltimore, which passed through what is now park property, came to be called the Defenders Trail.

In the early 1900s, Friday and Saturday nights meant dancing, bowling, or dining at Bay Shore Park, a grand amusement park constructed in 1906 where North Point State Park is now. Summer days brought people from Baltimore to walk the garden pathways of the park, fish from the pier, admire the Edwardian architecture, play games on the midway, swing a partner in the dance hall, try out the newest carnival ride, and listen to the music at the bandstand.

Until 1947 when the park was closed, trolleys rumbled between it and Baltimore. Today, remains of Bay Shore Park are still visible. The restored trolley barn has been converted to an open air pavilion available for rent. After a 50-year hiatus, the fountain has also been restored and is once again spraying water. A small visitor center located near the shore of the bay has exhibits on local history and displays on the park’s flora and fauna.

The park’s master plan includes new parking lots, picnic areas, permanent restrooms, and a new visitor center. In planning a trip to North Point, travelers should take into consideration that ubiquitous biting flies make the marsh an unpleasant place when they hatch in early summer.

Wildlands Trail

This 2-mile trail, offering one of the best ways to observe the flora and fauna of Black Marsh, passes through hardwood forest, tidal wetland, and open meadow. Notice how time and nature are reclaiming the meadows where farmers once plowed their fields. A multitude of small sweetgum (Liquidambar sytraciflua), greenbriar (Smilax), and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) are quick to claim space in disturbed soil. During spring months, look for spotted salamander egg masses in vernal ponds along the trail.

The trail climbs to an expansive view of the bay from a cliff, where lucky hikers are occasionally treated to a sight of one of the park’s nesting bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The path also passes by an old booster station for the trolley that once ran here. A trail spur provides access to an observation platform over Black Marsh where great blue herons, ducks, and other wildfowl feed and find shelter.

The American bittern (Botarus lentiginosus) can freeze its brown-streaked body and upturned head and beak, nearly disappearing in plain view among the marsh grasses that camouflage it. In contrast, the common egret (Casmerodius albus), with its gracefully curved neck, long legs, and white plumage, stands out like a bridal gown on a rack of dark suits.

Wetlands Trail

This nature trail skirts a man-made wetland mitigation area, a habitat created to compensate for the loss of wetlands elsewhere. Signs along the way interpret the flora and fauna. Among the birds that have taken a liking to this wetland and nearby Black Marsh are numerous ducks such as buffleheads, mallards, and blue and green winged teal. Visitors also can see mute swans, kestrels (sparrow hawks), northern harriers (marsh hawks), bitterns, barred owls, great horned owls, great blue herons, green-backed herons, and numerous songbirds.

Early in the morning, an observant hiker might spot the secretive, mostly nocturnal eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), with its yellowish brown shell, foraging for mollusks or vegetation just beneath the surface. These wetlands create the perfect habitat for this turtle, found abundantly here, that grows to only 4 or 5 inches long.

Hart-Miller Island State Park

[Fig. 14(12)] A boater lifts his engine and drifts onto the sands of Hart Miller Island. The isolation and quiet are the first things he notices. Sandpipers diddle back and forth on the beach, foraging between lapping waves. It’s a September weekday, and he seems to have the 1,000-plus acres of the island to himself.

In the morning mist he imagines buried treasure and yellowed maps that supposedly reveal the whereabouts of chests of gold. The gentle surf whispers rumors about old Joseph Hart who may have buried a fortune here, but took his secret to the grave.

Hart-Miller Island has its legends, its tales of wealth beneath the shifting sands. Rumors persist of buried treasure and valuable coins dating from the early 1800s. But today, this island neighbor to North Point State Park is valuable as a state park.

Hart-Miller Island used to be part of the mainland peninsula and the community of Miller’s Island. In recent years, Hart Island and Miller Island became separated by water from each other and from the mainland to the southwest. The two islands were joined as one again in 1981 with the construction of a dike on their east side and a sandy beach on the west side. More land is surfacing as the impoundment between the dike and the island is continually filled with dredge material from Baltimore Harbor and surrounding tributaries.

Hart-Miller Island is a separate state park, though less than 1 mile of water separates it from North Point State Park. The watery separation however, is critical. Because visitation at Hart-Miller is limited to those with boats, the island has become a boater’s haven.

Some people come to the island to sunbathe in relative seclusion and swim or look for shells on the 0.5 mile of sandy beach. Other popular Activities are hiking, picnicking, fishing, and watching osprey dive for fish. Camping is allowed from May 1 through September 1 on this island and the smaller Pleasure Island between Hart-Miller and North Point state parks. Leashed pets are permitted only on Pleasure Island.

Hiking opportunities are limited to two short trails. The Miller Island Trail is a 0.5 mile out and back, and begins just south of the park building complex behind the campsites. The path goes through woods to an observation platform. The even shorter Hawk Cove Beach trail is on the south end of the island.

Red foxes and raccoons prowl among the willow oak, sweetgum, and sassafras on Hart-Miller. Bird watchers make note of cormorants, ducks, gulls, terns, sandpipers, and even peregrine falcons that frequent the island.

Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area

[Fig. 14(13)] The desolate expanses of grasses and stunted blackjack oaks, post oaks, and Virginia pines at Soldiers Delight mark a rare microenvironment called a serpentine barren. Serpentine rock, named for its resemblance to snakeskin, is yellow, green, or brown in color, often mottled with red. Serpentine barrens are rare in the East and are thought to be pieces of the earth’s mantle thrust up and over the crust when continents collided and built the Appalachian Mountains some 250 million years ago.

The massive exposed areas of this metamorphosed igneous bedrock at Soldiers Delight are composed of minerals that form nutrient-poor soil toxic to most plants. The soil is high in magnesium and iron, but low in calcium and phosphate. Many of the plants that eke out a scrabbly existence by adapting to the harsh conditions are rare or far more common in the arid West.

More than 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plant species, along with rare insects, rocks, and minerals can be found here. Among the rare wildflowers is the federally endangered fringed gentian (Gentiana crinita) and blazing-star (Liatris), with its fuzzy rose-purple flower heads blooming from midsummer to fall. The arid soil also supports prairie grasses such as Indian grass, purplish three-awn, and little bluestem.

Seven miles of hiking trails lead into the barrens and surrounding woodlands. The 3-mile Yellow Trail and the 2-mile Orange Trail (named for the color of their blazes) begin as one trail and lead across the bedrock toward the woods. After they separate, they loop back to the starting point. Hikers can easily tell where the serpentine bedrock ends by the surrounding border of lush woodlands. The stunted trees growing in the serpentine barren are about 65 years old—the same age as the more erect, healthy looking trees that surround the barren.

At the visitor center, helpful volunteers explain several opinions of how Soldiers Delight was named. The center has a nature shop, a collection of Native American artifacts, and a reference library on serpentine ecosystems and the natural history of the area.

Oregon Ridge Park and Nature Center

[Fig. 14(14)] Located north of Baltimore in Cockeysville is 1,000-acre Oregon Ridge Park, with a nature center run by full-time naturalists and volunteers. Many species of birds, wildlife, and wildflowers are suited to the diverse habitats here, including woods, meadows, streams, swamps, and ponds. Investigate rocky outcrops and iron pits, explore the marble quarry, or join a naturalist on a moonlight hike, bird walk, bee-keeping demonstration, or for maple syrup making. Archeological digs in the park have turned up artifacts that are displayed at the nature center.

Around a cold, spring-fed lake is a beach area with both shallow and deep water for swimming.

Loch Raven Fishing Center

[Fig. 14(15)] This is a user-financed county facility located on the Loch Raven Reservoir 0.5 mile east of Timonium, a half-mile east of the #2 bridge on Dulaney Valley Road. Fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, northern pike, crappie, channel catfish, and sunfish. There is a boat ramp (electric motors only), bait and tackle nearby, picnicking, and handicap access.

Lighthouses of Baltimore County

Several lighthouses have guided sailors approaching Baltimore’s harbors and outer islands over the years. East of the city limits of Baltimore is Fort Carroll Lighthouse, a wooden frame tower on the Patapsco River just east of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and US 695. It is accessible only by boat but is privately owned and not open to the public.

Four more lighthouses surround the southeastern end of the Patapsco River Neck peninsula (south and east of Edgemere). The Craighill Channel Upper Range—Rear [Fig. 14(25)] is an iron pyramidal tower that is not open to the public. Permission must be obtained to view it from Sparrows Point.

The Craighill Channel Upper Range—Front [Fig. 14(24)] is an octagonal brick tower off the southern tip of the peninsula at Fort Howard Park.The Craighill Channel Range—Front [Fig. 14(22)] is a round lighthouse on a caisson foundation, located in the Chesapeake Bay 2 miles east of North Point State Park. A lower light works in conjunction with a range light while an upper light could be spotted by navigators coming from outside the range. The lighthouse is not open to the public.

The 105-foot pyramidal skeleton tower of Craighill Channel Range—Rear [Fig. 14(21)] is one of the highest towers in the Chesapeake Bay. This light is located off Swan Point at the northeastern corner of North Point State Park.

Gunpowder Falls State Park

[Fig. 14(16)] In 1959, Marylanders gained access to land along the Big Gunpowder Falls River and the Little Gunpowder Falls River when the state gave park designation to thousands of acres. The park designation was designed primarily to protect this important water source for the city of Baltimore.

The riverside greenways have a spin-off value that is priceless for those with wanderlust who yearn to follow the bends and twists of a river as it makes its way to the sea. Beginning at the Pennsylvania line and extending southeastward to the Chesapeake Bay, Gunpowder Falls State Park is a segmented linear park that covers 18,000 acres of two river valleys that join in Baltimore County northeast of Baltimore.

More than 100 miles of trails, including the 20-mile-long Northern Central Rail Trail (NCR Trail), meander through the river valleys, giving hikers, bikers, and horseback riders access to the premier trout streams, tidal marshes, and dense woodlands of the park. Available along the rivers as they flow toward a confluence with the Chesapeake Bay are tidewater and freshwater fishing opportunities, whitewater for canoeing and kayaking, wetlands for bird-watching and wildlife observation, swimming holes, pleasant inner tube floats, and places to launch a sailboat or motorboat. White-tailed deer, groundhogs, and beaver surprise hikers topping a hill. Ducks rise from the river with a clatter of wings as a canoeist rounds a bend. Wading birds and diving birds cause visitors to dig the binoculars from the back of the car.

The park has no single entrance since the land spreads out along the river and is accessible in many places from local roads. In addition to road access points, several distinct park areas offer Facilities and sylvan surroundings along the Gunpowder Falls rivers for picnickers, swimmers, anglers, tubers, boaters, and canoeists.

The most-developed area is the Hammerman Area at the mouth of the river near the Chesapeake Bay with a popular life-guarded beach, wetlands, and waterfowl. To the north, along the Little Gunpowder Falls River on the Harford/Baltimore county line, is the Central Area with the park headquarters, a historic mill and village, and trails. The Central Area also includes a Wildlands Area along the Big Gunpowder Falls River in Baltimore County near Perry Hall. To the northeast on the Big Gunpowder Falls River is the remote Hereford Area defined by its Piedmont forests, rocky outcroppings, and the famous NCR Trail.

Camping in the park is available only for organized youth groups, by reservation. However, there is a commercial campground, Morris Meadows Recreation Farm (800-643-7056), at Freeland, near the northern end of the park.

Also considered part of Gunpowder Falls State Park are North Point State Park and Hart-Miller Island State Park, located south of the other areas and southeast of Baltimore.

Stories passed down through the years offer several explanations for the rivers’ names. Did the name come from a mill that operated before the Revolutionary War and made gunpowder from the coals of burnt willow branches? Or was it inspired from the gunpowder an early settler gave the Indians who planted it to see if it would grow? Still another tale involves Guy Fawkes, an Englishman who plotted to blow up Parliament. In November of 1605, relatives of the leaders of the "gunpowder plot" named the rivers to commemorate the plan, according to some accounts. Speculation is interesting, but no one knows for sure.

The "falls" part of the Gunpowder Falls name comes not from any waterfalls on the river, but because the river crosses the fall line. The fall line is a geological boundary separating the flowing water on the gentle slopes of the Piedmont and the flat water of the Coastal Plain, where the rise and fall of the tides influence water.

Hammerman/Dundee Creek Area

[Fig. 14(17)] Where the slow-moving Gunpowder River becomes tidal and mixes its waters with the salty Chesapeake Bay east of Baltimore, the Hammerman/Dundee Creek Area offers weary city-dwellers an escape. This most developed part of Gunpowder Falls State Park encompasses about 640 acres on a peninsula in eastern Baltimore County. It is well known for its 1,500-foot swimming beach with beach house, concession area, picnic pavilions, ball fields, and playgrounds, as well as for nearby Dundee Creek Marina with its store and facilities for boaters. These areas easily receive the most visitors in the 18,000-acre linear park. Those who seek solitude and quiet should visit these areas during the off season or try a less-popular part of the Gunpowder Falls rivers.

Bird-watching is popular at the Hammerman Area throughout the seasons, including winter when the marshes fill with wintering waterfowl. Park rangers lead spring peeper walks and night hikes. Participants on guided canoe trips learn about egrets, osprey, and migrating and resident ducks. Northern harriers or marsh hawks (Circus cyaneus) and green-backed herons (Butorides striatus) are fairly common. Tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus), Canada geese (Branta canadensis), black ducks (Anas rubripes), and other waterfowl make their winter home on the lower Gunpowder. Small cabins called mini-cabins were added in 1998. Pets are not allowed in the Hammerman Area.

Central Area

The Central Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park is located along both the Little Gunpowder Falls River and the Big Gunpowder Falls River northeast of Perry Hall. On the Little Gunpowder where the river divides Harford and Baltimore counties west of Fallston are the Pleasantville, Sweet Air, and Days Cove areas in addition to the park headquarters and Jerusalem Mill Visitor Center. A variety of well-marked, blazed trails on these park lands connect the Little Gunpowder to the open fields, forests, and ponds that characterize the Central Area. The park headquarters, housed at Jerusalem Mill, take visitors into an eighteenth-century village that includes a covered bridge, blacksmith shop, gunsmith shop, gristmill, general store, and tenant houses.

Little Gunpowder Trail and Horse Trail Loop.

[Fig. 14(18)] From the trailhead at Jerusalem Mill, follow the white-blazed Little Gunpowder Trail downriver through hills and valleys along the west bank of the Little Gunpowder Falls River. The path loops around the historic village, meeting the yellow-blazed horse trail at the Jericho covered bridge. Return via the horse trail through farmland and a pine plantation (1-mile round trip). Those who wish a longer hike can follow the Little Gunpowder Trail downstream, returning by the same path.

Trail: White-blazed moderate 1-mile loop hike along Little Gunpowder Falls River formed by combining the Little Gunpowder Trail and horse trail.

Wildlands Area: The Wildlands section of the Central Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park is a 2-by-1.5-mile area located along the lower Big Gunpowder Falls River, down river from Loch Raven Reservoir. In addition to the white-blazed Big Gunpowder Trail which runs through the wild lands along the south side of the river, there are several interconnecting trails that traverse the Wildlands Area on the north side of the river, forming loop hikes of varying lengths. Bicycles are not allowed. The trailhead begins at the parking lot where Bel Air Road (US 1) crosses the river northeast of Baltimore and Perry Hall.

Once hikers enter the woods, leaving the highway behind, the peace of the riverbank settles in. A stealthy approach may reveal a solitary great blue heron, poised motionless above a fish. A muskrat may slip into the water off the bank, making a V as it swims across the river. Wild creatures such as these seem far removed from the busy streets of Baltimore just a few miles away.

The outermost parts of three trails combine to form an easy 4.6-mile loop, beginning at the parking lot. For this loop, take the blue-blazed Stocksdale Trail upriver from the parking lot. Make an immediate right turn onto the pink-blazed Wildlands Trail, which rejoins the Stocksdale Trail after about 1.2 miles. Go right again on the Stocksdale Trail and continue for 0.8 mile. Turn right on the yellow-blazed Sweathouse Trail. This 1.7-mile trail is named for the Big Gunpowder Falls tributary it crosses called Sweathouse Branch, once the site of Indian sweat lodges.

Although no evidence indicates there were any permanent Indian camps in Baltimore County, Susquehannock Indians may have traveled from the Susquehanna River south through the county to Algonquin camps. The construction of sweat lodges indicates the Indians were apparently just as captivated by the verdant banks of the boulder-tossed stream valleys as hikers are today. The Sweathouse Trail also circles back to the Stocksdale Trail. A right turn and a 0.8-mile trek take you back to the trailhead at the parking lot.For a shorter loop, take the blue-blazed Stocksdale Trail upriver from the parking lot and take an immediate right onto the pink-blazed Wildlands Trail. Turn left onto the Stocksdale Trail and go back to the start. The total hike is about 2.3 miles.

Hereford Area

On the upper Big Gunpowder Falls River is the 3,800-acre Hereford area of the park, where I-83 intersects the Big Gunpowder Falls River after it leaves Prettyboy Reservoir about 14 miles north of Baltimore in Baltimore County. Cool swimming holes and great tubing and canoeing waters offer a refuge from summer heat. Some of the state’s best trout fishing challenge the fly fisherman here. Twenty miles of paths open the woodlands to explorers on foot or horseback. Bicycles are prohibited. Especially recommended for scenic beauty are Raven Rock Falls, Panther Branch, and the area between Falls Road and Prettyboy Reservoir. Maryland has two designated wild lands in this area—one near Prettyboy Dam and one at Panther Branch. The historic 19-mile Northern Central Railroad Trail passes through the area. An archery range is available for the public except when tournaments are scheduled. A small picnic area is at Camp Wood on Bunker Hill Road. Seasonal bow hunting for deer is available by permit.

Gunpowder South Trail.

[Fig. 14(26)] This white-blazed trail provides access to trout waters and some of the most scenic areas of the park, passing through lush evergreen groves of hemlock and mountain laurel in the Hereford Wildlands. Hikers can make a loop by taking the more southerly Highland Trail on the return trip. Bicycles are prohibited. Rangers recommend the 2.4-mile stretch of the Gunpowder South Trail from Masemore Road westward toward Prettyboy Dam. About 0.25 mile past Falls Road, the trail leaves state park property and enters City of Baltimore property just below Prettyboy Dam. The trail on city property up to the dam is rugged and not well marked, but it is very scenic.

The trail also extends eastward from Masemore Road about 3.5 miles to Big Falls Road. The Gunpowder North Trail is on the other side of the river.

Northern Central Rail Trail (NCR Trail)

[Fig. 14(27)] This 19.7-mile, 10-foot-wide trail follows the old railroad bed of the Northern Central Railroad. From 1838 to 1972, from the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay to the Pennsylvania line, small towns such as Ashland, Phoenix, Sparks, Glencoe, Monkton, White Hall and Freeland sprang up beside the busy steel rails that connected Baltimore with York, Pennsylvania. Products such as flour, paper, coal, milk, grains, and the US Mail rumbled to and from these towns.

Union soldiers traveled the Northern Central during the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln rode it to deliver the Gettysburg address. Use of this railroad and other rail lines across the country dwindled after automobiles and trucks began to carry people and goods on ever-improving highways. In 1972, when the flooding rains of Hurricane Agnes washed out bridges and rails, the line was not needed enough to warrant repairs. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources converted the abandoned railroad into a multiuse trail in 1972.

The NCR Trail begins in Ashland, passes several historic towns, the Monkton Train Station, and Sparks Bank Nature Center on its meandering way north, and ends at the Pennsylvania line where it joins the York County Heritage Trail. Heading upriver, the trail follows the Big Gunpowder River to just north of MD 138 east of Hereford, at the mouth of the Little Falls River (not to be confused with Little Gunpowder Falls). Then the trail follows the Little Falls and finally Beetree Run to the Pennsylvania line.

The surface of crushed stone is wheelchair accessible. Hiking, jogging, biking, and horseback riding are permitted. Pets must be leashed. Plan to carry out your trash, as there are no containers. The trail also provides access to the Loch Raven watershed and more than 8 miles of managed trout stream on the Big Gunpowder River and the Little Falls River.Hikers make frequent discoveries of wildlife and wildflowers along the way. On the banks and woodlands beside the boulder-strewn Big Gunpowder, look for the purple petals and grasslike leaves of slender blue flag (Iris prismatica), and the nodding, three-petaled nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum).

Monkton Station, located along the NCR Trail, was a Pennsylvania Railroad Company stop from 1898 to 1972. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the old station features artifacts from the days when commuters to and from Baltimore would stop here. Now the renovated structure serves as a quieter stop for bicyclists and hikers along the Northern Central Railroad Trail.

Beaches in Baltimore County

In addition to state park beaches and the beach at Oregon Ridge Park, swimming is allowed from Memorial Day through Labor Day when lifeguards are on duty at the following two beaches located east of Baltimore. There is an admission charge.

Rocky Point Beach and Park. [Fig. 14(19)] This is the largest waterfront park in the county, with over 700 feet of white sandy beach. It is the home of the Baltimore County Sailing Center. Sailing lessons are available.

Miami Beach.

[Fig. 14(20)] Located on a peninsula just north of Rocky Point Park, the beach is on the Chesapeake Bay.

Restaurants in Baltimore County

Dining opportunities in Baltimore County range from upscale fast food restaurants to famous fine eateries. There are several dinner theaters with excellent productions and gourmet menus. Here are a few of the many fine places to dine.

Fisherman’s Inn. Fifth Street and Miller Island Road, Edgemere. Located across the water from Pleasure Island at North Point State Park. Outstanding crabcake sandwiches. Overlooks Chesapeake Bay. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (410) 477-2528.

Driftwood Inn. 203 Nanticoke Road, Middle River. Located on Hopkins Creek. Dock your boat at the restaurant while dining. Steak, fresh seafood. Moderate. Phone (410) 391-3493.

Timonium Dinner Theater, 9603 Deereco Road, Timonium. Dine and watch first-class productions. Moderate. Phone (410) 560-1113.

Carolina Gardens. 1625 Holly Tree Road, Bowleys Quarters. Located east of Baltimore at mouth of Middle River. Eat fine seafood inside or on outside deck. Live entertainment on weekends. Moderate. Phone (410) 335-7775.

Wild Duck Café. Frog Mortar Creek at Maryland Marina, Bowley’s Quarters. Enjoy the waterfront view of Frog Mortar Creek off Middle River while sampling steamed crabs and other fresh seafood. Open seasonally. Casual atmosphere. Complimentary docking available. Moderate. Phone (410) 335-2121.

The Crab Shanty. 3410 Plum Tree Drive, Ellicott City. Voted one of area’s best seafood restaurants, The Crab Shanty is in Howard County, just west of the Baltimore County line. Seafood, chicken, pasta in casually elegant atmosphere. Inexpensive. Phone (410) 465-9660.

The Elkridge Furnace Inn. 5745 Furnace Avenue, Elkridge. Dine in elegance at this historic manor home in Howard County near the Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County lines. French cuisine. Moderate to expensive. Phone (410) 379-9336.

Lodging in Baltimore County

Motels along the interstates in Baltimore County offer an economical alternative to the more expensive restaurants of downtown Baltimore. Light Rail (410-539-5000) connects the northern and southern outskirts of Baltimore to the downtown area. Most former bed and breakfast inns in the county have been reverted to private residences.

Hampton Inn White Marsh. 8225 Town Center Drive, Baltimore. This inn off I-95, Exit 67B, just northeast of the Baltimore city limits, has 127 rooms, a pool, and nearby restaurants. Moderate. Phone (410) 931-2200.

Comfort Inn Northwest. 10 Wooded Way, Pikesville. Located off I-695, Exit 20. Restaurant and pool are featured in this newly-renovated inn. Pimlico Race Track is 5 miles. Pets allowed. Moderate. Phone (410) 484-7700.

Bauernschmidt Manor Bed and Breakfast. 2316 Bauernschmidt Drive. Located on the Middle River east of Baltimore, this B&B features outstanding views of the Chesapeake Bay, a pool, and a gourmet breakfast. Expensive. Phone (410) 687-2233.

Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn. 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley. Located off I-83 north of Baltimore at Hunt Valley; 390 rooms. Pets allowed. Moderate to expensive. 410-785-7000.

Holiday Inn Select. 2004 Greenspring Drive, Timonium. Easy Light Rail ride to Baltimore Inner Harbor, National Aquarium, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Features Music City Grille, Nashville’s Country Western Bar, Toucan’s Lounge. Expensive. Phone (800) 289-4499 or (410) 252-7373.

Sheraton Baltimore North. 903 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson. Located off Exit 27A of I-695 Baltimore Beltway. On premises is Carnegie’s Restaurant, featuring buffet meals. Pets allowed. Expensive. Phone (410) 321-7400 or (800) 433-7619.

Embassy Suites Baltimore/Hunt Valley. 213 International Circle, Hunt Valley. Located off I-83, Exit 20A (Shawan Road), north of Baltimore. Hunt Valley Grille is in hotel atrium; other restaurants and Hunt Valley Mall across street. Close to Timonium Fairgrounds where Preakness thoroughbred race is held. MTA and Light Rail available into Camden Yards, National Aquarium, Inner Harbor. Pets allowed. Expensive. Phone 410-584-1400.

[ Previous Topic | Next Topic ]

Read and add comments about this page

Reader-Contributed Links to the Chesapeake Bay Book: