Patapsco Valley SP - Orange Grove Area

Revised 12/30/13

Description: The Patapsco Valley State Park is a long narrow park that stretches from the southern part of the Baltimore Beltway and north along the river, almost to Liberty Reservoir. It extends even further up the south branch. Portions of the park are well developed with picnic pavilions, restrooms and well-maintained trail systems. The Orange Grove Area is one such section. This is a good place to introduce your family to nature. The labyrinth of trails allows one to hike as little as 1/4 mile to view a water fall or walk more than 8 miles while hardly retracing a step. The trails are well groomed, blazed and signed, for the most part. There are one or two junctions that might leave you scratching your head so please take a map.

The hike described here is an easy 6.6 mile trek which can be expanded by adding an out and back on the south fork of the Morning Choice Tr and/or a one mile loop along the Rockburn Branch Tr.

Two notes of caution:

1) Most of the trails are open to and heavily utilized by mountain bikers. Keep a sharp eye and ear out for them.

2) These same bikers have created other trails that crisscross the official trail network. These are not signed or blazed. Avoid these trails as it is an easy way to get lost.

Google Maps Custom Driving Directions



Printable/Downloadable map

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users


Trail Notes: Proceed up the blue blazed Cascade Falls Trail. Almost immediately the trail will split. (This trail has multiple components that can be used to make short loops.) Bear to the left, following the split rail fence. Soon reach Cascade Falls. Cross the stream on huge boulders and climb to the top of the falls. The orange blazed Ridge Trail comes in on the left (2). (This is your return route.) Stay straight on the Cascade Falls Trail. You'll cross the stream three more times. Twice other components of the Cascade Falls Trail will come in from the right. Ignore them. In 0.8 miles from the falls and shortly after the last stream crossing turn left onto yellow blazed Morning Choice Trail (3).

Cross gravel Norris Lane in 0.2 more miles (4). In another 0.2 miles the trail joins the red blazed Old Track Trail. Bear right here, following the dual blazes for a few yards. When the trails separate bear to the right to stay on yellow blazed Morning Choice Trail. In another 0.2 miles come to a fork in the trail (5). Turn left to complete this hike. (The other trail leads to Landing Road.) Soon reconnect  and, nearly as quickly, disconnect from the east end of the red Old Track Trail. Skirt the western boundary of the Belmont Research Conference Center and in 0.3 miles arrive at the junction of a green trail straight ahead (6). Turn right to stay on yellow blazed Morning Choice Trail.

You'll walk along the edge of the Belmont Research Conference Center some more before re-entering the woods, passing an orange connector trail on the left in 0.5 miles after the last trail junction (7). This is a good place to spot grazing deer at dusk. In 0.5 more miles from the connector arrive at purple blazed Rockburn Branch Trail (8) (Right, straight and to the left). Either go straight or turn to the right to complete this pleasant 1.0 mile stroll. When you arrive back at the last trail junction (8) turn right and in a short distance come to the junction with the orange blazed Ridge Trail. There are no signs here but the orange blazes are apparent.

 Bear left and climb gradually, turning right onto the white blazed Valley View Trail (9). The Valley View Trail will temporarily "kiss" the orange blazed Ridge Trail (10) in another 0.9 miles but turn right in a handful of steps. In 0.5 miles the Valley View Trail ends at the Ridge Trail (11). Turn right. As you weave in and out of short but steep coves you'll pass the ruins of some old rental cabins that were used prior to Hurricane Agnes. (That storm greatly changed the shape and functionality of the park.) From this point follow the Ridge Trail for 01.1 miles (12) where it forks. Bearing left takes you back to Cascade Falls. Following the right fork leads to River Road, not far from the parking area. The choice is yours.


Printable/Downloadable Trail Notes

Critique This Outing






Name: Marty                                                                                                                Hike: Patapsco Valley SP
Date: 10-04-2008                                                                                                          Rating: 4

Critique: The State Park is heavily wooded with lots of trails with a mixture of streams, forest, pasture and respectable hills. It's easy to get to, but the drawback is that there are lots of people hiking and biking - not enough to be truly annoying, but you are never totally alone.

We picked the area because our son is going to the Naval Academy and is severely limited in the range he is allowed to travel. We were pleasantly surprised at the area, which was especially nice in fall weather, and will go back. Even better, entrance to park is free for parties with service people.

We didn't have much difficulty following the trails although they could be better marked.



Name: Rob                                                                                                                   Hike: Orange Grove
Date: 07/20/07                                                                                                          Rating: 3

Critique: With all due respect, the trail directions for this hike are poor.  Even with the advice of taking a map, one can easily get lost and confused.  On at least three occasions I found myself retracing steps and twice asking mountain bikers for directions, totaling approximately 45 minutes of wasted time.

There are numerous junctions where the blazes are the same color going in both directions, changes in blaze colors don't physically appear until after two or three blazes of the previous trail blaze color, two different locations where dilapidated structures could be misconstrued as "...old rental cabins..." with about 20 minutes between them, three locations where one would "...walk along the edge of the Belmont Research Conf. Center...[and] re-enter the woods".

I never saw any purple blazes and/or signs for the Rockburn Branch Trail.  The white blazes on the hikers only Valley View Trail are only marked on one side  And in the last paragraph where the "...Valley View Tr will temporarily "kiss" the orange blazed Ridge Tr..." there is yet another junction, but it doesn't say whether to go left or right (as both directions are blazed in orange).  Also, the state park has put up signs for the re-directed Ridge Trail due to erosion.

I finally gave up in frustration and followed the sounds of passing traffic to a nearby road and hitched a ride back to my parked vehicle.

Perhaps next week I'll try again and this time take a pen and extra paper with me to offer up to date edits to make this otherwise nice hike less confusing.



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