The best way to experience Baltimore is by hiking it! Get outdoors with authors Allison Sturm and Evan Balkan, with the full-color edition of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Baltimore. A perfect blend of popular trails and hidden gems, the selected trails transport you to scenic overlooks, wildlife hot spots, and historical settings that renew your spirit and recharge your body.
Take in the beautiful vistas of Chesapeake Bay. Explore the serpentine barrens of old American Indian hunting grounds and abandoned chrome mines. Find peace along the Patapsco River, including a trail through the ghost town of Daniels. Challenge yourself with trips around Baltimore’s reservoirs, or bring the family on stroller-friendly jaunts to playgrounds and animal exhibits. With Allison and Evan as your guides, you’ll learn about the area and experience nature through 60 of Charm City’s best hikes!
Each hike description features key at-a-glance information on distance, difficulty, scenery, traffic, hiking time, and more, so you can quickly and easily learn about each trail. Detailed directions, GPS-based trail maps, and elevation profiles help to ensure that you know where you are and where you’re going. Tips on nearby activities further enhance your enjoyment of every outing. Whether you’re a local looking for new places to explore or a visitor to the area, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Baltimore provides plenty of options for a couple hours or a full day of adventure, all within about an hour from Baltimore and the surrounding communities.
About the Author
Evan Balkan teaches writing and literature at the Community College of Baltimore County. His fiction and nonfiction, mostly in the areas of travel and outdoor recreation, have appeared in numerous publications throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, England, and Australia. He holds degrees from Towson, George Mason, and Johns Hopkins universities, and he lives in Maryland with wife, Shelly, and daughters, Amelia and Molly.
Read an Excerpt
- DISTANCE & CONFIGURATION: 7.2-mile out-and-back
- DIFFICULTY: Moderate
- SCENERY: Jones Falls, Lake Roland, upland forest
- EXPOSURE: Mostly shade
- TRAFFIC: Light–moderate on the trail; moderate–heavy at the lake
- TRAIL SURFACE: Packed dirt, short stretch of asphalt
- HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours
- DRIVING DISTANCE: 19 miles
- ELEVATION GAIN: 245' at trailhead, with no significant rise
- ACCESS: Sunrise–sunset; you can reach the park from the Falls Rd. Light Rail stop and walk east on Copper Hill Rd. to Lake Roland; no fees or permits required
- WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No
- MAPS: USGS Cockeysville
- FACILITIES: Pavilions, restrooms, and dog park at the lake; nature center is open Tuesday–Sunday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
- CONTACT: 410-887-4156, lakeroland.org
- LOCATION: Falls Rd. (just after Old Court Rd.), Baltimore
- COMMENTS: This trail used to offer a shortcut walking along the light rail tracks to cross Lake Roland on your return trip. Now, you’ll need to retrace your steps back around Lake Roland due to park rules
Climb over the guardrail and head right on the red-blazed trail, which runs along the railbed of the now-defunct Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad. You will parallel the Jones Falls downriver on the right, and on the left you’ll see rock outcrops with clinging tree roots. Oak and maple trees dominate this section, offering wonderful, colorful foliage in autumn and abundant shade on hot days. At 0.6 mile you’ll begin heading east, away from the Jones Falls.
At 0.75 mile you’ll come to a post indicating the red trail straight ahead and the blue trail toward the left (0.8 mile). The blue trail ends at L’Hirondelle Club, so continue straight on the red trail going east. Soon after, you’ll walk over a wooden bridge crossing a stream and continue straight on the wide path. The trail runs through tall, mature oaks. You’ll see lots of trails cut by mountain bikers on either side of you, as well as the green trail to your right at about 0.9 mile. Ignore these and continue straight; you’ll have no problem recognizing the main red-blazed trailit’s wide and well trod.
At just under a mile, you’ll come to a trail junction with red-blazed trails going in either direction. They parallel and rejoin each other at 1.25 miles. I took the main route to the right. At various points along the trail you may stumble upon art installations as part of Lake Roland’s Art on the Trail initiative. When I hiked, there was a metal raptor in the tree where the red trails rejoined.
At this same trail junction you’ll also intersect with the yellow trail, but for now, stay on the red-blazed trail. You’ll see the entrance to the yellow trail on your left at 1.45 miles and will take that on your return.
At just under 1.5 miles you’ll begin to see Lake Roland through the trees on your left. At 1.6 miles you’ll see some wooden steps heading left down to the wateryou can go sit at the lake’s edge and watch the birds, turtles, and snakes.
Back on the trail, you’ll soon see the defunct railroad tracks, now covered with plants, and follow them for a while. You can either stay on this wide path or take the smaller one that parallels it about 10 feet to the left, closer to the water. Either way, the two trails connect at 2 miles.
At this point, you’ll come to the light rail tracks. Of course, use caution when crossing, even though this section sits in the middle of a long straightaway, making it impossible for a train to surprise you.
Once you cross the tracks, head uphill on the steps. At the top of the hill, you’ll see a pavilion and picnic tables. Now you’re on a paved asphalt path; turn left and follow the paved path around the water. (The gravel path that leads closer to the water dead-ends at Paw Point Dog Park.) Although this is a nice spot to sit waterside and contemplate the lake, I recommend you keep movingyour chances for solitude here are next to none. So circle around on the asphalt pathyou’ll have the opportunity for good views and solitude on the other side of the lake. Pass a playground on your right and portable bathrooms on your left at 2.4 miles, and then take the asphalt path on your left, where you’ll be able to see Lake Roland Dam. At 2.5 miles you’ll reach the Lake Roland Nature Center (directly in front of you) and take the pedestrian bridge on your left to cross Lake Roland.
Once across, take the road to the left; you’ll see a lovely spot to sit next to the marble building that reads LAKE ROLAND 1861, a reminder of the lake’s prior use as a city reservoir. At 2.75 miles you’ll come to a parking lot and a little picnic area with grills to your left. Walk straight to the edge of the parking lot past the portable bathrooms and take the dirt path with pink blazes that runs next to the lake. This portion of the trail is quite uneven with roots and some overgrowth. At 2.8 miles you’ll come to a little parking area and continue left, going northeast. As the path turns right, you’ll have a glorious view of the lake. At 3 miles the trail cuts down to the left, closer to the lake, and you’ll have spectacular views in all seasonsspring blooms, summer green, fall foliage, and winter barrenness.
At 3.1 miles an Eagle Scout Project allows you to cross over a stream using a wooden footpath. The raised wooden footpaths on portions of this trail traverse muddy areas. Follow the trail to a rock grotto at 3.35 miles, a great lookout point over the lake. Continue on and reach the light rail tracks at 3.6 miles.
You’ll see an area to walk on the left of the tracks that used to allow you to link back to the red trail (where you’d turn right to continue retracing your steps). However, the bridge is no longer open to pedestrian traffic according to signage. There is a plan to work with the state to provide a safe crossing for individuals over the trestle bridge; however, please follow all park signage. As of press time, this means backtracking along your original path to reach this portion of light rail on the other side of Lake Roland.
On your return trip, we recommend veering right on the yellow trail for a change of scenery. The yellow trail links back to the red trail. Once it does, continue back to reach your car at 7.2 miles.
You might be interested in visiting two nearby sites that have great historical significance. You can walk from the trailhead to Rockland Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, at the corner of Falls Road (north of the trailhead), Ruxton Road (to the east), and Old Court Road (to the west). The buildings in Rockland, Baltimore County’s first permanent settlement dating back to 1706, remain and have been lovingly maintained, while the mill now houses businesses and shops. From Rockland, you will have a short drive to the Colored Methodist Protestant St. Johns’ Chapel of Baltimore County. Built for free blacks in 1833, it has held services continually since 1886. To get there, head north on Falls Road and take the first right onto Ruxton Road; when it ends at a stop sign, turn right onto Bellona Avenue, and you will see the church 0.3 mile ahead on the right.
GPS TRAILHEAD COORDINATES N39° 23.777' W76° 39.796'
DIRECTIONS Take I-95 S 3 miles to Exit 49B (I-695). Take I-695 W 13.5 miles to Exit 23 (Falls Road). Follow Falls Road to the first light at Joppa Road and make a left back onto Falls Road going south. Cross Old Court Road and go another 0.3 mile. Park on the left shoulder where the road sweeps to the right. The trail starts just beyond the guardrail.
Table of ContentsOverview Map
60 Hikes by Category
CITY OF BALTIMORE
- Baltimore Waterfront Promenade
- Cylburn Arboretum
- Gwynns Falls Park
- Gwynns Falls Trail from Leon Day Park to Cherry Hill Park
- Herring Run Park and Lake Montebello
- Jones Falls Trail: Druid Hill Park
- Leakin Park
- Patterson Park
- Stony Run Trail
- Elk Neck State Park
- Gunpowder Falls State Park: Jerusalem Village Trail with Jericho Covered Bridge Trail
- Gunpowder Falls State Park: Pleasantville–Bottom Loop
- Gunpowder Falls State Park: Sweathouse Branch Wildlands
- Gunpowder Falls State Park: Sweet Air Area
- Rocks State Park
- Rocks State Park: Falling Branch Area
- Susquehanna State Park: River Trails
- Susquehanna State Park: Woodland–Farm Trails
- Cromwell Valley Park
- Gunpowder Falls State Park (Hereford Area): Gunpowder North–South Circuit
- Lake Roland
- Lake Roland: Serpentine–Bare Hills
- Loch Raven Reservoir: Deadman’s Cove Trail
- Loch Raven Reservoir: Glen Ellen–Seminary Road
- Loch Raven Reservoir: Merryman Point
- Loch Raven Reservoir: Northwest Area Trails
- Oregon Ridge Park
- Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail
- Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Area at Bear Branch Nature Center
- Liberty Reservoir: Liberty West–Morgan Run
- Liberty Reservoir: Middle Run Trail
- Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area
- Prettyboy Reservoir: CCC Trail
- Prettyboy Reservoir: Gunpowder Falls
- Prettyboy Reservoir: Hemlock Trail
- Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area
- Banneker Historical Park and Trolly Line #9 Trail
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Alberton and Daniels Area
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Daniels Area Old Main Line Trail
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Hollofield Area
- Patapsco Valley State Park: McKeldin Area
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Mill Race Trail
- Patapsco Valley State Park (Undeveloped Area): Sykesville–Marriottsville
- Piney Run Park
- Centennial Park
- Lake Kittamaqundi
- Middle Patuxent Environmental Area
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Glen Artney Area
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Hilton Area
- Patapsco Valley State Park: Orange Grove and Avalon Areas
- Baltimore and Annapolis (B&A) Trail
- Beverly–Triton Beach Park
- BWI Trail
- Downs Park
- Kinder Farm Park
- North Point State Park
- Patuxent Branch Trail
- Quiet Waters Park
- Savage Park
- Wincopin Trails
Appendix A: Outdoors Stores
Appendix B: Map Stores
Appendix C: Hiking Clubs
About the Author