PVSP: Marriottsville Road to McKeldin Rapids Hike

This hike takes you along the Patapsco River, up some slight elevation gains (nothing strenuous) that offer pretty views of the river below, and then along the river to see the falls and the rapids that come just after the falls. You won’t encounter much solitude — lots of other hikers and quite a few groups of horse riders also use the trail. This would not be a trail to take a dog on that is scared of horses. But it is a pleasant walk in the woods, along a scenic river, and well worth an afternoon or morning!

Experimenting with my camera’s panoramic setting creates an interesting view of the straight river.

Park along Marriottsville Road, either immediately by the railroad tracks (where there’s a lot more parking spaces) or a little away, on the northern/western side of the road, near where the road creatively named “Marriottsville Road 2” and Ridge Road intersect with the main Marriottsville Road.

Cross carefully — traffic does come fast. Follow the trail into the park. It’s not marked well with blazes, but you’ll soon notice some white blazes and/or blank trail markers (rusty, without any blazes).

Follow it slightly up a hill and toward the river, which, in case you’re curious, is the South Branch Patapsco River. You’ll descend again (both elevation changes are really minor) and the trail will parallel the river, which flows gently here, for approximately three-quarters of a mile. You’ll notice some trails splitting off to the left, but keep following the main trail as it grows narrower and starts to curl around a slight hill that offers you lovely glimpses of the river below.

The trail emerges at the top of the hill by restrooms and a paved road. Listen and you’ll hear the falls. Turn right on the road and follow it to the parking area where it dead ends. From there you’ll pick up the path descending to the falls below.

Enjoy the kids, and most likely the dogs, playing on the sandy beach in the water (but no swimming). This is an ideal place to take a selfie with the river or falls in the background.

For this hike, I followed the orange (either white or no blazes on the
trail itself) to the yellow/orange- blazed McKeldin Rapids Trail. 

When you’re ready, you’ll notice the trail headed off along the river. Follow it as it twists around the river bend, carefully picking your way through the downed trees and rocks. You’ll notice quite a bit of erosion has nipped away from the trail and sometimes it feels precarious.

Once around the bend, continue following the trail until you come to rock face. Pick your way carefully over — you’re walking at an angle and if you have slippery-soled shoes, you might be in for a dip. You have a few choices: you can pick your way carefully along, almost at water level, or you can climb up and pick up a dirt trail, or you can backtrack a bit and find the dirt trail shooting off from the left.

Once over the bare rock face, you’re back on a more or less flat trail, following the South Branch until it meets up with the North Branch Patapsco River and join together to head further downstream. That’s where I ended my hike — approximately 2 miles, give or take — and turned around to head back.

Of course the falls and rapids were the stars of the hike. But I encountered several groups of horse riders, and thoroughly enjoyed watching them (you also must watch the trail itself, as the horses leave manure along the trail as well).

But it was a good thing I was looking down, as I noticed the first wildflowers of spring: beautiful wild violets, more delicate purple star flowers, and then a very bold white flower that was on the slope leading down to the falls. Simply lovely.

Getting there: The intersection of Marriottsville Road Number 2 and Marriottsville Road, Marriottsville, MD.

Hours: Dawn to dusk.

Website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/PatapscoValley/McKeldin/McKeldin-Area.aspx

For other hikes in the Patapsco Valley State Park, check out the following articles:

Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.