Hiking the Buzzard Rock – Sawmill Trail Loop in Patapsco Valley State Park

Buzzards Rock and Sawmill Trail Loop is a 5 mile loop trail in the Patapsco Valley State Park that has multiple “pay-offs,” including a pretty view from Buzzards Rock, from which you can see the Patapsco River below; even from that distance you can hear the falls.

There are some breath-taking inclines and declines, but even so, it’s only moderate difficulty.

However, this state park is sandwiched between densely populated suburban areas and is a heavily used park — we’re literally loving this beautiful park to death.

And because of the heavy use and probably because of all the mountain bikers, there are multiple trails that look totally legit but which are not blazed, and this makes it REALLY easy to take the wrong trail and find yourself heading somewhere else completely. It’s frustrating.

We had to turn around a couple of times, and finally I turned on my Alltrails app and followed that instead of depending on blazes.

Don’t let that deter you from experiencing this hike and the others that this incredible park offers. Just know you won’t find solitude and ensure your phone has a full battery for when you need to rely on GPS to help you find the right trail.

From the parking lot at the trail head, head in, bearing straight, following the yellow blazes, which will shortly take you to Buzzard Rocks.

Then you follow the trail through some pretty hollows as the trail follows the contour of the mountain. There are mild ups and downs that get your blood moving nicely.

We saw two deer who were not particularly impressed — or scared — by us. Several mountain bikers passed us, but all were courteous and grateful as we stepped off the trail to let them by.

You come near train tracks before heading down to follow the Grist Mill Trail briefly, before taking a sharp left under the viaduct carrying the railroad. This is where we veered from the trail, as there were LOTS of folks on the Grist Mill Trail, and it was still a time of physical distancing, so we avoided the really steep trail drop down to the Grist Mill Trail and walked along the railroad tracks.

That’s probably not a recommended course of action, possibly trespassing, so I don’t advise doing this. Still, it was lovely being up there alone (just the two of us) and it was kind of magical.

I’m sorry a train didn’t come by! As we walked along the tracks, though, we could see down to the Grist Mill Trail and saw where the trail cuts to the left under the viaduct.

Just on the other side of this tunnel is trestle bridge over the Patapsco River and Ilchester Road.

Obviously a lot of other have been taking the same route, as there was a little trail on the opposite side of the tracks, which led to the Saw Mill Trail. We descended the stairs down to the creek to take some pictures.

At that point, we picked up the Saw Mill Trail, following the black or red blazes. Continuing on the yellow-blazed loop is a bit shorter, but I think you’ll really enjoy the Saw Mill Trail, because it follows a frolicking creek that is absolutely breathtaking in a few places with lovely little waterfalls.

Remnants of the Old Main Line (B&O) Railroad aren’t hard to find. At one point, the trail
uses the old railroad bed, and then again when it joins with the Gristmill Trail for a portion of the loop.

In fact, the sound of the water falls and a cool breeze from the water carrys you back up the hill. None of the inclines are particularly steep, but pretty much from the creek on, you’re heading gently up hill.

For the park’s trail map, click here.

Getting there: 20 South Hilltop Road, Catonsville, MD

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/PatapscoValley/Avalon/Trail-Maps.aspx

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