It was the best way to spend a morning — hiking in the mountainside above the Susquehanna River in Harford County, where the river is wide and calm(er) and beautiful glimpsed through the trees, before it opens into the Chesapeake Bay just a mile or two away.
We chose the Lower Susquehanna Ridge Loop Trail. It’s an incredibly beautiful, approximately 4-mile hike up the side of the mountain overlooking the Susquehanna River, through both forest and fields.
It’s not immediately apparent where the trail heads are. Look for the old stone spring house — it’s to the right of that.
From the parking lot, across the park road just opposite the mill is the Historic Walking Ttrail, blazed in a light purple, which leads you up past old carriage barn and the Carter-Archer Mansion, climbing up the mountain to pick up the white-blazed Land of Promise Trail.
The name of the trail refers back to the original tract of land, which was called the Land of Promise.
At one point, the Land of Promise Trail offers two forks — take the right, although the left will dead-end (at an overlook, we believe — we missed the chance to check).
Numerous times we passed old farmers fences, some neatly dry stacked, others just heaping piles, pulled from the fields as they tried to eek out a living from inhospitable fields.
Follow the right fork, which continued our ascent until we crested near the Steppingstone Farm Museum, breaching the deep shade of the woods for about 15 minutes of walking along the edge of open fields.
But soon we were back in the wood, heading down toward the red-blazed Susquehanna Ridge Trail. It’s a good thing we got a rest from the steep ascent on the Land of Promise section.
The Susquehanna Ridge Trail soon started leading us upward along a sharp drop off, stretching our legs one last time before finally starting to steeply descend to the river, and depositing us on the road within eyesite of the old Rock Run Mill. My friend’s run tracker said we’d hiked just over 4 miles.
Located along the Susquehanna River valley with its heavy forest cover and rocky terrain, Susquehanna State Park offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, with more than 15 miles of marked and maintained trails.
It’s also a popular place for fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
This park is ideal for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and nature lovers.
The park hosts a variety of historical buildings, including the remnants of the Carter-Archer estate, an old mill, the toll house for the covered bridge, long since washed away in a flood, and other buildings.
The park is home to some of the most popular mountain biking trails in Maryland — and that’s your word of warning if you intrepidly go hiking along its trails, although you should!
We were almost hit by a group of nine mountain bikers as they came hurtling around a corner and saw us suddenly in front of them, walking at our own pace. Luckily for us (but not for them), most of them were able to stop and only a couple of them collided with each other, but they took it in good spirit — part of the adventure, I guess. No one was hurt.
However, once we encountered them, they were more wary and we listened more acutely to their telltale sounds, and the second time they came up behind us, we had enough time to move safely off the trail. We enjoyed watching them go by.
While we were there, we were enticed to try walking along the unmaintained trail along the old railroad tracks.
Here’s where I’m going to editorialize — because how beautiful the trail would be, following along the river where the old tracks are. We tried — but soon it became impassable.
Where the sections weren’t overgrown, prohibiting easy passage, the iron rails bridged wash-out gaps. We tried in both directions from the parking lot.
Still, it offers some beautiful vistas onto the Susquehanna River and it’s fun to indulge in the instinct of urban exploration. The ruined railroad reminding us of the impermanence of civilization.