If you are looking to augment your physical workout with some intellectual exercise, look no further than the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail. The scenic, paved, 13-mile community trail is brimming with history lessons and boasts a solar system of information. The trail follows the route of the Annapolis and Baltimore Short Line, that started running freight and passenger service in 1880 and helped shape this suburban region near the nation's capital. Today, the 112-acre linear park winds through parks, neighborhoods and natural wooded areas.
The trail passes the Marley Station shopping mall for those looking for some retail therapy to accompany their trek. For the history buffs, stop in to the Earleigh Heights Ranger Station, ca. 1889. The trail features several pocket parks along the way—charming, landscaped nooks with picnic tables and an open invitation to rest your feet for a spell. One such park in Severna Park is near the Park Plaza Shopping Center (intersection of Baltimore Annapolis Road and W. McKinsey Road) where local bike shop Pedal Pushers caters to trail riders with rentals—and the local pizza and frozen yogurt shops adjacent don’t hurt either. The B&A also takes its beautification seriously. Portions of the route are sponsored by volunteers who fill the flowerbeds and kiosks along the trail, lending it a colorful, seasonal flair.
Along the trail you will find a literal alphabet of historical markers, from A to Z. The A marker, at mile 0.1, is the Winchester Station House at Manresa near the Annapolis start of the trail. At mile 13.3 you will find the Z marker identifying the Sawmill Branch, the area's source of water and power in the early 18th century. To follow along with each marker, you will want to pick up a flyer at the Ranger Station.
Near Harundale Mall you will come upon the Planet Walk, a linear museum with educational displays for the sun and each planet. Sponsored by NASA, the planets are true to scale and have educational storyboards that teach about our solar system. The trail, and its educational opportunities, end in the small town of Glen Burnie. But you may continue via the John Overstreet Connector to the BWI Trail loop for an additional 12.5 miles around Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The Annapolis trailhead is located off US 50 past the Severn River. Take Exit 27 and head south toward the Naval Academy on State Route 450. The parking lot for Jonas Green Park is on the right. There are directions to the trail via an on-road bike lane on the board near the entrance of the parking lot. The actual rail-trail beings at Boulters Way.
To reach the Glen Burnie trailhead, take US 50 east from Washington, D.C., to Exit 21 and follow Interstate 97 north. Take Exit 15 leading to SR 176 east (Dorsey Road). Continue on SR 176 before turning right onto SR 648 (Baltimore and Annapolis Blvd.). At the first light, take a right on Crain Highway then a right onto Central Avenue. The parking lot is on the right and runs along the trail.