The Patuxent Branch Trail is part of a 20-mile trail system over and around the rolling hills of Howard County that follows a former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line along the Patuxent River. The trail begins in Savage Park. Follow signs along the trail indicating the direction to Lake Elkhorn. When you reach Vollmer Hausen Road, turn left and stay on the sidewalk to find where the trail picks up on the other side of the road at the bottom of this short hill. A crosswalk eases you across this busy road.
A little more than half of the trail is paved and the other half has a gravel surface. A small portion of the trail includes a bridle path. Ten bridges help keep you dry as you travel through this floodplain. The most impressive feature is the 1902 Guilford Pratt Truss Bridge, a symbol of Howard County's two most important industries: the railroad and the granite quarry. Signs along the trail explain the historical significance of both industries, and the trail will take you straight through the grounds of a quarry that operated until 1928.
The rail-trail ends at Lake Elkhorn, but picnic facilities, a playground, parking, a boat slip and a walking and biking path around the lake may keep you going. Or you can head back to the Savage Park entrance of the Patuxent Branch Trail and pick up the flatter and shorter Savage Mill Trail
, which begins just a few blocks away.
To access the Savage Park entrance from Interstate 95, take State Route 32 (Patuxent Parkway) east and turn right on US 1 (Baltimore Washington Blvd.), heading south toward Laurel. Turn right on Gorman Road and right again on Foundry Street. Turn left onto Washington Street and follow it to the end, where you take a right onto Fair Street, which ends at the park. Take the road in the parking lot to the right until it ends at a smaller parking lot at the trailhead.
To access the Lake Elkhorn entrance from Interstate 95, take SR 32 (Patuxent Parkway) west then Broken Land Parkway north toward Owen Brown. The lake (and a parking lot next to the playground and boat slip) will be on your right.
I road this trail from Savage Park to Lake Elkhorn yesterday and it was a great ride. Beautiful landscape and very peaceful with enough hills and dales to make it both challenging uphill and provide fast coasting downhill. I discovered that at the far ...
I rode it this morning expecting the worse and was pleasantly surprised that the trail is complete and smooth. I rode it reverse from lake elhorne to savage and will do it again tomorrow for a great 10 mile trek back and forth.
The Patuxent Branch Trail is currently closed because of sewer construction and is not scheduled to reopen until the Summer of 2011. As others have noted, you can slog through some sections but it's not worth it.