The Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail is one of the best hiking and biking trails in the Mid-Atlantic region. It allows for nearly 20 miles of flat travel on the crushed-stone surface, punctuated by a number of access points and an abundance of trees that provide refreshing shade on hot summer days.
The trail begins in Cockeysville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, and ends just over the state line in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, where the Mason-Dixon Line divides the southern Atlantic states from the Northeastern states.
The history of the rail corridor dates back to 1832, when the Northern Central Railroad carried passengers—people vacationing at Bentley Springs—and freight between Baltimore and York or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The railroad ran for 140 years until Hurricane Agnes devastated the tracks. Trail goers can learn more about its history at Monkton Station, which dates back to 1898 and today serves as a visitors center and museum. A rental shop here offers both bikes and inner tubes for floating down the Big Gunpowder River, which parallels the southern end of the trail.
The rail-trail is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park. Its first phase—a 7.2-mile stretch from its southern end at Ashland up to Monkton—opened in 1984. The organization was led by Secretary Torrey C. Brown at the time and the pathway, originally called the Northern Central Railroad Trail, was renamed in his honor in 2007.
Amenities along the route include picnic and park benches, drinking fountains for hikers, bikers and four-legged friends, and portable restrooms. Just off the trail you can enjoy a small art gallery, an antique shop and several places to buy food and drinks. Hotels and motels can also be found within a mile of the trail.
The trail cuts through several charming Maryland towns: Monkton, Parkton, Falls Overlook and Bentley Springs. At the MD–PA border near New Freedom, the trail continues as the Heritage Rail Trail County Park. Together, the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail and the Heritage Rail Trail were inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame in 2015.
The trail is used by an eclectic mix of horseback riders, joggers, walkers, hikers, bikers and people of all ages. On the weekends, the trail is heavily used by local residents and travelers from the Baltimore area, so parking may be a challenge. For those seeking an escape from the urban areas of the region, this trail is a wooded oasis—an escape from the every day stresses of nearby city life.
The southernmost trailhead and parking area is located just off York Road/State Route 45 in Cockeysville. A larger and more popular parking lot is located just a half-mile farther north along Paper Mill Road. There are numerous other access points and parking areas along the entire route; refer to the map for more details.