Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park


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Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park Facts

States: Maryland
Counties: Baltimore, Howard
Length: 2.5 miles
Trail end points: Glen Artney Road (Lost Lake) and Ilchester Road (Ilchester)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6266004
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park Description

Notice: As of July 2018, the western portion of the Grist Mill Trail is closed through spring 2019 for removal of the Bloede Dam. The eastern 1.5 miles of the trail remains open for all uses. See the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for updates. 

The Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park course for 2.5 miles through the heavily wooded park between Ilchester Road and Lost Lake. The trail is gentle and wheelchair accessible. It passes by the Swinging Bridge and Bloede's Dam. The bridge crosses the Patapsco at Orange Grove and allowed locals to cross the river to work in the Orange Grove Flour Mill. The mill burned in 1905, but you can cross the bridge to view the ruins. Bloede's Dam, on the National Register of Historic Places, is said to be the world's first submerged electrical generating plant, which was housed under water inside dam. You may not come within 300 feet of it both above and below the dam.

Patapsco Valley State Park was created in 1907 and is one of Maryland's oldest state parks. As a consequence, the area has many historic sites and also preserves a valuable greenway in this urban area. Railroad remnants can also be seen, like that of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad, which ran between Baltimore and Ellicott City.

Parking and Trail Access

To get to the Avalon Area of Patapsco Valley State Park from the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), take Route 1 (Exit 12A) south toward Arbutus. Follow Route 1 for approximately 3 miles to South Street. Turn right. The park entrance is on the left.

To get to the park from I-95 east, head toward BWI Airport. Take Route 1 (Exit 3) south toward Elkridge. Turn right onto South Street. The park entrance is on the left.

Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park Reviews

I would not rate this a hike since it is paved. We choose this because my husband is in a shoulder sling and it had been raining hard the few days previous, so we needed on easy walk. Starting at the Avalon area, near Lost Lake, we completed the 2.2 mike trail each way. Along the trail there are interesting ruins from train bridges, the trail parallels an active train track for a lot of it. There are also the ruins of a flour mill and dam. The most fun for us were the swing bridges. One over the river that you can cross to go to a rest area and another at the end of the trail. They were fun as they move while your crossing. We went on a Sunday and there were a lot of people using the trail and camping, tubing, wading in the water along the trail. Will go again to hike some of the unsaved trails in the beautiful Patapsco Park.

Starting in the Avalon area of Patapsco Valley Park near "Lost Lake", this is about 2.5 miles long, ending at a suspension bridge across the Patapsco River at Illchester Road. Near the trail end at Illchester also features the Illchester Train tunnel and ruins of the of the old St. Marys College, a former seminary. Entering the Avalon area of the Park, you will also see the Thomas Viaduct, built in 1835 it is the world's largest multiple arched railroad bridge with an arc and is still in use by trains today. Other highlights off the tail are a swinging bridge at Orange Grove and the remains of the Bloede's Dam (scheduled for demolition in late 2016) which was the world's first submerged electrical generating plant contained inside a dam. There is a small fee for entry into the Park.

Some interesting ruins along the way.


Blackplate doesn't want to give the Grist Mill Trail a 5-star rating because it's paved and that it should have been left in a 'gravel' state. It's the only trail in this part of Patapsco Valley State Park that is paved. The only reason that the Grist Mill Trail is paved is because it was made to be accessable to everyone including those in wheelchairs. Wheelchairs don't work too well on gravel. There is no move to pave any of the other trails.

Since this is the only trail that is listed for Patapsco Valley State Park in the Elkridge/Ellicott City area I am going to comment on this and about the park. First the Grist Mill Trail is very short and paved not really for Mountain Biking. However, off of this paved trail are numerous and awesome dirt trails that vary in length and skill level. There are trails on both sides of the river. If parking at the park it is $2 to get in. You can also park outside the park at the end of the Grist Mill, on Landing Road, or off of South Rolling Road across from the Park & Ride. The benefit of parking in the park is that all the trails are downhill to get to the parking area.

Right off the Cascade Falls Trail you can also cross Landing Road and hit the Rockburn Trails. You can definitely spend a whole day right here riding the trails.

I would haved loved to give this beautiful trail the 5 star rating it deserves but patapsco valley trails are being paved too much. Paving trails provides a perfect spillway for silt, nutrient and chemical pollutants and also warms nearby streams and lakes unaturally. Please be aware of this problem. Gravel is great! Stop paving the trails.

This is a decent short trail. It does go slightly uphill from the parking lot, but is mostly straight. Please note, you need to pay a fee to enter the park. It's the honor system during the week, and they have a manned booth on the weekends. The roads are not very well marked either. The trail is wooded and would be a good ride for families, but is too short to get any good mileage in. The trail is asphalt, but there are some rough spots that are quite gravely, and several raised tree root areas, so be aware.

This is a nice little trail (just under 2 1/2 miles). Along the way, there are plenty of signs with historical facts, you will hear the water fall at the hydroelectric damn, see people fishing, picnicking, wading in the water. There are all types of foundations for old bridges. And it is shaded enough so that, even on a fairly warm day, you won't have any discomfort. Although I did not go past the end of the trail, I was told there is a visitor's center not far past the end, where you can get refreshments. One caveat: if you are direction-challenged in any way, and if you are coming from Frederick Road, down Hilltop Place: Hilltop Place (which turns into Hilltop Road) is a very suburban, residential road. All of a sudden, it turns into only forest for over 1/2 mile, and then there is a parking lot on the left for hikers/bikers. Do not be fooled into thinking that this must be River Road. This is actually the parking lot for the Buzzard Rocks Trail, which looks like it might work for mountain bikes and does eventually connect with the Grist Mill Trail. If your goal is the Grist Mill Trail, be sure to skip this first parking lot and follow the road to the right down a very steep hill about a quarter mile to River Road. You DO NOT want to park at the first lot (it is the wrong place) and ride your bike back up this hill (unless, of course, you are a masochist). (or Lance Armstrong)

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