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The Gwynns Falls Trail is a nearly 19-mile continuous corridor that winds through dozens of west and southwest Baltimore neighborhoods, parks, and historical and cultural landmarks and the urban business district. It takes a circuitous route through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park and southeast to downtown and includes side spurs into adjacent parks and a connection to the Jones Falls Trail at Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor. Along the trail are interpretive signs providing opportunities to learn about this impressive valley’s historical significance to Baltimore and the nation.
Winding through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park—the largest urban forest east of the Mississippi—to the Middle Branch Patapsco River and the Inner Harbor, the Gwynns Falls Trail serves as a key connector for more than 2,000 acres of publicly owned land and 10 miles of additional hiking trails.
The trail is also a major segment of the developing Baltimore Greenway Trails Network, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project to create a 35-mile network of trails that will connect more than 75 neighborhoods in Baltimore City.
Although the trail can be accessed from dozens of points along the route, its main access points include the I-70 Park & Ride, Winans Meadow, the Inner Harbor at Light Street, and Middle Branch Park. Starting at the eastern endpoints makes for a moderately uphill trek west.
A good place to start your journey is the I-70 Park & Ride, located adjacent to the northwest section of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. From here, the trail heads east alongside Franklin Town Road and through mature forest to Winans Meadow, a popular section of the park with excellent opportunities for bird-watching, turtle-spotting, and historical exploration. This includes remnants of the 19th-century Crimea Estate, which has a preserved waterwheel and root cellar. The Winans Meadow trailhead offers parking, restrooms, a picnic pavilion, and drinking water.
From Winans Meadow, you’ll continue eastward on a pleasant, level trail. You’ll then turn north through mature forest toward the mill race sec-tion of the route, which begins at the Windsor Mill Road trailhead. Just before you reach the trailhead, a short 1-mile detour northeast on the Dickeyville Trail, which travels a former section of Wetheredsville Road, takes you to a historical 18th-century mill village in Dickeyville alongside Gwynns Falls.
Continuing southeast along the Gwynns Falls Trail, you’ll follow a former millrace path of crushed stone through forest for 3 miles to Leon Day Park, named for Negro League Hall of Fame baseball player Leon Day.
Here, you’ll find ball fields, playgrounds, and parking. About 0.5 mile farther southeast, the trail offers views of the fall line between the Piedmont Plateau and the Coastal Plain, marked by a series of waterfalls and rapids.
The trail continues for nearly 3 miles along the wooded stream valley, passing over active railroad tracks, streams, city streets, and smaller parks before passing under the Carrollton Viaduct. Constructed in 1829 to serve the then-growing Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the viaduct is the oldest railroad bridge in the country.
About 0.5 mile beyond the viaduct is Carroll Park—a former plantation and the homestead of Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence—where you’ll find parking, ball fields, and impressive views of downtown Baltimore from the historic mansion.
The final 2 miles are decidedly urban compared to the stream-valley setting of the rest of the trail. Leaving Carroll Park, the trail becomes an on-road cycle track along Bush Street. Be sure to look for trail signs indicating you are on the official route.
After Bush Street, the trail hits the Middle Branch of the Inner Harbor near Ravens Stadium. Here, you can head south to Middle Branch Park on the Middle Branch Spur of the Gwynns Falls Trail for expansive water views, fishing, and boating. Alternatively, heading north will take you through the historic neighborhoods of South Baltimore until you reach the many attractions of the city’s Inner Harbor.
At the Inner Harbor, extend your route by connecting to the Jones Falls Trail, which heads north for 11 miles through parks and other popular destinations.
Parking and trail access is available at a number of locations along the trail. View the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
Parking is located within Baltimore City at the Park & Ride (I-70 and Security Blvd), Gwynns Falls Park/Leakin Park by Winans Meadow (4500 Franklintown Rd), at 4300 Windsor Mill Rd, at Leon Day Park (1200 block of N. Franklintown Rd), at 2700 Frederick Ave, by Carroll Park Golf Course (2100 Washington Blvd), by Carroll Park (Bayard St & Herkimer St), by the Carroll Park access road (1600 block of Washington Blvd), between Light St & E Barre St (parking only at limited times), and in three lots by Middle Branch Park (3301 Waterview Ave); (2825 S Hanover St); (3131 S Hanover St).
There is at least one accessible parking place at the Gwynns Falls Park/Leakin Park lot, at 4300 Windsor Mill Rd, at Leon Day Park, at 2700 Frederick Ave, by the Carroll Park access road at 1600 block of Washington Blvd, and between Light St & E Barre St.
I walked the trail for about 2 miles (4 miles round trip) starting at the trail head off of Washington Blvd near Carroll Park.
The pros are the scenery, beautiful trees and the stream views. The cons are you can hear I-95 at the beginning of trail and the isolation---few trail users.
Trail isn’t maintained AT ALL. Detours not clear and many trees down along trail. There’s a tree and power line down between W Baltimore and Frederick on Ellicott Driveway. Don’t bother with this trail until the city takes responsibility for this mess. Stop making it seem like the trail is great when it’s not. Debris, broken tree limbs, and trash galore on this trail. Could be a wonderful trail for all if it was maintained regularly. Better off riding on the road. Baltimore City, please do better.
We rode this trail September 5 and it was great EXCEPT for the closure at the Edmondson Ave bridge. No detours are posted so a visitor has to fend for herself!
I've ridden the south/southeastern section (from Downtown/Federal Hill to Middle Branch Park/Cherry Hill) and the northwestern section (Leakin Park/Gwynns Falls Park, from both ends at I-70/Franklintown and Dickeyville to Leon Day Park/Trailhead 4 on the edge of the park and Baltimore City.
NW section (Leakin/Gwynns Falls Park): this is a gorgeous park, a natural oasis in the city (very wooded and nature-y). There are lots of side paths to explore (including hiking trails) and other amenities. The section to the SW (between Trailheads 3 & 4) is unpaved and there are some trees blocking the trail, but it's easy to lift your bike over them.
Tip: as someone who doesn't like backtracking, you can create a loop between Trailhead 1 (I-70) and the Dickeyville endpoint in the north by going off trail. Some of Forest Park Ave is fast/dangerous and lacks a sidewalk, but you can ride on grass for 2 blocks. This puts you into the charming and idyllic, Mayberry-like historic village of Dickeyville (an 1700s mill town) before re-entering the park.
SE section: There's a small wooded oasis behind the casino/south of football stadium. The portion through Westport is on-road and industrial. The Middle Branch Park section is flat, through a basic city park, but is along the water with pretty good views.
We rode the length of the trail from the I-70 Park & Ride to Carroll Park. For the first half of the trail, you could easily forget that you're in West Baltimore. The woods were beautiful, and the hills were perfectly manageable. The on-pavement markings kept us on the right trail and navigated us along the on-road segments (for the most part - more on that later). All-in-all, it was an enjoyable ride. Three issues of note, one small, one bigger and one huge. The small issue: the segment between Windsor Mill Road and Morris Drive is the only unpaved portion of the trail, so with all the recent rain, there were a lot of puddles and shallow mud. Nothing that a hybrid or MTB can't handle. Next, from Leon Day Park to Ellicott Driveway is nothing but inches-thick mud. There's evidence of flood damage in the trees, so this is most likely the result. Hopefully it'll dry up and go away with time. Now the huge problem: the trail is closed from Ellicott Driveway to just south of the Edmondson Ave overpass due to construction work on the bridge, and there is no marked detour. This is obviously a long-term project, so the city should have put something up other than "TRAIL CLOSED" signs.
We wound up going uphill to Franklintown Road, across Edmondson, then down to W Baltimore Street to get back to the trail. This detour only added another half-mile to the ride. If you're riding south-to-north, there's no warning about the closure until you come up on it a half-mile from the last road crossing at W Baltimore.
Tried riding the trail yesterday (4/30/18), but flooded out and closed for indefinite period of time. Very disappointing.....
I rode from the western end at Franklintown Road near Woodlawn to the Inner Harbor. I enjoyed the switchbacks on some of it's steeper hills, and the natural beauty of the Gwynns Falls watershed. The trail is well marked - :) I did not get lost.
It truly is a hidden gem inside the city!
Nice trail with a lot of variety. I started at mile marker 2.75, Carroll Park, and did a round trip to the western end of the trail at marker 10.75 and back. This part is off-road and asphalt for all but a mile stretch west of Leon Day park. Also the trail is closed from Frederick Avenue to West Baltimore, which entails about a ¾ mile detour that is not well marked. But it was a relatively gentle up-hill grade the first half, and enjoyable downhill coming back. The trail followed the stream the whole way, so nice views of the waterway and some interesting bridge crossings. Well-shaded and all-but deserted, with some interesting trail markers on the local history. I had no problem using my thin-tired road bike, and I would go back to explore more.
I rode from the 70 and 695 trail head to Inner Harbor and back. I did not take the southern section from Inner Harbor. Not A bad ride but I did it on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and no one was on it. The last few miles are on city streets. They were pretty empty as well. It is all down hill into the city, so it is all up hill going back. They use small marks painted on the street to guide you so you have to keep an eye out for them. You are in the city and some of the areas might scare some people. Don't count on crowds on the trail for protection you are alone. I had no problems, and never had any issues. I was alone, but having a buddy might not be a bad idea. The park portion is very nice and it is hard to believe you are in the city.
I'd like to rate this higher than two stars, and understand the potential perils of biking in an urban area. I'm conflicted and bothered by this trail though. I rode it a few times several years back, and the main problem then was that the signage was poor. The good news is that they fixed that problem, the bad news is they ignored everything else.
I rode the trail recently and there were a multitude of problems. This is unfortunate, because the trail passes through some very scenic areas. I may try it again sometime, but it will be with considerable hesitation.
The pavement has been neglected and now there are places where it has buckled badly, and can rattle your bones or worse. If you ride here, I'd recommend a hybrid or at least wheels with some rubber. There is also a short stretch that is not paved, is much worse than I remember it, and in my view, is not really passable on a road bike. There is a lot of debris also, some trash, but mainly tree limbs and such that are not cleared.
My safety was a concern as well. The trail used to be patrolled (and maintained) with some regularity. I think that idea has been abandoned now, and I saw no evidence of any sort of county or municipal presence. What I did see were groups of tough-looking kids that blocked most of the path as I went by. Scared? Nervous? Not too bad; there were walkers with dogs and a few other bikers that balanced things out. I'm in my early 60s, but haven't lost all of my nerve or may taste for a little adventure. That is until I looked about 100 yards in the distance and saw (I swear to you) what I was pretty sure were two people fornicating. Right out in the open along the side of the trail, not off in the woods where I would have gone, assuming that I could have found anyone willing to go along with such a thing. There was no way to turn around and no choice but for me to speed by them. They hardly seemed to notice me as I went by. I went as fast as I could the rest of the way and didn't stop again.
Two stars; gee. Give it one more maybe, the parkland and creek are beautiful in spots and there are places where you can't believe you are in the middle of Baltimore City. This could be a fantastic trail one day, but oh boy, be careful here.
My wife (hybrid) and I (road) road from Winan's Meadows to Carroll Park yesterday and it was a great ride. The trail is a mix of mostly paved with some hard-packed, relatively smooth dirt/gravel. The little painted trail markers and accurate signage facilitated staying on the trail while negotiating some city streets. The few hard uphills were short in distance. I'd recommend this trail to the novice and beyond.
We got on this trail from the Carroll Park area. It is quite urban for the first couple of miles, and there are a few hills which will be challenging for beginners. But the later part is mostly flat or rolling. This trail has several road crossings, and the cars do not even think about stopping. Be very careful at these intersections! The trail is also not very clearly marked in some spots, so you do have to look around for the signs to figure out which way to go. After about 3-4 miles, the trail gets nicer, more rustic and wooded. There are some nice views along the river despite the occasional graffiti and plastic bottles floating. There is a packed gravel section we followed on the way back which was a bit bumpy for a road bike, but manageable. There are bathrooms & a water fountain at Winans Way which was a good point for a break. It was a nice enough trail, but I probably wouldn't make a special trip to go back.
My free membership bike club, the C3 Riders (www.orgsites.com/va/c3), (shameless plug) rode the GF trail for the first time Saturday (9/19). We used hybrids. Everyone had a great ride, and I personally was nearly delirious with how much I enjoyed the ride. The incredible scenery, the history and ruins along the entire length, the challenge of some hills in balance with pleasant relatively flat stretches, the overall condition of the paved and unpaved path, the intelligent switchbacking on steep descents/climbs, how it travels through recreational parks (for activity watching) and how it ends right into the waterfront area...I cannot say enough. Best ride I've had this year, hands down! The only thing that surprises me is how underused it was that day. But we're happy it was.
The only downside was in two spots where there were fallen tree limbs partially blocking the path. As for the criticism about how the trail is marked, yes, I understand the disappointment of others, but exploring the trail branch-offs is equally cool as far as I am concerned. The crossing through Frederick Rd. was okay -- a little narrow on the sidewalks, but at no time did anything seem sketchy, and that was over and done with quickly.
The whole ride is an adventure that is never boring. I highly recommend it.
I have ridden on parts of the trail which get very dark because there is no lighting. Like the previous writer, I have never felt threaten on the trail. My fears are more about getting lost because sometimes the signage is not clear and hitting a pothole or obstruction when it gets dark at night. Even riding through the neighborhoods which generally aren't considered the best around is fine. I am a female and I have never been scared on the streets there.
The trail is trashy is some areas and the stream obviously polluted. I really get annoyed about people not being careful with their waste.
I rode this trail on July 6, 2009. I started at the trail head off Franklintown Road with the Inner Harbor being my midpoint destination. I printed out the tail map since this was my first time. The trail is not clearly marked for a person riding the trail for the first time. I ride a hybrid Trek so the upper portion that was more suited to mountain bikes than road bikes was not a real problem. There are various places in this off road section that would be muddy following a hard rain. The middle portion of the ride follows a stream mostly downhill. Actually, from where I started it was almost entirely downhill. (Means the ride home is uphill :)). I lost the trail at Fredrick Ave where the trail meets the street. There were no signs (or I did not see them) directing to the next stretch of the trail. The map I printed was confusing as well. Looking at it today on my computer in my office, it makes perfect sense... I went in several different directions looking to pick up the trail and just gave up and followed my way to Pratt and on into the Inner Harbor. I did not ride the Inner Harbor loop so I can't say if there were any signs. I did not feel comfortable riding back on the trail dues to the lateness of the day and the neighborhoods that it passed through. I elected to stay on the streets and find my way back to the trail head. In retrospect, at no time was I threatened or did I feel threatened while on the trail. There simply was no one else on the trail! It was after 7 pm and sundown was around 8 pm so lighting on the trail was diminishing quickly. The ride on the streets went though many neighbors where maybe I did not belong. The ride would have been more fun for me if the trail had better signage or I traveled with either a group or somebody else that knew the trail. It was not a straight, can't get lost rail trail. I might consider this again if I find myself in Baltimore with my bike and have an earlier start.
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