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When complete, the Jones Falls Trail will extend 10 miles between Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the Mount Washington Light Rail Station.
Currently, a paved, off-road section runs from Cylburn Arboretum south to Penn Station. A highlight of the journey is passage through Druid Hill Park, which offers a natural escape from city life. The park houses the Baltimore Zoo, the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens, and many other historical structures.
After exiting the southeastern side of the park, the character of the trail's surroundings becomes more urban. Along the way, the Baltimore Street Car Museum is a worthwhile stop.
The on-road portion of the trail begins past Penn Station and whisks you south to the Inner Harbor, a major tourist destination with restaurants, shops, museums and other attractions. Navigating this section of the trail can be somewhat tricky; look for painted green trail markings along the ground to help guide you. Hop on the Gwynns Falls Trail at the Inner Harbor to extend your trek through southwest Baltimore.
Just before the Inner Harbor, you'll pass the Phoenix Shot Tower, a red brick pillar built in 1828 that stands more than 200 feet above downtown. Molten lead was once dropped from its top into a vat of cold water at the bottom to produce shot for pistols, rifles and other weapons. It's one of only a handful of similar buildings around the country.
Construction of the trail's northern segment, from Cylburn Arboretum to Mount Washington, is set to begin in 2014. The route will include new bridges over Northern Parkway, wetlands and streams.
The Jones Falls Trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a growing network of multi-use trails across 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Street parking is available in Druid Hill Park, across from Rawlings Conservatory (3100 Swann Drive). The trail is also accessible from the city's subway system; several stations are either adjacent to the trail or just a few blocks away.
First and foremost if you start this trail from the inner harbor pace yourself as you will be riding mostly uphill until it's end which is 10 miles one way. The first couple miles go through some urban and less fortunate areas of the city. (Within the first two miles there were probably at least 15 tents along the trail belonging to homeless individuals. Also, there are many intersections in the beginning where you will have to stop and wait on corners where people hang out and some even "nod" out as this is a part of the city where addiction is prevalent. These people will most likely not bother anyone but they can sense uneasy people and make comments so my advice is don't go if these situations make you uncomfortable. As far as the rest of the trail it is a beautiful, uphill, and secluded ride going past the zoo and stopping not too far after. The uphill ride is well worth it as the ride back you barely have to pedal and have a constant breeze to cool your already soaked body. Don't worry about bringing extra water as you will need it and there are plenty of trash cans along the way to drop off the extra weight .
Paved and fairly scenic area along Falls Road and Druid Hill Park.
If you are planning to ride this trail (which I recommend generally) keep in mind that this is an urban trail, with its share of urban issues. Starting from the inner harbor, the trail follows mostly sidewalks when getting through downtown. There are numerous road crossings, as well as driveways, parking lot entrances, and many other places where you need to be very careful. Though the trail is pretty well marked, I still got off it several times due to concentrating on what was going on around me. It passes through some inner city neighborhoods where I did not want to get lost, and my GPS was helpful.
Once you are beyond downtown, things do improve. The ride becomes more relaxed and more scenic. Druid Hill Park is very nice and I like riding there. There are some somewhat challenging hills along the way, but this should still be manageable for all but novice riders. The asphalt sections in the park are in good shape and easy to maneuver, and riding on the roads there is fine as well. It can get crowded, but the cars here are accustomed to seeing bicyclists. There may be a lot of people walking on the trail as well.
It's somewhat difficult to evaluate a trail like this one. If you are not comfortable negotiating a considerable amount of car traffic, this ride might not be for you. Although I do not like to admit this, the drivers in Baltimore are notoriously inept, discourteous, or both. I say this with a bit of authority; I've been a Baltimore driver myself for over 25 years. While there are many exceptions to this caveat, it would be a mistake for you to assume any deference from a motorist in the city. You cannot take it on faith that they will yield the right of way to you, and they will turn in front of you either because they did not notice you, or more likely did not give a you know what.
This is in sharp contrast to some of the trails I have done in suburban areas of Baltimore, where motorists routinely stop at trail intersections to let you pass safely (think Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, or the NCR Trail). But in and around the Inner Harbor and downtown areas, they are impatient to reach their destinations, and I think really believe that you as a bicyclist do not belong there making it more difficult for them to do that.
Despite this unfortunate reality, I still recommend riding this trail and will do it again myself. I'm glad that the city has been making at least reasonable attempts to make bicycling in the city more viable, and I am looking forward to when this trail is completed in its entirety, which I believe will be in 2016.
We started the JF Trail from downtown, where it is a well marked bike lane near the inner harbor. We rode the trail up to the Baltimore Farmer's market where we stopped for breakfast (Every Sunday AM from April to November). We then rode along the trail onto Falls Road, up the switch-back and up into Druid Hill Park. The view of Baltimore from the reservoir was spectacular, as we could see all the way to the Key Bridge to the south-east. We rode the trail around the park, stopping briefly to enjoy the outdoor gardens of the Botanical Garden at park. (For $5 a person, you can go inside the Greenhouse where many wonderful plants are on exhibit.) We continued around past the zoo, and into the woods which is my favorite part of the trail. The trail comes out into Woodberry, and is pretty well marked going past the old mill. The trail used to dead end here at the light rail tracks, but recently a new path was opened that continues the trail north past some beautiful old stone houses and along the banks of the Jones Falls up to Northern Parkway. Crossing at the intersection, the most challenging part of the trail lies ahead as it is the steepest continuous grade as you come out of the valley. The trail remains in the wooded area until coming out in the Coldspring neighborhood and ending (for now) at the gates of the Cylburn Arboretum. We turned around and headed home, enjoying a majority downhill path for the rest of the way. The trail is well marked throughout, and treats the participant to a scenic tour of the city.
Of all the trails I've been on, this is by far, the least cycle friendly one to date. The trail is broken up with little to no signage to direct first timers. There were a two occasions I was only able to find my way back onto the trail by following other cyclist or I would've been completely turned around. Parts of the road is is in dire need of repair as well as covered in branches sticks rocks and other debris. If I knew this up front I'd make sure I had a tire repair kit. I imagine there are plenty of ruptured tire incidents along the way.
While I appreciated the nostalgia of riding through old neighborhoods along the newly renovated contemporary neighborhoods and the art flair, there was too much congestion along with a lot of stop and go and obstacles to constantly slow one down throughout the trail.
The trail runs by the zoo so there is a lot of foot, stroller and toddler traffic to watch for. You will eventually enter Druid park where there is 1.5 mile loop. This is the only place where I actually had any sort continuity in my ride and even then, parts of it was narrow and congested with foot and stroller traffic.
This trail is acceptable if you're looking for a place to run or walk. For cycling, your best bet is to travel a little further to the surrounding counties, such as Allegany, Ann Arundel and Montgomery. You will find several nice cycle friendly trails out there. Baltimore in general, has some catching up to do.
This was my first ride of the season and I'm disappointed that it was such a bust.
The Jones Falls Trail (JFT)gets off to a little bit of a iffy start if you start in Baltimore's Inner harbor, but hang with it, it gets better and better as you bike up the valley on the trail. The trail loops around the 750 acre Druid Hill Park and the scenery is very interesting with monuments, old structures, monuments, a reservoir, and rolling woodlands. It also passes the Maryland Zoo and the Rawlings Conservatory. The trail also has nice views of the Jones Falls river where many herons live.
The trails winds out of Druid Hill Park into Woodberry (an old Mill village with restored buildings) The trail heads north from here passing old stone houses, gardens, and back into the woods.
After crossing Cold Spring Avenue, the trail goes up hill through the woods into a Coldspring community, a modernist planned community and around the Cylburn Arboretum that has a great collection of gardens, a nature center, and an interesting old mansion.
The Jones Falls Trail parallels the light rail tracks for about half the way, so if you want to, you can ride the light rail with your bike for part of the trip.
See my earlier article. The northern section of this trail is still under construction. By that, I mean, not even started yet!
DO NOT waste 40 mins cycling around looking for it like I did.
We tried to hook up with this trail after arriving in downtown Baltimore from the Gwynn Falls Trail. It was not easy and there is some fairly unpleasant cycling from downtown to the start. After several mis-starts, we eventually found it.
It's a nice trail especially as you get further away from the city.
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