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Best Maryland trails for first-timers?

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  • Best Maryland trails for first-timers?

    Hey all!

    A friend and I have finally "set a date" to take our horses out to trail ride somewhere together (two horses, two trucks, and a horse trailer after the first time it was ever discussed...)

    Problem is, I have never trailered anywhere to go riding, and my friend has only with experienced people leading the group. We're located in Baltimore County, Maryland but have considered driving up to Sweet Air, or even Fair Hill...so that sort of distance isn't an issue. How well marked are the trails? Do the run in loops? How helpful are the maps? Any suggestions on what to bring? Not looking to make this a marathon, but a leisurely couple hours would be great

    Both horses are pretty level headed, one is barefoot and one is shod all the way around, so would prefer not very rocky trails.


  • #2
    Sweet Air has loops and is fairly well marked, with a lot of people there on weekends if you feel lost. Fair Hill is great for shoeless horse, but a lot of area, personally I think it is complicated to go there alone without someone familiar with the area. Unless maybe you have a GPS system.

    Morgan Run is a Carroll County Park with lots of loops that basically follow the tree lines with some other trails running crosswise (think of a hand print, thats what the overall layout is like.

    Schooly Mill Park is in Howard County, about a 2 hour loop, hard to get lost.

    Take a 5 gallon container of water and fly spray.
    There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


    • #3
      I find that Patapsco (McKeldin area), Liberty Reservoir, and Loch Raven are all pretty hilly, and somewhat to moderately rocky. In case you are intersted, here are my observations:

      Patapsco state park, McKeldin Area is horse friendly and the trails are well marked with blazes. You can buy a trail map from the rangers. It is not too far from Rt. 70 or Towson. $2 per vehicle. You will run into mountain bikers, hikers, and walkers. There are easy to follow loops. I don't think it is too rocky but that is subjective.

      Liberty Reservoir is nice as well. I've seen horse trailers parked along Deer Park Road. The trails are great. Note that Deer Park Road is partially closed and you can only get to the trails if you come from the Gamber Rd side. Deer Park Rd is not busy in this area b/c the bridge is closed so the only traffice is people using the park. I've seen mountain bikes and hikers, but not as many bikes as Patapsco or Loch Raven. I don't think it is marked, but if you stick to fire trails at first you shouldn't get lost.

      Loch Raven Reservoir is fun too, but I don't know where you'd park though. I used to ride off the farm right into the park. Mainly fire trails, not marked but you can find maps online. I think I have a topo of Loch Raven if you need a map. There are some loops, but not many but you can ride for many hours. Pretty rocky.

      Morgan Run is in Carroll County. It is not well marked in my opinion and I didn't really care for it. There aren't mountain bikers though, so if you had a young horse it is a great first time trail area since it is not very busy. It is not very rocky but I haven't gone very far on it.


      • #4
        Some parts of the Patapsco trails get pretty rocky (my horse doesn't have a problem going barefoot on them but we have other horses in our group that get shod on the fronts before trail riding season starts). They're definitely very well marked and easy to follow (though I've never led through there, I've always gone with someone who knows where they're going) and have very nice scenery.

        The Patuxent park trails are not as hilly or rocky but still pretty and wooded and I get the feeling they're not quite as traveled as Patapsco. We usually ride out from the parking area off of Annapolis Rock Road when we go there.

        I've walked my dog at Schooley Mill and the trails are very nice, wide, and easy to follow. You're probably very likely to run into dogs, hikers, and bikers there since it's a fairly well-traveled multi-use park. Schooley Mill also has a cross country course if you're at all interested in introducing your horse to the jumps there, and a nice large outdoor ring (available on a first-come-first-served basis...unless it's reserved for a show).

        If you're in to driving, you might even want to drive up to Gettysburg. The horse trails there are nice (just don't go if it's been wet recently or if you do, don't ride up into the wooded areas around Little/Big Round Top as they get fairly mucky but the rest of the trails we were on were nice and flat and dry) and it's a cool place to ride if you're at all interested in history/the Civil War.
        The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
        Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.


        • #5
          Oh, there's also trails at the Carroll County Equestrian Center. I'm given to understand they're pretty easy to follow (it's essentially a big loop in the woods around the open space for the rings/xc jumps). The little I've been on it looks pretty. Even if the gate to the center is closed, I'm told you can park beside it (there's a parking area) and ride your horse in.
          The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
          Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.


          • #6
            There is one trail at Fair Hill that is about a 2 mile loop - the red trail maybe? There is a small parking lot you head out from, it is pretty flat and well marked, I would recommend taking the loop counter-clockwise. There are some big fields right by the parking for some galloping if you want to have a little fun. And if things go well, you can do the loop again, or head home and consider your first outing a success, and plan for something longer next time. Just be warned that at Fair Hill you will have to cross a bridge on most trails, and you'll have to cross water as well. Sweet Air has water crossings too.

            You can buy maps of Fair Hill and I think Sweet Air and I would definitely recommend that in advance, take a look at the map and maybe even take it with you.

            Have fun! I miss the Maryland trails so much!!


            • #7
              While I love Fair Hill (and live right by it, so I ride it a lot) I would not recommend it to someone who was doing their first out-and-about ride. It is not well marked at all and you can wander for hours if you don't know where you are going. It is however got nice footing for the majority of it.

              Gunpowder is fairly well marked and good footing.
              Patapsco is nice and much better marked than Fair Hill.
              Also, Susquehanna in Harford County- good loops, well marked, not too rocky- but be sure you are ready for some major hill-age
              "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
              So you might as well have a good time"


              • #8
                I love Woodstock:


                And here's a listing of all Maryland trails where you can ride:

                Katie Ruppel & Yellow Rose Eventing *Website* & *Facebook*
                Email for Questions/Clinics/Sponsorship


                • Original Poster

                  You guys are great! Thanks, I have a bunch of reading to do now Any other advice keep them comin'

                  Not so worried about my horse...he's quite level headed, we event, so he's rather fit, and he hacks out a lot, so used to bikes and hikers and is really good for the little kids who want to come pat him on the nose, doesn't love mucky small water crossings and just jumps them but he does go, and fine with bigger water crossings and bridges...the other horse is younger and less reliable but hoping she'll go if mine does.

                  No GPS onboard, I wish!
                  Last edited by hopashore1; May. 26, 2010, 09:49 PM.


                  • #10
                    I like Morgan Run. We haven't been there this year, but last year, the trails were well mowed and wide. It is hard to get lost there because you park in a large lot up on top of the hill.


                    • #11
                      of course you must check out the TROT website, which lists parks and has some GPS marked maps of trails (most helpful):


                      I like also the trails at Patuxent River park off Annapolis Rock Rd in Woodbine/Damascus.

                      We are doing a 6 June ride there with the Mt Airy Saddle Pals
                      Appy Trails,
                      Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
                      member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org


                      • Original Poster

                        Just thought I'd update...thanks everyone for the suggestions!

                        Ended up going to Susquehanna State Park and it was lovely! We managed to pick the hottest day of the year so far (about par for course with us...) but once we got out of the direct sunlight it actually was a a lot cooler. We had a blast, and I think I'm hooked...I'd never trailered out anywhere to go trail riding before but I'd do it again in a heartbeat!