Self-Guided Opportunities
Location Gunpowder Falls State Park, Gunpowder South Trail
Hereford Area, Bunker Hill Road to Falls Road, 410-592-2897
Trail Access Parking area and trailhead are on Bunker Hill Road. From I-83, take exit 27 onto Mount Carmel Road heading east. Turn left heading north on York Road. Just north of Hereford High School turn left onto Bunker Hill Road and follow it to the end. The Gunpowder South Trail, blazed white, crosses the road a few yards uphill from the parking lot.
Distance 5.3 miles on Gunpowder South Trail with option to add a 1.4 mile (round-trip) spur on an unmaintained trail to the Prettyboy Dam.
Time 3+ hours
Trail Trail is single-track dirt path over varied and rugged terrain with moderate hills and some rock scrambling.
Skill Level Moderate to strenuous difficulty
Suitable For Families? Yes, with older children
Hazards/Restrictions No bicycles or motorized vehicles in wildlands. Pets must be on a leash. No parking is permitted at the Prettyboy Dam. Be alert for places where land is being undermined by river erosion. Stick to the blazed trail where it veers away from the river to avoid these areas.
Potable Water Water and restrooms are available at Camp Wood near the Bunker Hill trailhead. Carry in your own water for the duration of the hike.
Natural Features Hard, erosion-resistant mica schist rock through which the river flows, creates a series of bouldery rapids in a tight v-shaped gorge.
Habitat for trees is adapted to cool hillsides and floodplains, including river birch, cherries, oaks, hemlocks, mountain laurel, dogwood, spicebush and witch hazel.
Early spring wildflower displays include hepatica, bloodroot, spring beauty, rue anemone and pink ladies slippers. Late summer flowers include goldenrod, asters and woodland sunflowers.
Beaver activity in the river, evidenced by gnawed trees, is common. Numerous brown trout thrive in pools in the cool water.
Historic/Cultural Features The trail passes historic Foster's Mill, now a park-owned private residence on Masemore Road.
Guiding Local mountain clubs and outing clubs lead hikes in this area.
Camping Organized youth group camping is available nearby at Camp Wood. Call the park office for reservations, 410-592-2897. A private recreation park offering camping is located in the Hereford Area.
Other Points of Interest Many other trails are located in the Hereford Wildlands and also surround Prettyboy Reservoir. Flyfishing for trout is a popular activity in the river. Kayakers, canoeists and tubers test their skills in the swift water.
Other Accommodations The Mill Pond Cottage, a quaint park-owned home located on Masemore Road, has been renovated for overnight rental accommodations. Call 410-592-2897. A bed and breakfast is located in Parkton.
Service Charges or Permits Youth group camping permit or overnight rental fees for accommodations only.
Description This hike through a section of the Hereford Wildlands is probably the most scenic area in the Baltimore Region, with characteristics reminiscent of western Maryland. Here the river flows through a narrow steep-sided valley. The trail can be rugged: the v-shaped gorge has no room for a flood plain. The rocky section is very broken, winding atop and between boulders and twisted roots.

Follow the white blazes upstream, crossing the blue-blazed Mingo Forks Trail. Continue towards Masemore Road, crossing Bush Cabin Run, a small stream. Continue to Falls Road. 0.9 miles past Falls Road at the junction of the Highland Trail, the Gunpowder South Trail is no longer well marked. At this point either continue on the unmaintained trail towards Prettyboy Dam, returning by the same path, or turn left onto the blue-blazed Highland Trail for an alternative route back to Bunker Hill Road.

The unmaintained trail to the base of the Prettyboy Dam provides scenery that is especially spectacular. The narrow trail lines the constricted valley, crossing rocky outcrops through thick evergreen vegetation of hemlocks and mountain laurels. This trail leaves the state park and enters city of Baltimore property, belonging to the reservoir. The cool 55 degree water flowing from the base of the dam keeps this narrow gorge refrigerated on the hottest of summer days. The Big Gunpowder Falls provides scenic riffles, chutes and drops.

If you choose to return via the blue-blazed Highland Trail, it rejoins the Gunpowder South Trail in one mile, just prior to Masemore Road. The Highland Trail follows the bluffs above the river gorge and becomes wider and easier to follow than the Gunpowder South Trail. Once the Highland Trail rejoins the Gunpowder South Trail, continue on the Gunpowder South Trail (white blazes) to return to Bunker Hill Road.

  • Park Trail Map available at park headquarters
  • The Baltimore Trail Book (Suzanne Meyer Mittenthal)
  • Hiking, Cycling and Canoeing in Maryland (Bryan MacKay)
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park homepage
Recommended Gear and Safety Tips
  • Small first aid kit
  • Water and a snack
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Adequate footwear
  • Compass
  • Rainwear
  • Check for ticks upon returning