Self-Guided Opportunities
Location Gunpowder Falls State Park, Gunpowder South Trail
Hereford Area, York Road to Big Falls Road, 410-592-2897
Trail Access Parking area and trailhead are on York Road. From I-83, take exit 27 on Mount Carmel Road heading east. Turn left heading north on York Road for 1.7 miles. The parking area is on the left before crossing the Big Gunpowder Falls. The Gunpowder South Trail has white blazes and begins about 40 yards from the river's edge on the east side of York Road across an open field (opposite the parking lot).
Distance 5.1 mile circuit including Gunpowder South Trail and the Gunpowder North Trail.
Time 3-4 hours
Trail Trail is a single-track dirt path that parallels the Big Gunpowder Falls stream valley through level floodplains and sloping terrain. The trail crosses streams and at times heads up ridges to the upland away from the river.
Skill Level Moderate difficulty
Suitable For Families? Yes, with older children
Hazards/Restrictions No bicycles or motorized vehicles in wildlands. Pets must be on a leash. 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. Hereford High School uses some of the trails on the south side of the river for cross-country practice in the spring. Be aware of trail runners.
Potable Water Carry in your own water for the duration of the hike.
Natural Features The Big Gunpowder Falls flows through calm sections and a series of bouldery rapids through hard, erosion-resistant mica schist rock.
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. This section of the stream valley is particularly attractive and offers a view of Raven Rock Falls, a cascade in a side ravine.
Historic/Cultural Features None
Guiding Local mountain clubs and outing clubs lead hikes in this area. Check the park's calendar of events for wildland hikes that are led on this trail.
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 follows the course of the Big Gunpowder Falls in the scenic Hereford Wildlands. The twists and turns of the river in this section are quite attractive, showing calm water sections and exciting riffles, chutes and boulder gardens. This hike passes by a cascade called Raven Rock Falls, which joins the Big Gunpowder from a side stream. The trail skirts wooded bluffs, rock outcrops and the unpredictable meandering and dramatic turns of the Big Gunpowder Falls, providing constant variety along the walk. The trail sometimes follows the river's bank and at other times climbs high above the river. Beaver activity is plentiful. Numerous gnawed and felled trees are found along the trail.

This hike within the Hereford Wildlands begins along the Big Gunpowder Falls' flood plain, on the blue-blazed Big Gunpowder North Trail. From the parking area on York Road, carefully cross the bridge over the Big Gunpowder Falls to reach the north side of the river. Continue downstream on the blue-blazed trail. The trail eventually descends to the river's edge. After about one mile, Raven Rock Falls will be on your left. After crossing a stream, the trail climbs up a steep slope covered in mountain laurel. It will descend, climb again and eventually zig zag down to the river's edge where it joins a gravel road. The gravel road will lead to Big Falls Road. Cross the bridge at Big Falls Road and turn upstream onto the white-blazed Gunpowder South Trail. The trail winds its way back to York Road for two miles, sometimes next to the river's edge and sometimes climbing high out of the flood plain.

  • Park Trail Map available at park headquarters
  • The Baltimore Trail Book (Suzanne Meyer Mittenthal)
  • Country Walks Near Baltimore (Alan Fisher)
  • 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