Self-Guided Opportunities
Location Gunpowder Falls State Park, Northern Central Railroad Trail, now known as the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail
Hereford Area, 410-592-2897
Trail Access Parking areas are located along many roads that cross the rail trail. Monkton and Paper Mill roads are the most crowded areas. Park at Freeland or White Hall to avoid crowds. To start at the southern end of the trail, nearest the bike rental, take I-83 north to exit 20 for Hunt Valley. Turn right onto York Road and left onto Ashland Road. A small parking area is located where Ashland Road crosses the trail.
Distance 7.5 miles to Monkton Trail Station
19.7 miles to the Pennsylvania state line
41 miles to York, Pennsylvania (one way)
Trail users hike as far as their fitness level and interest allow and return via the same route.
Time 1 hour to all day, depending on the chosen length of the trip.
Trail This former railroad bed is a double-track crushed stone surface that is hard-packed and ADA accessible. The trail has a gentle one percent grade. The trail begins in Ashland and continues to York, Pennsylvania. In the lower section, it follows the course of the Big Gunpowder Falls.
Skill Level Easy
Suitable For Families? Yes
Hazards/Restrictions No motorized vehicles. Pets must be on a leash. Be aware of bike riders and horseback riders sharing the trail.
Potable Water Water is available at Sparks, Freeland and Monkton year-round.
Natural Features In the southern end, the trail follows the Big Gunpowder Falls and has views of pastoral settings and farm fields. It passes by wetlands with opportunities to listen to spring peepers (a tiny frog) and other amphibian calls. Above Monkton, the topography creates narrow passages where the trail passes through rock outcrops with cool springs and abundant ferns. Wildflowers decorate the sides of the trail in open areas. A rapids area on the river creates variety in the scenery. In the northern end, a wetland near Beetree Run is home to an active beaver lodge (they move their lodge along the trail yearly).
Historic/Cultural Features This trail is a former railroad bed for the Northern Central Railroad (c. 1840) that once transported milk from local farmers into the city of Baltimore. President Lincoln traveled on it to deliver the Gettysburg Address. The rail line later served as a commuter train until the early 1970's when Hurricane Agnes destroyed the railroad. The trail visits quaint farm towns and passes by historic train stations at Monkton, Maryland and Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania.

The rail trail was officially renamed the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail in 2007, after Maryland's third Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary, who was the major driving force in developing this multi-use recreational trail.
Guiding Park naturalists provide guided tours throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons. Check at Monkton Station for a schedule of events.
Camping Organized youth group camping is available nearby at Camp Wood. Call the park office for reservations, 410-592-2897. A privately owned and operated RV park/campground is located in the Hereford Area for the general public.
Other Points of Interest Monkton Train Station serves as a visitor center and museum for the park. Sparks Bank Nature Center in the southern section of the trail is a hands-on nature center for children ages 3-8. Adults enjoy it too.
Other Accommodations Hotels and motels are located in Hunt Valley.
Service Charges or Permits Youth group camping permit fees only.
Description This easy walk is family-oriented. The hike features natural and cultural history along the trail with scenic views of pastoral land and historic railroad towns. The rail trail is easily accessible from the Baltimore area, and includes restrooms and water at designated locations. Hike through history and look for clues from the days the railroad and milling were active, or enjoy the sights and sounds of nature's wonders along the Big Gunpowder Falls, including wildflowers, ferns, and wetlands teeming with frogs, beavers and other wildlife.

Resources 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