Park entrance is $3 per person (in-state), on the weekends, during peak season (April-October). Cars must park in a small parking lot on the the opposite side of the fields as the guard station. It is then a short hike, along the paved road, to the beginning of the trail. Horse trailers may park in the grass field opposite the basketball courts at the start of the trail.
This loop trail (red) begins as a lackluster gravel road, then curving to the right, back to a clearing in the woods where the property manager cuts and stores wood. Before entering this clearing, you'll see a small path, to the left, on which you'll exit the loop. Entering the clearing, you may start to wonder "how the heck was this trail rated 4 stars?" or "am I allowed to be here?" Hiking through the wood storage area, the road gives way to a trail. Scenes of the human-designed world quickly slip away, replaced with the gravity of serene wilderness as you immediately start a descent into the Patapsco River Valley. The established canopy provides shade for the remainder of the loop, until you return to the beginning.
The trail can make hiking not only manageable, but enjoyable on even a 90-degree day. You may hear gunshots from the nearby Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, Patapsco Range, but even this reminder of the outside world disappears as you continue down toward the river. As the trail flattens, you can see the Patapsco River peeking through the trees. Here, the Switchback Trail
(white) enters from the right and joins the Plantation Trail as you turn left. There is a foot path that has been carved out leading to the river. The water is not deep here, and runs over a variety of different sized rocks and boulders, making for an enjoyable pause and relaxation, or play spot.
As the trail parallels the river, it is flat and easy, perhaps a bit muddy in some spots during certain seasons. It is not long before the inevitable happens...you came down, so you knew, at some point, you would have to go back up! The Plantation Trail (red) turns left, up the hill, and the Switchback Trail
(white) continues on. The initial ascent is steep, then the trail eases a bit. The ending includes another steep section before the grade slowly equalizes, and you exit the loop. Deer, squirrel, and a variety of birds are common along the trail. Plenty of opportunity for plant, fungus, or river photography. Quiet and cool.
White-tail deer, gray squirrel, and several species of songbird. An established canopy of a variety of deciduous trees. Invasive plant species have not yet overtaken the forest floor.