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Patapsco Valley State Park Is the Best Summer Day Trip


Patapsco Valley State Park

Cascade Falls at Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park is the best summer day trip because there’s just so much to do. The Park extends along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, encompassing 16,043 acres and eight developed recreational areas. While you’re there, you’ll have dozens of opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, horseback and mountain bike trails, as well as picnicking.

The trails and scenery have put Patapsco Valley State Park on the national map, though. With 170 miles of trails—70 of those miles are maintained trails—you’ll never run out of hiking or multi-use trails to explore.

Heritage Sites

The Patapsco Valley State Park preserves precious local natural landscapes and creatures, true, but it also protects numerous historic sites with deep roots in the region’s past. Here are just a few of the most popular historic sites located within the park that you can visit…

The Thomas Viaduct : Completed in 1835, this is the world’s largest multiple arched stone railroad bridge with an arc. You can see the viaduct in the Avalon Area of Patapsco Valley State Park

Old Gun Road Stone Arch Bridge : Since colonial times, this bridge has supplied water power to the Dorsey Forge. George Washington reportedly laid out Gun Road to move guns for the American Revolution produced at the Dorsey Forge.

The Swinging Bridge : Spanning the Patapsco at Orange Grove, 1.6 miles northwest of Avalon, past suspension foot bridges at this location enabled residents of the Orange Grove mill town to cross the river to Baltimore.

Bloede’s Dam : Believed to be the world’s first submerged electrical generating plant that was housed under water inside the shell of the dam. This unique hydroelectric dam is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue on the Park Rd., parking in the Orange Grove area, and then hike along old River Rd. trail to the Dam.

What Else to Do

At Patapsco Valley State Park, there are all the requisite outdoor fun activities you’d expect from a day outdoors: paddling and tubing, picnicking, fishing, swimming—with the added bonus of tons of free programs.

This month, programs include Story Hour (every Wednesday at 11 for kids 10 and under); the history of the Orange Grove Mill, told while touring the site; an Old Time/Americana Music Jam; A Pollinator Party, celebrating birds, butterflies, bees and more;  and Feathered Friends Up Close, where you can see one of the park’s feathered friends up close with one of the park’s Naturalists.

You can learn more about upcoming programs and see a full list of options for places to go and things to do on the Patapsco Valley State Park website.


We’d love to host your visit to the region here at The Wayside Inn. Located in historic Ellicott City, we’re convenient to all of the region’s best city centers—Washington DC, Baltimore, Annapolis—but we’re a wonderful city in our own right. Plus, you won’t find a better experience of the region’s past meeting the present than here in Ellicott City. Check out our blog for weekly ideas on what to see and do. And don’t forget to download our free area vacation guide to help plan your stay!