first published in the September 2021 print edition
The Equiery recently conducted a survey asking readers which of the many Maryland parks they have ridden in. There are over 100 Maryland parks with equestrian trails, and we were delighted to see that every park on our list has been visited by at least one person. We also learned about two more parks in Maryland that offer equestrian trails.
Our full list of Maryland public equestrian trails is on page 21. Here we reveal our readers’ top 10 most popular parks.
We generated our list of 104 public parks from the Maryland Horse Industry Board’s “Maryland Horse Trails” guide, which was last updated in 2014. To that list we added King’s Landing Park in Calvert County and the Agricultural History Farm Park in Montgomery County based on survey input, bringing our master list of public equestrian trails in Maryland to 106 parks.
The majority of the people who responded to our survey were from Carroll County (16.8%), followed by Montgomery County (15.8%) and Harford County (9.9%). We also had seven respondents who are not Maryland residents but who nevertheless enjoy our trail system.
We asked participants for additional comments about their trail riding experiences in Maryland public parks. Responses varied but many of them involved loose dogs and congestion with hikers and people on bikes. Many of these trails are multi-use trails. Our “Trail Etiquette and Safety Guidelines” are on page 24, and we hope they will help equestrians navigate the do’s and don’ts of riding on multi-use trails.
Our survey respondents also expressed surprise at how many equestrian trails we have. We hope this issue of The Equiery will help spread the word.
Top 10 Parks for Trail Riding
#1 Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area
Almost half of our survey respondents have ridden at Fair Hill, making it the top pick on our public trails list. Fair Hill offers 80-miles of trails on over 5,656 acres of preserved land in Cecil County. The park is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and offers camping sites, overnight stabling, rest rooms with showers, and electric hook up.
Fair Hill is also home to the Cecil County Fair, horse trials, horse shows, steeplechase races, and for the first time next month, the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill three-day event.
#2 Patapsco Valley State Park/McKeldin Area
The second most popular park was the McKeldin Area of Patapsco Valley State Park, in Carroll County. The McKeldin Area is where the main branch and south branch of the Pataspco River join to create rapids along the south branch that can be seen from the Rapid Trail. The rocks in the McKeldin Falls are Baltimore Gneiss and they carbon date to over 1.1 billion years ago, some of the oldest rock outcroppings in our area.
#3 Morgan Run Natural Environment Area
Morgan Run, also in Carroll County, was the third most popular park in our survey. This park has 11 miles of trails over 1,400 acres, maintained by MHC-member association the Carroll County Equestrian Council. Morgan Run is a trout catch-and-release area, and some areas are restricted wetlands. Please check the park boards at the trail heads before heading out on the trails.
#4 Gunpowder Falls State Park/Graham Equestrian Center
With over 20 miles of trails to explore, this 18,000-acre Baltimore County section of the Gunpowder Falls park, run by Maryland DNR, is number four on our list.
Riders must check in at Graham Equestrian Center (which does not offer trail rides/rentals) in order to use this section of the park.
#5 Gunpowder Falls State Park/Sweet Air
The Sweet Air section of Gunpowder Falls State Park straddles the Little Gunpowder Falls between Harford and Baltimore counties. The Sweet Air area offers 18 miles of trails spread over 1,250 acres of natural terrain.
Horseback riding is allowed on all trails in the park except for the Cody Jean and Red Dot Trails.
#6 Rosaryville State Park
Rosaryville State Park in Prince George’s County is ranked sixth on our survey. The 982-acre park is managed by Maryland DNR and holds 10 miles of trails. Rosaryville is rich in Maryland history with structures dating back to the original Calvert family.
The park is also home to the Marlborough Horse Trials, hunter paces, fox chasing, and other activities.
#7 Little Bennett Regional Park
Little Bennett Regional Park is run by Montgomery County Parks and was the seventh most popular park in our survey. The park is spread over 3,700 acres with over 20 miles of trails. Little Bennett is one of the few parks in Maryland where you can go camping with your horse.
The trails at Little Bennett range from open fields to wooded paths, taking visitors around a lake and past various historic sites. There are multiple trailer parking areas with access to various trail heads.
#8 Patuxent River State Park/Annapolis Rock Road
Annapolis Rock is on the Howard County side of the Patuxent River State Park. The entire Patuxent River State Park crosses between Howard and Montgomery counties and is 6,700 acres with over 25 miles of trails. The Annapolis Rock area is approximately 450 acres of varied terrain, including pine plantings, meadow paths, deciduous woods, scrub and second-growth uplands, a floodplain, a pond, and a beaver-created wetland. According to our survey participants, the Howard County section gets more use with 28 people saying they trail ride there as opposed to 15 in the Montgomery County section.
Trail heads can be found from parking areas at Long Corner, Mullinix Mill, Route 94, Hipsley Mill, Howard Chapel and Route 97 road crossings over the river.
#9 Schooley Mill Park
Schooley Mill Park, run by Howard County Parks, is the smallest park to make our top 10 list with only five miles of trails over 192 acres. Despite its small size, over 25% of our survey respondents reported riding there. The park offers a mix of woodland trails and meadow paths as well as a small cross-country jump course, a sand arena and two smaller schooling rings. The park is home to several horse shows including those organized by Equiery advertiser Potomac Valley Dressage Association.
#10 Patapsco Valley State Park/Avalon Area
The Avalon Area of the Patapsco Valley State Park is located in Baltimore County and rounds out our top 10 list. Maintained by Maryland DNR, the park has 20 miles of trails over 16,043 acres. This section of Patapsco links to Rockburn Branch Park in Howard County, which has an additional 5 miles of trails to explore.
The Avalon area has picnic shelters, a visitor’s center (currently closed for renovation) and access to the Orange Grove area of Patapsco.
For a full list of public parks with equestrian-use trails, click MDTrailsList_Sept2021.