Self-Guided Opportunities
 
Hike
Location Gunpowder Falls State Park, Panther Branch Trail
Hereford Area, 410-592-2897
Trail Access Parking area and trailhead are on York Road. From I-83, take exit 27 onto 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 4.2 mile circuit including Gunpowder South Trail and the Panther Branch Trail.
Time 3 hours
Trail Trail is mostly a single-track dirt path up ridges and down stream valleys with moderate hills. Some sections are on double-track trails following the course of old roadways.
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. Hereford High School uses this trail for cross-country practice in the spring. Be aware of trail runners. Many renegade trails and old roads cross the Panther Branch Trail. Carefully follow the blue blazes to avoid getting lost.
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. The shaded and scenic Panther Branch stream creates a valley that bisects the high plateaus surrounding the Big Gunpowder Falls. The stream is said to have been named for a panther that lived in a cave in the area long ago. The trail also crosses a pine plantation and fields with open views.
Historic/Cultural Features The scenic Panther Branch stream valley has remains of several mill wheel pits, earth dams and fieldstone buildings. These old stone foundations may be the ruins of a gristmill and gunpowder mill that blew up on July 7, 1874.
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 within the Hereford Wildlands begins along the Big Gunpowder Falls' flood plain, on the white-blazed Gunpowder South Trail where one sees scenic views of riffles and bends in the river. Beaver activity is plentiful. Numerous gnawed and felled trees will be found along the trail. Look for Raven Rock Falls on a tributary on the opposite side of the Big Gunpowder Falls about 0.9 miles from York Road. The trail eventually climbs some slopes alongside the river. After two miles of travel on the Gunpowder South Trail, turn right onto the blue-blazed Panther Branch Trail. Then climb over a ridge and follow the scenic Panther Branch upstream out of the Big Gunpowder Falls' river valley on this trail.


The stream is said to be named for a panther that lived in a cave in the area long ago. Panther Branch stream valley has the remains of several mill wheel pits, earth dams and fieldstone buildings. A careful eye will find some remnants of these former settlements. These old stone foundations may be the ruins of a gristmill and gunpowder mill that blew up on July 7, 1874.


Once the trail has climbed up the majority of the Panther Branch drainage, the trail turns right, continues uphill beside a brook, crosses a field, a patch of woods, another field and a dirt road, all the while following the blue blazes. On the other side of the road, the trail passes through a hedgerow and turns right onto another road. Follow this past a pine plantation and enter an area with hardwoods. Then turn right on another road, then right again after passing through a hedgerow, carefully following the blazes. The trail reaches the top of the Sandy Lane Trail. Avoid the fire lane that bears slightly left here, and make a sharp left, following the path with blue markers through a pine plantation. The trail will cross a brook and descend to join the Gunpowder South Trail near York Road.


Resources
  • 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