Grist Mill, Sawmill Branch, Santee Branch, Cascade Falls, Ilchester Trail Loop, Patapsco Valley State Park

That’s a mouthful. You can safely shorten it to the Too Damn Much Pavement Loop.

OMG, Parking

In these Covidous times, when people who normally watch TV or go shopping or whatever it is they do when they’re allowed to roam freely are instead showing up en masse on my hiking trails, weekend parking in Patapsco Valley State Park is at a premium. (Seriously, masses, get out of my nature. I was here first, and I have documentation.)

The Too Damn Much Pavement Loop, if you use the AllTrails directions, will suggest that you park by the side of the road in an area plastered with no parking signs. After giving these signs a fair amount of hairy eyeball, we parked elsewhere, and when we passed this area on foot later in the day, an officer of law was on a ticket-writing spree, so I suggest that you, too, park elsewhere. 

Parking Elsewhere

After trying to simultaneously consult Google Maps and AllTrails on our phones, only one of which had service, to see if another more legitimate entrance would put us on the same loop, we headed for the unnamed parking area on South Hilltop Road. You know the one, Patapsco aficionados — it’s on top of a hill, after a long windy bit past an abandoned house, across from a house that might be blue.

Keep driving past the illicit parking spot, fork right up the hill, and the road will deposit you there. Well, on this day, it deposited everyone else there as well, so we kept driving and parked with the other overflowers in a residential neighborhood on the other side of a brief wooded area. A connector trail took us to the Loop of Excessive Pavement.

Total distance: 8.29 mi
Max elevation: 385 ft
Min elevation: 30 ft
Total climbing: 2135 ft
Total descent: -2128 ft
Average speed: 2.78 mi/h
Total time: 04:07:40

I Like Waterfalls

This one is on the Backside of Nuns trail. I’m just not going to comment on that. Pictures!

So Much Road

I was cruising for a trail in the 8-mile range that I hadn’t hiked before. I should have paid more attention. There are two gratuitous sections of pavement in this hike: River Road, and the Grist Mill Trail. River Road is a road. Grist Mill is what the pavement will do to your hip joints. The Hip Grinder is unavoidable — it’s the only path you can use to complete the loop — but you can avoid River Road if you branch left onto Bloede Trail when it appears as an offshoot from Garrett’s Pass. Alas, we were feeling like the sunset might catch us still on the trail, which was longer than AllTrails advertised, so we forsook the Cascade/Garrett’s section in favor of a shortcut along River Road, and yea did we suffer.

The Hip Grinder is also completely exposed, so we baked in the afternoon [December] sun. Fine, it was less like baking and more like squinting. Commitments were uttered to add visors to hiking packs, and then forgotten.

The Beaches of Inner Maryland

The Ilchester section was a new one for me. Patapsco has a beach! You will walk on it! It’s quite nice. Then you climb up above the beach for a while before getting to the road (the site of the Illicit Parking). This is a terrible area in which to have a full bladder as you can’t get back into the trees.


Distance8.2 miles
Elevation Gain663 feet
Moving Time3 hours, 44 minutes
Total Time4 hours, 07 minutes
Average Pace30 minutes per mile / 2.2 mph
Food Duringcaffeinated Clif bars


PackCamelBak Blowfish hydration pack
NavigationPhone 6 with AllTrails Pro
Used Poles?No
ClothesShirt: short sleeve wicking tee


See my current gear, clothing, and thoughts about it on the Hiking Gear page.