Cascade Falls Trail in Patapsco state park
Looking to get the kids interested in hiking and the outdoors? Want to try to coax them into being a bit more adventurous? One option to try is the Cascade Falls Trail in Patapsco state park. (http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/patapscoavalon.aspx)
How to Get There
The hike is in the Orange Grove area of Patapsco state park, just off Route 1 in Halethorpe (From I-95 take I-195 to Rt. 1 (Exit 3) toward Elkridge to South St. Turn right. Park entrance is on the left.) There is a fee of $3 per adult to get in, so keep that in mind. Once you’re in, Turn left at the first intersection and take that road until the end. There is a large parking lot and restrooms.
The Swinging Bridge
One of the first attractions you’ll notice across from the restrooms is the swinging bridge. The website for Patapsco described the swinging bridge:
The Swinging Bridge spans the Patapsco at Orange Grove, 1.6 miles northwest of Avalon following the Park Rd. in Howard County beyond shelters 104 and 105. Prior suspension foot bridges at this location enabled residents of the Orange Grove mill town to cross the river to Baltimore County to work in the five stories high Orange Grove Flour Mill of the C.A. Gambrill Manufacturing Company. This mill burned May 1, 1905. Cross the bridge to discover ruins of this large mill site that extended from the railroad tracks to the Swinging Bridge abutment. Orange Grove was sold in white bags whose tops were string tied and whose labels proclaimed “Patapsco Superlative Flour.”
My kids loved crossing the bridge and checking out the ruins. Be aware that above the ruins is an active set of train tracks, so don’t let them run off.
The Hiking Begins
After letting them explore the bridge, we cross back over the street and go on the hike. The trailhead is just a few steps from the restrooms, and heads up a hill. This hike is great for kids – it will push them a little bit, but isn’t hard. And, it has a surprise for the kids, especially on a hot day – waterfalls you can stand under and swim around. There is some uphill/downhill involved, but nothing my three year old hasn’t been able to do while holding my hand. The map for the Cascade Falls Trail and other trails in this section is at http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/Patapsco_Avalonmap.pdf
The Cove and Hidden Waterfall
As I mentioned, you start off going up hill, then it evens out. Shortly, you will see an area to the left that descends to a stream. I have taken my kids to explore, and they always find interesting things. I let them cross the stream, and there is a ‘secret’ waterfall that you can only see after crossing. You can walk into the cove (it’s too shallow to call a proper cave), and can stand under the small waterfall and cool off.
The Cascade Falls
Getting back to the main trail, you will see the main attraction – Cascade Falls. This is a larger waterfall than the ones at the previous stop, and is a place that can get the kids excited to be outside. The waterfall is completely accessible – there is a small pool around it, and at the deepest it is just under 3 feet. Both my kids love wading in and swimming around, and so far I have convinced my son to go all the way out to touch the falls.
It is fun, and so it gets crowded. Since it is so accessible, it is also a popular place for photo shoots – everything from selfies, to people like me snapping pictures of the kids while daring them to push themselves, to full on model shoots in swimwear. Also, chances are, your kids will get wet, even if they don’t mean to. You have to cross some rocks to get through the pool, and most kids aren’t able to do it themselves and stay dry. We always bring a set of water shoes for them to wear from this point on. Also, keep an extra set of clothes in the car. Even if they don’t mean to get wet, there is a good chance they will!
When we do this hike, we normally don’t let them play in the water yet. We have them push through to do the hike first, and stop here on the way back. We continue on the trail, which follows a stream. Once we have gone far enough, we’ll stop for a picnic lunch or snack, then make our way back. There is a smaller waterfall that isn’t as crowded that we usually hit along the way to break up the hike, then head to the big falls to let them play for a while.
Where do you like to take the kids for a hike? Let us know!