|HIKES IN THE BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON METRO AREA
|PRETTYBOY RESERVOIR and GUNPOWDER FALLS STATE
PARK, HEREFORD AREA
The reservoir was created in 1932 by damming the Gunpowder River. The lake is one of three
reservoirs created for Baltimore City's water supply. The lake and the river downstream from
the dam are surrounded by a wooded area to provide a buffer zone that protects the water
supply from pollution and sedimentation. The buffer zone also provides wildlife habitat and
recreation areas, with hiking trails, picnic areas, fishing, hunting, tubing, rafting, and
The reservoir has many hiking trails around it, but the most popular hiking trails are
downstream from the dam in Gunpowder Falls State Park. Tubing is popular on the river and
there are several "swimming holes" to cool off in the summer. There are picnic areas above
the dam and on the river in Gunpowder Falls State Park.
The picnic area on Masemore Road is a popular starting point for day hikes. A trail leading up
river to the dam can get a little bit difficult as you approach the dam upstream from Falls Road.
There is a parking area on Falls Road that gives access to the Highland Hiking Trail which is
recognized by the blue blazes, as well as to the river and a hiking trail that follows the river
either upstream to the dam or down stream. Going upstream to the dam is a scenic but
strenuous hike. Hiking downstream is an easier, more relaxing hike. I suggest traveling the
Highland Hiking Trail southeast (downstream) until it meets the Gunpowder South Trail (white
blazes) about a mile from the Masemore road picnic area. You can then return by heading
upstream on the Gunpowder South Trail or continue downstream for a longer hike. Continuing
downstream will take you through some very nice habitat for birdwatching, wildflowers
(especially in the spring) and wildlife.
I am including a short list of some of the animals I have seen here. This is certainly not a
In fall and spring there are a lot of migratory birds stopping by. These seasons are the best
times to see a variety of warblers, hawks, woodpeckers and other birds, but there are plenty of
birds to see here year-round. One of my favorites, the Belted Kingfisher, can usually be found
fishing from the trees on the river's edge. A few other birds you might see on a casual hike
Northern Water Snake
Black Rat Snake
Smooth Earth Snake
SEE THESE LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION
Gunpowder Falls State Park at Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Prettyboy Reservoir at the Baltimore County Government website
Prettyboy Reservoir at Maryland DNR
The Prettyboy Dam in August, 2006
Prettyboy Dam in August 2006
A (harmless) Queen Snake sunning on the shore of the Gunpowder River.
A Cardinal Flower on the shore of the Gunpowder River.
A warning sign in Gunpowder State Park. I have found Copperheads to be quite docile and
reluctant to bite unless they are handled, but hikers should be careful not to accidentally
step on a snake. These poisonous snakes are fairly common in some areas but are rarely
seen by the casual hiker because, like most wildlife, they prefer to stay hidden.
Copperheads are a vital part of the ecosystem and a fascinating animal to study.
Components of the venoms of many snakes have become valuable medical tools. If you
happen to be fortunate enough to see one, treat it with respect and allow it to live.
Tubing on the river
Wild Sweet-William, also called Meadow Phlox, at Gunpowder State Park.