The Sweet Air area of Gunpowder State Park is lightly used compared to all of the other areas in the park. There are several trails of varying length and difficulty that can be challenging to travel without a map. This ride is well-blazed, making it the least confusing to follow. It moves through diverse landscapes including river, cornfields, lowland and highland forests, making for great views and lots of flow.
The parking lot is off a dirt road tucked back in a small suburban community. The GPS is helpful to get you there.
This ride begins at the western corner of the parking lot alongside a horse pasture. You may see a few hikers and dog walkers, but this is horse country, so mind the piles. The ride technically starts on the Barley Pond Trail, though the trail is marked with the white blazes used on the Little Gunpowder Trail
You'll travel along an old farm road and through a large field of corn. After passing along a few suburban backyards, the trail splits with the Little Gunpowder Trail
going right, and the Barley Pond Trail to the left. Stay right to head northwest onto the Little Gunpowder Trail
. After a short distance the trail veers off to the left. There is a lot of thick rose hedges on this section of trail, so watch out for thorns, although they are hard to avoid. The trail crosses a wide pipeline cut and then dives back into the forest on the other side.
This open lowland forest is made up of twisty, rooty switchbacks and rolling hills. There are a few short technical sections, but for the most part it has bumpy uphills and flowing downhills as it makes its way towards the river. There are three to four stream crossings with narrow boardwalks.
When the trail reaches the river, the hiker-only Red Trail
branches off to the right as the Little Gunpowder Trail
runs close to the rivers edge to the left; stay left. This section is very scenic with many benches and viewing spots to enjoy. There are boardwalks and wooden bridges that cross small streams. Because many horses travel this route through the floodplain, there are a few muddy bogs that cover the entire trail.
The trail turns away from the river and heads up into the forest. This section of trail is full of tight switchbacks and can be quite narrow in places. The trail has numerous technical sections, particularly on the climbs, which often have large roots, small rock piles, and the occasional log jump. There are two steep technical climbs that may require a more advanced skill set. There are great views into the valley and river below. Near the end of the white trail, the trail branches with signage identifying the horse route and the hiker route. This area was recently rebuilt by an eagle scout team and it is in great shape. The caveat is that both sides are very steep and technical with some rail tie steps and log jumps.
The white trail ends where it meets the Boundary Trail
, which starts as an old farm road. Follow this road to the right and around the large cornfield. It returns to the forest for a final, mostly downhill ride back to the parking lot.