Baltimore County, Hiking Trails, Paved Trails, Streams/Rivers, Swimming Spots

Patapsco Valley State Park – Avalon Area

Today we visited the Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park. I have been wanting to get here for so long and I’m so excited we will finally able to check it out. We had an absolute BLAST, this place is really amazing!

Patapsco State Park is HUGE and consists of several different areas including Avalon, Hilton, Glen Artney, Orange Grove, Pickall, Hollofield, McKeldin and Daniels. I’ve always been intimidated by this and worried about getting lost, which is part of the reason why it took me so long to actually visit here! Luckily, a super helpful follower sent me some very detailed tips on how to make it a successful trip – and now I’m going to share those (plus my own experiences) with you! There are SO many trails and things to do here, but our goal for this trip was to visit Cascade Falls, the swinging bridge and the area below it.

We arrived at the park right around 9:00 am. It was a Wednesday with highs expected to be in the low 80s. When we arrived at the park we paid the $2 per car admission fee. Payment was honor system based – take an envelope, tear the tag off and hang it on your mirror. Then, place the money in the envelope and drop it in the box. There was no attendant there today but I think that may be different during the weekends or busy season. The admission fee on weekends increases to $3 per person, with children buckled in safety seats free, as well as active duty military members and their families (with ID).

After passing through the gate house we followed the road until we came to a sign directing us to turn left towards the swinging bridge and cascade falls. Once we turned left, we eventually crossed a bridge and came up on a parking lot with a playground, 2 pavilions and a bathroom. I originally parked here but this was NOT the right spot for what we were hoping to do. Luckily I reached out to the follower who sent me all the tips and she directed me to the right spot, thank goodness! To visit Cascade falls and the swinging bridge you have to keep driving PAST this parking lot and take the road all the way back as far as you can go. You will drive right past the swinging bridge on your right (you can’t miss it!) and the parking lot will be just ahead on the left.

Once we parked in the correct lot, we unloaded the kids and headed towards the Cascade Falls Trail. The entrance to this trail is directly across the street from the swinging bridge, right next to the bathrooms.

The hike was rocky and a little steep, but very short and totally manageable for the twins (age 3.5). This trail is definitely a true hike and not at all stroller friendly. It took us less than 10 minutes to get to the falls and the girls loved splashing in the water up there. We saw 2 people on the hike but otherwise had the falls totally to ourselves – I’m sure that is not the case on weekends or even later on in the day.

After the hike we stopped back at the car and grabbed the stroller and our lunches. The remaining part of our day was stroller friendly so I figured that would make it easier to carry all of our stuff. From the parking lot we walked back over to the swinging bridge (again – the bridge is directly across from the Cascade Falls trailhead!) The bridge was HUGE .. like 10x bigger than I was anticipating. It made me a little nervous having the girls walk on their own but they did fine. The only hard part with the bridge is that it is pretty narrow so when someone comes from the opposite direction we had to squeeze to one side to get out of the way. It wasn’t and issue but just something to keep in mind on a busier day. I don’t think a side-by-side double stroller would be a good idea for this bridge, so I’m glad I didn’t attempt to come here when my twins were younger!

Once we got across the bridge we turned left and walked along the paved trail. The trail goes along the river and you’ll see several spots to turn off and play on the river banks. We wanted to walk first, so we continued down the trail until we came to a cool tunnel! The girls loved walking through it, listening to their echos, and splashing in the water.

After we were done playing in the tunnel we headed back towards the swinging bridge and found a spot to play in the water. The river is very rocky so I definitely recommend having the kids wear water shoes (we love our keens for days like today!). The river was the PERFECT spot for wading – super shallow and clear. The girls loved walking around and finding different rocks to college. We also found lots of cool seaglass (or river glass, I guess, lol!) Right off the river bank we had a picnic lunch on a little grassy area. After lunch the girls waded and swam some more until they were worn out and ready to head home.

We did SO much here and it only took about 3 hours! It was so amazing how much we were able to see and do in such a short time – I couldn’t believe that all of these cool spots were so close together. You could spend a lot more time here but we wanted to get back for naps. I am SO looking forward to making this a regular spot for us.

🚽 Bathrooms: Yes, right next to the bridge and Cascade Falls trail
👩‍👧‍👦Solo w/ kids?: Not for me, would recommend bringing a friend! Also important to note I had NO cell service here. Another reason to not go alone!

🛒 Stroller friendly?: Cascade falls trail is NOT stroller friendly. Swinging bridge and path past it is!
🦠Covid: very popular and gets busy on nice days/weekends
🅿️Parking: big parking lot right across from the swinging bridge

🧺 Picnic tables: Covered pavilion with tables

⏰Timing: 3+ hours

4 thoughts on “Patapsco Valley State Park – Avalon Area”

  1. Thank you for posting this! Will check this out this afternoon with my 3 year old! We only have about an hour., so it’s either the cascades or the bridge with the shallow water at the end. Which one do you recommend we do? (ps we’ll definitely come back for the other) Thanks!


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