7 Maryland bike trails fit for the family

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There are many great bike trails in Maryland for families to enjoy.

This is good news for a dad like Derek Smothers of Elkridge. With three children ages 15, 13 and 2, Smothers has found one activity the entire family can truly enjoy together—riding bikes.

"It's something the 2-year-old can do, the 13-year-old can do, the 15-year-old can do and mom can do... It's something we can all do and enjoy ourselves," he says of riding bike trails.

Smothers, a sales associate at Bike Doctor of Crofton, says he and his wife, April, grew up with bicycles, and they wanted their children to learn the joy of cycling early on. They frequently rode with their two older children, Alexis, 15, and Robert, 13, on the paved bike paths around Centennial Park in Ellicott City.

"Despite some flat tires, we always had a good time going around the park," he says.

Now, their youngest child, Joseph, is zipping around on a pedal-less balance bike, also known as a scoot bike. By fall, Smothers says Joseph should be ready to join the family on its next adventure: biking the BWI Trail.

Maryland is filled with paved and unpaved bicycle trails. While many are for more advanced riders, there are plenty fit for family outings. If your family is ready for some two-wheeled fun, check out the following spots.

Updated October 2018

Family friendly bike trails in MarylandBike Trail

1. BWI Trail (Easy to Moderate)

This 12.5-mile paved bike trail circles BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, taking cyclists through parts of Glen Burnie, Ferndale and Linthicum. The trail begins at the Linthicum light trail station, but many families either start or end their journey at the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Observation Area, located near the intersection of Dorsey Road and Arundel Avenue in Severn. Here, families can watch (and hear) airplanes land on the nearby runways.

Parking is available next to the observation area as well as at Sawmill Creek Park, located at 301 Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie. Or, families can bike to the trail from the B&A Trail by using the Stewart Avenue bridge and John Overstreet Connector Trail.

Info: https://www.aacounty.org/locations-and-directions/bwi-trail

2. Cross Island Trail (Easy)

A 6-mile trail that runs east to west along an abandoned rail corridor in Queen Anne's County, the Cross Island Trail is a "hidden gem" in the world of Maryland bike paths, says Ernest Freeland, owner of Bike Doctor of Crofton. "It's more like you're riding at the beach," he says. "It feels like you're not even in Maryland."

The paved trail begins near Terrapin Nature Park, a waterfront, 276-acre park in Stevensville that is home to a variety of waterfowl, wildlife and plants. From there, the trail takes cyclists along Kent Narrows, through canopied forests and on bridges that offer scenic views of the area's waterways. It also connects cyclists to Old Love Point Park, the Kent Island boat launch and the Chesapeake Exploration Center, a visitor's center with exhibits on the Eastern Shore's heritage.

"There are lots of stopping points," Freeland says. And, the trail can be a welcome diversion for families in need of out-of-car breaks during trips to the Maryland and Delaware beaches.

Info: parksnrec.org/hiker-biker-trails/hiker-biker-trails/

3. Centennial Park (Moderate)

With 2.6 miles of paved pathways that wrap around a lake, 337-acre Centennial Park is a favorite spot for families from across Maryland. Jon Posner, store manager at Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City, says he frequently rides there with his children, Jonah, 4, and Avery, 2, for both exercise and education.

"One of the things I like a lot about Centennial is the arboretum that exists throughout the park in the form of informational signs placed along the paths that point out the trees, their leaves and seeds," he says. "It is also nice to have the circuit go all the way around the lake because it allows for a 'round trip' type of bike ride rather than an 'out and back' trip."

But don't let the fairly flat paths around the main entrance deceive you. This park packs plenty of hills. Centennial Park has several playgrounds, as well as boats for rent, picnic areas and basketball courts if younger family members need a break. Parking is available at each of the park's four entrances. The main entrance off Route 108 offers quick access to the lake path.

Info: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/CentennialPark

4. Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail (Easy)

Opened in 2011, the Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail runs along Fishing Creek in northern Calvert County. It sits on the former home of the Chesapeake Beach Railway, which operated from 1900 to 1935. The 1.4-mile boardwalk trail starts at Chesapeake Beach Water Park and ends at Richfield Station or vice versa.

With two bridges, the trail gives bikers up-close views of native marsh and creek wildlife like red-winged blackbirds, ospreys, great blue herons and river otters. Some bikers have even spotted bald eagles on their journeys. The trail is wheelchair accessible, and parking is available at the water park.

Info: chesapeake-beach.md.us

Click Next below for more family-friendly bike trails.

5. Grist Mill Trail (Easy)

CLOSED in 2018 during Bloede Dam demolition

This popular paved trail located in Patapsco Valley State Park runs along the Patapsco River. The trail runs for 2.5 miles, taking users from Ilchester Road, past the swinging bridge in the Avalon area of the park to Lost Lake, a special fishing area for children under 16, senior citizens and visitors with disabilities.

Jeff Dalik, owner of Aviation Velo in Linthicum, says he often recommends the trail for families because it is paved, scenic and fairly flat. "I like the Grist Mill Trail because it is close to the main pavilions with the playground and river access, close to Lost Lake where my son and I catch fish and because it is an accessible trail for cycling, jogging, walking and wheelchairs," he says. The trail is also "long enough to feel like you went somewhere but short enough to fit a kid's attention span," Dalik says.

Parking is available near Lost Lake. There is a fee to get in the park.

Infor: http://dnr.maryland.gov/centennial/Pages/Centennial-Notes/Gristmill.aspx

6. Rockburn Skills Park (Moderate to Difficult)

If you're looking for a more challenging family adventure, Rockburn Skills Park is the place to be. The off-road park, located in Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, opened in 2012. One of the main features is a pump track – a continuous mountain bike and BMX course, filled with hills, dirt mounds and jumps. You don't have to be a pro to ride here, but family members should be stable cyclists. That means no training wheels.

The park also has a rock-filled, uphill bike trail and three courses for riders of varying skills. Bikes with knobby tires are best.

Be sure to check if the park is open before you go, as rain and muddy conditions can temporarily close the park. Parking is available inside the park's east entrance off Landing Road. Restrooms are available on the park's west side and sometimes on the east side near the turf fields, depending on the sports schedule.

Info: www.rockburnskillspark.org. Closure hotline: 410-313-4455.

7. The Torrey C. Brown Trail (Easy)

Formerly the Northern Central Railroad or (NCR) Trail

Chris Stelzig, an Annapolis father of three, calls this trail one of the best in the area for younger kids. The flat, 10-feet wide path has a stone dust surface and runs for 20 miles from the Hunt Valley area to the Pennsylvania state line along the Gunpowder River.

The multi-use trail, a former line of the Northern Central Railroad, opened in the mid-1980s. The trail now hosts more than 500,000 visitors a year.

When riding, remember: This trail is not a loop. If you ride 10 miles from the start, you have to ride 10 miles back.

Parking is available at several sites along the trail, including off Freeland Road at the northern end and Phoenix Road at the southern end. Restrooms are also available along the route.

Info: http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/tcb.aspx

By Allison Eatough

Easy – Mostly flat, smooth surfaces, stopping points of interest along the way
Moderate – Some hills or rough surfaces
Difficult – Includes hills or off-road surfaces and possibly obstacles

Click Next below for tips for cycling with kids

Tips for bicycling with your family

Many paths in Maryland are multi-use, meaning cyclists, pedestrians and even equestrians sometimes share the space. Some paths also cross public streets. When biking, remember the following tips:

  • Obey traffic rules and signs.
  • Warn pedestrians at least two to three seconds before passing them. Bells are best. Use verbal warnings only when necessary.
  • Slow down and give pedestrians at least an arm's length of clear space when passing. This will help avoid collisions and near misses.
  • Use bike lanes when available. Remember, on sidewalks, pedestrians always have the right-of-way. Ride cautiously and respectfully.

Source: Bike Arlington

Click here for a list of 5 bike trails that lead someplace fun.

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