This week’s giving us a small hint of the fall weather that’s on its way. It can’t come soon enough! It’s the perfect time to make plans to enjoy the great outdoors around Savage Mill.
There’s a fabulous network of trails within minutes. Here are our favorites:
1. Savage Mill Trail
This scenic, short (0.8 mile) trail is the perfect introduction to Savage and its history. To access it, cross the historic Bollman Truss Bridge, the nation’s first Civil Engineering landmark. Designed by Baltimore-based Wendell Bollman to serve as a railroad bridge, the iron structure was revolutionary for its time. Imagine the train cars carrying raw cotton across this bridge to the Cotton Shed at the Mill. The bridge is also an excellent vantage point for viewing the ruins of the Mill powerhouse, which once housed steam turbines to generate electricity.
After crossing, turn to your right and you’re on the Savage Mill Trail, which runs alongside the Little Patuxent River. Formerly a railroad bed for trains heading to quarries in Guilford, the level, easy gravel path is pleasantly shaded and wide enough to easily accommodate groups including those with strollers, wheelchairs, children, pets and bicycles.
Dirt paths and staircases lead from the trail down to the river, where fishermen can often be spotted trying their luck at landing a trout. The shallow areas beckon children and furry friends to linger.
Heading further up the trail, you’ll come to staircases leading down to scenic vistas. In winter months, the views from the trail itself are magnificent; otherwise, head down a path for better views of large boulders that create small rapids. Surrounded by the forest canopy and the sound of rushing water, it’s easy to imagine you’re someplace far from civilization.
When the mill was in operation, a dam held back the water and directed it to a mill race along the opposite bank. The ruins of the cogs can be found near the end of the Savage Mill Trail. Remnants of the mill race and dam wall can be accessed via trail #3, the Savage Mill Race Trail.
2. Patuxent Branch Trail
Savage Park, just a few blocks up Fair St. from the Mill, is a great hopping off point for enjoying the Patuxent Branch Trail. Turn left out of the Mill’s Big Lot and in two blocks you’ll be at the park’s entrance. Continue to the right past the ballfields to a parking lot where you’ll spot a big sign marking the Patuxent Branch Trail. Heading down the paved trail into the woods and towards the Middle Patuxent River, you’ll soon find yourself at a crossroads.
To the right, the Patuxent Branch Trail continues as a mostly paved trail with gentle elevation changes. This is a portion of the annual Savage 7K Run, a fundraiser for Savage’s community center, the Carroll Baldwin Hall.
A great destination about a mile ahead is the scenic Guilford Quarry Pratt Through Truss Bridge, built in the early 1900s to continue the B&O Patuxent Branch Line. Bicyclists and others wanting a lengthier outing can continue on to Columbia and Lake Elkhorn, for a total of four miles each way.
3. Savage Mill Race Trail aka “Turkey Walk”
Another option off the Patuxent Branch Trail is to continue straight ahead at the crossroads. You’ll descend a relatively steep, washed-out portion of a former access road before arriving at a dirt path running alongside the Middle Patuxent River.
Heading left on the trail, you’ll find remains of the former dam and mill race. Various spurs take you back towards Savage Park or Savage Mill.
Alternatively, turning right at the crossroads, a dirt path leads upstream until eventually the trail heads steeply uphill to reconnect with the Patuxent Branch Trail (#2).
In either case, you’ll likely be alone on the trail, with ample opportunities to find a place to wade into the water or enjoy a break beside it.
4. Wincopin Trail System
Located at the confluence of the Little and Middle Patuxent Rivers, the Wincopin Trail System is a network of naturally-surfaced trails for birders, hikers, joggers, and nature lovers to explore the “neck” or peninsula formed where the two rivers meet. From Savage Mill, head up Savage Guilford Rd., turn left on Vollmerhausen, and you’ll come to the parking lot just across the bridge at the bottom of the hill. (Alternatively, you can continue from the Patuxent Branch Trail.)
Traversing through a mature hardwood forest, some trails lead to overlooks. One highlight is the abutment of a former railroad bridge that carried trains from what is now the Savage Mill Trail (#1), visible on the other side of the Little Patuxent River, to the Patuxent Branch Trail (#2). Other trails head down to the banks of the river, where you can see hikers enjoying the Savage Mill Race Trail (#3).
In early spring, vernal pools along the blue-blazed trail are important habitat for salamanders and frogs to spawn.
Along the green-blazed trail, you’ll discover ruins of a former gabbro stone quarry, along with the W.T. Manning stone crusher and elevator ruins.
For the more adventurous history buff, the white-blazed trail leads upstream, and those with determination can locate the grave of Civil War soldier Frank Wyman, a local resident who died in a railroad accident in 1880.
We hope you agree that the options in Savage are spectacular! There is talk to construct a pedestrian bridge or two across the rivers to connect this amazing network of trails even more. Looking at the map below, with the proposed bridges marked in red, it’s obvious this would make Savage’s greatest asset more accessible.
Don’t forget to stop by the Mill to refuel after your outing. We think you’ll look at the buildings and community in a whole new light after seeing how nature and the community have shaped one another and left us a legacy we can all enjoy!