April 2014: Oregon Ridge Park

Cockeysville, Maryland

An active mining community thrived at Oregon Ridge in the mid-19th century. Irish immigrants and emancipated slaves did most of the hard work pulling first Geothite, containing iron ore, and then highgrade Cockeysville marble from the hills. The iron was smelted in a furnace along Oregon Branch and the marble was used to build the United States Capitol and the Washington Monument. The Oregon Ridge Iron Works supported a company town of 220 workers and their families before the business died away in the 1870s. Today Oregon Ridge Park is Baltimore County’s largest park with more than 1000 acres of woods and meadows. 

Although you get under way with a pleasant stroll into the forest across the wooden bridge spanning the Grand Canyon of Oregon Ridge (an abandoned open pit mine), it doesn’t take long to realize you have signed on for a serious hike here. The Loggers Red Trail pulls you to the top of the ridge - elevated enough to launch hang gliders - and your pick of nine short trails. The full loop of the property leads south along the yellow trails and will add 4 stream crossings and serious hill climbs to your outing. All told there are 6 miles of trails at Oregon Ridge. All are wooded and almost uniformly wide and soft to the paw. The lone exception is the rocky slopes of the S. James Campbell Trail which are a trade-off for the scenic trekking in the ravine. Be sure to make your way to the half-mile Lake Trail, a rollicking romp above the green waters of the 45-foot deep Oregon Lake, a flooded old iron quarry.  

An interpretive trail leads to exhibits on the bountiful natural resources that Oregon Ridge provided to settlers in the region: water, timber, iron, marble and rich farmland. The trail begins at recreated tenant houses of the Oregon Ridge Iron Works just below the Nature Center.

From GA 53 in the center of town take Burnt Mountain Road north out of town until it joins GA 136 in three miles. Bear right and continue east another three miles to the parking area on the right.