A while ago I wrote a blog about finding running routes when I travel. Since then I have given in and lined up my Garmin watch to Strava and Garmin Connect. Over the last year I have come to appreciate the benefits that both can provide in finding new routes along with other sources. My route sleuthing in Patapsco illustrated some of the advantages using this arsenal of resources.
Google Maps v. Garmin Connect v. StravaAfter I first noticed the green space on Google Maps I looked up trail maps for Patapsco State Park online. The maps were great for getting the overall structure of the trail system and doing some basic route planning. But the disadvantages quickly became apparent when I started running. First the maps were made at a more general level of detail than I prefer. The maps only showed park roads and not rather convenient features like local roads and streams. The maps also did not show connector trails that were not completely within park boundaries.
|Without Will Surles showing me this trail I never would have found this cool loop|
For a while I had liked Garmin Connect for how it showed a heat map with my day's running route. The next two photos show how Garmin Connect showed trails that were not on Google maps. In the picture below Google Earth shows this trail in the Glen Artney Area just petering out at the Vineyard Hill Road. Note the area circled in red.
|Red area showing a nice trail junction that is oddly missing in Google Earth|
Garmin Connect turned out to be a little better. . . it at least shows a nice trail running along the power lines and connecting to some of the trails in the Hilton Area, but pay attention to the area highlighted in blue. . .
|But the heat maps in Google connect show|
Strava's maps seemed to have the most complete trails for Patapsco State Park. The areas highlighted in blue above is a nice trail that leads to the bridge over the Patapsco River and to a nice network of trails in the Orange Grove Area.
|Finally, a reasonably complete and accurate representation of the trails|
Bringing on the Heat
But what bugged me about Strava was that I thought the heat maps (which show where everyone rusn with more popular routes in boulder colors) required a premium membership.
|Well, nuts. . .|
Then my friend showed me how to access this cool feature for free. . . you first:
1. Got to My Routes
2. Select "Create New Route"
3. Click on the Settings wheel and
4. turn on Global Heatmaps
And Now for Some of My Favorites
The first part should be neat for everyone. This last part probably just if you find yourself in Baltimore with an itch for a trail run.
Patapsco State Park itself consists of three or four distincts and separate areas along the Patapsco River just west of Baltimore . I have come to really appreciate it as a great area to run when I do work in Baltimore. I primary focused on the Avalon area since it is closest to the airport hotels that I usually stay at. The trails are primarily single track dirt and surprisingly hilly minus the paved Grist Mill Trail. Most five to seven mile loops have about 800 – 1,000 total feet of elevation gain.
At first I accessed the main picnic / camping / parking area. This is the most central area and gives the best choice of all of the available trails. The main disadvantages of this area is that is has a fee (albeit a modest $3 or $4 – and waiver-able with a military ID) and, at least while I was there this past summer, did not open until 9 am (which was rather inconvenient for a morning runner like me).
|See in browser|
Fortunately, there are several other official trailheads on the periphery with room for six to a dozen vehicles.
Up and Down the River Loop
This loop has a nice mix of elevation gains and a challenging first half combined with an easy return along the paved Grist Mill Road. Options abound for ways to add miles.
East Avalon Map (Glen Artney Area)
This loop has options for running along some really beautiful streams and going under the railroad tracks via some neat stone bridges
West Avalon Map (Orange Grove Area)
This is a fun loop to do from one of the perimeter trailheads that gives a nice overview of the western half of the park.