Don't leave all the biking fun to Lance Armstrong types

Follow trails for scenery and exercise to boot

Outside: sports, activities, events

May 20, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Attention all sofa jockeys: If your most recent experience with cycling was watching last July's televised coverage of Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France, then maybe it's time to dust off your bike and get back in the saddle.

But before you shock your atrophic frame with some (gasp!) good old-fashioned exercise, you'll need to know where to ride.

From paved trails to off-road paths, there are plenty of biking spots in the greater Baltimore area.

Here's a list of some trails to get you moving.

North Central Rail Trail

Crowds of biking and hiking enthusiasts flood this local trail on fair-weather weekends. So, if you're looking for a less-traveled path, then stick to the northern section of the 21-mile route.

Those in search of a longer trek can ride the NCR Trail to Pennsylvania's 21-mile York Heritage Trail, which links to the Maryland greenway at its northern terminus.

The NCR Trail lies within Gunpowder Falls State Park and runs from Hunt Valley to the state line. There are a number of parking lots along the trail, including one along Paper Mill Road in Cockeysville. Call 410-592-2897.

BWI Trail

The BWI Trail encircles the Baltimore region's bustling airport, so expect to see a few low-flying planes while biking the paved loop.

Deer and other wildlife are also common sights on the 12.5-mile path, which, like the NCR Trail, links to another local bike path. Cyclists looking for a distance ride can continue along the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, which connects to the BWI Trail in Glen Burnie.

If driving to the BWI Trail, park at the airport's Dixon Observation Area on Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie. Call 410-222-6244.

Baltimore and Annapolis Trail

With its wide, flat and paved surfaces, the B&A Trail is ideal for beginner bikers or those experienced folks looking for a low-key jaunt.

The northern tip of the 13-mile path links to the BWI Trail, and its southern terminus is close to the scenic banks of the Severn River.

There are two parking lots for B&A Trail visitors. One is on Earleigh Heights Road in Severna Park; the other, at the intersection of Ritchie Highway and Boulter's Way in Annapolis. Call 410-222-6244.

Other cycling spots

These areas weren't set aside specifically for bikers, but they've become favorites with the local cycling community anyway.

Loch Raven Reservoir

The Loch Raven watershed is chock-full of car-free places to cycle.

The area's woodsy trails provide off-road opportunities for mountain bikers. And a portion of Loch Raven Drive (between Providence Road and Morgan Mill Road) is closed to motor traffic between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends, making it the perfect spot for a lazy ride.

Loch Raven Reservoir lies along Dulaney Valley Road in Towson.

Patapsco Valley State Park

One of the largest parks in Maryland, the green space encompasses more than 14,000 acres and is home to a number of biking/hiking trails of varying difficulty, including the easy five-mile Grist Mill Trail and the more challenging Old Ranger Trail, a 1.5-mile mountain biking path.

Patapsco Valley State Park is at 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. For more information, call 410-461-5005.

Gwynns Falls Trail

When construction is complete (slated for late 2004), local bikers will be able to pedal this trail from Leakin Park to the Inner Harbor.

But now, only seven miles of the mostly asphalt path is open to hikers and bikers.

The Gwynns Falls Trail has a number of parking areas, including one in the 4700 block of N. Franklintown Road. For more information, call 410-396-0440 or visit www.gwynnsfalls

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