Black Hills Park and Hoyles Mill Connector Trail: Germantown, Maryland
This trail will soon be near and dear to my heart. The ride starts at Jason's house and connects to some of the most wonderful trails in the area. Black Hills is a somewhat underutilized set of trails in western Montgomer County, north west of Washington, DC. This was the first of many epics that we'll ride on these trails.
Why have we waited so long to ride these trails? They were great, but they didn't really connect to anything. Along came the local mountain bike club, and they remedied that situation. In November of 2004 the Hoyles Mill Connector was built. It is a route that combines some wonderful singletrack with some paved trails and some trails across fields gone fallow and joins Black Hills Park with Schaeffer Farms. Schaeffer is one of the sweetest trails in the area because it was well designed and built. The trails have been well worked in and are a great combination of buff, smooth singletrack with a healthy amount of twists, turns, roots and logs. I'm sure that plenty of photos will be done of these trails over the years.
Black Hills is at the top. Schaeffer is at the bottom. Hoyles Mill Connector is in the middle. Don't be fooled by the legend. For some reason it double counted our route and gave us almost 80 miles of riding. We did just about 34 miles the day this map was made.
Lots of folks have asked me for directions on how to ride the Hoyles mill Connector. Since I'm not that familiar with Black Hills, and most people that I know want to ride the Connector from Schaeffer Farms to Black Hills, I'll start my description from the Schaeffer Farms Parking lot. Parts of the trail cross grassy fields that have not been ridden in. Most of them have been marked with orange flags. some have not. Try and stick to the flags where they exist. That is how the trail gets established at this early point. James has talked about getting those parts mowed so they are easier to follow. That hasn't happened yet though.
From the Schaeffer Farms parking lot, head out the dirt road that leads in from Schaeffer Road. When you get to the road, go straight across. There is an opening in the fence that leads to a grassy field.
Look to your right. You'll see a row of orange flags that lead off into the field. Follow them. That is the trail. They lead to another break in the fence about 1/4 mile away.
You'll go through the next break in the fence. When you look to the left, you'll see that the route has been marked recently (4/15/05). The flags snake their way across the field to the left. Eventually they hit singletrack that lines up with the fenceline. This was new to me on the 4/16/05 ride. Previously we'd just ridden across the field to the paved trail. Thanks to James for marking it and for Bob for helping find it.
Once back in the woods, the trail goes along a pond created by drainage water. then winds around a bit to some new bench cut. This eventually rolls up and down a little and dumps you out onto the dirt trail near the paved trail. It is all quite well marked. With about 17 of us riding back and forth across it a few times, even the field section is starting to get ridden in a bit.
Once you get to the paved trail, head to your left. You'll cross a road and head up a little rise. Keep an eye out for a line of flags to your left. That is the trail. Follow that line of flags. It will lead you to an opening in the woods that starts the singletrack. There is a sign there saying the trail is under construction. We're allowed and encouraged to ride it.
Not far into this section of trail is a rock garden. It is REALLY fun from this direction. Enjoy it. It is a little more challenging on the way back. It is ridable in both directions though.
This singletrack section has a few downed trees in it that haven't been removed yet. Ride the ones you can, climb over the ones you can't.
The trail also crosses a few sections of field. These have been ridden in a bit more.
Eventually the singletrack dumps you out onto a paved road. Go left on this road. It is pretty small and I've never seen a car on it. As you go down the road, you'll get to a gate. The last time we were there, the skirt around the gate was muddy, so we hopped the gate. Eventually there will be singletrack that bypasses a lot of this road. It isn't finished yet. If you see flags in the woods, don't follow them. Drop me an e-mail and ask me if it has been finished. If I tell you that it has, then bug me to update my damn web site. I need discipline in my life.
Once past the gate, the quality of the road downgrades significantly. (that is a good thing). You'll go past a few holes in the road big enough to swallow a Hyundai. I've had fun hopping in and out of them. If it is wet, they act lick sink holes.
Eventually the road turns to dirt and you get to the creek crossing. If I had a legal department, they'd insert a disclaimer about drowning in a storm swelled creek while trying to cross. I don't have a legal department so have fun. I've ridden it when it is over 3' deep. I've ridden it when it is barely a foot deep. I start by hugging the left shore, then cut across when it gets rocky. If you stay to the right, it gets VERY deep, very fast. It is also pretty silty and muddy. You probably will go swimming (not to imply that is a bad thing). Be yourself and cross it in a way that truly exemplifies your joie de vivre (Sorry Denis, I don't know how to make a circomflex on this computer).
The road goes up hill after the creek. Follow it up. It eventually connects into another paved road. Continue straight into the town of Boyds. The road bends to the right and leads to an all-way stop. People do weird things at this stop. Be a little careful.
Take a left and go under the railroad bridge. It looks more like a tunnel than a bridge. You'll see what I'm talking about. Follow the road till you cross over the bridge that goes over the lake.
There is a new section of trail that was put in last weekend (4/9/05). Once you're over the bridge, look for blue blazes on the right. This trail leads along the contours of the lake. It drops you out at a parking area. Get back on the road for about 100 yards. You'll see more blue blazes on the right. This leads you into the woods again. If you get to a red barn, you've gone too far. Go back and look for blue blazes.
The trail dumps you out into a field almost immediately. Bear a little to your right and look for the trail opening in the woods across the field. If you can't see it, just follow the tree line till you get to it. It is about 200 yard across the field if memory serves me correctly. This singletrack area is nice and smooth (with a few rutts). Going the other direction, it has some great table-top jumps that are pretty dang fun.
The trail dumps you out at a dirt road. Head right (up hill). The dirt road bends to the left and eventually becomes paved. This road leads you into one of the main parking lots at Black hills where the boat ramps are. Once there, you can explore the singletrack in Black Hills. There is plenty of it around. I'll add to this description when I get more familiar with Black Hill Regional Park.
Hope that helps.