Seneca Creek State Park- Greenway Trail, Gaithersburg


Directions:   There are several places to access the Greenway Trail.
1. At the State Park on Clopper Road (Route 117). Coming South on I-270 exit at the Quince Orchard/Montgomery Village Avenue Exit going West. Take a right at Clopper Road (less than 1/2 mile, second traffic light). Go on Clopper Road about a mile to park entrance on your left. You can access the Greenway Trail from he Parking lot at the Ranger station. From I-270 South take the 117 Clopper Road North (and West) exit. Go through the light at Quince Orchard (just beyond the National Institute of Standards) and follow as above.

2. You can also access the Greenway from Riley's Lock on the C & O Canal (in the Seneca area); from Berryville Road, from route 28 between Darnstown and Dawsonville; at the mill on Black Rock Road; On Riffleford Road (between 28 and 118; on Route 355 in Gaithersburg (between Montgomery Village Avenue and Middlebrook Road) and from Mid County Highway North of Watkins Mill Road. You may also be able to access it from Brink Road but parking is a problem.


Trail Information: The Greenway Trail is a continuous trail from the Patuxtant Watershed Park at the Howard County- Montgomery County line which follows the Seneca Creek (later called a river) to the Potomac River. So far about 2/3 to 3/4 is open and run-able. The State (DNR) in the form of the Seneca Creek State Park owns and manages the sections from Route 355 to the River. This portion is open and very runable. The 'County' in the form of the MNCPPC owns and manages the sections North and East of Route 355 extending to the Patuxtant Watershed Park near the Howard County line. This section is still very much a work in progress but you can run about 4 miles of it currently.
The State portion of the Greenway, beginning at Route 355 is a gentle very runable continuous trail, broken into several main sections. Following is a description of the State sections starting at Route 355.
If you park at the County 'Park' parking lot on 355, you can access the State portion by crossing over the creek to the South side and then going down and under the bridge to the other side of the 355. You should see a Greenway sign here. This section of the trail- probably about 2 miles, is flat and slightly rolling. The trail goes under route I-270 and the Railroad bridge. It ends crossing the Isaac Walton entrance and under the bridge for Clopper Road.
The next section is in the formal Park area and the Greenway comingles with existing park trails. The trail follows the creek for a short ways and then goes up into the general park area connects to the Longdraught trail, goes under Great Seneca Highway through a small field onto a gravel road and then ends at Riffleford Road.
The next section begins on the other side of Riffleford Road and on the other side of the creek. This section-probably between 2 and 3 miles is very flat and ends at Route 118. Be sure to follow the trail to the very end at 118 where the sign is. Frequently runners see the road and try to cross only not to find the next section. The next section goes over 2-3 hills and some very pretty pine tree sections before ending at the Mill. This mill was the one in the Blair Witch project. To continue on the Greenway go to the mill parking lot and pick up the trail at the end of the lot, again switching sides of the creek. This section is short and dumps out onto a field (in the summer, corn) stay along the tree line and go to route 28. Take a right to the new 'Park' parking lot. Go down the gravel road, under the bridge, the next section starts very close to the creek. There is currently red engineering ribbon marking the entrance. This section goes about 5 miles to Berryville Road. It is shared equestrian.

The Route 28 to Berryville Road section is predominantly flat. At two points the trails dumps out onto open fields. To stay on the trail stay on the creek side of the fields and look for red engineering ribbon. These sections are being re-forested and there are rows of saplings in obvious areas depicting where the trail will go. At the end of this section the trail intersects with Berryville road and Seneca Creek (River??). To continue, go West (and South) on Berryville Road- towards the river- and look on your right for the Greenway sign and blue-green blazes. This next section is just over a mile long and probably goes over two hills. This section ends at Old Seneca Road and River road near the entrance to Riley's Lock. The trail technically continues on Tschiffley Road-the road on the other side of the creek across from Poole's store and continues about a mile to the Canal. Take a left on the Towpath, cross a bridge and you are Riley's Lock. You can return down Riley's Lock Road cross River road and pick up the Greenway heading East and North.

The 'County' Section from 355 going East and North: This section is also very pretty and gentle but the trails and marking are new and to date only extend about 3-5 miles. Entering from the new 'Park' parking lot on 355 follow the old gravel road to some red engineering ribbon and then the blue-green blazing (some are just blue). You will follow the creek for a short while and then head left away from the creek. If you continue to follow the existing blue and baby blue blazing you will make a loop back to the start Instead, as you start up a very little hill look for the red engineering ribbon which will bear you back towards the creek. The trail is noticeable and the reb ribbons make it easy to follow. You will follow the creek bed to an intersection with a drainage ditch which is also an entry point from Mid County Highway. To continue, you either have to wade across the water-not too deep depending or go to the pipe and cross there. Again, follow the engineering ribbon back onto the trail and again you will follow the creek bed for a short distance. Soon as you see a hill on your left, the trail bears North and East up the side of the hill and then away from the creek bed. You will now go up and down 2-3 medium hills. At the high points you will see the creek which has some drastic bends. After a while you should see Watkins mill road and then Brink. Trail maintenance and marking is going on in this area and it really is a work in process. However, it appears that the trail will go up between Damascus and Laytonsville as it heads North East. You can run on some of the older trails but you will have to contend with interruptions. However, much of this will likely be improved this Spring and summer (2001).
The State portion of the Greenway is about 17-18 miles one way from Route 355 to the River.
The County portion extends from 355 to the Howard County line. I have no idea of the mileage but guess that it must be 10-15.

Miscellaneous Information: 

 1. The Greenway is a very nice trail with a nice variety of vegetation and wildlife. Common are deer, squirrel, geese, turkey buzzards, ground hogs and rabbits. Beavers are active in the mornings near the Lake and at various other spots along the trail as are brown fox.
2. Despite the fact that Gaithersburg is frequently tied as the second largest city in Maryland and is heavily populated- urban, few use the Greenway. Most times I go I do not see anyone else. I probably average 3 runs a week on the greenway..
3. From Route 28 down, you will see horses (with the riders) and at times, there may be additional trail marking . Do not follow as they frequently go across the creek, back and forth.
4. Water and food are scarce. There is water in the Park and at Rileys (I am not fond of the water at Riley's and on the canal). Besides Sundays, food is available at Pooles Store near Rileys. In season there is some snack food at the boat house located in the park on the lake. There are restrooms in the park. The ones by the playground are heated and open year round. There are jiffy johns available year round at Rileys.

As of April 2002, two new sections of the Seneca Creek Greenway trail have been opened. These sections begin in the County portion of the trail and at Watkins Mill Road. The trail now crosses Watkins Mill Road and going upstream, continues North to Brink Road. The next section continues on the other side of Brink Road and follows the creek to Huntmaster Road.

The first section has one medium hill, a creek crossing and several very old Sycamore trees. The latest section is flat with one creek crossing. There is also a civil war marker at the Brink road intersection.

There is also a new website dedicated to the trail: Senecatrail.org

Please feel free to contact me for any further information

Ed Schultze
Ed516P@aol.com