I took advantage of a beautiful day on Friday and decided to head to Fair Hill NRMA in Maryland (actually right across the MD and DE border on Rte. 273) GPS told me it would take about 90 minutes, however, I under estimated the crappiness of the NJ Turnpike and I-95, and it took close to 2 hours. Anyway, I have wanted to do this hike for a while as it is a beautiful area with primary rolling hills and a mix of open fields and woods trails. I decided to start on the orange trail which is a 5.8 miles lollipop trail. The trail is a mixture of single track and woods roads, and while the website rated this trail strenuous it is actually more of a moderate trail. The trail goes through the woods and through several open fields.
(one of the fields you cross)
The orange trail then climbs a small ridge where you overlook the Big Elk Creek, there is also a small rock lookout you can go out on to get some nice pics of the creek. The trail then goes through a parking area and picnic area (restrooms here) and continue past an old barn and house. According to the map, this is the nature center. The trail then starts back uphill along a small stream which drains into Big Elk Creek. Along this trail there are several great photo ops including this one:
(not too many of these left)
The orange trail continues through the woods until you reach the sign pointing you back to the parking area.. Overall, a very pleasant hike that had a few steep climbs but nothing like North Jersey. Again, this hike was not strenuous at all, but defenitely a workout and some beautiful scenery. I also did parts of the yellow trail which leads to an old mill down by the creek in a different area of the park. I did about 2 miles on the yellow (down to the mill and back) even though the entire loop is 3.2 miles. So, I did a total of about 8 miles including the few side trips off the orange trail.
Fair Hill NRMA is a huge equestrain training center and riding center, so you will be sharing the trails with horses, so watch the land mines. The day I went I got passed by about 20 horse riders on the trails (all were very polite ), and only 1 biker. The trails are extremely well marked including the turns and only once did I get confused, and that was because the marking was on a pole that looks like it recently fell over. There are also parts where it separates horses and hikers because the trail is too rocky for horses (also very well marked).
Maps can be obtained from the Maryland DNR site (there is a charge) and they are extremely well marked. They have a total of 5 trails for about 20 miles (not including unmarked trails).
Fair Hills is easy to get too, Take exit 3 off of I95 in Delaware, and follow rte 273W into Maryland (passing through Newark, DE which is a delightful little town) . There are 3 parking areas for Fair Hills... one on rte 273 about 8 miles after passing the border, and 2 on Appleton Rd. which is about 4 miles from the border (gas station on corner)... again, these are marked well on trail map. If you are in the area ever, I highly suggest this park for hiking, you will not be dissappointed.