At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset. Certain activities are permitted outside of the regular park hours (e.g. fishing, boat launch, hunting). Check with the park before your visit if you plan to be in the park before or after hours.
Tips: No restrooms. ■ Hand clippers are useful for clipping overhanging multiflora rose. ■ Dress for wet, dew-covered vegetation, muddy trails. ■ The park allows public hunting. Be aware of hunting seasons and visit accordingly.
Best Seasons: Spring and fall for migration; early summer for breeders.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Woodbine SW, Damascus SE
Patuxent River State Park – Hipsley Mill Road Area
3961 Hipsley Mill Road, Woodbine, MD 21797
(301) 924-2127 – Office
(443) 962-0216 – Duty Ranger for Emergencies
Patuxent River State Park is comprised of 6,700 acres of natural areas and farmlands, located in Howard and Montgomery Counties along the upper 12 miles of the Patuxent River. The Patuxent is the longest river contained entirely within Maryland, and along its length, changes from a sleepy, slow-moving stream to a wide tidal estuary that empties into the Chesapeake Bay near the southernmost point of Maryland’s Western Shore.
Note: Do not confuse Patuxent River State Park with Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay and Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert; the latter two are part of a county-owned series of parks in Prince George’s County on the tidal portion of the river.
Patuxent River State Park, following the river valley, is long and narrow, with its long axis oriented approximately northwest to southeast. A portion of Patuxent River State Park is a designated State Wildlands Area. There are numerous parking areas and access points, as shown on the official park trail map at the link at left. Or download a handy table that shows the locations of the various parking areas with GPS coordinates, street addresses, and links to Google Map screens.
This description is for the Hipsley Mill Road access in Howard County on the north side of the river. Note that the trails at the Hipsley Mill Road Area connect with those at the Annapolis Rock Road area, covered separately in this Birder’s Guide.
Hipsley Mill Road runs roughly southwest-northeast, bisecting Patuxent River State Park. The Hipsley Mill Road area of the park consists of a floodplain of varying width along the Patuxent River and bounded on the north and east by wooded hills and/or fields, covering about 400 acres. The deciduous woods contain occasional openings. Seepages and small intermittent streams are found throughout the area.
Park in a small unpaved parking area on the east side of Hipsley Mill Road, about 50 feet north of the bridge over the Patuxent River. From here, trails run both upstream (northwest) and downstream (southeast) on the Howard County side of the river.
To make a loop through the downstream area, take the trail from the parking lot heading east, roughly paralleling the river. Except during extended droughts, portions of this trail will vary from muddy to a quagmire. There may be waist-high wet vegetation in places, and there may be trees across the trail. This trail will reach Cabin Branch, a tributary of the Patuxent, in about 0.7 miles. From here, follow the trail north along Cabin Branch and then turn left (west) at the first rtatil junction in 0.5 miles, and then right at the second junction in about a hundred yards. This trail will take you on an arc, heading roughly northwest, to return to Hipsley Mill Road north of the parking area where you left your car. Return south to your car by way of the field edges along Hipsley Mill Road. Consult the official DNR trail map at the link at left, as well as the detailed trail map also linked at left.
To explore the upstream trails, from the parking lot, walk north along Hipsley Mill Road for about 50 feet, looking for an unmarked trail entrance on the left (west) side of the road. Several metal signs (with fishing regulations) are placed on trees just inside the trail entrance. This short trail can be quite muddy in places as it parallels the river for a hundred yards. It then turns uphill and in 0.2 miles reaches the bottom of a field that lies along Hipsley Mill Road. After exploring the mowed trails crisscrossing the fields, either return on the trail or walk along Hipsley Mill Road. Be aware that traffic is light but high speed. Again, consult the official DNR trail map at the link at left, as well as the detailed trail map also linked at left.
Patuxent River State Park has many unmarked, casual trails that have been created by trail users and wildlife over the years. These trails are not maintained by park staff and should be used at your own risk. Plans are underway to develop an official trail system that will replace the network of casual trails. Call the Park Ranger at 443-962-0216 if you have issues or would like to report hazards.
We recommend using a compass and/or GPS device or a smart phone GPS app. A trail map from the MD Interactive Trail Atlas can be downloaded and printed from the link below. Better yet, access the trail map directly from the free Interactive Trail Atlas or Maryland Interactive Recreation Atlas, both of which are smart-phone-enabled and geo-locator enabled; download these two apps from https://dnr.maryland.gov/Pages/DNR_TrailMaps.aspx.
Also see the Howard County Bird Club’s online guide “Birding Howard County,” which features a detailed directions for hikes at Hipsley Mill Road and a simplif ed trail map. See https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/hipsley-mill/.
Over 135 species have been reported on eBird from the Hipsley Mill Road area of Patuxent River State Park. Note that there are separate Hipsley Mill Road eBird hotspots for Howard County (i.e., north of the river) and for the Hipsley Mill Road area in Montgomery County (i..e, south of the river).
Forest interior birds are the main feature here, along with field birds in the more open areas. Migration can produce almost any local passerine.
By late spring, nesting Yellow-throated Vireos are present, Veeries can be heard, and warblers of half a dozen species (including Worm-eating, Kentucky, and Hooded along with American Redstart) are resident and breeding near the downstream trail. For the persistent or lucky, Cerulean Warblers are the prize to be found downstream. They are usually in the vicinity of the intersection with Cabin Branch, which is approximately one-half mile east of Hipsley Mill Road. In all, 29 species of warble have been reported from the Hipsley Mill Road area. Surprises await as one recent birder had an American Woodcock flush adjacent to the trail.
Winter birding can be slow, but Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, various species of sparrows, and Rusty Blackbird are all possibilities.
The trails at Hiply Mill Road are not wheelchair-accessible, but there is fairly good birding at the parking area. No restrooms.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet and take the pet waste with you when you leave.
Almost 1,600 acres of Patuxent River State Park in the area of Hipsley Mill Road have been designated as a State Wildlands. Maryland Wildlands are areas of state-owned land or water that have retained their wilderness character or contain rare or vanishing species of plant or animal life or similar features worthy of preservation. Designated by the Maryland General Assembly, these sites are Maryland’s equivalent to the federal Wilderness Preservation System. Passive recreation such as birding and hiking are permitted on State Wildlands.
- Patuxent River State Park offers hunting, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding (bring your own horse). The park includes a catch and release trout stream, designated hunting areas, and unmarked hiking and equestrian trails.
- A set of seasonal list of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps for Patuxent River State Park is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/patuxent-river-state-park/patuxent-river-state-park-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club.
Local MOS Chapter:
The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks at Patuxent River State Park and other sites in the county; such walks are free and open to the public. See the Howard County Bird Club’s calendar for more information.
The Howard County Bird Club has a detailed online guide, “Birding Howard County,” on their website at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/. Edited by Joanne Solem, the online guide replaces an older printed guide, now out-of-print. The website is up-to-date and extremely detailed. Check it out!
Main parking is a small unpaved area 50 feet north of the bridge on the east side of Hipsley Mill Road.
There are two additional parking areas and trailheads on Hipsley Mill Road:
- On the west side of the road just 0.2 miles north of the main parking area detailed above
- On the east side of the road 0.7 miles milenorth of the main parking area. This third parking area is where the loop trail on the east side of Hipsley Mill Road emerges.
See detailed trail map at link at left. or the Howard County Bird Club’s map at https://howardbirds.website/birding-hoco/site-guide-hipsely-mill-site-map.pdf.
From points south: Use I-95 or I-295 or I-97, and then take MD Route 32 westbound toward Columbia. From MD Route 32, take Exit 20 for MD Route 108 southbound. In just 0.1 miles, turn right to go west on Ten Oaks Road. In 0.7 miles, at the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit to continue west on Brighton Dam Road. In 4.2 miles, just after crossing over Brighton Dam at the foot of Triadelphia Reservoir, turn right to go north on MD Route 650/New Hampshire Avenue. Stay on Route 650 for 7.9 miles and then turn right to go northeast on Hipsley Mill Road. The parking area will be on the right in about 2.1 miles, on the north side of the bridge over the Patuxent River.
From the DC Beltway/I-495: Take Exit 28 for Route 650 northbound. Stay on Route 650 for approximately 22 miles, then turn right to go northeast on Hipsley Mill Road. The parking area will be on the right in about 2.1 miles, on the north side of the bridge over the Patuxent River.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-495: Take Exit 16 for I-70 westbound. In about 18 miles, take Exit 73 onto MD Route 94/Woodbine Road southbound. At the traffic circle in 0.6 miles, take the second exit to continue south on Route 94/Woodbine Road. Continue for 5.9 miles to Annapolis Rock Road on the left. (You will pass another intersection with Annapolis Rock Road at only 1.6 miles south; do NOT turn there.) Turn left to go east on Annapolis Rock Road and continue 1.6 miles to Hipsley Mill Road. Turn right to go south on Hipsley Mill Road and the parking area will be on your left (east side of the road) in just under a mile, on the north side of the bridge over the Patuxent River.
From points west: Take I-70 east to Exit 73. At the Exit, follow signs for MD Route 94/Woodbine Road southbound. At the traffic circle in 0.6 miles, take the second exit to continue south on Route 94/Woodbine Road. Continue for 5.9 miles to Annapolis Rock Road on the left. (You will pass another intersection with Annapolis Rock Road at only 1.6 miles south; do NOT turn there.) Turn left to go east on Annapolis Rock Road and continue 1.6 miles to Hipsley Mill Road. Turn right to go south on Hipsley Mill Road and the parking area will be on your left (east side of the road) in just under a mile, on the north side of the bridge over the Patuxent River.
Howard County: Centennial Lake & Park ■ David Force Natural Resource Area ■ Howard County Conservancy – Mount Pleasant Farm ■ Lake Elkhorn ■ Middle Patuxent Environmental Area ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Daniels Area ■ Patapsco Valley State Park – Henryton ■ Patuxent River State Park – Annapolis Rock Road Area ■ Rockburn Branch Park ■ Schooley Mill Park ■ Triadelphia Reservoir (Brighton Dam) ■ Western Regional Park ■ Wilde Lake
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainRivers & Streams
Features:Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Type:State Natural Areas & WildlandsState ParksThe Rivers of the Western Shore