At a Glance
- March 1 – November 30: daily 7 am to sunset
- December 1 – February 28 or 29: Monday through Friday 8 am – 4 pm; closed weekends & holidays.
- March 1 – November 3o: Open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm; Sunday 12 noon – 5 pm; CLOSED Mondays & Tuesdays.
- December 1 through February 28 or 29th: Open Monday through Friday 11 am – 4 pm; CLOSED on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays.
March 1- November 30:
- County resident: $6/vehicle
- Out-of-county resident: $12/vehicle
- 62 and older: free (regardless of residency)
- Season passes available: $75 for county resident; $100 for out-of-county resident.
December 1-February 28 or 29
- No fees are collected during the winter season, when the park is only open on weekdays.
Tips: Visit on weekdays to avoid crowds in summer. ◾ Some trails may be wet; boots are recommended. ◾ No scooters, rollerblades, or skateboards are allowed in the park. ◾ No swimming or wading. ◾ Restrooms are located near the boathouse and the playground on the west shore of the lake; no restrooms on the east shore.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Finksburg SW
Local MOS Chapter: Carroll County Bird Club
Piney Run Park and Nature Center
30 Martz Road, Sykesville, MD 21784
Piney Run Park and Nature Center, located near Sykesville, are operated by the Carroll County Department of Parks and Recreation. The park has 550 acres of fields, forest, and open space, with over five miles of hiking trails, a 300-acre lake, and recreational facilities. The lake was created in the 1970s by damming Piney Run, which is a tributary of the South Branch Patapsco River. Piney Run Park is the #1 eBird hotspot in Carroll County, with over 240 species reported.
Much of the park acreage remains in a natural state, with dense deciduous woodlands traversed by small streams and some open fields. The visitor amenities and the named trails are on the west side of the lake, accessed fromWhite Rock Road via Martz Road, which goes east and dead-ends at the lake. A well-developed trail system enables birders to access all areas in the main part of the park . See the trail map at the link at left for details.
But there are also trails that run up and down the east side of the lake, accessed from a parking area and trail head where Martz Road dead-ends on the east side of the lake. (Martz Road used to be a through-road, but was cut off when Piney Run was dammed to create the lake, so Martz Road has two dead-ends, one on each side of the lake). The County Parks and Recreation Department provides a map of this area (see link at left) and refers to the area as “equestrian trails,” but you don’t need a horse to go there. The eastern shore trails are also covered in the free AllTrails app.The eastern shore trails may be less crowded and noisy, particularly in summer.
The Piney Run Nature Center was completed in 1981 and is staffed by Park Naturalists and volunteers. It offers programs throughout the year for a variety of school, youth, and community organizations. Birthday parties, summer camp, conservation programs, wildlife exhibits, and specialized classes are available to the public. Along with exhibits, there is a children’s room for exploration and learning.
Prior to being a park, this land was a private farm. Visitor activities and amenities include fishing, boating, boat rentals, park-sponsored fishing tournaments, tennis courts, playgrounds, a climbing rock, picnic tables and pavilions, and comfort stations. There is no swimming or wading.
Over 240 species have been reported on eBird from Piney Run Park, making it the #1 eBird hotspot in Carroll County. On the lake, water birds abound in winter, especially Tundra Swan, Wood, American Black, Ring-necked, and Ruddy Ducks, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Lesser and Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser and Common Merganser. There are also Pied-billed and Horned Grebes, Double-breasted Cormorant, and American Coot. The common gulls and terns abound, with occasional rarities. Fish Crows can also be heard. In warm seasons, there are swallows, including Northern Rough-winged, Tree, Bank, Barn and Cliff.
In the woods and fields look for owls, including Eastern Screech, Great Horned, Barred, and Long-eared (uncommon, winter only). All the local woodpeckers can be found, as can many flycatchers—Eastern Wood-Peewee, Eastern Phoebe, and Great Crested, Acadian and Willow. In spring and fall, migrations bring a wide assortment of warblers. Rusty Blackbirds, which have been experiencing precipitous population declines, may be found in wet areas in late spring and fall. Some winters bring White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Evening Grosbeak, and Pine Siskin. Regularly occurring sparrows include American Tree, Chipping, Field, Fox, White-crowned, White-throated, Savannah, Song and Swamp. Other species include Bobolink, Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue Jays, Eastern Kingbird, and White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, as well as a selection of herons and egrets in the warm months.
The natural surface trails at Piney Run are not wheelchair-accessible. However, the paved road system within the park allows good birding from or near the car. There is also good viewing of the lake from the boat launch area.
Pets are allowed in the park but must be on a leash at all times; leashes must be no more than 6 feet long. You must clean up after your pet. Pets are not allowed to swim in the lake (neither can humans).
Piney Run Nature Center offers a myriad of programs, hikes, kayak tours, bird walks, fishing tournaments, and festivals throughout the year. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Carroll County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
A video tour of the park is available at http://ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/recpark/pineyrun/.
Paved lots throughout developed areas of the park on the western shore of the lake; one lot on the eastern shore at the end of Martz Road.
From Baltimore: From I-695/Baltimore Beltway, take Exit 18 for MD Route 26/Liberty Road westbound. Follow Liberty Road past Liberty Reservoir and continue through Eldersburg. Go straight through the intersection of Liberty Road and MD Route 32/Sykesville Road. Continue on Liberty Road for approximately 3 more miles and then turn left (south) onto White Rock Road. Go 1.8 miles and turn left (east) onto Martz Road, and continue straight ahead to the park entrance.
From Frederick: Take I-70 east for about 22 miles to Exit 26 for MD Route 97/Hoods Mill Road northbound. Continue north for 4.8 miles on MD Route 97, which will become Old Washington Road. Turn right (east) onto West Obrecht Road and go approximately 0.8 mile to White Rock Road. Turn left (north) onto White Rock Road, and in 0.7 miles turn right (east) onto Martz Road. Continue straight ahead to the park entrance.
To reach the eastern shore trailhead: From the main part of the park on the western shore, turn right onto White Rock Road and go north to MD Route 26/Liberty Road. Turn right to go east on Liberty for 1.3 miles, then turn left to take Martz Road south and then west to the trailhead parking area.
Carroll County: Avondale Wildlife Management Area ◾ Hashawha Environmental Center / Bear Branch Nature Center ◾ Krimgold Park ◾ Liberty Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area – Bollinger Mill Road ◾Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area ◾ Patapsco Valley State Park – McKeldin Area ◾ Wakefield Valley Park
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsFishingFree - No Entry Fee on Some Days or Parts of YearHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityCounty ParksNature CentersPonds, Lakes, and Reservoirs