At a Glance
Hours: 9 am to sunset.
Tips: Be sure to stay on the trails at all times at Soldier’s Delight. The vegetation is fragile and easily damaged. ◾ Some low-lying portions of trail may be muddy and many trails have gravel surfaces and may be somewhat slippery. Waterproof hiking shoes or boots are recommended. A hiking staff may be helpful on the steep portions of trails. ◾ Hunting is carried out on portions of Soldiers Delight; be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ Nocturnal breeding species may be found at dusk by walking trails from a small parking area on Deer Park Road north of the main entrance. ◾ Restrooms are at the Visitor Center.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Reisterstown CW, Reisterstown SW
Local MOS Chapter: Baltimore Bird Club
Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area
5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117
Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area (NEA) protects a treasured habitat. It is managed by the MD Department of Natural Resources and is comprised of 1,900 acres of serpentine barrens, representing the largest serpentine barrens in the state and one of the few examples on the east coast of this rare environment. The ground in the barrens area is underlain by serpentine, a bedrock high in magnesium and deficient in essential plant nutrients, leading to growth of a scrubby, sparse grassland. The mineral composition of the soil supports a unique plant community adapted to these conditions.
Soldiers Delight hosts over 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plant species, as well as rare insects, rocks, and minerals. Prescribed burns are used to return the area to natural serpentine habitat. Read more about the preservation and restoration of the rare habitats at Soldiers Delight in an article on the website of the Friends of Soldiers Delight.
In addition to the serpentine barrens themselves, there are surrounding buffer areas of deciduous forest. Seven miles of marked hiking trails wind through Soldiers Delight. Equestrians and cyclists are prohibited due to the fragile nature of the environment.
Over 185 species have been reported at the eBird hotspot for Soldiers Delight. The rare habitats harbor nesting birds that are adapted to scrub-shrub conditions, including Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, American Woodcock, and Whip-poor-will. Other nesting species include Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, and Pine Warbler as well as Scarlet and Summer Tanagers.
Additional warblers are featured as spring migration heats up. Winter sometimes brings good numbers of Golden-crowned Kinglet and Red-breasted Nuthatch to the pines. During migration, the best trails are through the deciduous woods in the western part of the property.
For more information on expected birds at Soldiers Delight, see the excellent article contributed by local birder Keith Eric Costley on the website of the Friends of Soldiers Delight.
Soldiers Delight offers a wheelchair-accessible visitor center, parking lot, restroom, and nature trail.
Pets are permitted and must be on leash at all times. Do not allow pets to leave the trail – the serpentine plants are easily damaged. Be prepared to pick up after your pet and take the pet waste with you when you leave. All Maryland State Parks are trash-free.
Soldiers Delight NEA is part of the Patapsco Valley Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ The majority of Soldiers Delight NEA – 1,798 acres – have been designated by the State of Maryland as a State Wildland, with special protections that limit development and limit activities to passive recreation. The State Wildlands System is equivalent to the Wilderness Preservation System on the national level. You can view an interactive map of the State Wildlands on the MD DNR website.
Fun fact: the name “Soldiers Delight” dates back to colonial times, and may refer to soldiers in the service of the King of England who patrolled the area. ◾ Soldiers Delight is known for its populations of rare butterflies. An article on expected butterflies at Soldiers Delight, by the late Dick Smith, can be found on the website of the Friends of Soldiers Delight, as well as a timetable for notable butterfly species.
Of course, the plant communities of Soldiers Delight constitute one of its most important features. Comprehensive lists of the plants of Soldiers Delight can be found on Wikipedia, thanks to the compilation work of many dedicated naturalists who combed through published literature:
- List of Wildflowers of Soldiers Delight
- List of Woody Plants of Soldiers Delight
- List of Ferns and Free Allies of Soldiers Delight
- List of Graminoids of Soldiers Delight
- List of Lichens of Soldiers Delight
The Friends of Soldiers Delight, also known as Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. (SCBI), is a non-profit organization that engages in many activities in support of this special place. Donations are always appreciated, and there are many volunteer opportunities.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Baltimore Bird Club. The Baltimore Bird Club is the founding chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and remains an important hub of birding activity in the state. The club offers monthly meetings with informative presentations and a full schedule of field trips and bird walks, all free and open to the public.
“Earth, Wind, and Fire,” available on YouTube, is an episode of the Maryland Public Television series Outdoors Maryland. This episode focuses on the ecosystems at Soldier’s Delight, and some of the specialty birds at Soldier’s Delight, including Willow Flycatcher and Prairie Warbler, can be heard singing in the background. There are short segments with the late Dick Smith, the undisputed authority on Maryland butterflies and moths, and the late Jean Worthley, who hosted The Maryland Public Television show Hodgepodge Lodge, which introduced children to Maryland nature.
Paved and unpaved lots. See Trail Map link at left.
From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695 take Exit 18 for MD Route 26/Liberty Road; go west on Liberty for 4 miles. After crossing Marriottsville Road, bear right (north) onto Deer Park Road just before a traffic light and water tower. Travel north on Deer Park approximately 2 miles to the Visitor/Nature Center entrance on the left.
Liberty Reservoir CWMA – Baltimore County; Liberty Reservoir CWMA – Bollinger Mill Road; Morgan Run NEA; Irvine Nature Center; Piney Run Park; Oregon Ridge Park; Milford Mill Park (aka Villa Nova Park); Lake Roland; Cylburn Arboretum.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersUpland Deciduous Garden or Arboretum Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Rivers & Streams
Features:BeginnersBird Feeding StationFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasHunting AreasState Natural Areas & WildlandsState Parks