American Chestnut Land Trust-South

Description: The American Chestnut Land Trust maintains 3,000 acres of forest and wetlands in Calvert County, MD. Besides being stewards of nature they support a fine trail system in the Parker Creek Preserve. The trails, for the most part, are well groomed, obvious and signed at nearly all junctions. It’s a great place for a short family outing. Complete fold-up maps can be found at the kiosks at the main trailheads. 

The South section of the venue is comprised of four primary loops daisy chained together allowing for a multiple assortment of hikes of varying lengths. Described here is a 4.6 mile circuit including optional side trips to visit some of the history of the area. Since there is little in the way of serious elevation, gain 3-D maps and elevation profiles are not provided here.

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Trail Notes: Trails are blazed and signed with numbered trail markers. Pick up a map at the barn. With your back to the road, turn left from the parking lot and walk around a cable gate at the end of an old tobacco field. Follow a mowed swath to the other side where you will find signs for Bloodroot, Flint and Laurel Trails. Bear left onto the blue Laurel Loop Trail and then right at the next fork. Pass through a small pine plantation before becoming immersed in the trails name sake – Mountain Laurel. As the trail descends towards Jett Stream (It never really quite reaches it.) the laurel will temporarily give way to more typical understory of the area. This ends quickly as a short climb puts you back in the laurel thickets. At mile marker L5 cross Scientists Cliffs Road and join the green East Loop Trail. Note: This is the only trail in the venue that allows mountain bikes. Initially it follows the edge of a field on an old road but then plunges into a mature hickory-oak forest with an understory of holly. In 0.3 miles the trail splits. To take full advantage of your hiking time bear left and in 0.2 miles arrive at another trail junction. A left here eventually ends in a dead end. Turn right instead and begin to follow a tributary of Governors Run. In 0.3 miles pass the southern end of the cross connector you passed earlier. In 0.4 miles, bear right at trail marker E8 to stay on course. (A left will prematurely take you out to the road.) You’ll pass the backyards of a couple of homes, one with some antique vehicles. Arrive back at the road in another 0.4 miles, cross it and continue on the Laurel Loop Trail. Arrive back at the pine plantation and multiple trail junctions in 0.3 miles.

Retrace your initial steps, walking past your vehicle and the right side of the barn to pick up the yellow Swamp Trail (part of the stream loop). The trail winds its way through a bamboo eradication project where native species have been planted for study  as part of the Nature Introductory Loop. There is a frog pond in the middle. In 0.3 miles from your vehicle continue straight across a short bridge to stay on the swamp trail, passing the Frog Pond Trail on the left just before the crossing. (The sign post may be confusing!)

In another 0.2 miles pass the Chestnut Trail on the left. (One of the last known living American Chestnut stood here since a blight in the 1930s killed all but a few in the region. It fell in 2006.) Soon after, if you want to visit some of the agricultural history of the area, turn right onto Barn Lane. The old road is overgrown with Japanese Stilt Grass but a path cuts right through the middle of it. In 0.1 miles arrive at a mowed lane and the rehabilitated 19th century Howard-White barn. Return to the Swamp Trail and again turn right, this time onto Cemetery Lane. Follow the trail up to the road. Turn left onto the road and then left onto another lane to reach the Hance-Chesley Cemetery. The oldest headstone dates back to 1812. The trail continues to the left of the front of the cemetery. In 0.5 miles from leaving the Swamp Trail rejoin it at a boardwalk. Turn left until its end and then right onto the Girl Scout Switchback Trail. The climb is steep but short lived as you soon reach a low lying “ridge” and red Gravatt Lane. If you study the map you’ll see other opportunities to extend your outing by turning right and using the Bloodroot and/or Flint Trails. This hike has you turning left onto the Lane. Pass the western terminus of the Chestnut Trail and then the Frog Pond Trail in 0.3 miles (You’ll pass another bamboo eradication project along the way.) Turn left after the privy where Wallace Lane comes in from the right and follow the old farm road along the abandoned tobacco field back to your vehicle.

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