The Sweet Air area of Gunpowder State Park is lightly used compared to all of the other areas. This trail is well-marked with white blazes and moves through diverse landscapes including river, cornfields, lowland and highland forests, making for great views and lots of flow.
White blazes begin at the parking area, though this first section of trail is actually the Barley Pond Loop
. The Little Gunpowder Trail technically begins at the northwestern corner of Barley Pond Trail. You may see a few hikers and dog walkers, but this is horse country, so mind the piles. From the junction with Barley Pond Trail, after passing along a few suburban backyards, the trail veers off to the left. There are a lot of thick rose hedges on this section of trail, so watch out for thorns, although they are hard to avoid. The trail then crosses a wide pipeline cut and then delves into the forest on the other side.
This open lowland forest is made up of twisty, rooty switchbacks and rolling hills. There are a few short technical sections, but for the most part it has bumpy uphills and flowing downhills as it makes its way towards the river. There are three to four stream crossings with narrow boardwalks.
When the trail reaches the river, the hiker-only red trail branches off to the right and the Little Gunpowder Trail runs close to the rivers edge to the left. This section is very scenic with many benches and viewing spots to stop and enjoy. There are boardwalks and wooden bridges that cross small streams. Because many horses travel this route through the floodplain, there are a few muddy bogs that cover the entire trail.
After about 2.4 miles, the trail turns away from the river and up into the forest. This part of the trail is full of tight switchbacks and is narrow in places. The trail has numerous technical sections, particularly on the climbs, which often have large roots, small rock piles, and the occasional log jump. There are two steep technical climbs that may require an advanced skill set. There are great views into the valley and river below.
Near the end of the white trail, the trail branches with signage identifying the horse route and the hiker route. This area was recently rebuilt by an Eagle Scout group and it is in great shape. The caveat is that both sides are very steep and technical with some rail tie steps and a log jump.