Seneca Bluffs Trail: Poole's Store to Rt 28

Seneca Bluffs Trail: Poole's Store to Rt 28, Montgomery County, MD, USA

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In Short:11 miles round trip. Connects to Towpath, and to EPIC/Dry Seneca trail system.

One of the prettiest routes in Montgomery County. The trail meanders along Seneca Creek -- often high above it, with a great view of the valley below -- and sometimes down in its flood plain. You might see hawks nesting near the upper end, and a family of foxes near the middle of this segment. The trail is primarily used by mountain bikes, and you won't find much evidence of horses at either the north or south ends. There are connections to the middle of this trail from the west -- see here and a small amount of horse traffic there.

There are two routes from Pooles Store to the towpath. The Tschiffley Mill Road is desirable if you don't want to dismount for the Rileys Lock Bridge, and plan to head west on the towpath. The Rileys Lock Road route is better for those who don't want to dismount at the bridge and are heading east on the towpath, or using the Rileys Lock parking area. See the map here.

There are a number of wooden bridges, all of which were in excellent condition for the ride reported here. All are narrow but well attached at both ends, longer ones have railings. There is also a stream crossing which may benefit from reins, as your horse might otherwise hope it is optional.

The trail is poorly maintained. Expect to find grapevines hanging across the trail at neck level, fallen trees, and more obstacles. One in particular might not be pleasant: ribar protuding through drill holes in a 2x4 used to stabilize the trail. The ribar comes up just enough to really hurt a hoof that steps on it. I managed to have a wreck while photographing a dangerous passage under a fallen tree, as you'll see from the photos below.

It is tempting to consider parking in the small lot to the east end of the bridge on Route 28. But the lot is to the east of the bridge, the trail to the west, and Seneca Creek in between. The creek banks are steep on one side or the other or both, the creek deep, and the bottom looks soft, so I do not recommend approaching from the east. On the other hand, traffic over the bridge speeds along at 50-60 mph, and the bridge is long. You will likely have to deal with speeding traffic in both directions. Even if your horse is safe in parade traffic, I'd not try him on this bridge. I gave Freckles the option of descending to the road, and she chose not to. I took her to a possible creek crossing point, and she chose not to. No horse is braver, better in traffic, or better at creek crossings, so trust her judgment.

Activities:Riding, hiking, biking.
Location:Running along the west side of Seneca Creek, from Route 128 in Darnestown to the Towpath and Riley's Lock.
  • "Lake Shore Trail" in Gaithersburg wanders around Clopper Lake, making a complete loop. It connects to other trails of the Seneca Greenway via Long Draught Trail and Mink Hollow Trail.
  • "Long Draught Trail" connects to Seneca Greenway Trail just north of Great Seneca Highway in Gaithersburg, and remains on the west side of Long Draught Branch of Great Seneca Creek. It comes to an end at the 3-way intersection on Seneca Creek Road, and becomes Lake Shore Trail.
  • "Mink Hollow Trail" connects to Seneca Greenway Trail just north of Great Seneca Highway in Gaithersburg, and wanders east, crossing Seneca Creek Road and ending at Lake Shore Trail at Clopper Lake. It is marked with a grey blaze)
  • "Seneca Bluffs Trail" is the trail on the west side of Seneca Creek betwen the bridge at Pooles Store on old River Road and the bridge on Route 28, Darnestown Road. It is marked with an orange blaze (maps show yellow blaze).
  • "Seneca Greenway Trail" connects the Towpath at Riley's Lock to Great Seneca Stream Valley Park at Frederick Road (Route 355.) Beginning at Riley's Lock on the Towpath, it goes up Tschiffley Mill Road, east on River Road across the bridge at Pooles Store, then up the east side of Seneca Creek. It climbs up at Route 28 east of the bridge, crosses the road, and continues north and east along Seneca Creek. At Black Rock Road it crosses Great Seneca Creek and connects to several unnamed connectors that lead to the southern end of Schaeffer Farm Park. The Greenway Trail continues east and north along the creek from Black Rock Road and crossing under Great Seneca Highway. (Between Riffle Ford Road and Great Seneca Highway, it forms a loop.) It continues on across Great Seneca Highway and under Route 270 to Route 355. It is marked with a blue blaze. The "Seneca Greenway" encompasses all the trails in this list.
  • "Seneca Ridge Trail" begins near Black Rock Road and proceeds east along Great Seneca Creek to Riffle Ford Road, where it connects to the Seneca Greenway Trail.
Length/Surface:Single track natural surface.

This ride covered a distance of 11.12 miles in 3 hours, 23 minutes -- about 3.3 mph.

Bumps and Lumps:

Distance between highest and lowest altitudes on this trail is 44 feet. The average slope on this trail is 3%.

Trail Characteristics:Single track. The terrain is wooded, with many small hills and gullies. A dozen wooden bridges are all in good condition, with good approaches. The trail is marked with orange blazes on trees, and occasionally with red posts. Any trail maintenance seems to be done for hikers and mountain bikers; equestrians are likely to find face-level vines and branches, particularly on the less-traveled southern portion of this trail. (see photos)
Drinking Water:No.
Water for Horses:Crosses a number of very small streams.
Restroom:Outhouse at Poole's Store
Access and Parking:Ample trailer parking at Riley's Lock. You may also park a trailer in front of the old Poole's Store, on Old River Road.




Distance between highest and lowest altitudes on this trail is 44 feet. The average slope on this trail is 3%.



Download GPX file.A GPX file is a GPS exchange format file in the format of an XML file. You can upload it to fitness tracking and mapping sites such as Strava, Gaia GPS or Endomondo, then use the matching app to load it into your smartphone and take it with you on your ride.
Download KML file.A KML file is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth. KML uses a tag-based structure with nested elements and attributes and is based on the XML standard. Get Google Earth free here.
Download PDF file.A PDF file might be useful if you want to print a hard copy of the route here, to take with you. The PDF is a rendering of the Google map at the top of this page.

Created by David Stang and his trusty partner Freckles, using MotionXGPSFull 24.2 Build 5063R64. Map recorded: March 15, 2018. Page last updated: April 11, 2018.