The JFT has no steep hills that exceed 5% grade, but it is relatively hilly. It generally follows the stream that flows downhill from north to south. If you start at the end of part 3 (Cylburn Arboretum) and head toward 1 (Inner Harbor), you are mostly descending. Keep that in mind when you plan your visit, but be mindful that there are some upward climbs in both directions. It is not the Rockies, but not Kansas either.
You can reach the JFT by car, by MARC train (Penn Station), and light rail. The light rail can also be used to hop on and off the trail in several spots. Light rail can also be used also if you do not want to retrace the trail coming back. See visiting for more specifics.
Following the trail
The JFT is marked with blazes and signs. Part 1 requires the most concentration because there are several street crossings and turns. Part 2 has a few street crossings and turns, but has long stretches that are very easy to follow. Part 3 also is pretty easy to follow.
Part 1 is urban. It includes the tourist-centric Inner Harbor and a mostly gritty area that includes Baltimore’s prison before getting to Penn Station. It provides views of the downtown architecture and skyline. If you like your trails leafy, don’t forgo the whole Jones Falls Trail, just stick with parts 2 and 3.
Part 2 quickly switches from urban near Penn Station to a trail that will be enjoyable for nature lovers, while also pleasing to those who like historic monuments and 19th century Mill-era neighborhoods.
Part 3 remains mostly nature, realigns with the stream, traverses dense woods, a modernist designed neighborhood (Coldspring), and onto Cylburn Arboretum that has beautiful gardens and the Cylburn Mansion (1863), the former estate of a wealthy Quaker businessman.
Bring a picnic and start at Penn Station and bicycle north on the trail and slightly uphill to Cylburn Arboretum. (no hill has more than a 5% grade) Enjoy the Cylburn grounds and the picnic you packed, then return generally downhill back to Penn Station.
***you can generally find metered parking near the trail near Penn Station on the (1500 block of Maryland Avenue on the bridge or you can get to location by light rail or MARC train.
Park for free and start at Cylburn Arboretum. Bicycle south on the trail and slightly downhill. Have lunch in Mt. Vernon, Station North, or downtown. Head back to Cylburn and burn off lunch. Enjoy the grounds of Cylburn at either the beginning or end of the trip.