From Baltimore, head west on Route 70 for just over an hour and you’ll arrive in Thurmont, MD, home to Catoctin Mountain Park, run by the National Park Service. Home to the presidential retreat, Camp David, Catoctin Mountain has 25 trails —and a 75th Anniversary Hiking Challenge.
If you’re not up to completing the 25-trail challenge, I’d like to suggest the modest Falls Nature Trail, which begins just across from the park’s Visitor Center. Because the trail leads to Cunningham Falls, Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall, it is among the park’s most popular. With a moderate rating, the hike from the Visitor’s Center to the falls should take about 45 minutes. After enjoying the vista, simply return the way you came and you’ll have logged just under three miles in the fresh air. This hike is perfect for families as it can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, taking time to spot the abundant wildlife in the trees and underbrush just off the trail.
If you desire a more rugged work-out and crave splendid views of the valley below, then hiking the Wolf Rock/Chimney Rock Loop is for you. The steep, narrow trail can be slippery at times making this 3.5 mile loop the most strenuous hike in the park. It isn’t well marked, so make sure to purchase a map at the Visitor’s Center —and follow it closely. Do so, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded: these two rock formations are great places to sit, rest, and enjoy a light lunch, surveying the beauty spread at your feet. Be warned that this hike should be avoided when conditions are wet as Wolf Rock can be treacherous. Under the best of circumstances, this hike isn’t recommended for families with young children.
The park is open year-round and admission is free. The park’s Visitor’s Center is open every day but Wednesday, April through November. Hours vary, but on Saturday and Sunday it is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
For more information, please visit Catoctin Mountain Park on the web.
Always follow safe hiking practices. Need to know more? Click here for a list.