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A Guide to Scenic Drives in Frederick, MD

Are you ready to embark on a scenic adventure through Frederick, MD? Strap in and get ready to discover the beauty of Maryland’s countryside as you navigate through the picturesque byways of Frederick County. No matter the season, a drive through this charming region is always a great idea. Whether you have a whole weekend to explore or just an hour to spare, one thing is for certain – a journey down one of Frederick County’s most iconic roads will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Start your adventure on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway or Route 15, which cuts across Frederick County. This enchanting road is full of captivating stops that will appeal to the entire family. Begin in downtown Frederick, a one-of-a-kind destination boasting a charming Main Street filled with unique restaurants, specialty shops, and a vibrant arts community. As you head north, the cityscape gradually transforms into serene countryside. Get up close and personal with nature at Catoctin Mountain Park, where 25 miles of hiking trails await. Don’t miss Cunningham Falls State Park, home to a breathtaking 78-foot cascading waterfall and a beautiful lakefront beach. For a different kind of wildlife encounter, hop on an open-air truck at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and venture through the habitats of emus, zebras, and bison. As you approach the Pennsylvania border, make a stop at Mount Saint Mary’s University, which overlooks the road and is home to the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes. Finally, if you’re coming or going from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Frederick County provides the perfect chance to deepen your experience at Gettysburg National Military Park.

For an east to west (or vice versa) adventure, set your sights on the Historic National Road. Dating back to 1811 and known today as Route 40, this road was a crucial part of the westward movement. Start your journey in Downtown Frederick on Patrick Street, where you can visit the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and explore its five expansive galleries showcasing over 1200 artifacts. Head west and discover the original Washington Monument hidden amidst the woods atop South Mountain. The short but rewarding trail leading to the monument offers a stunning view from its peak. And if you’re craving a sweet treat, don’t miss South Mountain Creamery, where you can indulge in farm-fresh ice cream. These are just a taste of the adventures awaiting you in Frederick County. So, buckle up and get ready to experience the charm, history, and natural beauty of this scenic destination.

A Guide to Scenic Drives in Frederick, MD

Frederick County, Maryland, is a scenic paradise that offers an abundance of beauty and charm. From the historic landmarks to the breathtaking natural landscapes, there are plenty of reasons to hit the road and explore this gorgeous region. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply seeking a relaxing drive with stunning views, Frederick County has something for everyone. So, buckle up and embark on a memorable journey through the picturesque roads of Frederick, MD.

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A Guide to Scenic Drives in Frederick, MD

Journey Through Hallowed Ground

As you venture along Route 15, also known as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, you’ll experience a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural wonders. This scenic route cuts across Frederick County and offers a treasure trove of engaging stops that will captivate the whole family.

One of the highlights of this journey is Downtown Frederick, a vibrant and charming Main Street adorned with a plethora of one-of-a-kind restaurants, specialty shops, and a thriving arts community. Stroll along the streets, immerse yourself in the unique offerings, and soak in the friendly atmosphere that permeates the area.

Downtown Frederick

The heart of Frederick County, Downtown Frederick, beckons with its irresistible charm and unique character. Meander down the enchanting Main Street, filled with quaint shops and boutiques, where you can find treasures to take home as delightful keepsakes. Indulge your culinary cravings at the plethora of one-of-a-kind restaurants that offer a wide range of delectable cuisines. From cozy cafes to upscale eateries, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

Beyond the culinary delights, Downtown Frederick also boasts a vibrant arts community. Art galleries, theaters, and live music venues line the streets, offering an array of cultural experiences that cater to all tastes. Immerse yourself in the local art scene, catch a show, or take in a live performance for a truly enriching experience.

Catoctin Mountain Park

For nature enthusiasts and hiking aficionados, Catoctin Mountain Park is a must-visit destination. Located north of Downtown Frederick, this picturesque park spans a vast expanse of land, featuring 25 miles of well-maintained hiking trails. Lace up your boots, embark on a scenic trek, and get up close and personal with the beauty of nature. The park’s trails offer varying levels of difficulty, ensuring there’s a route suitable for all fitness levels.

Catoctin Mountain Park also provides an excellent opportunity for birdwatching, wildlife spotting, and simply reconnecting with the tranquility of nature. Soak in the breathtaking vistas, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and let the serenity of the surroundings wash over you.

Cunningham Falls

Nestled on the edge of Catoctin Mountain Park, Cunningham Falls State Park beckons with its awe-inspiring natural beauty. The highlight of this park is the 78-foot cascading waterfall, a mesmerizing sight that leaves visitors in awe of nature’s raw power and beauty. The park also offers a lakefront beach, perfect for a day of relaxation and fun in the sun.

Recreational activities abound in Cunningham Falls State Park. You can embark on scenic hikes, indulge in birdwatching, go fishing, or simply enjoy a leisurely picnic amidst the tranquil surroundings. Whatever your preferred outdoor activity may be, Cunningham Falls State Park is sure to deliver a memorable experience.

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Catoctin Wildlife Preserve

For a truly wild adventure, head to Catoctin Wildlife Preserve located near the town of Thurmont. This unique destination is the only place in the mid-Atlantic where you can hop on an open-air truck and ride through the habitats of emus, zebras, bison, and many other exotic animals. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the African savanna as you witness these magnificent creatures up close and personal.

If you prefer a more leisurely pace, the preserve also offers walking paths that wind through lush greenery, allowing you to experience the wonders of nature at your own pace. With over 450 exotic animals to discover, Catoctin Wildlife Preserve promises an unforgettable wildlife adventure.

Mount Saint Mary’s University

Perched atop a picturesque hill, Mount Saint Mary’s University is not only a renowned educational institution but also home to the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes. This serene and sacred location offers a peaceful retreat where visitors can reflect, find solace, and embrace the tranquility of the surroundings.

Explore the grounds, marvel at the serene beauty of the grotto, and take a moment to rejuvenate your spirit. The National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes provides a serene oasis amidst the natural splendor of Mount Saint Mary’s University.

A Guide to Scenic Drives in Frederick, MD

Seton Shrine

Discover the inspiring story of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first U.S.-born saint, at the Seton Shrine. Located nearby, this pilgrimage site offers a museum tour that delves into the life and legacy of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Visit the house where she lived, explore the exhibits that showcase her remarkable journey, and bask in the awe-inspiring presence of the basilica.

The Seton Shrine is a place of inspiration, faith, and reflection, allowing visitors to connect with the extraordinary story of this remarkable woman who left an indelible mark on history.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Just a stone’s throw away from Frederick County, Maryland, lies the historic Gettysburg National Military Park. Whether you’re coming to or traveling from Gettysburg, this iconic destination offers a unique opportunity to enhance your experience of this significant historic site. Immerse yourself in the rich history of the Civil War, learn about the epic Battle of Gettysburg, and pay tribute to those who fought bravely on these hallowed grounds.

Historic National Road

If you’re craving an East to West (or West to East) adventure, set your sights on the Historic National Road. Often referred to as America’s first highway, this storied route dates back to 1811 and played a crucial role in the westward expansion of the nation. Today, it offers a fascinating journey through time, with historical landmarks, charming towns, and breathtaking scenery along the way.

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To begin your Historic National Road adventure, stop by the Main Cup restaurant in Middletown. Located on the road itself, this cozy eatery pays homage to the area’s rich history while serving up delicious meals that satisfy even the most discerning taste buds. Fuel up and set off on your journey, traveling through quaint towns, admiring the beautiful landscapes, and immersing yourself in the stories of the past.

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

For history enthusiasts, a visit to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Downtown Frederick is a must. This unique museum tells the remarkable story of healing and compassion amidst the horrors of war. Five expansive galleries showcase over 1,200 artifacts, offering a comprehensive insight into the medical practices, innovations, and the dedicated individuals who played a crucial role in saving lives during the Civil War.

Explore the exhibits, learn about the challenges faced by medical professionals during this tumultuous time, and gain a profound appreciation for the advancements that have shaped modern medicine. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is a testament to the resilience and humanity that can arise even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Washington Monument

While Frederick County may not be home to the iconic Washington Monument in the nation’s capital, it does boast its own version atop South Mountain. Hidden among the trees, this charming monument offers a unique and rewarding experience for visitors brave enough to venture up the trail. Unlike its towering counterpart in Washington, D.C., the trail leading to Frederick’s Washington Monument is shorter and less strenuous, making it accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.

Once you reach the top, a breathtaking panoramic view awaits, revealing the beauty of Frederick County’s landscapes spread out before you. Take a moment to soak in the serenity, marvel at nature’s grandeur, and appreciate the history that surrounds this beloved landmark.

South Mountain Creamery

No scenic drive would be complete without a delicious treat at the end of the journey. Indulge your sweet tooth and savor farm-fresh ice cream at South Mountain Creamery. This family-owned creamery offers a mouthwatering selection of flavors, all made from the milk produced right on the farm. Take a tour of the creamery, learn about the production process, and treat yourself to a scoop (or two) of their delectable creations.

As you relish the creamy goodness, reflect on the beautiful landscapes you’ve encountered during your scenic drive and be grateful for the bountiful adventures that Frederick County has to offer.


Frederick County, Maryland, is a treasure trove of scenic drives, with each route offering its own unique experiences and breathtaking beauty. From the historic landmarks to the captivating natural wonders, this region promises an unforgettable journey for all who venture its roads. So, grab your map, plan your route, and embark on an adventure through the picturesque landscapes of Frederick County. Whether you’re seeking history, nature, or simply a leisurely drive with stunning views, Frederick County has it all. Embrace the scenic drives, immerse yourself in the local culture, and create memories that will last a lifetime.