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Top 10 Hiking Destinations in Frederick County

Looking for some amazing hiking destinations in Frederick County? Look no further! Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just starting out, there are plenty of trails to explore that cater to all skill levels. Catoctin Mountain Park offers breathtaking vistas and unique geologic landforms like Chimney Rock and Hog Rock, while Cunningham Falls State Park boasts Maryland’s highest cascading waterfall. Gambrill State Park offers stunning views of Frederick and Middletown valleys, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park provides picturesque viewsheds of the Potomac River. Gathland State Park allows you to sample a portion of the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail, while South Mountain State Battlefield and Monocacy National Battlefield offer opportunities to delve into Civil War history. For a more secluded hike, check out Rivermist Park or Catoctin Creek Park, and don’t forget to visit the isolated and iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect hiking destination in Frederick County!

Top 10 Hiking Destinations in Frederick County

Hiking can be enjoyed year-round in Frederick County. Trails vary from easy to moderate, and, in a few cases, slightly strenuous, for the more seasoned adventurer. Here are 10 opportunities to commune with nature, geology, history, and culture.

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Top 10 Hiking Destinations in Frederick County

1. Catoctin Mountain Park

Catoctin Mountain Park, a National Park Service unit, offers pathways that traverse one of the oldest mountains in the country. The trails in this park lead to breathtaking vistas of neighboring environs along with unique geologic landforms such as Chimney Rock and Hog Rock. One notable trail in the park is the Blue Blazes Whiskey Still Trail, which interprets the local tradition of moon-shining, a popular, yet illegal activity during the Prohibition period of the 1920s.

2. Cunningham Falls State Park

Embark on the Lower or Cliff Trails in Cunningham Falls State Park and you will be rewarded with the opportunity to take a selfie at Maryland’s highest cascading waterfall. Another featured hike in the park is the Catoctin Furnace Trail, which takes visitors past ruins of a once-prosperous iron furnace operation that originally went into blast at the onset of the American Revolution.

3. Gambrill State Park

Named after James H. Gambrill, Jr., a former Frederick businessman and conservationist, Gambrill State Park is a beautiful destination constructed during the Great Depression as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. The park offers breathtaking views of the Frederick and Middletown valleys, which can be enjoyed from overlooks connected by a loop trail that goes around the 1,600-foot summit of High Knob.

4. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Frederick County is home to a significant portion of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which stretches for a total of 184.5 miles. Hikers can enjoy a level hike along the canal’s old towpath, which provides picturesque views of the adjacent Potomac River. This trail also offers a tranquil natural setting that served as home to earlier native Indian tribes such as the Tuscarora and Piscataway. Along the trail, hikers can explore remnants of the early transportation heritage of our country in the form of aqueducts, locks and lock houses, railroad stations, and a pivot bridge.

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Top 10 Hiking Destinations in Frederick County

5. Gathland State Park

Gathland State Park is home to the War Correspondent’s Memorial Arch, which was built atop South Mountain in 1896 by author George Alfred Townsend. This park offers hikers the opportunity to hike a portion of one of the most famous hiking routes in the country – the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The trail intersects Gathland’s parking area, allowing hikers to choose whether to head north or south on the trail, depending on their preferences and abilities.

6. South Mountain State Battlefield

South Mountain State Battlefield was the site of the first major Civil War battle on northern soil. One notable trail at Fox’s Gap is the Gen. Garland Trail, a short loop walk that begins at the site where Union commander Jesse Reno was felled in the prelude to Antietam. The trail commemorates Gen. Samuel Garland and his North Carolinians, who held the gap for most of the day’s fighting. The midpoint of the hike is marked by the North Carolina monument.

7. Monocacy National Battlefield

The Battle of Monocacy, which took place in July 1864, has become known as “the Battle that Saved Washington.” Hikers at Monocacy National Battlefield can follow in the footsteps of the soldiers of both armies while learning about the legendary Union stand against a much larger Confederate force on the banks of the Monocacy River. The park offers multiple trail options, including two trails each at the Worthington and Best Farms.

8. Rivermist Park

Despite its close proximity to the City of Frederick, major roads, and shopping centers, Rivermist Park offers hikers the opportunity to spot plenty of wildlife while also experiencing a sense of remoteness. This park is a hidden gem where nature and tranquility can be enjoyed.

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9. Catoctin Creek Park

Located within the Middletown Valley, about 20 minutes west of the City of Frederick, Catoctin Creek Park and Nature Center is a peaceful destination. The park features four miles of footpaths that form one large loop, allowing hikers to explore the beautiful surroundings. Some of the trails even take you over Catoctin Creek itself, adding to the scenic experience.

10. Sugarloaf Mountain

If you’ve ever wanted to hike a monadnock, Sugarloaf Mountain is your chance! This isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain. Designated a US Natural Landmark, Sugarloaf Mountain is a must-visit destination for hiking enthusiasts. The mountain is crisscrossed by a variety of fine trails that allow hikers to explore its unique beauty.

In conclusion, Frederick County is a hiker’s paradise, offering a wide range of trails and destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re interested in unique geologic landforms, cascading waterfalls, breathtaking views, or historic battlefields, there’s something for everyone in Frederick County. So grab your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to explore the natural beauty of this scenic county. Happy hiking!