Winter Hike in Catoctin Mountain National Park

Catoctin Mountain Park, located in north-central Maryland, is part of the forested Catoctin Mountain ridge−range that forms the northeastern rampart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the Appalachian Mountains System.

Despite the federal government shutdown, the sunny, 50-degree day was too nice — especially in January — not to go hiking.

This national park has a number of interesting hikes, primarily to rock outcroppings along the ridge lines on the east side of the park. In fact, Catoctin Mountain Park offers more than 25 miles of hiking trails. In the past, I’ve hiked up to Wolf Rock; read more about that here.

This time, we decided to hike through the woods to the adjacent Cunningham Falls State Park to pick up the boardwalk trail to see the falls. The Falls Nature Trail is accessed from the gravel parking lot directly across from the visitor center.

The trail begins at the back of the gravel parking lot on the right hand side and crosses Md. Rt. 77 1.1 miles from the Visitor Center. The most popular trail in the park, this trail takes visitors to the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland.

Cunningham Falls

Along the way, we encountered multiple hills as well as uneven and rocky surfaces and sometimes small streams.

After walking along the short board walk to see Cunningham Falls, as we returned to Catoctin Mountain Park, we saw a sign indicating Hog Rock Trail, so without figuring out where that would place us (relative to where our car was parked), we decided to head up: despite having grown up in nearby Frederick, neither of us had ever been to Hog Rock. The trail was just 1 mile, straight up the side of the mountain. (We also didn’t have a trail map.)

The view at Hog Rock.

Along the way, on both trails, we enjoyed seeing smaller rock outcroppings.

In the 1930s, after years of making charcoal to fuel nearby iron furnaces, mountain farming, and harvesting of trees for timber, land was purchased to be transformed into a productive recreation area, helping to put people back to work during the Great Depression. Beginning in 1935, the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area was under construction by both the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The northern portion of the park was transferred to the National Park Service on November 14, 1936 and the southern 5,000 acres transferred to Maryland as Cunningham Falls State Park.

Know before you go: Plan your hike with the online trail map at 

Please note: During the federal government shutdown, all buildings, offices, and facilities in Catoctin Mountain Park will be closed. Parking areas and hiking trails will remain open. Park Central Road from Manahan Road to Foxville Deerfield Road is closed. Please plan on carrying out any garbage you bring in.

The week prior to our hike, I’d been reading and hearing news stories about how the government shutdown was impacting other national parks. So my sister and I brought along a few garbage bags to pick up any garbage we saw. We were pleasantly surprised to see no overflowing garbage or recycling cans. However, there was still a bit of litter along the way, which we picked up and packed out.

For additional hikes in Catoctin Mountain National Park: Wolf Rock Hike and Hog Rock Hike

Getting there: 14707 Park Central Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788

Hours: Dawn through dusk.


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This was the perfect hike to start breaking in my new Columbia hiking boots.

Updated January 2020